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Appeals-Judicial Review - Fairness - SOR (1)

. Draxl v. Truevine

In Draxl v. Truevine (Div Court, 2022) the Divisional Court denies a motion to quash an RTA s.210 appeal, partially on the grounds that issues of procedural fairness are issues of law [RTA 210 only allows Divisional Court appeals on 'questions of law']:
[15] With respect to the question of whether this appeal is devoid of merit, the landlord submits that it is because no question of law is raised in the appeal. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 17 (“RTA”) appeals from the LTB to this court are limited to questions of law.

[16] There are a couple of difficulties with this submission. First, one of the two issues raised by the tenant is a procedural fairness issue. A procedural fairness issue is treated as a question of law for the purposes of the right of appeal under the RTA. The landlord’s submission in that regard is that even if it is a question of law, it is devoid of merit.

[17] The second issue – whether or not there was a settlement – is certainly not a pure question of law. For an appeal to be entertained on that question, the tenant must show that there is an extricable question of law in what is otherwise an issue of mixed fact and law.

[18] Going back to the question of whether this appeal is devoid of merit, it is not for me to say on this motion what the chances of success are. But I am not prepared to find that the appeal meets the very high threshold needed to be quashed in the circumstances before me today.

[19] I move then to the abuse of process submission, based on the failure to promptly pay rent and also to meet the obligation to pay arrears as set out in the directions given at the above case conference.
. Peel Standard Condominium Corporation No. 779 v. Rahman

In Peel Standard Condominium Corporation No. 779 v. Rahman (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court held that issues of administrative fairness were also issues of law:
[18] In Tipping v. Coseco Insurance Company the court held at para. 41 that: “Procedural fairness and natural justice, including allegations of bias, are questions of law. An appeal from the LAT on those issues is therefore an obvious adequate alternative remedy.” The same applies to an appeal from the CAT. ....
. Carr v. Brown

In Carr v. Brown (Div Court, 2022) the Divisional Court held that a fairness breach was an error of law, and thus within the court's jurisdiction under RTA 210:
[7] Issues of procedural fairness do fall within this Court’s jurisdiction. A failure on the part of the Board to ensure that a hearing is procedurally fair is an error of law: Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union v. Newfoundland and Labrador (Treasury Board), 2011 SCC 62 at para. 22, Tipping v Coseco Insurance Co, 2021 ONSC 5295, at para. 41, 2276761 Ontario Inc. v. Overall, 2018 ONSC 3264 at para. 8.
. Ahousaht First Nation v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

In Ahousaht First Nation v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development) (Fed CA, 2021) the Federal Court of Appeal noted that the standard of review for administrative fairness is in effect one of 'correctness':
[31] The standard of review on issues of procedural fairness is essentially correctness: Mission Institution v. Khela, 2014 SCC 24, [2014] 1 S.C.R. 502 at para. 79. As stated in Vidéotron Ltée v. Canada (Shared Services), 2019 FCA 307, 313 A.C.W.S. (3d) 299 at para. 12:
Issues of procedural fairness are to be reviewed on a correctness standard. While it may be that “no standard of review is being applied” when a court considers issues of procedural fairness because the question is “whether the procedure was fair having regard to all the circumstances,” this Court’s review is “best reflected in the correctness standard” for such issues (Canadian Pacific Railway Company v. Canada (Attorney General), 2018 FCA 69, [2018] F.C.J. No. 382 at para. 54).
. 1582235 Ontario Limited v. Ontario

In 1582235 Ontario Limited v. Ontario (Ont CA, 2020) the Divisional Court stated the standard of review when deciding issues of administrative procedural fairness:
[19] The parties agree that there is no standard of review in respect of procedural fairness issues. Rather, it is for the court to determine whether the requisite level of procedural fairness has been accorded, taking into account the factors in Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.[4]
. Canadian Pacific Railway Company v. Canada (Transportation Agency)

In Canadian Pacific Railway Company v. Canada (Transportation Agency) (Fed CA, 2021) the Federal Court of Appeal (Pelletier JA) expands interestingly on the normal 'there is no standard of review on fairness issues'. Here appeal was allowed only on questions of law and jurisdiction, and the court held that whether procedural fairness was owed was a matter of law - but whether it was breached was a matter of mixed law and fact [see para 42]:
[41] Since this is a statutory appeal pursuant to subsection 41(1) of the Act, the standard of review is the appellate standard, namely correctness on questions of law: see Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65, 441 D.L.R. (4th) 1, at paras. 18, 36-37 and 50 [Vavilov]. Since there is no right of appeal from decisions of the Agency on questions of fact and mixed law and fact, this is sufficient to dispose of the issue of the standard of review on substantive questions.

