Tétreault-Gadoury v. Canada (Employment and Immigration Commission) [1991] 2 S.C.R. 22.

The respondent lost her job shortly after her sixty-fifth birthday and applied for unemployment insurance benefits. The Employment and Immigration Commission ruled that she was no longer entitled to receive ordinary unemployment insurance benefits because of her age even though she met all the other conditions under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1971. Respondent was accordingly entitled only to the special lump sum retirement benefit provided for under s. 31 of the Act.

The respondent appealed the Commission's decision to a Board of Referees on the ground that s. 31 of the Act was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This Board upheld the Commission's decision without rendering an opinion on the constitutional question. Rather than appealing to an umpire, as permitted by the Act, the respondent elected to challenge the Board's decision directly in the Federal Court of Appeal. That court found that that provision violated s. 15 of the Charter and that the Board of Referees had erred in failing to consider the respondent's Charter arguments.

The Canada Employment and Immigration Commission appealed from the decision of the Court of Appeal. At issue here were: (1) whether an administrative tribunal that has not expressly been provided with the power to consider all relevant law may, nonetheless, apply the Charter; and (2), whether the former s. 31 of the Act violated s. 15 of the Charter. A subsidiary issue was whether the Federal Court of Appeal was entitled to consider the constitutional question, if the Board of Referees did not have jurisdiction over it.

This case did not involve the application of s. 24(1) of the Charter and the consequent need for a determination of whether the tribunal is a "court of competent jurisdiction" within the meaning of that section. Respondent did not seek any remedy that would require its invocation. All she sought was that the Board of Referees disregard s. 31 when calculating the benefits that would otherwise be due her under the Act.

Held: The appeal should be allowed.

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