March 18, 2015

Appeals: The Dunsmuir approach to “reviews” applies to “appeals” from tribunals

Administrative Law
Professional Regulation

While courts may always engage in “judicial review” of decisions and actions by administrative tribunals, many statutes provide for rights of appeal. Such appeals are not, however, like appeals from trial courts to higher courts. Rather, the standards of review set out by the SCC in Dunsmuir continue to apply. This approach was affirmed by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench in Meier v. Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists, 2014 SKQB 389, where an agrologist appealed a disciplinary finding that he had failed to adhere to the standard of publishing conclusions only after an appropriate scientific investigation.

Although the agrologist in Meier asserted that the court had to apply the “ordinary” test that applies when someone appeals a court decision – the test of a palpable and overriding error – the court decided that the statutory right of appeal “does not replace the Dunsmuir standard with another standard of review.” [22] The court applied the reasoning of the Supreme Court of Canada that the term “judicial review” embraces review of administrative decisions by way of both application for judicial review and statutory rights of appeal: Dr. Q. v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, 2003 SCC 19 at paras. 20-21. In contrast to an appeal from a court, “expertise is in play when the decision of an administrative body is appealed to the court”. [24]

Meier v. Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists, 2014 SKQB 389

Lisa Fong and Michael Ng