Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Association of Social Workers – Licence to practice – Character evidence; Judicial review – Applications – Evidence – Procedural fairness – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter
The applicant/appellant sought judicial review of a decision of the Council of the Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers affirming a decision to deny his application to be registered as a social worker in that province.
 S.J. No. 678
2015 SKQB 390
Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench
December 9, 2015
R. C. Mills J.
The applicant applied to the registrar of the Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers (the “Association”) to be registered as a social worker in that province. As the registrar had previous dealings with the applicant, it was determined that an ad hoc committee should consider the application, rather than the registrar. That committee determined the applicant had not established he possessed the required good character to be registered as a social worker on the basis his licence to practice as a social worker in Alberta had been cancelled following a disciplinary suspension and he had failed to demonstrate sufficient insight into his prior misconduct.
As permitted by s. 22 of The Social Workers Act, S.S. 1993, c. S-52.1 [Act], the applicant applied to the Council of the Association for a review of the ad hoc committee’s decision. While the applicant presented significant historical information relating to his involvement with social work which he believed established his good character, the Council upheld the decision refusing registration.
The applicant then filed a notice of appeal in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench seeking a number of different forms of relief. As there is no provision in the Act allowing for an appeal from the decision of the Council, the notice of appeal was invalid. However, as the applicant was self-represented and it was clear that he was at the very least seeking an order setting aside the Council’s decision, Mr. Justice Mills opted to treat the notice of appeal as an application for judicial review, relying on the new foundational rules in The Queen’s Bench Rules, Sask. Q.B. Rules 2013 [“Rules“].
In doing so, Mills J. noted R. 1-3(1) states the Rules are intended to be used to identify the real issues in dispute and facilitate the quickest means of resolving a claim at the least expense. The purpose of the Rules, in this case, was to have the substantive matter raised by the applicant resolved in a timely and cost-effective way. Recognizing that treating an invalid notice of appeal as an application for judicial review was a substantial departure from what may have been permitted by the previous rules of court, Mills J. nonetheless held it was the appropriate procedure given that the Association would not be prejudiced by his doing so. The Association understood the true issue being brought forward by the applicant and was ready to argue the case on the basis that it was a plea for judicial review.
While the applicant raised issues relating to whether there had been a breach of his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982(UK), 1982, c. 11, Mills J. held this was not the appropriate forum for a determination of those issues. Instead, he restricted his analysis to the standard judicial review of the Council’s decision, both substantively and procedurally.
Procedurally, Mills J. held the Council and the ad hoc committee came to their decisions in a manner that did not demonstrate a reasonable apprehension of bias and afforded the applicant an appropriate level or procedural fairness. While the applicant was not permitted to personally present his evidence to the ad hoc committee, the committee did identify the issues that were of concern to it and asked for further input in writing. The applicant provided that input in a very fulsome fashion. The process engaged in by the ad hoc committee was appropriate and allowed the applicant to put forward full argument and evidence regarding the notion of his good character.
Substantively, the parties agreed the appropriate standard of review to be applied was that of reasonableness. The applicant’s primary concern related to his confidence and belief that he had established his character over the many years in which he has been a contributing member to society. The Council, however, was entitled to consider not only the positive aspects of the applicant’s career but also the negative aspects arising from his suspension from practice as a social worker in Alberta. It did so based on the relevant factual circumstances and its decision was supportable on the record.
The application for judicial review was therefore dismissed.
This case was digested by Nathaniel J.W. Turner 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.