Social Security Tribunal of Canada

SST member code of conduct

Standards of conduct that members must comply with in support of the Tribunal’s commitment to provide fair, transparent, credible and impartial appeal processes that are efficient and effective.

If you feel that a member has behaved contrary to the Code of Conduct, you can make a complaint.

1. Purpose

1.1 The Social Security Tribunal of Canada decides appeals related to the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Old Age Security Act. The Tribunal is an administrative tribunal. It isn’t a court. As an administrative tribunal, it tries to be less formal than a court. The Tribunal aims to deliver justice that is simple, quick, and fair.

1.2 The Tribunal is an independent and impartial tribunal. No one may improperly influence the Tribunal when it decides an appeal. The Tribunal can’t favour one party over another.

1.3 Tribunal members are the people who decide appeals. The Governor in Council appoints members for fixed periods of time.

1.4 The Code of Conduct for Members of the Social Security Tribunal of Canada sets out the standards of conduct and other duties that members must follow. The Code explains the professional and ethical responsibilities of members.

1.5 The Code sets standards of conduct in order to help the public have confidence in the integrity, impartiality and independence of the Tribunal.

1.6 The Code should be read together with other requirements in legislation, guidelines, and policies that deal with ethical conduct. These include the Conflict of Interest Act, the Ethical Guidelines and Statutory Standards of Conduct, the Guidelines for the Political Activities of Public Office Holders, section 48(1) and (2) of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act (DESD Act), and applicable Treasury Board policies. For example, government policies on information and network security are applicable Treasury Board policies.

2. Application

2.1 All full-time and part-time members must follow the Code. The Chairperson and the Vice-chairpersons must also follow the Code.

2.2 The Code is effective January 2021. It replaces all earlier versions.

3. Administration

3.1 The Chairperson is responsible for administering the Code. That includes dealing with any issues about how to interpret the Code.

3.2 Members are accountable to the Chairperson for following the Code. Members must be mindful of situations or conduct that go against the Code. They must also be mindful of situations or conduct that a reasonable person could see as going against the Code. Members must tell their Vice‑chairperson of any such situation or conduct. The Vice‑chairperson will then tell the Chairperson about the situation or conduct.

3.3 If a member doesn’t follow the Code, they may face disciplinary action or have to take steps to correct the situation or conduct. The possible consequences they could face depend on the situation. For less serious situations, a member may get a warning, training, or a note about the breach in their file. For serious or repeated situations, the Chairperson may suspend a member or remove them from an appeal. The Chairperson may even recommend that the Governor in Council remove the member from the Tribunal.

3.4 Vice-chairpersons must help members learn and follow the Code.

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4. General conduct and duties

4.1 Members must act honestly and in good faith. They must act with integrity, dignity, respect, courtesy, fairness, discretion, and impartiality. They must be professional and ethical in everything they do as decision-makers.

4.2 When members carry out their duties, they must follow the Tribunal’s goal of delivering justice that is simple, quick, and fair.

4.3 Members must follow the Department of Employment and Social Development Act and all applicable regulations and rules under it. They must also follow all other relevant legislation, court decisions, and policies that apply to their work.

4.4 Members must help to build positive working relationships with Tribunal staff and other members. They must treat everyone with respect.

4.5 Section 3.2 says members must avoid situations and conduct that go against the Code. In line with that responsibility, members must avoid activities that are incompatible with their role as Tribunal members. They must also avoid activities that a reasonable person would think go against their role as Tribunal members. Members must avoid activities that could undermine their independence and impartiality, or that could hurt the Tribunal’s reputation.

4.6 In line with their responsibility under section 3.2, members must disqualify themselves from an appeal when they know, or should know, that participating in the appeal puts them in a conflict of interest. They must also disqualify themselves when they know, or should know, that participating in the appeal creates a reasonable concern about bias. In cases like these, members must tell their Vice-chairperson right away and explain why they have decided to disqualify themselves. If someone accuses a member of bias during a proceeding, the member in charge of the proceeding will decide on the allegation against them.

5. Expertise

5.1 As decision-makers at the Tribunal, members must be experts in what they do. Members must constantly improve their knowledge and skills. They must participate in training and professional development opportunities the Tribunal and other trusted organizations offer.