[42] That leaves the question of the nature of questions of procedural fairness, a question which is raised by the statutory exclusion of a right of appeal on questions of mixed fact and law. Subsection 41(1) limits the right of appeal to this Court to questions of law and jurisdiction. Whether a person is owed a duty of fairness is a question of law, while whether that duty has been breached is a question of mixed fact and law. At first blush then, this Court could determine whether a duty of fairness was owed but not whether it was breached. This would bifurcate questions of procedural fairness, with this Court dealing with the legal question and the Governor in Council dealing with the question of whether the duty of fairness found by this Court had been breached: see section 40 of the Act. Such a result is inimical to any notion of a practical and efficient system of justice.

[43] As the Supreme Court observed at paragraph 19 of Canada (Attorney General) v. TeleZone Inc., 2010 SCC 62, [2010] 3 S.C.R. 585: "“Access to justice requires that the claimant be permitted to pursue its chosen remedy directly and, to the greatest extent possible, without procedural detours.”"

[44] However, a careful reading of sections 40-43 of the Act discloses that Parliament intended this Court to deal with questions of procedural fairness comprehensively. That careful reading was undertaken by this Court, per Stratas J.A., in Canadian National Railway Company v. Emerson Milling Inc., 2017 FCA 79, [2018] 2 F.C.R. 573, paras. 6-57 [Emerson].

[45] The Court reasoned that since the Supreme Court teaches that questions of jurisdiction are essentially questions of statutory interpretation and thus, questions of law, the phrase "“a question of law or a question of jurisdiction”" contains a redundancy. On the theory that Parliament does not deal in redundancies, the Court examined the scope of "“a question of jurisdiction”" and concluded that, historically, jurisdiction included questions of procedural fairness, citing the Toronto Newspaper Guild case, 1953 CanLII 10 (SCC), [1953] 2 S.C.R. 18, [1953] 3 D.L.R. 561. This was the state of affairs when the predecessor of subsection 41(1) was included in the predecessor to the Act, the National Transportation Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. N‑20. Since the phrase "“on a question of law or a question of jurisdiction”" has remained in the Act ever since, it is reasonable to conclude that Parliament intended to continue to treat procedural fairness as an aspect of jurisdiction which means that questions of procedural fairness, even though factually suffused as noted above, can be appealed to this Court which can then deal with them comprehensively: see Emerson at para. 19.

[46] Vavilov did not address the standard of review for questions of procedural fairness, an issue on which the courts have variously said that there is no standard of review or that the standard is correctness. In Canadian Pacific Railway Company v. Canada (Attorney General), 2018 FCA 69, [2019] 1 F.C.R. 121, at paras. 33-56 [CPR v. Canada] this Court, per Rennie J.A., canvassed this issue and concluded as follows:
A court assessing a procedural fairness argument is required to ask whether the procedure was fair having regard to all of the circumstances, including the Baker factors. A reviewing court does that which reviewing courts have done since Nicholson; it asks, with a sharp focus on the nature of the substantive rights involved and the consequences for an individual, whether a fair and just process was followed. I agree with Caldwell J.A.’s observation in Eagle’s Nest (at para. 20) that, even though there is awkwardness in the use of the terminology, this reviewing exercise is “best reflected in the correctness standard” even though, strictly speaking, no standard of review is being applied.

