Administrative law – Judicial review – Quasi-judicial tribunals – Breach of procedural fairness – Procedural requirements – Jurisdiction – Evidence
Lee v. Canadian Kennel Club Appeal Committee,  A.J. No. 64, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, January 17, 2003, Lee J.
The complaint arose out of dispute between Mr. Lee, a professional dog handler, and Ms. Wyler in relation to parking for a dog show being held in Calgary, Alberta. The dog show was put on by the Alberta Kennel Club (“AKC”) and permission was granted by the Canadian Kennel Club (“CKC”) for the holding of the event under CKC rules and regulations.
Mr. Lee had parked in an area of the public parking lot that was reserved for exhibitors who had pre-paid for parking. When Ms. Wyler, accompanied by a parking assistant and a security guard, told Mr. Lee to move his car, he refused and became verbally abusive and adopted a physically intimating stance. The incident gave rise to a Conformation Show Committee hearing held immediately following the dog show. All of the witnesses gave evidence and Mr. Lee was given an opportunity to question the witnesses, which he did. Mr. Lee confirmed that he knew that he could have a lawyer present at the hearing and could bring his own witnesses; however, he chose not to. The Conformation Show Committee recommended that Mr. Lee be found guilty of infractions of the Conformation Show rules. Following the hearing, the AKC served Mr. Lee with a letter indicating that it had decided to no longer allow his participation in any AKC shows. Approximately five months later, the complaint was brought before the Discipline Committee of the CKC. At the Discipline Committee hearing, the complainant made further accusations against Mr. Lee and a Committee member solicited more information on him. Mr. Lee did not appear or submit any written materials to the Discipline Committee. The Discipline Committee imposed a two-year period of debarment.
Mr. Lee appealed the decision of the Discipline Committee to the Appeal Committee of the CKC. Mr. Lee raised numerous grounds of appeal and also submitted additional evidence to the Appeal Committee. The Appeal Committee refused to allow additional evidence on the basis that it could have been produced at the time of the Discipline Committee hearing. On the same day, the Appeal Committee also heard the appeal of another unrelated matter relating to Mr. Lee. Once again, the Appeal Committee refused to consider new evidence and rejected each ground of Mr. Lee’s appeal.
Mr. Lee applied to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench for a judicial review. In deciding the case, the court considered whether decisions of the Appeal Committee were reviewable. The court referred to Kass v. Canada (Attorney General) (1998), 155 F.T.. 96, 13 Admin. L.R. (3d) 262 (F.C.T.D.), in which Reed J. held that the CKC was not a statutory tribunal. The court held, however, that this did not mean that the decision was not reviewable noting that decisions of consensual tribunals are reviewable by a court pursuant to the court’s jurisdiction to interpret and enforce contracts between two parties. This general principle was enunciated by Lord Denning in Lee v. Showman’s Guild of Great Britain,  1 All. E.R. 1175 at 1180-1 and has been followed in Canada.
The court further held that the extent to which a court will intervene in the dealings of the parties depends on the nature of the tribunal and the individual’s stake in the decisions of the tribunal. Where a decision affects a person’s livelihood, as was the case here, the court will be far more likely to intervene. The court referred to Kaplan v. Canadian Institute of Actuaries (1994), A.R. 321, where it was held that it is appropriate for a court to ascertain whether a consensual tribunal has acted within its jurisdiction and that it has not breached duties of natural justice or fairness. In reviewing the case, the court stated that the nature of the decision and the decision-making process was quasi judicial, indicating that a higher duty of procedural fairness is necessary. The court held that as Mr. Lee consented to the Discipline Committee’s authority, there was a “contract” between the parties and that the procedural rules outlined by the CKC required strict compliance. The court held that the above factors suggested that Mr. Lee was entitled to a high degree of procedural fairness. In allowing the appeal, the court noted that the Discipline Committee had heard irrelevant information and that there was a strong implication that the Committee was influenced by irrelevant information in coming to its decision. The court also observed institutional bias in that the Discipline Committee heard two independent complaints at the same time, which may have influenced the Committee’s decision.
The court concluded that fairness was breached when the Discipline Committee solicited irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence. The Appeal Committee’s decision was quashed and the matter was sent back to the Appeal Committee.
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