Twitter  Facebook 
Sign up for our newsletter

VPA - A Family Guide to the Vulnerable Persons Act

The SDM Process

The SDM Process

How will it happen?

Anyone can apply to initiate the process of appointing a substitute decision-maker. Your Community Services Worker can assist in this process. Once an application is made there is a preliminary exploration. This will determine if your son/daughter is a vulnerable person as defined in the Act and to determine if there is a decision to be made. This preliminary work could include gathering records or arranging for assessments if recent ones are not available.

An application to become an SDM requires a recent criminal records check from your local police department and a child abuse registry check from the Family Services office in your area. Once the application is completed a hearing will be convened.

The hearing panel

Three people make up a panel. Panel members are appointed by the Minister of Family Services and can be relatives of vulnerable people, lawyers, and community members. Hearings can take place in every community of the province.

Who is present at the hearing?

At least seven days in advance of a hearing notice will be given as to the date, time, place, and purpose of the hearing. Notice will be given to the vulnerable person, the applicant, the proposed SDM(s), the person’s nearest relative(s), and anyone else the vulnerable person or the Commissioner considers appropriate — service providers for residential, educational, occupational, and recreational areas could be included in this list. Anyone who wishes to attend but is not able to do so in person, may participate through a telephone conference call.

What happens at the hearing?

Hearings can be held anywhere as long as the meeting space offers privacy and will accommodate the number of people likely to attend. Family Services board rooms, leisure centres, agency meeting rooms are a few likely places.

With the exception of formal opening and closing remarks read by the presiding panel member, the hearing process is an informal one. Hearings last on average of one hour.

Everyone in attendance is encouraged to participate. Panel members will ask questions about the written information and about the vulnerable person's life in general. They will want to know what has precipitated the application. Other questions might centre around how your son/daughter handles money, does their shopping, spends their day, what recreation or leisure activities they enjoy, who their support network is, etc.

It is an opportunity for people to share the abilities and needs of the vulnerable person, in this case your son/daughter. The panel members listen to what people in attendance say and, together with the written material, make recommendations as to

  • whether there is a decision to be made that the vulnerable person could not make with or without a support network
  • who should be appointed
  • which powers could be granted for the SDM, and for how long.

How is the decision made?

The Commissioner reads the information and the panel's recommendations, listens to the recorded hearing and makes his decision whether or not to approve the application for a substitute decision maker. Notification of decisions reached takes approximately two weeks.

Any decision that is made by the Commissioner can be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench by anyone who was given notice to attend and spoke at a hearing, and disagrees with the decision.


If you would like more details on the process or you have questions, please contact our office.