Ruling strengthens tribunal’s powers

It’s decided. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal trumps the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

It’s decided. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal trumps the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

In a recent Supreme Court decision, Justice Leigh Gower ruled the tribunal did not overstep its authority in a dispute between a worker and the compensation board.

“We were happy with it because it strengthened the powers of the appeal tribunal,” said Mike Travill, who represented the worker in the dispute.

“It more clearly defines the power of the tribunal and allows them the power and authority that was intended for them when they were conceived in the Workers’ Compensation Act.”

The tribunal is an independent body that hears appeals on compensation disputes between workers and employers.

 The board took the tribunal to court over a decision it rendered in the case of a man whose benefits were going to be cut back.

The dispute involved a man with a long-standing claim and the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

The man, whose name has not been released, was a construction worker.

In 1980 he suffered a serious knee injury on the job.

Because of his medical needs and subsequent retraining, the man dealt with the board from 1985 until 1995, Gower’s ruling explains.

He was given funds for retraining, but they were later revoked.

Recently, the man has been involved with the tribunal on a number of occasions.

First, in 2001, it ordered a retraining plan be created for him.

However, no plan was developed, the decision states.

Then, in 2004, the board decided to reduce the money the man was receiving, the ruling says.

So, the man appealed his reduction in benefits to the tribunal.

Later that year, on July 16, the tribunal delivered its first decision. The board disagreed with the outcome and asked the tribunal to rehear the case.

After listening to the dispute a second time, the tribunal stuck to its original decision. That caused the board to file a petition with the Supreme Court saying the tribunal had overstepped its authority under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

“The case was about an issue of clarification on jurisdiction and roles for the tribunal,” said Mark Hill, public relations liaison for the board.

“This isn’t something that involved the worker. Their benefits were not affected. They were not involved in the case,” he said.

Specifically, the board asked the court what power the tribunal had to remain involved in the dispute after delivering its decision, court documents state.

“The appeal tribunal, which is normally the final and binding decision-maker, they can either confirm, reverse or vary any decision,” said Travill.

“But (the tribunal) can’t really go in and make their own solution to a problem.”

The court found that the tribunal did have the authority to stay involved in the dispute, provided that it was in the role of an adjudicator.

“However, providing that the tribunal restricts its role to that of an independent adjudicator… it is authorized to ‘oversee’ the development of such plans,” wrote Gower.

The board also claimed the tribunal should no longer be involved in the dispute.

The petition charged that the tribunal had descended into the dispute between the worker and the board by “stating its intention to assist the parties to negotiate and develop the vocational rehabilitation training plan,” according to Gower’s ruling.

However, the court sided with the tribunal.

“I do not find, in all of the circumstances, that the (tribunal) intended to descend into the arena with the parties,” wrote Gower.

Gower’s decision is “pretty sound,” Travill told The News in an interview last week.

The issue is over from the board’s side as well.

The court clarified the roles of the board and the tribunal, so the case is closed, Hill said.

“It’s about clarification, it’s not about proving a point,” he said.

“So there’s no interest in appeal.”

The tribunal declined to comment on the case.

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RCMP to review

band’s finances

The calculations are in.

But, do the numbers add up?

An internal review of the Liard First Nation finances, launched by the chief and council, is now in the hands of police.

“The result of the review has been turned over to the RCMP for further investigation,” chief Liard McMillan wrote in a news release issued Friday afternoon.

It is a terse document.

The two-sentence release states only that the review was finished and police are now involved.

Neither the band nor police have released information on why the review merits a criminal investigation.

McMillan could not be reached for comment. According to the band office, he is out of town for a few days.

Watson Lake RCMP has launched an investigation into the band’s financials, said Sgt. John Bennett on Monday.

“I will certainly confirm Liard First Nation has turned their report over to the RCMP in Watson Lake,” he said.

“Based on that report, we are actively investigating to determine if a criminal offence has been committed.”

Bennett doesn’t know how long the investigation will take.

“We’ll just do it as quickly and as efficiently as we can,” he said. (CO)