Canada: Gro-Bark v. Eacom Timber: A Note On Sufficiency Of Reasons


The Court of Appeal for Ontario recently released its decision in Gro-Bark v. Eacom Timber,1 an appeal about the crucial role that reasons – more precisely, sufficient reasons – play in our legal system.

Below, a motion for summary judgment had been granted in favour of the motion respondent. The summary judgment motion turned on the interpretation of a single paragraph in the disputed agreement between the parties. In granting summary judgment for the respondent, the motion judge's reasons simply stated:

I adopt and rely upon the analysis and statements of law contained in paragraphs 24 to 36 inclusive of the defendant's factum. These paragraphs, in my view, satisfactorily answer the arguments raised by the plaintiffs.

The Court of Appeal set aside the motion judge's decision on a deceivingly simple basis – that his reasons were insufficient. For the appeals court, the motion judge's reference to the "analysis and statements of law" put forward by one of the parties was not an appropriate substitute for the application of contractual interpretation principles required to decide the motion.2

The leading case on sufficiency of reasons is the Supreme Court's decision R. v. R.E.M.3 Yet, more than a decade later, meeting the prevailing test continues to pose an interesting challenge as adjudicators strive to balance a number of imperatives: promoting and upholding the rule of law, maintaining transparency of decision-making, and striving for timely and fair adjudication of both the immediate dispute and all of the other disputes on the docket. Sufficient reasons must effectively balance all of these often competing imperatives.

The Functions of Reasons

Adequate reasons serve several important functions – functions best appreciated by considering the intended audience for a judicial decision: the parties, the public at large, and potentially a reviewing court.

Sir Robert Megarry, a highly-regarded British judge and law professor, is often remembered for asking his students, "Who is the most important person in the court?" To the usual responses – the judge, the lawyers, the witnesses – he would answer that the most important person is the litigant who is going to lose.4 The losing litigant must be able to understand why the case was decided against them. As the Supreme Court held in R.E.M., reasons "attend to the dignity interest" of those directly affected by the decision.5 Ideally, the losing litigant will "feel no justifiable sense of injustice in the judicial process"6 and will be able to make an informed decision about whether to appeal.

But reasons go further than communicating the judicial decision once it is made. The iterative process of judgment writing trains the adjudicator's attention on the issues. "Often a strong impression that, on the basis of the evidence, the facts are thus-and-so," explained an American judge, "gives way when it comes to expressing that impression on paper."7 By sidelining first impressions and focusing on the salient issues at play, the process of writing reasons allows for fairer and more accurate decision-making.

Critically, adequate reasons – which articulate the trial judge's factual findings and understanding of the law – also enable effective and efficient appellate review.8 A reviewing court can defer to the fact-finding and inference-drawing role of the trial judge – the person best placed to find the facts – rather than reach into the record to draw its own conclusions without the benefit of having observed the witnesses first-hand.

Reasons serve two additional, fundamental purposes. By providing guidance to future courts, reasons enable the uniform development of the law in accordance with the principles of stare decisis and judicial comity.9 Future decision-makers, armed with the earlier decision-maker's reasons, are able to apply that precedent to factually analogous cases and to distinguish it where appropriate.

Finally, reasons make decision makers accountable to the public: justice is not only done, but is also seen to be done.10

Assessing Adequacy – the R.E.M. Standard

In R.E.M., the unanimous Supreme Court articulated the test for the sufficiency of reasons as follows:

What is required is a logical connection between the "what" – the verdict – and the "why" – the basis for the verdict. The foundations of the judge's decision must be discernible, when looked at in the context of the evidence, the submissions of counsel and the history of how the trial unfolded.11

Assessing the adequacy of reasons, therefore, is a contextual and functional inquiry. Different imperatives will dominate depending on the circumstances.

