Sanctions were imposed on a chiropractor by the chiropractor’s Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Board (the “Board”). The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court allowed the chiropractor’s appeal on the basis that the Board did not comply with its duty to give reasons for its decision. The complaint was remitted back to the Board for consideration.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Chiropractic Board – Chiropractors – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties and suspensions – Judicial review – Natural justice – Procedural requirements and fairness – Failure to provide reasons – Costs

MacAllister v. Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Board, [2011] N.J. No. 205, 2011 NLTD(G) 85, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court, June 14, 2011, D.B. Orsborn C.J.T.D.

A complaint was made against the appellant chiropractor for distributing a flyer advertising free spinal exams. Six specific breaches of governing regulations of the Chiropractors Act, R.S.N. L. 1990 c. C-14 were alleged. The complaint was considered by a Discipline Committee. The Discipline Committee dismissed three of the six allegations and upheld the other three. It recommended a five year reprimand and payment by the chiropractor of 50% of the costs of the Board.

The Discipline Committee’s findings were provided to the Board. The Board reheard the matter and considered the parties’ further submissions. The Board also had available to it the transcript of the proceedings before the Discipline Committee. In contrast to the findings of the Discipline Committee, the Board found that all six allegations had been made out and as a result, the Board ordered 100% recovery of costs. No reasons or explanations supporting the Board’s conclusions were provided. The chiropractor appealed the decision on the basis of procedural unfairness because no reasons were provided by the Board.

The primary issue was one of natural justice, whether there was a requirement of the Board to give reasons for its decision. The second issue was the extent to which, if at all, the chiropractor was entitled to challenge the quantum of the costs order.

The Court applied the principles in Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817, and concluded that the Board failed to comply with its duty of procedural fairness, to provide reasons for its decision, to the chiropractor. In particular, the Court held that: (1) the Board’s decision, which included the professional discipline process, was obviously important to the chiropractor and this mitigated in favour of providing reasons, (2) the Board ought to have provided reasons for rejecting the findings of the Discipline Committee since the findings differed, and (3) the need for reasons, as a component of a duty of procedural fairness, is compounded when the decision-making body has financial stake in the outcome of its deliberations.

Based on the above, the costs order was set aside but the Court nonetheless opined that based on the requirement of reasonableness, the Board ought to have provided an itemized statement of the amounts claimed, so that the registrant chiropractor would be able to determine the amount of each of the major heads of expenditure.

The Court set aside the orders and remitted the complaint to the Board for consideration.

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