SCC Replaces the Oakes Test with the Reasonableness Standard

1st Apr 2012 Comments Off on SCC Replaces the Oakes Test with the Reasonableness Standard

Over the last several years, the Supreme Court of Canada has released numerous administrative law decisions where it found that the reasonableness standard of review should replace other standards.  On March 22nd 2012, in Dore v. Burraeu du Quebec, 2012 SCC 12, the Court extended this trend to proclaiming that the reasonableness standard should replace the Oakes test when determining whether an administrative tribunal’s action which limited a right under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms could nonetheless withstand s. 1 analysis.

Section 1 analysis refers to the judicial process of determining whether a government’s breach (or limitation) of a Charter right is nonetheless constitutional pursuant to s. 1 of the Charter, which states that:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

In 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada created the Oakes test for determining whether a Charter breach is reasonable and justifiable in a free and democratic society.  The Oakes test first involves determining whether the government’s limitation of a Charter right is the result of a pressing and substantial objective.  If it is, then the government must demonstrate that the means to achieve its objective are proportional.  Proportionality requires that:

  1. The means be rationally connected to the government’s pressing and substantial objective;
  2. That the means to achieve the objective involve a minimal impairment of Charter rights; and
  3. There must be proportionality between the infringement and the objective.

As the Court noted in Dore,

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