The Inaccessibility of Justice in Ontario’s Adjudicative Tribunals: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Draft under review, September 2023

Four of Ontario’s highest-volume adjudicative tribunals became seriously dysfunctional in late 2018. Systemic delays of months or years arose, basic procedural rights were abandoned, and substantive miscarriages of justice became common in the fields of residential tenancy, human rights, and entitlement to benefits. This article describes these symptoms, before seeking to diagnose the underlying problem. The proximate cause of the dysfunction was the approach to tribunal appointments taken by the executive branch of Ontario’s government. Members appointed by the previous government were “de-appointed” en masse, and meritorious replacements were not found promptly. Some of these problems began prior to 2018. Shortcomings in the other two branches of Ontario’s government also contributed to the dysfunctionality. The Ontario Legislature’s statute governing adjudicative tribunals, and its committee overseeing appointments, lacked the powers and resources that would be necessary to safeguard them from executive neglect. Meanwhile, Ontario’s courts are not an accessible and proportionate forum to backstop adjudicative tribunals. Moreover, a review of the case law shows that they lack doctrinal tools to hold the Government responsible for systemic delay and counterproductive appointment practices.

Full Draft Paper on SSRN: