Reasons for Examination Failure Need to Cover All Grounds of Appeal

Few regulatory decisions have as significant an impact on individuals as clinical examinations, especially for an examinee’s final attempt. In Mattar v The National Dental Examining Board of Canada, 2020 ONSC 403, http://canlii.ca/t/j5dbh an internationally trained dentist appealed the failure of their third and final attempt of the national dental skills examination. The candidate appealed on three grounds: the standardized patient’s condition created a problem for the requested procedure; the examiners had not followed procedure; and as a result of the unfair treatment the applicant suffered a “nervous breakdown” or panic attack that raised compassionate grounds worthy of setting aside the failure. The Court held that the reasons for decision for the first two grounds were quite brief but were adequate.

However, the Court ruled that the complete absence of reasons for the third ground of appeal made the decision procedurally unfair. The Court was unwilling to infer that the committee concluded that, having failed to establish the first two grounds of appeal, it “must have found that whatever stress and panic [the examinee] experienced following the Provisional Crown Restoration test did not arise from circumstances beyond [their] control”. Other conclusions were possible including that the examinee “was simply being disruptive after not getting the extra time [they] wanted to complete the task”. Reasons were required to make the decision fair and reviewable. The matter was returned to the committee for reconsideration on the entire record (including new information issued since its original conclusion) and to issue a new decision with reasons on the appeal grounds related to the applicant’s medical condition.

While courts have often said that a tribunal’s reasons for decision do not have to cover every point raised, they do have to cover the main issues.

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