Beyond Dunsmuir: Clarity on the Standard of Review from Saguenay

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Saguenay, Dunsmuir, Standard of Review, Adjudicator Expertise, Questions of Law


Diana Ginn and Gregory Johannson The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision Mouvement laique qudbicois v. Saguenay (City) is a noteworthy administrative law case, providing meaningful guidance on applying the standard of review analysis from New Brunswick (Board of Management) v. Dunsmuir. Two aspects of Saguenay in particular contribute to the development of administrative law jurisprudence. First, Saguenay confirms that general questions of law that are "of central importance to the legal system as a whole and outside the adjudicator's specialized area of expertise" do in fact exist and are not merely a theoretical category. Second, the majority decision seems to lay to rest the notion that disaggregation of issues is never appropriate; sometimes it will be legitimate to separate out different aspects of an administrative decision and apply different standards of review. Other elements of Saguenay are useful confirmations of established administrative law principles. These include the importance accorded to the nature of the question in the determination of standard of review and the unified approach to be taken to all substantive review of administrative decision making, irrespective of whether a decision is challenged by way of judicial review or statutory appeal.