5.2 The Tribunal aims to be consistent in its decisions. Members have a duty to support this goal, while maintaining their independence and deciding each appeal impartially, based on the facts and the law.

5.3 The Tribunal aims to make justice accessible for everyone. Members have a duty to support this goal. As part of that commitment, members have a duty to be proactive and guide parties through an appeal, while remaining impartial. Members must also try to write decisions in plain language, so everyone can understand them.

5.4 Members are expected to share their skills, knowledge, and expertise with their colleagues. They may do this by acting as trainers or mentors for other members.

6. Proceedings

6.1 Members must be polite and respectful in all proceedings, including hearings. They must make sure that the proceedings are fair, accessible, orderly, and efficient.

6.2 Members must be well prepared before all proceedings. And they must be objective and open-minded at all times during a proceeding.

6.3 Members must respect human rights and be mindful of social and cultural differences. Members must not discriminate against anyone.

6.4 It is important for parties to have the opportunity to participate fully in the proceedings. To do that, they need to understand how the appeal process works. So, members should help parties understand the appeal process. This responsibility is part of making proceedings accessible to all parties.

6.5 If a party needs accommodation in order to participate fully in the proceedings, members must make reasonable accommodations.

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6.6 Members must not be the advocate for a party, or provide a party with legal advice. But they should explain the appeal process to a party who may not understand it.

6.7 Members may only communicate directly with a party, witness, or representative during a pre-hearing conference, a settlement conference, a case conference, or a hearing. Only the Tribunal’s registry staff may contact parties before and after the conference or hearing.

6.8 Members must not engage socially with a party, representative, witness, or interpreter during the proceedings.

7. Decision-making

7.1 Members must make their decisions based on the merits of each case. This means they have to look at the facts and issues of each appeal. Members have to look at all the evidence. They need to see which laws, regulations, and legal principles apply to the evidence. At the same time, they need to be aware of significant earlier decisions about similar cases.

7.2 Members must make decisions independently and impartially. That means being objective. They must make decisions free from any improper influence, including by institutions, interest groups, politicians, and Tribunal staff or members, Vice-chairpersons and the Chairperson.

7.3 Members are responsible for the accuracy and quality of their decisions.

7.4 Members must make decisions in a timely manner and in line with Tribunal standards.

7.5 Members must respect people’s privacy. Members must protect the appeal documents they have. Those documents may contain sensitive or personal information. When members write a decision, they must make sure it contains only the information that is important for explaining the reasons for the decision.

8. Communications

8.1 Members can’t share information that could identify anyone involved in an appeal, with the public or with people they know. This rule does not apply when members communicate with each other and with Tribunal staff as part of their normal duties.

8.2 Members can’t share any opinion about a Tribunal decision or the Tribunal’s work with the public. They also can’t share any opinion that may create a concern about bias. Members can’t publicly criticize the Tribunal.

8.3 Members can’t communicate with any news media about the Tribunal’s work, without permission of the Chairperson. This also applies to any matter that may affect the Tribunal or create a concern about bias. News media include print and visual media, radio, blogs, social media, websites, and online communications such as advocacy forums and communities.

8.4 If the news media contact members with questions, members must refer them to the Tribunal’s communications inbox (sstmediatss@canada.gc.ca). They must also tell their Vice-chairperson that the news media contacted them.

8.5 Members can’t communicate with other government organizations, politicians, or the staff of politicians about the Tribunal’s work, if it’s not part of their normal duties. Members can’t share any opinion with government organizations, politicians, or the staff of politicians, if it may create a concern about bias.

9. Social media

9.1 Members are free to use social media. But they must use good judgment if they decide to follow people and organizations or post comments where the public can see them. Members must understand that what they do on social media is in the public domain.

9.2 Members can’t use social media to talk about or comment on the Tribunal, unless it is part of their normal duties. This is in line with their duty under section 8.3.

10. Outside activities

10.1 Outside activities are activities that are not part of members’ normal duties. Members can’t participate in an outside activity if it goes against their responsibilities under the Code or other legislation, guidelines or policies mentioned in section 1.6. If a member isn’t sure whether they are allowed to participate in an outside activity, they should ask their Vice-chairperson.

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