Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Human Rights Commission – Discrimination – Equality rights – Judicial review – Investigations – Procedural requirements and fairness – Evidence – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter
Francis v. CHC Composites Inc.,  N.J. No. 8, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court – Trial Division, January 13, 2006, W.G. Dymond J.
An Application was commenced by A.F. pursuant to s. 21(4) of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Code to review the Human Rights Commission’s decision to dismiss her complaint without a hearing. The Applicant, a female non-status Indian, filed a complaint of discrimination against her employer, CHC Composites Inc. (“CHC”), based on race and/or gender. The complaint related to the rate of pay for work similar to a male non-aboriginal co-worker, Mr. R.H.
The Commission was assigned to investigate the complaint. Upon concluding its examination, the Commission determined that there was no reasonable basis on the evidence for proceeding to a hearing before a Board of Inquiry. The Commission found that the Complainant and the men noted in the correspondence from her appeared to have different job classifications. Those different job classifications undermined the argument that she and the subject male did similar work.
The Court held that the proper standard of review was that of reasonableness. Thus, there would have to be some deference to the findings of the Commission as they related to the fact finding process and, as well, to the procedures followed in arriving at the decision not to refer the matter to a Board of Inquiry.
The Court noted that the Commission assigned an individual employed with the Commission to conduct an investigation into the complaint. This individual conducted interviews with the Complainant, A.F., as well as certain representatives of her employer. A report was subsequently prepared and both parties were given the opportunity to respond to it. All of the information collected was put before the Commission at a meeting on June 3, 2005. A decision was made by the Commission after reviewing the report of the investigator and the Commission record, which ran some 235 pages. The Commission then dismissed the complaint.
The Court noted that the Commission reviewed the evidence and determined that there was no reasonable basis based on the evidence to proceed to an inquiry. It was not the Court’s job to substitute its opinion for the Commission’s on the basis of the evidence unless there was some breach of procedural fairness or natural justice. The Court found that there was nothing more that could have been done in this case. A.F. was given full opportunity to put forward whatever information she deemed relevant to the Commission staff. She was treated fairly and given every opportunity to give full details of her complaint. The investigation by the staff member who conducted the investigation into the complaint was impartial to both sides and gave both parties the full opportunity to put forward their case. The decision of the Commission was a reasonable one which should not be interfered with by the Court. The Application was therefore dismissed.
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