Social Security Tribunal of Canada

Canada Pension Plan disability General Division: How to prepare for your hearing

Learn about the types of hearing

These are the types of hearing available at the General Division:

  • oral:
    • teleconference
    • videoconference on a personal device
    • videoconference at a Service Canada Centre
    • in-person at a Service Canada Centre
  • in writing

We’ll ask what type of hearing you prefer. If you don’t tell us the type of hearing you want, the General Division member will decide.

If any COVID-19 measures affect your hearing, we’ll let you know.

Oral hearings

You’ll have the same opportunities to talk and ask questions at any type of oral hearing.

Here’s how to join each type of hearing:

Teleconference

  • We’ll send you the numbers you need
  • Dial the phone number 10 minutes before your hearing
  • Listen to the prompts:
    • Enter the teleconference ID number
    • Enter the teleconference security code number
  • Wait on the line until the member speaks

Videoconference on a personal device

  • Use a device (smartphone, tablet, or computer)
  • Make sure the device is fully charged
  • You choose where to participate
  • We’ll send you a link to use Zoom
  • Connect 10 minutes before your hearing
  • The member will be on the screen at the scheduled time

Videoconference at a Service Canada Centre

  • Go to a Service Canada Centre
  • Arrive 30 minutes early
  • Service Canada staff will: 
    • show you to the right room
    • explain the videoconference
  • The member will be on the screen at the scheduled time

In-person at a Service Canada Centre

  • Go to a Service Canada Centre
  • Arrive 30 minutes early
  • Service Canada staff will show you to the right room
  • The member will join you there

Read your Notice of Hearing carefully

We’ll send you a Notice of Hearing in writing. If you have a representative, they’ll get it too. A Notice of Hearing gives you details about your hearing. It will say:

  • what type of hearing you’ll have
  • the date of your hearing
  • the time of your hearing
  • how much time has been scheduled for the hearing
  • how to join the hearing

We won’t send witnesses or support persons the Notice of Hearing. If you have witnesses or a support person, give them the hearing details so they can be there.

Contact us if you have questions about your Notice of Hearing.

How formal is a hearing?

Hearings are informal. The Social Security Tribunal (SST) isn’t a court. We try to make the process as simple and informal as possible. 

The member will guide you through the hearing.

The member will tell you what to call them. We don’t use the title “Your Honour.”

We’ll address you with “Mr.” or “Ms.” unless you say otherwise. Let us know if you want us to use another pronoun or form of address.

Who will be there?

Usually, just the parties involved in the appeal and the member will be there.

You’re a party. If you have a representative, they’ll be there too.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is also a party. It may send a representative.

Other people who could be there include:

In very rare circumstances, the following people could also be at the hearing:

  • an intervener who has expertise on certain issues (you would know about it ahead of time)
  • observers who aren’t involved in the appeal, but want to listen

Hearings are open to the public. Other people may observe your hearing.

You can ask the member to close off all or part of your hearing to the public. The member will decide if that is necessary. Learn more about how to make a request and what the member will consider when making their decision on whether to grant your request.

What if you need a break?

If you need a break, ask the member. Breaks are flexible.

You can have food and drink with you.

How long is the hearing?

Hearings vary in length. We schedule 90 minutes for a hearing.

We schedule 2 hours for a hearing if you need an interpreter because interpreting takes more time.

Let us know if you need arrangements or interpretation

If you need arrangements (accommodation) to make it easier for you to participate in the hearing, we’re here to help. Let us know as soon as possible.

During your appeal process, you can communicate with us in English or French. Contact us as soon as you receive your Notice of Hearing if you have limited English or French skills. We can provide an interpreter for the hearing at no cost to you.

Let us know if you’re bringing other people to your hearing

You might want other people at your hearing, such as a witness or a support personLet us know if you do.

Changing the date of your hearing

You can ask to reschedule your hearing if the date or time doesn’t work for you. Another party can ask too. This may delay your hearing.

Conditions to reschedule the hearing

We’ll reschedule your hearing if you meet all 3 of the following conditions:

  1. It’s the first time you ask to reschedule your hearing
  2. You ask us more than 5 business days before your hearing
  3. You’re available for a new hearing within 2 weeks of the original hearing date

If you meet these conditions, you can call us to reschedule your hearing.

We’ll work with you to set a new hearing date. We’ll send you a new Notice of Hearing with the date and time of your new hearing.

If you don’t meet these conditions, we may still be able to reschedule your hearing if you can show that changing the date is necessary for you to have a fair hearing. For example, you can’t participate because you’re sick and you have a doctor’s report to show it.

You’ll need to write to us to explain why you can’t be at the hearing set in your Notice of Hearing. If it’s very close to your hearing date, call us too.

The member will look at your explanation and decide whether to reschedule the hearing.

If the member agrees to reschedule the hearing, we’ll work with you to set a new hearing date. We’ll send you a new Notice of Hearing with the date and time of your new hearing.

If the member doesn’t agree to reschedule the hearing, we won’t change the date. The hearing will be at the date and time in your Notice of Hearing.

We may change your hearing date on our own

We may need to reschedule your hearing without you or another party having asked for the change. This could happen if something unexpected happens outside of our control. For example, the member becomes sick and can’t attend the hearing.

If this happens, we’ll contact you to reschedule the hearing.

Hearings in writing

Hearings in writing are less common.

A hearing in writing means that the member will make their decision based on the written arguments and supporting documents that the parties (including you) send in. There is no opportunity to testify or speak directly to the member.

If the hearing is in writing, we’ll send you a letter to tell you this is going to happen.

Read the documents we send you

We send you copies of the documents in your appeal file as we receive them. You should read them and keep them together.

The member will look at them to help them decide your appeal.

If you have an oral hearing, you should have the documents with you at the hearing. It’s your responsibility to keep track of the documents we send you and to bring the necessary documents to the hearing.

Consider the law and cases that are similar to yours

Members have to look at your case and see what the law says about it. They can’t change the law. They have to follow what it says.

You may want to check the law.

You could look at relevant legislation (laws from Parliament):

You could also look at the legislation that describes how the General Division and Appeal Division are supposed to work:

You could look at the case law. Case law refers to tribunal or court decisions. A case that’s similar to your situation may help the member. You could look at:

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