Tribunals in Canada: A Coming of Age

Tribunals constitute a vitally important part of Canada’s justice system, but their place in the Canadian state is fragile and their essential function is misunderstood. This article explains the need for pro-functional tribunal law, which would position tribunals to consistently deliver on their potential. Differentiating tribunals dedicated to resolving legal disputes from non-tribunal agencies that do other work is the key. Differentiation would advance goals related to specialization, the separation of powers, and democracy in Canada. It would allow tribunals to escape the taint of partiality to government. It would also set the stage for a professionalization and depoliticization of tribunal appointment practices, securing tribunals and their users from the type of dysfunction that has recently plagued Ontario’s tribunals. The final Part of the paper argues that the Canada’s legislatures, rather than its appellate courts, are the most promising venue for the adoption of pro-functional tribunal law.