Unjust by Design Quebec Exemption

In Unjust by Design, I exempted the Province of Quebec’s administrative justice system  from the book’s  criticism of the administrative justice system.  My explanation appears at page 27 and reads as follows:

Why is my criticism of the administrative justice system not, for the most part, pertinent to Quebec’s share of that system? Quebec’s radical and progressive reform of its system of administrative law in 1996 dramatically changed the architecture of that system. In terms of administrative law,
Quebec is now a diff erent case from the rest of the country. It is also the only province with a written constitutional requirement that administrative tribunals in general be independent and impartial.  I shall refer to Quebec in comparative terms from time to time, but by and large my analysis of the problems with the administrative justice system in the English-speaking
jurisdictions of Canada does not apply to Quebec’s current system. My concerns relate to the rest of Canada, where the Quebec reforms have had no discernible impact.   Note, however, that my exclusion of Quebec from this critique should not be taken to mean that I have concluded that there are no
administrative justice problems left in that province. My point is that it is a different case. Whether it is in all respects a better case I leave for others to determine.

At the  CCAT Conference in Toronto (May 26-28, 2013), in the question period following the workshop where I had had the privilege of “debating” the book’s issues with Pam Chapman, I was asked for a further explanation of my decision to exempt Quebec, and in the LRC review of the book, the reviewer, Toronto lawyer Bob Tarantino, also expressed disappointment that I had not been clearer about my position concerning  Quebec’s administrative justice system.

At the CCAT Conference, I also had the opportunity of hearing Professor France Houle’s early report of her not-yet-quite-finished ongoing empirical research on Quebec’s administrative justice tribunals and being left with the impression that perhaps all is also not what it should be in Quebec’s administrative justice system.

 I said in the book, and should make clearer here, my leaving Quebec out of my analysis was caused by the structural differences unique to that province  – the presence of a written constitutional requirement of tribunal independence and impartiality, the presence of a super tribunal with life-tenured administrative law judges, and the introduction in 1996 of an Act actually dealing with “administrative justice”.  But I must confess that my decision to exclude Quebec came rather more easily than it might otherwise have by my regrettable inability to either speak or read French, which left me doubtful about my successful in working my way through the Quebec literature in attempting to thread the minefields in what I knew to be a structurally differentiated system.

NOTE:  I apologize for the lateness of this post relative to the May 26-28, CCAT Conference where this issue was discussed.   It was just a case of starting to draft the post and then being distracted by events – notably the Sask. Court of Appeal rejecting our appeal in the Labour Board case – and my eventually losing track of my intention to deal with this  altogether.  I came across the draft just today as I was reviewing the various posts in a general way.


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