A disciplinary decision made by the Council of the British Columbia Veterinary Association, without a meeting, is overturned on the basis that the process followed did not accord with the Association’s Bylaws

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Veterinary Associations – Rules and by-laws – Adherence to by-laws – Veterinarians – Disciplinary proceedings – Hearings – Conduct of hearings – Judicial review – Bias – Procedural requirements and fairness

Bhullar v. British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association, [2011] B.C.J. No. 235, 2011 BCSC 182, British Columbia Supreme Court, February 15, 2011, A. Saunders J.

The appellant, Dr. Hakam Bhullar, is a veterinarian who was disciplined for professional misconduct by the respondent, the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association. The Association’s bylaws provide that decisions of the Council are to be made at a meeting on the basis of a vote of the majority of the members present. In this case, when the Council held its hearings between February and September 2009, it was composed of nine members. One of the elected members withdrew when the appellant made an application that he and certain other Council members ought to recuse themselves on the grounds of bias. Another elected member chose not to participate in the Council’s deliberations. By the time the Council’s report was finalized and endorsed, the terms of three of the remaining Council members had expired and they had not sought re-election. Of the seven persons who signed the written decision, only four were actually members of the Council at that time. The appellant argued that the decision of the Council was void because it was not signed by a quorum of the Council.

The court accepted the appellant’s argument in part, and noted that the Council’s bylaws require a decision of the Council to be “considered” and voted on at a duly called and constituted meeting. Consideration implies at least the opportunity for discussion and debate. Decisions of the Council are made by the majority of those in attendance at a meeting at which a quorum of the Council is present. Here, a duly constituted meeting could have taken place with only five members in attendance. However, no meeting was called and the newly-elected members of the Council had no opportunity to consider the decision, no opportunity to debate and therefore no opportunity to persuade the signatories to change their minds.

The court agreed that the views of both retiring members who participated in hearings and the new members who have been elected to express the will of the membership are necessary to enable the Council to exercise its role. The failure of the Council to hold a meeting and to allow the newly-elected Council members to debate, discuss, and vote was fatal to the Council’s decision. The decision to strike the appellant’s name from the registry was held to be improper and remitted back to the Association.

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