CPP Disability

The legislation governing Canadian pension plan disability benefits is the Canada Pension Plan. It states that a disability pension must be paid to an employee or self-employed person who has become disabled if they contributed to the Canada Pension Plan, subject to some conditions.[1]

A person is considered disabled if he or she has a “severe and prolonged mental or physical disability”. A “Severe” disability is one which causes you to be “incapable regularly of pursuing any substantially gainful occupation”.[2] A “Prolonged” disability is one which is “likely to be long continued and of indefinite duration or is likely to result in death”.[3]

While the government has interpreted these terms strictly, the courts have been more understanding, adopting a “real world” approach to deciding whether someone is owed disability benefits.[4] A liberal and generous interpretation of the Canada Pension Plan is appropriate: one that favors people receiving benefits.[5]

For example, the courts have interpreted “severe” to mean that you cannot consistently work in any paying job. It does not mean that you have to be totally unable to do any job. Also, your work history, education, job skills, and other important real-world facts must be taken into account in defining which jobs you may be suited for.[6]

When the Government makes a decision about your qualifying for disability benefits, (whether your disability is “severe” and “prolonged”,) they regularly make the wrong decision. In 2006/2007, 45% of the cases appealed were overturned. If you think that that the government made a mistake deciding your application for disability benefits, contact our law firm at 416-221-9343.


[1] Canada Pension Plan, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-8, S. 42, s. 44(1)(b).
[2] Canada Pension Plan, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-8, S. 42, s. 42(2).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Villani v. Canada (Attorney Genera), [2001] F.C.J. No. 1217.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.