MEDIA ADVISORY  | January 25, 2019

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) released a landmark decision in S.A. v. Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation.  This case is of national importance and significance because it ensures that many persons with disabilities can continue to access vital social programs they rely on to maintain an equal and adequate standard of living.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities intervened at the SCC and was represented by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Why This Case is Important

In S.A.’s case, the housing authority wanted to take into account the value of a Henson Trust when deciding whether to give her a rent subsidy. This is the SCC’s first opportunity to consider the nature of Henson Trusts (also known as absolute discretionary trusts). Henson Trusts are intentionally designed so that family members can set aside money for persons with disabilities without limiting those persons’ entitlement to social assistance benefits. The trust is structured in a way that puts the trust property beyond the control of the person with a disability.  This means that the property or value of the trust is not available to them and cannot count as an asset when determining eligibility for social programs. The SCC held that because a person with a disability has no enforceable right to receive any of the trust’s income or capital, an interest in a Henson trust is not an asset that can be considered when determining eligibility for a rent subsidy.

Jewelles Smith, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities says:

"The CCD is pleased by the Supreme Court's decision in S.A. v MVHC. People with disabilities in Canada are disproportionately affected by poverty and must often bare the financial burden of cost-related barriers to their inclusion. The Court's decision recognizes that absolute discretionary trusts play an important role as a vehicle that can assist persons with disabilities to meet their additional costs of living and ensure access to social assistance programs. This is essential for the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in society."

Contact:   Dianne Wintermute, Staff Lawyer, ARCH Disability Law Centre  Phone: 416-482-8255 ext. 2226; Email: