January 24, 2018
Thibault, Vézina, St-Pierre
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for judicial review of a decision of the Commission des lésions professionnelles (CLP). Allowed.
The worker was the victim of an industrial accident rendering him unable to carry on his employment, and the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) found that he was entitled to an income replacement indemnity (IRI). The employer gave him a temporary assignment of work while paying him his full salary, and the CSST stopped paying him the IRI. During the temporary assignment of work, the employer dismissed the worker on disciplinary grounds. The CSST resumed paying the IRI. The employer asked it to transfer the cost of the IRI since the day of dismissal to all the employers, as an exception to the general rule in para. 1 of s. 326 of the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (CQLR, c. A-3.001) (ARIAOD), under which the cost is assigned to the worker’s employer. The CSST refused the transfer. The CLP, however, allowed it because the IRI paid since the dismissal was [translation] “directly related ... to the worker’s dismissal and not the industrial accident”. The Superior Court dismissed the CSST’s application for judicial review.
The CLP recognized that the worker was entitled to the IRI after the dismissal causing the end of his temporary assignment, but it found that the cost of the IRI should not be assigned to the employer because it could not be attributed to the industrial accident. It justified this double aspect by explaining that a distinction should be drawn between the assignment of the cost of benefits and the entitlement to an IRI. There is nothing, however, in this duality – be it in s. 326, in the chapter on “Financing” of the ARIAOD, or anywhere in the Act as a whole – justifying the opinion that some indemnities, such as the IRI or a part thereof, are not covered by the general rule of assignment of the “cost of benefits”. Paragraph 1 of s. 326 ARIAOD sets out a general rule of assignment of the total costs of compensation for employment injuries, including all compensation paid under the ARIAOD. The finding that its wording excludes some of these indemnities is not a “possible outcome” of the interpretation of this provision. It is unreasonable.
In its application seeking not to be assigned the costs of the IRI subsequent to the dismissal, the employer began by invoking one of the two exceptions in para. 2 of s. 326 ARIAOD, that of an employer unduly burdened. The CLP did not consider the merits of this argument, finding it inadmissible for two reasons based on a literal interpretation of this paragraph. These reasons must be set aside. Identifying legislative intent from a word-for-word reading of the Act was once the cardinal rule of interpretation. Now, however, according to the modern method of interpretation, the spirit prevails over the letter. The wording stating that the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail “may … impute the cost of benefits” to parties other than the employer gives it the power to transfer all of this cost, but it also does not prevent it from transferring only a part. The purposive interpretation must prevail over any literal interpretation of para. 2 of s. 326 ARIAOD. The objective of the Financing chapter of the Act is to ensure that employers take responsibility, without “unduly burdening” them. An interpretation of the provision that avoids an excessive assignment of costs is consistent with this objective and should be preferred, as it corrects an injustice. The file is returned to the Tribunal administratif du travail so that a judge may decide whether the employer is unduly burdened by the assignment of the cost of the IRI paid to the worker after his dismissal.
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