Court reinstates discrimination finding in P.E.I. mental illness case

The P.E.I. Court of Appeal overturned a judicial review of a human rights case Wednesday, reinstating the provincial commission's finding that the government discriminated against people with mental illnesses.

Court of Appeal overturns judicial review in case involving access to disability support program

The P.E.I. Court of Appeal overturned a judicial review, saying the judge used an incorrect standard in assessing a human rights case. (Steve Bruce/CBC News)

The P.E.I. Court of Appeal overturned a judicial review of a human rights case Wednesday, reinstating the provincial commission's original finding that the government discriminated against people with mental illnesses.

The court found the Human Rights Commission's original decision, which said the province was discriminatory in not allowing people with mental illness to access the disability support program, was "reasonable" and "evidence-based."

Chief Justice David Jenkins wrote in his decision that the reviewing judge, Nancy Key, applied an incorrect standard in assessing the case.

"Instead of limiting judicial review to whether various findings were reasonable, being based on evidence, made in consideration of all the evidence, and formed the basis of a reasonable conclusion, the reviewing judge evaluated the evidence, sometimes considered credibility, rejected the Panel findings, and substituted her own assessment of the evidence and her own findings of fact," he wrote.

"In my view, employment of appropriate deference in accordance with the reasonableness standard of review to such Panel findings would have led to all of those findings being left intact."

The case was launched five years ago by Millie King on behalf of her adult daughter Laura King, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2010.

The lawyer for Millie King, above, says the family is 'pleased' with the Court of Appeal's decision. (CBC)

She launched the human rights complaint after the province turned down their request for support from the disability support program, run by what is now the Department of Family and Human Services. The province said the program was only for Islanders with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The commission ruled in 2016 that the provincial government discriminated against the Kings in denying them the disability support.

That decision was overruled by the P.E.I. Supreme Court, which said the panel ignored evidence and ordered the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission to hold a new hearing. That decision was appealed by the Kings.

My clients are incredibly pleased with the ruling of the Court of Appeal.— Mike Dull

"My clients are incredibly pleased with the ruling of the Court of Appeal," lawyer Mike Dull said in an email. "It vindicates their strong belief that the government was operating a discriminatory policy and validates their decision in 2013 to embark on this journey, by filing a human rights complaint.

"This is the first step to achieving fairness and justice for other residents of P.E.I. facing mental disabilities who were similarly denied access to possible disability supports by the government."

The government said it is reviewing the decision. The province announced in early 2017 that it would be adding mental health issues to the disability support program, which it said was not connected to the King case.