Decision Date: October 24, 1986
Court: S.C.B.C., Oppal, J.
Cite: Vancouver Registry No. A862257
The Islands Protection Society (the petitioner) applied for an order compelling the Board to hold oral public hearings in respect of permits granted under the Pesticide Control Act. The issues before the Court were whether the Boards decision to proceed by way of written submissions constituted a denial of a hearing within the meaning of the legislation and, if so, whether the denial was contrary to the rules of natural justice and fairness.
The Court found that there is no absolute requirement under the right to be heard that persons entitled to its benefit be accorded an oral hearing. Decisions may be made in a perfectly fair manner and in accordance with the rules of natural justice without there having to be an oral hearing. Whether a person is entitled to an oral hearing depends on the circumstances of each case. These circumstances have to be considered in relation to a host of factors, among them the nature of the issue to be decided and the rules under which the tribunal is acting.
On the facts of this case, the Court held that there was a clear implication from the legislation that an oral hearing was required. Specifically, s. 8 of the Environmental Appeal Board Procedure Regulation which stated that, Hearings before the board or a panel of the board shall be open to the public, was held by the Court to evidence a legislative intent to hold public hearings with full participation by interested parties. The Court found that the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council’s allowing members of the community who were not parties to the action the right to appeal or intervene with respect to proceedings in relation to pesticide permits indicated that the granting of permits was of sufficient public importance to warrant the holding of public hearings. As a result, the Board’s decision not to hold public hearings in this instance was deemed by the Court to be contrary to the rules of natural justice. The Court noted that not all circumstances would require the holding of public hearings. In fact, the rules of natural justice would sometimes be complied with by the filing of written submissions. However, the issues raised by the petitioner in its application were recognized by the Court as requiring the holding of oral public hearings. The Court also found that the mere fact that some evidence would be of a technical nature would not preclude the holding of a public hearing. Accordingly, the petitioner’s application was allowed.