Rankin and three other professional curlers were successful in their application for judicial review of the decisions of the Review Committee and the Appeal Committee of the Alberta Curling Federation (“ACF”). The Court held that the sanctions imposed were patently unreasonable and unsupported by reasons and should be set aside.

28. February 2006 0

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Curling Federation – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties – Suspension – Failure to provide reasons – Judicial review – Jurisdiction of court – Procedural requirements and fairness

Rankin v. Alberta Curling Federation Appeals Committee, [2005] A.J. No. 1759, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, December 16, 2005, Germain J.

Curling in Alberta is controlled at the competitive level by a registered society, the ACF. The ACF approved a Code of Conduct and an internal disciplinary process. The ACF disciplined Rankin and three other curlers by suspending them. The curlers applied for judicial review of the process followed by the ACF and the sanction meted out to them.

The ACF argued that the Court had no jurisdiction to review the decision as the ACF and its members were involved in a consensual undertaking. The Court rejected this argument citing the decision of Lord Denning in Lee v. Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, [1952] 1 All E.R. 1175, where it was held that parties cannot by contract oust the ordinary courts of their jurisdiction. In this case, the Court noted that despite the fact that the ACF was a consensual tribunal and its decision only affected curlers in their curling activities, for active skilled curlers, curling was a source of income and a ban from a large segment of the sport even for a short period may have grave economic and personal consequences.

The Court found that there were a number of procedural irregularities in the process adopted by the ACF Committees. First, the initial Review Committee reached a final decision without even notifying the four individuals accused that their curling liberties were at stake. No input was requested from the four curlers. Second, in the subsequent appeal hearing, one of the members of the initial Review Committee was allowed to question the curlers and the Court held that this placed in issue the independence and impartiality of the Appeal Committee.

Neither the Review Committee nor the Appeal Committee issued reasons for its decision. The Court found the failure to give reasons troubling, particularly when reviewed in combination with the other anomalies in the handling of the case by the ACF.

The Court went on to review the appropriateness of the one year suspension meted out to all four curlers. It was noted that the on-ice officials at the event in question did not suggest any significant sanction for any curler other than Ms. Rankin. The curlers’ involvement and degree of misconduct was variable and in some cases minor. The imposition of the maximum sanction of one year suspension on all curlers, particularly where there were no reasons provided to explain the sanctions, was found to be patently unreasonable.

In the result, the appeal was allowed and the matter was remitted back to the ACF for a new hearing.

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