Lebel, J: constitutional protection for administrative tribunals?

On October 26, 2012, the Honourable Mr. Justice Louis LeBel was a keynote speaker at the CLEBC Administrative Law Conference 2012 in Vancouver.  His speaking notes have now been published in the February 13, 2013, issue of the Canadian Journal of Administrative Law & Practice, at pages 51-66.

In this speech, Justice LeBel provides an “overview” of the “fundamental role of natural justice and procedural fairness in Canadian administrative law” with a particular focus on the “key values of impartiality, independence, and access to a fair hearing in the law of of judicial review”. In dealing with the issue of “Independence” (page 55 to 57), he addresses the significance of the SCC’s decision in Ocean Port relative to the question of “institutional independence in  adjudicative tribunal settings” (page 56) and ends that reference with this suggestion (at page 57):

But, given the importance of administrative justice, we should perhaps question whether administrative adjudicative administration [sic] should not be given a stronger constitutional protection after all.  Canadians will deal with administrative action and justice more often than with the civil or criminal courts in their daily life.  [Emphasis added.]

Justice Lebel concludes his comments on independence with this (at page 57):

… The goal of strengthening the independence of administrative tribunals is not only to eliminate a reasonable apprehension of bias, but also to create a reasonable apprehension that the system works efficiently and transparently, while being accessible to every citizen.   This requires a model for administrative justice that is independent, yet responsive to the particular demands of its unique environment.


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