Administrative tribunals, in making decisions, are sometimes required by legislation to provide reasons for their decisions. Even where there is no legislative requirement to give reasons, principles of procedural fairness may require that a written explanation be provided for the decision reached (see Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1999 CanLII 699 (SCC).)
While one might presume the question of when reasons are required would have been well-settled since addressed by the Supreme Court in Baker, Manitoba’s Court of Appeal has twice this year addressed that question, in both cases, in appeals from decisions of The Taxicab Board to cancel a taxicab driver’s licence.
Earlier this month, in Brar v. The Taxicab Board, the Court was exceptionally clear in indicating that a serious breach of procedural fairness occurred when the tribunal failed to give reasons in respect of its decision to cancel Mr. Brar’s licence. In quashing that decision, the Court stated that:
It is important to impress upon the Board that, at least where it is ordering the very serious penalty of cancelling a taxicab driver’s licence and thereby depriving the holder of earning a livelihood, it must provide reasons for its decision.
Even if one accepts that the failure to ask for reasons is a circumstance that supports the remedy of ordering reasons rather than quashing the order, the seriousness of the outcome to Mr. Brar, being the cancellation of his taxicab driver’s licence and the loss of his livelihood, militates in favour of not giving too much weight, if any, to that failure.
In reaching its decision, the Court also chided the Taxicab Board for failing to heed warnings provided through the filing of two earlier appeals in similar cases where reasons had not been provided.
One of those warnings arose out of an appeal in Abetew v. The Taxicab Board, decided in March of this year. In that case, the Court held that:
…the failure of the Board to give any reasons for the cancellation of the appellant’s taxicab licence calls for a remedy that reflects this serious breach of procedural fairness.
The Court went on to note that the appellant had been unable to earn his livelihood since the decision to cancel his licence and that would continue unless the Court quashed the decision. Merely requiring that reasons be provided by the tribunal would not be a sufficient remedy.
An appeal filed in Gidda v. The Taxicab Board was the second of the two early warnings referred to in the Brar decision, but when that appeal came for hearing in late 2012, it was adjourned by consent, pending provision of written reasons by The Taxicab Board.
The decisions in Brar and in Abetew make it very clear that in Manitoba, at least, where an individual’s livelihood is at stake on the basis of a tribunal’s licensing decision, the principles of procedural fairness require that written reasons be provided.