Eye On Regulation

In Dugandzic v Alberta (Law Enforcement Review Board), 2024 ABCA 125, the Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed an application to appeal a decision of the Law Enforcement Review Board...
Canada Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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In Dugandzic v Alberta (Law Enforcement Review Board),  2024 ABCA 125, the Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed an application to appeal a decision of the Law Enforcement Review Board, where the Board issued a decision on the merits in the face of a request for an adjournment.

The Underlying Background

In this case, the applicant had made a complaint with the Professional Standards Section of the Calgary Police under the Police Act, RSA 2000, c P-17 (the “Police Act”) as it relates to a dispute between himself and a former business partner.

The Chief of Police dismissed the complaint under section 45(4) of the Police Act, as there was no evidence to substantiate the underlying complaint. Section 45(4.1) of the Police Act  provides that the decision of the Chief is final, and there is no opportunity for an appeal to the Board.

After receiving this decision, the applicant filed an additional complaint with the Calgary Police Commission against the Chief, because of the Chief allegedly dealt with the initial complaint. This complaint was also dismissed. The Calgary Police Commission informed the applicant that he could appeal this decision to the Board, under section 48(2) of the Police Act.

The Adjournment Requests

The applicant ultimately appealed this decision; however, scheduling the appeal came with several hurdles. First, the applicant sought to expedite the appeal hearing but this request was denied by the Board. The appeal was then set for January 24, 2023. However, the applicant then sought an adjournment of this date (one year in advance) because of personal medical reasons. The Board granted the adjournment.

On February 24, 2023, the Board requested the parties' availability for a hearing date between May and June of 2023; however, the applicant stated he would not be available at those time and requested an adjournment until further notice.

Notwithstanding this request, the Board informed the parties that the hearing was rescheduled for June 21, 2023:

While the board is sympathetic to the [applicant's] circumstances, the board is not satisfied that the medical evidence provided warrants an indefinite adjournment of the appeal. The respondents, on basic principles of fairness, are entitled to a timely resolution of the appeal. The board must balance the interests of all parties with its mandate to schedule appeals and have them heard within the one year target set by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services.

For an unknown reason, the Board then notified the parties that the appeal hearing date was changed to July 11, 2023, and directed the applicant to have his written submissions by May 8, 2023. The Applicant continued to reiterate a request for an adjournment for an indefinite period of time and did not provide written submissions.

At the appeal hearing, the Applicant attended and re-requested an adjournment, primarily because he was dealing with medical issues, he had not been afforded an opportunity to make written submission on the merits and that he was under oath in a parallel proceeding before the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal.

The Board dismissed the application for an adjournment and the appeal was heard in the applicant's absence after he left the hearing.

The applicant appealed this decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal, on several grounds, the most relevant being that the Board's refusal to grant an adjournment was a breach of procedural fairness.

The Alberta Court of Appeal explained that whether a denial of an adjournment is a breach of procedural fairness is a context-specific question, that must consider all the circumstances of a particular case. While an administrative body must comply with the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, an administrative body is entitled to control its own procedure subject to any specific rules in regulation or statute. The Court explained that in this case, it was reasonable for the Board to not accommodate an indefinite adjournment:

[21] Here, the Board accommodated the applicant's December 2022 request for an adjournment but later indicated that it was not satisfied the medical information supplied by the applicant warranted an indefinite adjournment. As the applicant was the party seeking the adjournment, he bore the onus of proof and ought to have considered whether further evidence should be provided to the Board to justify his request, particularly since he was seeking an adjournment for an indefinite period but was able to participate in other legal proceedings. In addition, the applicant never asked for other forms of accommodation such as an extension of time to provide written submissions. In considering the applicant's request for an adjournment, the Board was balancing competing interests, not just those of the applicant. The Board was entitled to consider factors such as the amount of time that had elapsed since the filing of the appeal and the fact that the applicant was not the subject of the complaint. Although the Board referenced a mandate to conclude appeals within a one-year period, the Board described this as only a “target”. In any event, the appeal hearing was scheduled outside of the one-year period, as it was heard some 16 months after the appeal was filed.

In this decision, the Alberta Court of Appeal confirmed that administrative bodies may refuse an adjournment request where such an adjournment is not reasonable in the circumstances.

our two cents for free

This case serves as a cautious reminder that, while administrative bodies may routinely grant requests for adjournments, administrative bodies are not obliged in every instance to postpone a hearing at an applicant's request. Rather, administrative bodies are permitted to consider the reasonableness of the request in the whole of the circumstances, which necessarily includes interests other than an applicant. If an administrative body opts to refuse an adjournment request, it should do so in a procedurally fair manner in accordance with its enabling statute, regulations and policies.


Do your policies outline the considerations to take into account when considering an adjournment request?

Eye on Regulation is RMRF's monthly newsletter for the professional regulatory community. Each month we offer:

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