CPR v. Canada, at para. 54
[47] With that in mind, I propose to address questions of procedural fairness by asking whether a fair and just procedure was followed, which, as noted in the passage quoted above, captures what is caught, though awkwardly, by the use of "“correctness standard”" in the context of procedural fairness.
. Lockyear v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company

In Lockyear v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court characterizes the duty of procedural fairness from an appellate standard of review perspective:
[24] It may be obvious to some, but bears noting that the issue of procedural fairness, while an issue of law[23], stands apart. This is not like the interpretation of a statute or the explanation of a common law principle. Procedural fairness is attached to a foundational right, a principle of natural justice, the right to be heard (audi alteram partem):
The principle that the individual or individuals affected by a decision should have the opportunity to present their case fully and fairly underlies the duty of procedural fairness and is rooted in the right to be heard.[24]
[25] The right to be heard is fundamental to Canadian administrative law:
From these foundational cases, procedural fairness has grown to become a central principle of Canadian administrative law. Its overarching purpose is not difficult to discern: administrative decision makers, in the exercise of public powers, should act fairly in coming to decisions that affect the interests of individuals. In other words, “[t]he observance of fair procedures is central to the notion of the ‘just’ exercise of power” [25]
[26] The ultimate protection of this right rests with the courts:
…a fair procedure is said to be the handmaiden of justice. Accordingly, procedural limits are placed on administrative bodies by statute and the common law. These include the requirements of “procedural fairness”, which will vary with the type of decision maker and the type of decision under review. On such matters, as well, the courts have the final say. The need for such procedural safeguards is obvious. Nobody should have his or her rights, interests or privileges adversely dealt with by an unjust process.[26]
[27] This being so, referred to as correctness or otherwise, the standard of review applicable to procedural fairness is absolute. A proceeding is either fair or it is not:
…the denial of a right to a fair hearing must always render a decision invalid, whether or not it may appear to a reviewing court that the hearing would likely have resulted in a different decision. The right to a fair hearing must be regarded as an independent, unqualified right which finds its essential justification in the sense of procedural justice which any person affected by an administrative decision is entitled to have.[27]

...

When considering an allegation of a denial of natural justice, a court need not engage in an assessment of the appropriate standard of review. Rather, the court is required to evaluate whether the rules of procedural fairness or the duty of fairness have been adhered to. The court does this by assessing the specific circumstances giving rise to the allegation and by determining what procedures and safeguards were required in those circumstances in order to comply with the duty to act fairly.[28]
. Denso Manufacturing Canada, Inc. v. Canada (National Revenue)

In Denso Manufacturing Canada, Inc. v. Canada (National Revenue) (Fed CA, 2021) the Federal Court of Appeal held that there was no deference on an appeal from a judicial review on the issue of fairness:
[35] It is not clear whether the reference to a de novo review of the administrative decision would also mean a de novo review of the issue of procedural fairness. This Court, in Canadian Pacific Railway Company v. Canada (Attorney General), 2018 FCA 69, noted:
[54] A court assessing a procedural fairness argument is required to ask whether the procedure was fair having regard to all of the circumstances, including the Baker factors. A reviewing court does that which reviewing courts have done since Nicholson; it asks, with a sharp focus on the nature of the substantive rights involved and the consequences for an individual, whether a fair and just process was followed. I agree with Caldwell J.A.'s observation in Eagle's Nest (at para. 20) that, even though there is awkwardness in the use of the terminology, this reviewing exercise is "best reflected in the correctness standard" even though, strictly speaking, no standard of review is being applied.

[55] Attempting to shoehorn the question of procedural fairness into a standard of review analysis is also, at the end of the day, an unprofitable exercise. Procedural review and substantive review serve different objectives in administrative law. While there is overlap, the former focuses on the nature of the rights involved and the consequences for affected parties, while the latter focuses on the relationship between the court and the administrative decision maker. Further, certain procedural matters do not lend themselves to a standard of review analysis at all, such as when bias is alleged. As Suresh demonstrates, the distinction between substantive and procedural review and the ability of a court to tailor remedies appropriate to each is a useful tool in the judicial toolbox, and, in my view, there are no compelling reasons why it should be jettisoned.

[56] No matter how much deference is accorded administrative tribunals in the exercise of their discretion to make procedural choices, the ultimate question remains whether the applicant knew the case to meet and had a full and fair chance to respond. It would be problematic if an a priori decision as to whether the standard of review is correctness or reasonableness generated a different answer to what is a singular question that is fundamental to the concept of justice – was the party given a right to be heard and the opportunity to know the case against them? Procedural fairness is not sacrificed on the altar of deference.
[36] Since the question for procedural fairness is whether the procedure was fair, it is a moot point whether this Court conducts a de novo review of the issue of procedural fairness or reviews the decision of the Federal Court on the procedural fairness issue. In either approach, no deference would be shown to the decision of Federal Court on the issue of procedural fairness.


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