Monday, October 28, 2019

Tribunal decisions remain secret

The Canada Agriculture Appeal Tribunal has yet to publish any decisions on its website from public hearings held as long ago as January.

For example, there was a public hearing in Cambridge in January into an appeal filed by Golden Ontario Products Inc. of Wellington County. It felt the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had been unfairly harsh when it was undergoing construction of a major addition.

There is still no decision available.

Of course, as a jouirnalist, I’m curious.

There have been four appeals by trucking companies against decisions of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and there’s another scheduled for March in Waterloo for Luckhart Transport to make its case.

The federal tribunal is far more bureaucratic than the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs Tribunal. 

The public hearing in January was glacial in its ponderous bureaucratic approach to the issue which, when it came down to it, was quite simple and straightforward.

But, then again, everybody but the appellant was being paid either hourly or daily to be there. And of course the tribunal and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were paying lawyers to attend; not so the appellant.

I recall the days when the Ontario tribunal first began hearing cases. Veterinarian Dr. Ken McEwen was the chairman and he was relaxed, informal and friendly.

He would begin by asking the appellant, who was usually a quota-holding farmer, to describe his operation.

It put the farmer on familiar ground and helped him to relax and then outline his grievance.

The marketing board would typically be represented by the chairman and the director in whose district the appellant farmed. And they, with help from the general manager, would outline their side of the issue.

No lawyers.

Until the milk board lost a couple of cases and decided to have a lawyer handle its appeals. That changed matters considerably, and as far as I’m concerned, not for the better.

If you want lawyers involved, wait for a tribunal decision and then you can take the case to court.

Justice should not be as difficult to achieve as it has become.