Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Commissioner – Correctional Service – Prisons – Inmates – Grievances – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter – Procedural requirements and fairness – Compliance with legislation
Spidel v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 FC 999,  F.C.J. No. 1228, Federal Court, August 15, 2011, Mactavish J.
A prison inmate applied for judicial review of a decision of the Senior Deputy Commissioner (the “Commissioner”) of the Correctional Service of Canada (“CSC”). The Commissioner denied the inmate’s third-level grievance regarding the refusal of the Warden of the institution to approve his nomination for a position on the Inmate Committee. Although the inmate was subsequently transferred out of the institution, the Court was satisfied that it was in the interest of justice that the application be determined on its merits. Ultimately, the Court concluded that the inmate was not treated fairly in relation to his grievance and that the Commissioner’s decision was unreasonable. As a result, the Court allowed the inmate’s judicial review application.
In 2009, elections to sit on the Inmate Committee were held and the inmate nominated himself for a position. Previously, the inmate sat on the Inmate Committee. The inmate received a letter from the Warden informing him that the Warden would not approve the inmate’s 2009 nomination on the basis that the inmate does not accept differing opinions, contrary to the criteria required to sit on the Inmate Committee. The inmate grieved the Warden’s decision noting that the Warden failed to provide him with an opportunity to make representations with respect to the prohibition on his participation in the Inmate Committee as required by legislation. The Warden’s decision was forwarded for second-level review but the grievance was also denied at the second level on the basis that the Warden had the authority to reject the applicant’s nomination. Notably, the second level decision did not address the inmate’s claim that he was denied an opportunity to make representation with respect to the Warden’s decision.
The inmate then took the matter to the third level of the grievance process. His position was essentially the same but included in his submissions was that he had been unable to locate any information in his file suggesting he had not properly represented the population of the institution when he was on the Inmate Committee. Despite this, the inmate’s grievance was denied at the third level, rendered by the Commissioner. The decision stated that the inmate’s inability to work with staff to resolve issues might not be wholly documented because it is reliant on the personal relationship developed with the staff. Again, no reference was made to the inmate’s claim he had not been afforded an opportunity to make representation with respect to the Warden’s decision.
The Court reviewed the Commissioner’s decision against the standard of reasonableness. The Court held that not only was the inmate not treated fairly, as the CSC failed to follow the proper procedure prescribed by law, but that the decision was also unreasonable. As it relates to the issue of fairness, the inmate had a statutory right to make representations. Since the inmate was not given an opportunity to make submissions at either the second or third level grievance, the process was flawed as it violated the inmate’s right to be treated fairly. As it relates to the issue of reasonableness, the Court found that the respondent could not point the Court to “any” evidence in the record that supported the Warden’s allegations that the inmate did not have the ability to work with staff to resolve issues. In the absence of this evidentiary foundation for the Warden’s assessment, the Court found that the second and third level decisions lacked the justification, transparency and intelligibility required of reasonable decisions.
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