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Appeal-Judicial Review - Reasons - When a Duty?

. Lovell v. Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)

In Lovell v. Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) (Div Court, 2022) the Divisional Court, in a judicial review, considered the absense of reasons for the issuance of a work MNRF permit, not as an aspect of SOR reasonableness but as an administrative 'fairness' issue (here the court considers it as a Baker issue):
1. The nature of the decision being made and the process followed in making it

[79] This was a building permit application. It was not heard by an adjudicative body. No formal reasons were required. While the Applicants fault MNRF for the failure to provide reasons for granting a permit application, such reasons were not necessary in the circumstances. The issue of whether reasons should have been granted speaks to both reasonableness and procedural fairness. In Vavilov, at para. 77, the majority of the Supreme Court stated:

It is well established that, as a matter of procedural fairness, reasons are not required for all administrative decisions. The duty of procedural fairness in administrative law is "eminently variable", inherently flexible and context-specific…

[80] Further, and to repeat, at para. 136 of Vavilov, where the Applicants cited Lafontaine, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada stated:
In many cases, however, neither the duty of procedural fairness nor the statutory scheme will require that formal reasons be given at all...
. Morrison v. Canada

In Morrison v. Canada (Fed CA, 2021) the Federal Court of Appeal made the following comment on their duty to issue reasons for decision:
[16] Again, I disagree. It is well-settled law that a judge has no general duty to provide reasons for decision "“when the finding is otherwise supportable on the evidence or where the basis of the finding is apparent from the circumstances”" (R. v. Sheppard, 2002 SCC 26 at para. 4, [2002] 1 S.C.R. 869, citing R. v. Barrett, 1995 CanLII 129 (SCC), [1995] 1 S.C.R. 752 at p. 753, 21 O.R. (3d) 736). Given the state of the evidentiary record before the Tax Court, the basis of the Court’s decision is plain and obvious.
. R v Sliwka

In the criminal case of R v Sliwka (Ont CA, 2017) the Court of Appeal sets out the purpose of Reasons for Judgment in trials:
[24] Trial judges must give reasons for their verdicts. Reasons that explain to the parties and the public the result arrived at by the trial judge are crucial to maintaining the proper level of transparency and accountability essential to the maintenance of the integrity of the trial process and public confidence in that process. Reasons for judgment allow the parties to know that their claims have been heard, understood and adjudicated upon in an objective and reasonable fashion that accords with the applicable legal principles: see R. v. Sheppard, 2002 SCC 26 (CanLII), [2002] 1 S.C.R. 869, at paras. 15, 22, 24.

[25] On an appeal based on the trial judge’s failure to give reasons, the appellate court measures the adequacy of the reasons against the requirement that the reasons permit meaningful appellate review of the trial decision. If the reasons serve that function, any shortcomings from a due administration of justice perspective, do not justify appellate intervention. However, reasons that frustrate meaningful appellate review constitute an error in law. That error requires the quashing of the verdict unless the trial record as a whole permits effective appellate review of the verdict: see Sheppard, at paras. 25-33, 46.
. R. v. Aiken

In R. v. Aiken (Ont CA, 2021) the Court of Appeal sets out principles applicable to the issue of inadequate reasons for judgment in a criminal case:
[40] Trial judges are duty-bound to provide adequate reasons for their judgments: R. v. Walker, 2008 SCC 34, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 245, at para. 19. The failure to do so can constitute an error of law: R. v. Trachy, 2019 ONCA 622, 379 C.C.C. (3d) 51, at para. 68, leave to appeal discontinued, [2019] S.C.C.A. No. 277.

[41] Reasons for judgment allow for a “proper level of transparency and accountability [that is] essential to the maintenance of the integrity of the trial process and public confidence in that process”: R. v. Sliwka, 2017 ONCA 426, 138 O.R. (3d) 473, at para. 24. Without proper reasons, the parties are left wondering whether their claims have been heard, understood, and adjudicated upon in accordance with the legal principles applicable in the circumstances of the case: Sliwka, at para. 24; R. v. Sheppard, 2002 SCC 26, [2002] 1 S.C.R. 869, at paras. 15, 24.

[42] To be sure, reasons for judgment do not need to be perfect. This ground of appeal does not provide an appellate court with the opportunity to intervene “simply because it thinks the trial court did a poor job of expressing itself”: Sheppard, at para. 26. At the same time, the reasons for judgment must provide the parties and appellate courts with an opportunity for meaningful appellate review: Sheppard, at paras. 25, 55; R. v. Dinardo, 2008 SCC 24, [2008] 1 S.C.R. 788, at para. 25.


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