June 14, 2010

SCC Decision Brings Charter Rights Within Your Reach

In a decision released last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that administrative tribunals have the power to enforce Charter rights, including the authority to provide a remedy when those rights have been violated. The decision pulls together conflicting caselaw in recent years which has created uncertainty among boards and tribunals as to the scope of their authority.

This decision has important consequences for many Canadians. Administrative tribunals are like mini-courts which make a huge number of decisions in many areas of government authority including immigration, pensions, the competence of health care providers, benefits entitlement and residential tenancy relationships to name just a few. Allowing these tribunals to apply the Charter means that people appearing before them will be able to enforce their Charter rights without having to appeal the tribunal's decision to the court, which can cost a tremendous amount of time and money.

The Supreme Court of Canada appears to have had the access to justice crisis in Canada in mind when it unanimously found, "the jurisprudential evolution affirms the practical advantages and the constitutional basis for allowing Canadians to assert their Charter rights in the most accessible forum available, without the need for bifurcated proceedings between superior courts and administrative tribunals."

No doubt this decision will mean a steep learning curve for tribunal members, who will have to ready themselves for an onslaught of constitutional files. Despite what may be a bumpy road ahead, the Supreme Court of Canada's decision has made the Charter a lot more relevant to the average Canadian.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear your views on this post so please leave a comment below. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide any legal advice through these comments. If you need legal advice, please contact one of the pro bono resources listed on the right side of the Rights & Remedies blog.