March 19, 2024

The Adjudicative Tribunal Justice System: Statement of Principles (2024)


The Ontario adjudicative tribunal justice system consists of specialized, expert bodiesthat take the place of the courts in resolving a range of disputes that arise in specificfields of law. Adjudicative tribunals are part of our justice system, and they are differentfrom the many other government boards or agencies that are focused on policies,regulation, investigations, or other operations.

The advantage of tribunals is that disputes are resolved by decision-makers withspecialized expertise in the specific subject matter and law at issue. Tribunals are alsoable to develop dispute-resolution techniques uniquely adapted to the needs of theparties and to their own legislative mandate.

The adjudicative tribunal justice system resolves significantly more disputes than thecourt justice system. Familiar examples of tribunals would include the Landlord andTenant Board, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Ontario Land Tribunal, and theWorkplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal. Like court decisions, tribunaldecisions are binding and often have life altering significance for the parties. Sometimesthese decisions have an impact on society as a whole.

The public expects tribunal decision-makers to be independent and impartial, likejudges in our courts. The parties appearing before these tribunals must have confidencethat the tribunal and its adjudicators are expert in their specialized field and optimallycompetent in the performance of their adjudicative duties. This includes a demonstrablecommitment to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Simply put, public confidence in the Ontario’s adjudicative tribunal system requires thatevery adjudicative tribunal, its leadership, and its adjudicators be – and also be seen tobe – independent, impartial, competent, expert, inclusive and accessible.

Unfortunately, the politicization of the appointments and reappointments processes inOntario in recent years has threatened public confidence in our adjudicative justicesystem – in the very tribunals to which Ontarians must turn most often when facingfundamental legal challenges in their lives.

To understand and respect the important role of tribunals, we need to seek a broadconsensus concerning the nature of the principles which would apply to a valid systemof adjudicative tribunals.

The following Statement of Principles was developed with the hope that all stakeholdersin the adjudicative tribunal community – the government, the tribunals themselves, andthe public – will accept these principles as the starting point for a discussion about howto improve Ontario’s adjudicative tribunal system.

Foundational principles for Ontario’s adjudicative tribunals

1. Independence and Impartiality

The adjudicator and the tribunal must be, and must be seen to be, independent andimpartial.

2. Accountability

The adjudicator is accountable to the parties before them and to the tribunal. Thetribunal, through the chair, is accountable to government for its performance and forthe conduct of its adjudicators and staff.

3. Appointments and Reappointments

The appointment and reappointment of tribunal chairs and adjudicators require fair,timely and transparent processes, free of partisan or patronage influences. Theterms of appointments must be fixed and based on the needs of the tribunal.

4. Competence and Expertise

Adjudicators must be optimally competent and the tribunal equally competent in theexercise of its mandate. Adjudicators must have dispute resolution skills, subjectmatter expertise, and experience in decision writing.

5. Accessibility, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity

Tribunals must develop and continually review strategies to enhance accessibility,inclusion, diversity and equity in their make-up, operations and decision-making.

6. Access to Justice and the Right to be Heard

Tribunal processes must be designed to ensure that they are appropriate for theparties who appear before the tribunal, including self-represented parties.

A more detailed discussion of the above can be accessed in the original statement of principles.

Topics: Appointments, Tribunal system