There are two standards under which the Federal Courts may review a quasi-judicial decision:
- Correctness: for a finding of general law that is outside of the decision maker's specialized area of expertise and that raises an issue of central importance to the legal system as a whole; for a finding of statutory interpretation relating to the boundaries between the jurisdiction of different decision makers; for a finding of statutory interpretation relating to the jurisdiction of a decision maker to decide on the constitutionality of the enabling legislation.
- Reasonableness: for any other finding. This type of review asks the following question: "Is the decision maker's conclusion within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes?"
Labour relations matters usually fall under the "reasonableness" standard. This is because it is considered that labour relations decision makers have special expertise in labour law and that that expertise should not necessarily be questioned (i.e., a judge will not automatically question the law applied by an expert in labour law).
At the end of the day, if the party seeking judicial review cannot present a substantial argument that the logic that led the labour relations decision maker to his or her decision is incorrect or unreasonable, according to the applicable standard for judicial review, the application will be denied.
Understanding the Federal Courts
The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal deal only with matters that fall under federal statutes. Only these two courts have the jurisdiction to review decisions of federal boards, commissions and tribunals (including the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB)), with the exceptions of the Tax Court of Canada and military courts.
An application for judicial review must be made to the appropriate court. Parties seeking a review of a decision rendered by a panel of the FPSLREB or an adjudicator must make an application to the Federal Court of Appeal. For matters decided by other decision makers (i.e., the Chairperson) an application for review must be made to the Federal Court.
If a decision of the Chairperson is reviewed by the Federal Court, a party may appeal the Federal Court's decision to the Federal Court of Appeal and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court of Canada, if leave to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal's decision is granted.
If a decision of a panel of the FPSLREB or an adjudicator is reviewed by the Federal Court of Appeal, a party may appeal that court's decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, if leave to appeal is granted.
Reasons for which a decision may be reviewed
According to s. 34 of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and s. 233 of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, every decision or order of an adjudicator or a panel of the Board is final and is not to be questioned or reviewed in any court except by way of judicial review proceedings and only on the grounds set out in ss. 18.1(4)(a), (b), or (e) of the Federal Courts Act.
Sections 28(1)(i) and (i.1) of the Federal Courts Act states that the Federal Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine applications for judicial review made in respect of the Board and adjudicators.
Most grievances and complaints are heard by a panel of the Board or adjudicator. As a result, most applications for judicial review are presented to the Federal Court of Appeal. Applications for judicial review of decisions not made by a panel of the Board or adjudicator are presented to the Federal Court of Canada.
The time limit for filing an application for judicial review is normally 30 days. More information can be obtained from the registries of the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal.