Canada: To Adjourn Or Not To Adjourn, That Is The Question

Last Updated: December 6 2013
Article by Kathryn Oviatt

Scheduling discipline hearings is difficult. In order to get to a hearing, the regulator often needs to coordinate the schedules of many very busy people. Once the regulator finally has all those people together, it can be frustrating to then receive a request for an adjournment.

Most professional regulatory legislation does not have specific direction addressing adjournment applications.  So what is the best way to deal with requests for adjournments?

The regulator is not required to grant every adjournment request, but it must carefully consider each request, and must grant an adjournment when appropriate.

General Principle

Although the decision to grant an adjournment is discretionary, the case law has established that an adjournment must be granted where the failure to adjourn would result in a breach of natural justice.  Natural justice is the principle that all parties have a right to a fair hearing.  A fair hearing is one where all parties are able to put their cases squarely before the decision-maker, or to respond fully to the evidence and arguments of other parties.  If a party makes an adjournment request because he or she cannot fully or adequately present his or her case, the tribunal may be required to grant the adjournment. 

In exercising its discretion, a tribunal will need to determine:

a. the reason for the adjournment (i.e. is the reason legitimate?); and

b. the impact on the person requesting the adjournment (i.e. will the denial of the adjournment impact the person's ability to present his/her case?).

Summary of Recent Cases

The general principle is easy to articulate, but it can be difficult to apply, given that many court decisions appear to be inconsistent.

For example, in Law Society of Upper Canada v. Igbinosun the court held that the failure to grant an adjournment resulted in a breach of natural justice.1 In that case, professional conduct proceedings had been ongoing for 6 years, with previous adjournments having been granted.  The regulator scheduled the continuation of the hearing on a peremptory basis (meaning no further adjournments would be granted) despite knowing that legal counsel for the member intended to remove himself from the file.  The member retained new legal counsel in the interim.  That new legal counsel was not available on the scheduled date for the continuation of the hearing.  The new legal counsel provided alternative dates when he was available in the near future, but the tribunal proceeded on the scheduled date.  The member's newly retained legal counsel was unable to attend and the member was unrepresented for the hearing.  The failure to grant the adjournment in that case was deemed to have been a breach of natural justice and the decision was quashed.  The court was critical of the tribunal for failing to consider the very serious impact the failure to adjourn had on the member.

In contrast, the court came to the opposite conclusion in McIntyre v. Ontario College of Teachers.2  InMcIntyre, a teacher faced professional misconduct proceedings.  Over the course of 6 years, various adjournments had been sought and granted due to the member's health and other proceedings that he was involved in.  Ultimately, the hearing was scheduled on a peremptory basis and conditions were set for any further adjournment requests, including that medical evidence must be provided 14 days prior to the hearing addressing the nature of the condition, the reason the member could not participate and an estimate of when the member would be able to participate. 

The member sought a subsequent adjournment as a result of a medical condition but failed to comply fully with the conditions for providing medical evidence in support of his adjournment application.  The tribunal declined to grant the adjournment.  On appeal, the court upheld the tribunal's decision.  The court reviewed the history of the matter and the member's role in delaying it.  The court held that the conditions for seeking an adjournment were entirely reasonable in the circumstances and found that the member had not complied.


The case law reveals that whether or not an adjournment should be granted depends on the specific factual background.  Although the cases are not always consistent in their outcomes, they establish a number of factors that should carefully be considered and weighed.  Some of the factors that a discipline tribunal should consider when determining whether to grant an adjournment include:

  • The number of times an adjournment has already been granted. If there have already been repeated requests, denial of an adjournment may be reasonable.  This factor should be carefully considered in light of the reason for adjournment and the particular circumstances of each case. 
  • The length of time since alleged unprofessional conduct occurred and the length of time since the complaint was made. If the adjournment will result in a lengthy delay before the hearing can proceed or resume the adjournment may not be appropriate, especially where a significant amount of time has already passed.  This recognizes that the quality of evidence deteriorates with the passage of time.
  • Availability of legal counsel.  If a hearing is scheduled before the member has legal counsel, and legal counsel is subsequently retained, it will be reasonable to grant an adjournment to a date when counsel is available.  Similarly, it is generally reasonable to grant an adjournment for a reasonable period of time to allow a member to retain legal counsel.  Findings of unprofessional conduct have very serious repercussions for members.  As such, the concept of natural justice includes the right for members facing professional conduct proceedings to have the opportunity to retain legal counsel. Unforeseen circumstances (weather, flight delays, etc.).  Where external circumstances materially affect the ability of any of the parties to attend or, it may be appropriate to adjourn.
  • Unavailability of material witness. It may be appropriate to grant an adjournment where a key witness is unavailable.  The question in considering such a request is whether the absence of the unavailable witness will impact the party's ability to its present case, and the reason why the witness is unavailable.  If the party can present their case without the witness, it may be appropriate to deny the adjournment.  Where, however, the witness is key to a party's case, it may be unfair to proceed without the evidence. 
  • Illness of a tribunal member, the regulated member, legal counsel or material witnesses.  If one of the parties, or a member of the tribunal is unexpectedly ill and their absence will materially impact the proceedings, it may be appropriate to grant an adjournment. 
  • Defect in procedure. A breach of natural justice that may be remedied by an adjournment is an appropriate circumstance for adjourning a hearing.  For example, where a hearing starts but there has been a failure to provide adequate disclosure, an adjournment may be appropriate to allow the disclosure to occur and for the party requesting time to review that disclosure.  The correct remedy in such circumstances is to grant an adjournment to allow the defect to be remedied.
  • New issues or allegations arising in the course of the hearing.  Many professional regulatory statutes permit hearing tribunals to consider new issues or allegations that arise in the course of a hearing.  For example, such authority is contained in s. 79(3) of the Health Professions Act.  However, before hearing evidence relating to new issues or allegations, the hearing tribunal must give the investigated member notice that it is considering new issues / allegations and it MUST grant an adjournment before hearing the evidence. This ensures fairness to the regulated member by ensuring that he or she knows the case to be met and has an opportunity to prepare a response. Courts have specifically said that administrative inconvenience to the tribunal is NOT an appropriate factor to consider in dealing with request for adjournment.3  For example, the fact that tribunal members may have travelled from out of town to attend the hearing will not generally be sufficient grounds on which to deny an adjournment request.

Notwithstanding the factors referenced above, if the necessity for an adjournment is as a result of a lack of diligence on the part of the party requesting it, the tribunal may be justified in refusing to grant the adjournment.  The tribunal will want to carefully review the scheduling history and documentation to determine whether the member was aware of the hearing dates at the time of scheduling, and what steps the member has taken to prepare for the hearing.  When granting an adjournment, the tribunal should advise the parties, in writing, of any conditions associated with its decision, such as the requirement to retain legal counsel within a specific period of time or the requirement to provide medical evidence if an adjournment is sought for medical reasons.  This type of information will be assistance to establish an appropriate record, in the event that the tribunal receives and denies further adjournment requests.


1.2009 ONCA 484.

2.2012 ONSC 5957.

3.General Medical Council v. Spackman, [1943] 2 All E.R. 337 as quoted in  Re Bass (No. 1) (1959), 19 D.L.R. (2d) 484 at 490 (B.C.S.C.)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions