New rules have come into force for the Canadian Agricultural Review Tribunal (the “Tribunal”).
In Canada, certain decisions affecting the food industry have been delegated to quasi-judicial administrative tribunals. Administrative tribunals have been created for the purpose because they facilitate the appointment of decision-makers with expertise in the subject area, and they facilitate more informal proceedings with more flexible procedure.
In some cases, however, too much flexibility can lead to uncertainty and a lack of predictability. This is reflected by the history of the procedural rules for the Tribunal. The new procedural rules are welcome and will hopefully deal with some of this confusion.
When the Tribunal was first established, its primary purpose was to review decisions made by the Board of Arbitration, a regulatory board for fruit and vegetable vendors. At present, the Tribunal’s mandate is restricted to reviewing notices of violation (“NOVs”) that result in Administrative Monetary Penalties (“AMPs”) pursuant to the Canada Agricultural Products Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act.
The maximum AMPs currently available under this regime is $15,000, and may increase in the future. Since its inception, the Tribunal has seen an increasing number of parties seeking representation by legal counsel and legal issues, such as the admissibility of evidence, have begun to play a larger role.
As a result, over time the Tribunal has had to adapt procedural rules on an ad hoc basis, which sometimes resulted in delays to resolve matters. To remedy this situation, a new set of procedural rules (the “New Rules”) have been developed.
The New Rules
The New Rules seek to provide certainty and predictability in proceedings before the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal. Although the New Rules preserve flexibility for the Tribunal to set an agenda where there are constitutional questions or issues of a similar nature, the New Rules:
- Set fixed deadlines for the submission of documents and requests prior to oral hearings;
- Allow for the use of teleconferencing and videoconferencing technologies, when available;
- Set out what documents are required from the parties and when;
- Describe what information must be included in an applicant’s request to have their NOV reviewed, set timelines for the government agency to provide additional information, and the subsequent time for response by the applicant; and,
- Set fixed timelines for the use and cross-examination of affidavit evidence, calling of witnesses, requests for adjournments and for the submission of additional information.
The New Rules also provide enhanced transparency. When a government agency cannot produce relevant documents, the responsible Minister must explain the reasons why.
The New Rules came into force on May 8, 2015.