A Quick Guide to Judicial Review

Judicial review is a legal procedure where a judge of the provincial or federal court reviews a decision made by an administrative board or tribunal. It is a way for the courts to ensure that the government and its agencies act fairly with the power granted to them. Judicial review often involves cases in labour and employment, human rights, and immigration.

Is judicial review the same as an appeal?

No. They are two different things. Judicial review is not an opportunity to reargue a case or seek damages. The judge focuses on determining whether the administrative board or tribunal had the authority to make the decision and if it exercised that authority fairly.

Some administrative boards and tribunals allow their decisions to be appealed in court. Where there is no right to appeal, judicial review is a way to have a judge look at the case.

When can an application be made for judicial review?

There is no automatic right to judicial review, and the court will not allow a judicial review in every case. An individual or group may apply for judicial review if they feel an administrative board or tribunal exercised its power in an arbitrary, discriminatory, or otherwise unreasonable way, did not give a fair hearing, made a legal error, or did not have the authority to review the subject matter.

If the court finds in favour of the plaintiff, it can annul the administrative authority’s decision.

What are the steps to apply for judicial review?

The jurisdiction of the administrative board or tribunal will determine whether the judicial review will take place at the provincial or federal level. Federally, the plaintiff must file a Notice of Application for judicial review within 30 days of the decision, and pay a filing fee. Certified copies of the application must be delivered to the board or tribunal and anyone else requiring to be served within 10 days of the issuance of the Notice of Application.

Provincial court processes will vary slightly. For example, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench allows six months from the decision to apply for judicial review.

Is a lawyer required?

Individuals may represent themselves, but a lawyer must represent companies, associations, or groups of people. Many individuals choose to seek the advice of a lawyer, due to the complexities involved in judicial review.

More information:

Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre: Judicial Review of Human Rights Decisions

The University of Alberta: Judicial Review

Federal Court of Canada: How to File an Application for Judicial Review?

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