Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Taxi licence appeal board – Permits and licences – Investigations – Judicial review – Hearsay Evidence – admissibility – Credibility – Natural justice – Failure to provide reasons
Gidda v. Taxicab Board,  M.J. No. 160, 2014 MBCA 58, Manitoba Court of Appeal, June 6, 2014, H.C. Beard, M.M. Monnin, and W.J. Burnett JJ.A.
On September 3, 2009, the appellant’s taxicab licence was suspended by the respondent, the Winnipeg Taxicab Board (the “Board”). The Board received a report from the Winnipeg Police Service alleging the appellant sexually assaulted two female passengers. The police charged the appellant with two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual interference.
After the criminal charges were stayed, the appellant applied to the Board for reinstatement of his taxicab licence. The matter proceeded to a hearing before the Board.
At the hearing, the appellant and a police officer from the Winnipeg Police Service gave evidence. Neither of the complainants provided evidence. The police officer described the Winnipeg Police Service’s investigation and evidence obtained in the course of the investigation. In response to a question from a Board member regarding the truthfulness of the complainants, the police officer expressed his view that their disclosures were “extremely credible” and “absolutely credible”.
The Board cancelled the appellant’s taxicab licence without issuing reasons for its decision. After the appellant brought an appeal from the decision on the basis the Board failed to provide reasons, the Board provided brief reasons which concluded that, in considering all of the evidence, including the testimony of the police officer, the Board preferred the evidence that the alleged incidents did occur.
Pursuant to the Taxicab Act, C.C.S.M., c. T10, the appellant sought and obtained leave to appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal on three questions of law: 1) whether the Board erred in law in relying on the hearsay evidence for proof of the complaints; 2) whether the board erred in law in relying on the police officer’s opinion evidence as to the credibility of the complainants; and 3) whether the Board erred in law in rendering a decision that did not meet the reasonableness standard.
With respect to the first question, the Court of Appeal held that it is well established that administrative tribunals may admit and rely on hearsay evidence unless its receipt would amount to a clear denial of natural justice. Because the appellant had full opportunity to cross‑examine the police officer, was not denied the right to call any witness or to have any witness be made available for cross‑examination, and his counsel did not object to the introduction of the hearsay evidence, there was no denial of natural justice.
With respect to the second question, the Court of Appeal held that an administrative tribunal such as the Board can rely on both expert and lay opinion evidence as it is not bound by the strict rules and evidence applicable to judicial proceedings. On that basis, the Board did not err in law in relying on the police officer’s hearsay and opinion evidence.
With respect to the third question, the Court of Appeal held that the appellant’s ground for appeal was essentially that the Board’s reasons were inadequate and insufficient. It held that incorporating an adequacy of reasons analysis into the reasonableness test is a slippery slope because it can justify abandoning the principle of deference and foster a review based on the correctness of the tribunal’s analysis. The Court held that while the Board should have explained its reasons for preferring the police officer’s evidence and rejecting the appellant’s evidence, the result fell within the range of acceptable outcomes in the context of the evidence, the parties’ submissions, and the process. The reasons explained, albeit minimally, the basis for the decision. The decision was reasonable.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
This case was digested by Joel A. Morris of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or review his biography at http://www.harpergrey.com.
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