P.E.I. Supreme Court clears way for class-action lawsuit against province
Islanders with disabilities caused by mental illness could receive compensation
The Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island has given the go-ahead for a rare class-action lawsuit against the provincial government.
The case alleges the province discriminated against those with disabilities caused by mental illness by excluding them from the Disability Support Program.
Two Islanders, Laura King and Nathan Dawson, are named as plaintiffs in the class action.
If successful, the case could mean Islanders who were disabled by mental illness after Oct. 1, 2001 may qualify for compensation.
P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Cann issued a ruling Tuesday that the class action can proceed.
"Providing disadvantaged members of society with a more user-friendly mechanism for recovery ... is a hallmark of class proceedings. This is, I believe, the very type of situation where class actions serve an important access-to-justice function," Cann wrote in his ruling.
Judge calls for legislation
The plaintiffs' motion defines the class as "All persons currently or formerly resident of Prince Edward Island between Oct. 1, 2001 to the present who claim to suffer, or to have suffered, from a mental disability."
The province opposed the class-action suit, on the grounds that the definition of the class was overly broad, among other legal arguments. The judge ruled the objections were not valid, but noted the province's concerns "may or may not identify common issues requiring resolution."
The judge's decision also noted that P.E.I. is the only province that does not have class-action legislation — and that it is a situation that ought to be remedied.
"To be clear, legislation is by far the best way to provide for class proceedings," wrote Cann. "In the absence of legislation, this decision is at least a start."
No date has been set for the case.
Resolution of the matter could take years, according to the plaintiffs' lawyer.