Finding decisions to help with your appeal
The Social Security Tribunal (SST) and the courts publish decisions online. You can search these decisions to find ones that are like your case. This can help you understand how the law works and how SST members make their decisions. It can also help you find cases like yours (case law) that you can use to make arguments in your appeal.
How to search SST decisions
We publish many decisions online. This helps us be accountable and transparent. If anyone wants to understand how the SST works, they can look up our decisions.
See how many decisions we publish online in our decision publishing statistics.
SST members don’t have to follow previous SST decisions, but they could influence their decision.
The best way to search our decisions is on our website. You can search SST decisions by browsing, using the basic search or using the advanced search. The advanced search is the best way to find decisions to help with your appeal.
To browse our decisions, start by choosing the right benefit type (EI, CPP disability, other CPP, OAS/GIS). You can then start reading some of the most recent decisions. You can also search within that benefit type by adding keywords to the search box.
If you use the basic search, you can enter whatever words you want. This is the easiest way to search, but it may not get you the best results. Using the advanced search will usually give you results that are more useful for your appeal.
Tip: Choosing good search words
SST decisions will use words that are similar or the same as words you may have seen in your reconsideration decision. Using some of the words in your reconsideration decision could help you to find decisions that are like yours. The best words will be the ones that explain the reasons why you think you should get benefits or why the letter said you can’t get benefits.
Tip: Using Boolean operators in the basic search and advanced search
Boolean operators are simple words or characters you can use in your search phrase to be more specific about what you’re looking for. They give instructions to the search about how to interpret the words you’re using. Learn more about the operators you can use on our help page.
If you use the advanced search, you can be very specific about what you’re looking for. This will give you the best results.
First, make choices that are related to your appeal:
- Division: If you’re appealing to the General Division, you may want to see decisions from both the General Division and the Appeal Division. If you’re appealing to the Appeal Division, choose Appeal Division.
- Collection: Choose the right benefit type. For example, if you’re appealing an EI decision, choose Employment Insurance.
- Decision: You may want to look at decisions where the appellant won their case (appeal allowed) and where they lost their case (appeal dismissed). Reading the reasons why they won or lost can help you understand how SST members make their decisions.
- Decision date: You may want to limit the search to the last year or two. Do that by entering a starting year (for example, two years ago) and an ending year (for example, this year) in the decision date fields.
Next, use the full text search field to enter words or phrases to help you find decisions with issues and facts that are like yours.
Every SST decision has a unique number. That number is called a “citation”. If you’re looking for a specific decision, the easiest way to find it is to search for the citation.
Since January 1, 2018, all SST decisions have a citation that follows the Canadian bibliographic standard. This is called a neutral citation, which looks like this:
Tribunal decisions published between 2013 and 2017 use a different bibliographic citation, which looks like this:
How to search federal court decisions
If an SST decision is reviewed by a court, the decision made by the court may create a precedent. This means that SST members have to apply the law the same way the court did when they’re deciding an appeal with the same issue.
SST decisions usually refer to the important federal courts decisions that interpret the law about the issue(s) under appeal. You can also search for cases with similar issues and facts to yours on the individual courts’ websites:
Decisions from these courts are also available on CanLII.
Tips for searching on CanLII:
- Choose “Canada (Federal)” under Primary Law
- Write your search words into the box called “document text”
- Start writing the name of the law in the box called “Noteup/Discussion: cited case names, legislation titles, citations or dockets”. As you start typing, it will show you options and you can pick the right one. For example, for EI you could start typing “Employment Insurance” and then choose the “Employment Insurance Act”.
- Then choose the tab called “Cases” below the search box. Next, under “All courts and tribunals”, you may want to change it to “All courts” to show just the court decisions (not decisions from the SST).
- If you have too many results or if a lot of them are older decisions, you might want to narrow down the date. Click on “any date” and choose something more specific. For example, you could try “last 3 years”.