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Bias

Stuart Budd & Sons Limited v. IFS Vehicle Distributors ULC (Ont CA, 2016)

In this Court of Appeal case an appeal was granted on a rare finding of bias on the part of the motion judge below. The court cited the following principles as applicable to the issue:
Presumption of Integrity

[4] Judges benefit from a presumption of integrity, which acknowledges that they are bound by their judicial oaths and will carry out their duties in accordance with their legal responsibilities: R. v. Teskey, 2007 SCC 25 (CanLII), [2007] 2 S.C.R. 267, at para. 29. In R. v. Arnaout, 2015 ONCA 655 (CanLII), at para. 18, this court described these responsibilities: “A judge must both weigh the case impartially in his or her own mind and ensure that the circumstances objectively demonstrate his or her impartiality to an informed and reasonable observer.”

[46] Although judges enjoy the benefit of the presumption of integrity, the presumption can be rebutted by a judge’s comments or conduct: Yukon Francophone School Board, Education Area #23 v. Yukon (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 25 (CanLII), [2015] 2 S.C.R. 282, at para. 27.

Reasonable Apprehension of Bias

[47] As noted by Abella J. in Yukon Francophone, at para. 21, the Supreme Court has consistently endorsed the test for a reasonable apprehension of bias as set out in de Grandpré J.’s dissenting opinion in Committee for Justice and Liberty v. National Energy Board, 1976 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1978] 1 S.C.R. 369, at p. 394:
“[W]hat would an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically — and having thought the matter through — conclude. Would he think that it is more likely than not that [the decision-maker], whether consciously or unconsciously, would not decide fairly.”
[48] The strong presumption of judicial impartiality is not easily displaced: Cojocaru v. British Columbia Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, 2013 SCC 30 (CanLII), [2013] 2 S.C.R. 357, at para. 22. A reasonable apprehension of bias requires a “real likelihood or probability of bias”: Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 1999 CanLII 641 (SCC), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 851, at para. 2; R. v. S. (R.D.), 1997 CanLII 324 (SCC), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 484, per Cory J., at paras. 112-14. The test is an objective one, viewed from the perspective of an informed and reasonable observer: Chippewas of Mnjinkaning First Nation v. Chiefs of Ontario, 2010 ONCA 47 (CanLII), 265 O.A.C. 247, at para. 230, leave to appeal refused, 33613 (July 18, 2010). It is a high burden.

[49] Significantly, in assessing whether a judge’s presumption of impartiality has been displaced, his or her individual comments or conduct during the hearing of a matter should not be considered in isolation but within the context of the entire proceedings: S. (R.D.), per Cory J., at para. 134; Wewaykum Indian Band v. Canada, 2003 SCC 45 (CanLII), [2003] 2 S.C.R. 259, at para. 77.

[50] The objective of the test is to ensure both the reality and the appearance of a fair adjudicative process. Both are essential to maintaining public confidence in our system of justice: Yukon Francophone, at paras. 22-23. It is not normally possible to prove actual bias. If the impugned conduct or comments have the cumulative effect of raising a reasonable apprehension of bias, there is no need to consider the impact of the bias.


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