Administrative law – Human rights complaints – Judicial review – Boards and tribunals – Bias – Breach of procedural fairness – Delay
Crown Packaging Ltd. v. Ghinis,  B.C.J. No. 489, British Columbia Court of Appeal, March 7, 2002, Prowse, Hall and Mackenzie JJ.A.
The events alleged as the grounds of the complaint arose in November 1992. The complainant alleged that she suffered harassment by her co-workers and employer after her prior complaint resulted in “no display of pornographic materials” policy in the workplace. The Human Rights complaint was filed on August 30, 1995 and was referred to the Tribunal for hearing on November 4, 1999, 4 years and 2 months after the complaint was filed. The hearing was set for May 8, 2000. On judicial review, the Court quashed the HRC’s decision to refer the matter for hearing and enjoin the Tribunal to hearing the complaint based on abuse of process.
The decision was reversed on appeal. Blencoe v. British Columbia (Human Rights Commission),  2 S.C.R. 307 confirmed that where a party seeks to terminate an administrative proceeding, “there must be proof of significant prejudice which results from an unacceptable delay” and “The respondent must demonstrate that the delay was unacceptable to the point of being so oppressive so as to taint the proceedings”. While both the complainant and employer were both potentially prejudiced by the delay, the prejudice disclosed by the record was insufficient to support a stay of proceedings for abuse of process, which requires “that a very high threshold is met” and is reserved for the “clearest of cases” [R. v. Regan, 2002 SCC 12].
The Court of Appeal admonished the HRC’s conduct, and commented that the unnecessary delay and other deficiencies of the process demonstrated by the record should not be condoned. The Commission was ordered to pay the costs of the complainant and employer in both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal proceedings.
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