Addressing Newfoundland Nurses

On December 15, 2011 the Supreme Court of Canada (“Supreme Court“) issues its decision in Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union v. Newfoundland and Labrador (Treasury Board), 2011 SCC 62, [2011] 3 SCR 708 (“Newfounland Nurses“).

In Newfoundland Nurses, the Supreme Court essentially abolished “adequacy of reasons” as a stand-alone ground for judicial review.  Rather, the Supreme Court stated that an officer’s reasons must be read together with the outcome and serve the purpose of showing whether the result falls within a range of possible outcomes.  The Supreme Court further stated that (citations removed for ease of reading):

Reasons may not include all the arguments, statutory provisions, jurisprudence or other details the reviewing judge would have preferred, but that does not impugn the validity of either the reasons or the result under a reasonableness analysis. A decision-maker is not required to make an explicit finding on each constituent element, however subordinate, leading to its final conclusion. In other words, if the reasons allow the reviewing court to understand why the tribunal made its decision and permit it to determine whether the conclusion is within the range of acceptable outcomes, the Dunsmuir criteria are met.

The fact that there may be an alternative interpretation of the agreement to that provided by the arbitrator does not inevitably lead to the conclusion that the arbitrator’s decision should be set aside if the decision itself is in the realm of reasonable outcomes. Reviewing judges should pay “respectful attention” to the decision-maker’s reasons, and be cautious about substituting their own view of the proper outcome by designating certain omissions in the reasons to be fateful.

As one immigration lawyer put it, the Department of Justice (the “DOJ“) has since argued that under the Newfoundland Nurses reasonableness standard the Federal Court must uphold a tribunal’s decision as long as it falls within the most extremely close to unreasonable range of possibilities that the most extreme officer dictates.  In one case of mine, the DOJ even argued that there could basically be no reasons so long as the Federal Court thought that the decision was a possibly correct one that the tribunal could reach.  But is this really the case?

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