This case concerned the availability of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who had just received maternity and/or parental benefits.
LEAF intervened before the Federal Court of Appeal.
Joanna Miller applied for and received 25 weeks of maternity and parental benefits (“special benefits”) under the Unemployment Insurance Act (the Act). She intended to return to work, but her employer informed her that her position was no longer available. As a result, Ms. Miller applied for regular unemployment benefits. She was eligible for 40 weeks of regular benefits, but was only granted 15 weeks. This was because, under a provision in the Act, she could not receive more in total benefits than she was eligible for in regular benefits (in this case, unemployment insurance). The 25 weeks of special benefits she had received therefore counted against her when she applied for regular unemployment benefits.
Ms. Miller appealed the decision to an Umpire under the Act, arguing that the provision violated her s. 15 equality rights under the Charter. The Umpire held that the provision did not violate her rights. Ms. Miller sought judicial review of the decision at the Federal Court of Appeal.
LEAF argued that the provision violated s. 15 as it discriminated based on sex and family/parental status. It used employed women’s unique childbearing capacity and their socially-sanctioned role as primary caregivers to deprive them of benefits otherwise available to employed people under the Act. Instead of using maternity and parental benefits to support childbirth and parenting responsibilities, women would be forced to use them to search for employment.
The Federal Court of Appeal held that it was required to follow a previous decision of the Court, which had found that the provision did not violate s. 15. As a result, it dismissed Ms. Miller’s appeal and held that the provision did not violate s. 15.
LEAF is grateful to Susan Ursel and Merrilee Rasmussen, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].