Prevented from being able to practice: Ontario Court allowed an appeal from a decision of the registration committee of the Ontario Association of Architects granting the appellant a license but refusing to reinstate his certificate of practice

Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Association of Architects – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Natural justice – Appeals – Architects – Reporting requirements

Sbrissa v. Ontario Association of Architects, [2021] O.J. No. 1510, 2021 ONSC 2087, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, March 23, 2021, C.T. Hackland, M.A. Penny and L.G. Favreau JJ.

The appellant was a member of the respondent association since 1981. He was the owner of a historic building where he lived and carried on his practice. A portion of the building collapsed and a dispute between the jurisdiction and the appellant arose as to whether the building was safe and the appropriate method of repair. At the time of the collapse, the association revoked the appellant’s license to practice for non-payment of his practice insurance premiums. The appellant subsequently paid his premiums and applied to be reinstated.

Following a hearing before the association’s hearing committee, the appellant’s license was reinstated, but his certificate of practice was not. Based on the committee’s decision, it did not have sufficient evidence to draw any conclusions concerning the collapse. However, the committee observed that the appellant breached undertakings by failing to pay his fees and insurance premiums. Neither of these issues were included in the registrar’s notice of proposal and therefore, the appellant was not afforded procedural fairness or due process when these issues arose at the hearing. Without this information on the notice, the appellant was also not able to consider whether he required legal counsel.

The Court held that the registration committee “committed an error of law in conducting a hearing into the appellant’s history of payment defaults and other administrative and conduct issues not referred to in the Registrar’s Notice of Proposal or other prior notification and in basing its decision to not reinstate his certificate of practice primarily on such grounds. These actions violated the appellant’s entitlement to natural justice and deprived him of a fair hearing.” (at para. 32).

The Court set aside the decision of the registration committee. In obiter, the Court observed that the governing legislation appeared to require the reinstatement of the certificate of practice. Costs of $10,000 were awarded to the appellant.

This case was digested by Jackson C. Doyle, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Administrative Law Newsletter.  If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Jackson C. Doyle at jdoyle@harpergrey.com.

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