Prejudice Not Required To Refuse an Adjournment

Refusing an adjournment is a tricky business for a regulator. Where a reviewing court determines that the adjournment should have been granted, the resulting hearing will be set aside. The Divisional Court recently indicated that even if neither party would suffer prejudice, an adjournment can still be refused: Venneri v. College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario, 2023 ONSC 864 (CanLII).

In that case an applicant for registration appealed the denial of his application. The applicant argued that the assessment of his qualifications as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist had unfairly failed to recognize his competencies. He asked for an adjournment before the Appeal Board in order to have more time to prepare his case, including obtaining an independent expert opinion. The regulator, while opposing the request, conceded that it would not be prejudiced by an adjournment. The Appeal Board refused the adjournment request indicating that the applicant had not taken timely steps to line up an expert and that despite his claim, the disclosure was provided in a timely fashion.

The Court described its role on the adjournment issue as follows:

In the administrative law context, this court has held that decisions of a hearing panel are discretionary as an inherent aspect of a tribunal’s power to control its own processes. These decisions are usually accorded deference unless they amount to a breach of natural justice or procedural fairness. The court should examine whether the decision maker exercised its discretion in an unreasonable or non-judicious fashion in light of all the competing interests it had to balance and the interests of justice. [citation omitted]

The Court did not find error in the Appeal Board’s determination that disclosure by the regulator was made in a timely manner. Similarly, the regulator’s refusal to provide further disclosure about the criteria used in the prior learning assessment process was reasonable because it would undermine the integrity of that process. The balancing of the competing factors, including the value in moving the process along, did not demonstrate error.

Interestingly, the Court also said:

Nor is there any merit to the Appellant’s submission that the Board erred by underappreciating the importance of registration for the Appellant’s livelihood. The Board’s role was to determine whether the Appellant did not meet the requirements as a TCM practitioner and acupuncturist, not whether the registration was important for his livelihood.

The denial of registration stood.

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