Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Fisheries – Licence applications – Judicial review – Natural justice
Ralph v. Canada (Attorney General),  F.C.J. No. 1556, 2009 FC 1239, Federal Court, December 4, 2009, Heneghan J.
The appellant obtained a supplementary crab licence in 1988. At that time, the Crab Management Plan for the Newfoundland Region set out several criteria for the issuance of a supplementary licence, which included holding a ground fish licence for a registered fishing vessel that is not less than 35 feet LOA or 10 gross tons and that does not exceed 64’11” LOA. The appellant qualified for a supplementary licence on the basis that he owned both a 35 foot vessel and a vessel of 10 gross tons.
In 1990, the criteria changed and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans policy for the issuance of new supplementary crab licences stated that applicants had to hold a ground fish licence for a vessel greater than 35 feet. The appellant was not informed of these changes, and transferred his ground fish licence for the 35-foot vessel to his son. Accordingly, the appellant’s application for the supplementary crab licence was denied in 1991.
The appellant was granted a right of appeal to the Atlantic Fisheries Licensing Appeal Board, which is responsible for making a recommendation to the Minister. The Appeal Board recommended that the appellant’s licence not be reinstated on the basis that the criteria for the issuance of licences had changed. The Minister agreed with this recommendation.
Upon review, the appellant argued that he was treated unfairly by the Minister because he was not told about the change in policy in 1989 regarding the conditions to be met in order to obtain a supplementary crab licence. He also argued that because he initially qualified for the supplementary crab licence, the licence should have been granted to him even after he transferred the 35-foot vessel to his son. This is because he was not looking for a “new” supplementary crab licence but the renewal of such a licence.
The Court held that there was no breach of natural justice on the basis that the appellant did not receive notice of the change of policy; the appellant had some responsibility to inform himself in this regard. The Court further held that the Minister’s decision was reasonable. Because the appellant did not meet the requirements, he was not eligible to have a supplementary licence. There is no perpetual right of renewal.
To stay current with the new case law and emerging legal issues in this area, subscribe here.