R.E.M. instructs reviewing courts to read the reasons in the context of the evidence, the arguments, and the trial. Explaining the "why" and its logical link to the "what" does not require the trial judge to set out every finding or conclusion in the process of arriving at the verdict. "The object," the Court clarified, "is not to show how the judge arrived at his or her conclusion, in a 'watch me think' fashion."12 Instead, "the basis for the trial judge's verdict must be intelligible, or capable of being made out."13

Proportionately Sufficient Reasons Promote Legitimate Court Imperatives

As set out above, first-instance judges must balance a number of competing imperatives. The pursuit of transparency, accountability and fairness must be balanced against one of the scarcest resources in our judicial process: time. As Justice Stratas, a judge on the Federal Court of Appeal, has explained, courts are "community property."14 This is an access to justice issue; litigants are entitled to timely resolution. Fair resolution, however, takes time.

In Hryniak v. Mauldin, the Supreme Court acknowledged the challenge of balancing access to justice with the time that fair adjudication demands:

A fair and just process must permit a judge to find the facts necessary to resolve the dispute and to apply the relevant legal principles to the facts as found. However, that process is illusory unless it is also accessible — proportionate, timely and affordable.15

The degree of procedure necessary to achieve fair process and just adjudication is a question of proportionality. One size does not fit all. The same is true of reasons. What is "adequate" will vary with the circumstances.16 First-instance judges may need to write more detailed reasons when the case is difficult, has troublesome points of law requiring resolution, or involves confusing or conflicting evidence on key points.17 The cost of these reasons is, of course, time.

Nevertheless, more fulsome reasons generate positive externalities which justify the time spent in at least three ways.

First, more fulsome reasons promote the rule of law, a foundation of Canada's constitutional democracy. A law that is stable, well-defined, and capable of being explained to the public maximizes predictability of outcome and justifies the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse for non-compliance. Everyone is capable of knowing what they can and cannot legally do, as well as the consequences for non-compliance. Thus, more fulsome reasons help citizens to comply. A law that is ill-defined cannot hope to effectively guide behavior or promote public confidence in the rule of law.

Second, and related to the first, adequate reasons serve to reduce legal uncertainty over time. Although new laws may not yet be stable or well-defined, sufficient reasons issued today have the potential to reduce the volume of uncertain disputes that wind up in the court system tomorrow. As Justice Stratas has noted, the common law "is not a petrified forest."18 The sound development of the law is a time-intensive process. Until the law achieves the stability and definition required, more expositive reasons assist the public to know the contours of the legal debate and shine a light on unresolved issues for future courts. Once the law achieves stability, the volume of disputes will decrease, justifying the investment of time. As Sir Megarry noted, "Justice in full takes time; but often it is time well spent."19

Finally, more fulsome reasons engender public confidence in the law and respect for the courts as decision-makers. Adequate reasons allow the public to see the rational foundation for the judge's decision, and provide comfort that the judicial process was unbiased, fair and complete. It is important that parties to litigation to feel that justice has been done as between them. It is equally important that the public at large feel that our legal system is operating smoothly and fairly.

Case Information

Case Information

Gro-Bark (Ontario) Ltd. v. Eacom Timber Corporation, 2019 ONCA 341

Docket: C65734

Date of Decision: April 25, 2019


1 Gro-Bark (Ontario) Ltd. v. Eacom Timber Corporation, 2019 ONCA 341.

2 Ibid at paras. 3-5.

3 R. v. R.E.M., 2008 SCC 51 ("R.E.M.").

4 Robert E. Megarry, "The Judge" (1983), 13 Man. L.J. 189 at 193-194; Robert E. Megarry, "Temptations from the Bench", (1978) 12 U.B.C. L. Rev. 145 at 151-52 ("Temptations").

5 R.E.M. at para. 11.

6 Temptations at 152.

7 United States v. Forness, 125 F.2d 928 at 942 (2d Cir. 1942).

8 R.E.M. at para. 11.

9 R.E.M. at para. 12

10 R.E.M. at para. 11

11 R.E.M. at para. 17.

12 R.E.M. at para. 17.

13 R.E.M. at para. 35.

14 Canada v. Olumide, 2017 FCA 42 at paras. 17-18.

15 Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 at para. 28.

16 R. v. Sheppard, 2002 SCC 26 at para. 55.

17 R.E.M. at para. 55.

18 Paradis Honey Ltd. v. Canada, 2015 FCA 89 at para. 116.

19 Temptations at 152.

To view the original article click here

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 Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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