Monday, 14 May 2012

Why Give Reasons for Decisions?

From the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal comes a useful overview of the requirement to give reasons:

[17]         In a series of cases, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the importance of reasons in various settings: e.g., Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1999 CanLII 699 (SCC), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817, [1999] S.C.J. No. 39; R. v. Sheppard, 2002 SCC 26 (CanLII), 2002 SCC 26; R. v. Braich, 2002 SCC 27 (CanLII), 2002 SCC 27; R. v. Walker, 2008 SCC 34 (CanLII), 2008 SCC 34; F.H. v. McDougall, 2008 SCC 53 (CanLII), 2008 SCC 53; R. v. R.E.M., 2008 SCC 51 (CanLII), 2008 SCC 51.  Their import can be summarized thusly:

(a)      the need for, and adequacy of reasons, is contextual and depends upon the adjudicative setting, (Sheppard, para. 19);

(b)     reasons inform the parties – and especially the losing party – of why the result came about, (R.E.M., para. 11);

(c)      reasons inform the public, facilitating compliance with the rules thereby established, (Sheppard, para. 22);

(d)     reasons provide guidance for courts in the future in accordance with the principle of stare decisis, (R.E.M., para. 12);

(e)      reasons allow both the parties and the public to see that justice is done and thereby enhance the confidence of both in the judicial process, (Baker, para. 39);

(f)      reasons foster and improve decision-making by ensuring that issues are addressed and reasoning is made explicit, (Baker, para. 39; Sheppard, para. 23; R.E.M., para. 12);

(g)      reasons facilitate consideration of judicial review or appeal by the parties, (Baker, para. 39);

(h)     reasons enhance or permit meaningful appeal or judicial review, (Sheppard, para. 25; R.E.M., para. 11).
The instant case involved an appeal from the oral reasons of a Family Court judge granting an order for permanent care. Pursuant to the relevant legislation, the trial judge's conclusions had to be accompanied by a statement of the evidence on which his conclusions were based. It is interesting to observe how the Court's interpretation of the statutory reason-giving requirement was influenced by jurisprudence from different fields of law, including that of administrative law.

The appeal was dismissed.


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