Ontario – Historic arbitration decision is not probative evidence in interpretation of a Treaty – #556

In Restoule v. Canada (Attorney General), 2021 ONCA 779, the Ontario Court of Appeal discussed the evidentiary value of an arbitration record –  from an arbitration between Canada, Ontario and Quebec over responsibility for annuity payments under a Treaty with First Nations signed forty years before the arbitration –  in the context of present-day litigation between the Treaty beneficiaries and the Province of Ontario over increases in those annuities. Because of the lack of temporal proximity between the historic arbitration and Treaty formation, and the fact that the evidence at that arbitration was entirely given by potential payors under the Treaty, the arbitration record needed to be viewed with caution. It was not helpful post-Treaty evidence in interpreting the intentions of the parties at the time of Treaty formation.

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Saskatchewan – Arbitrator’s jurisdiction when one party alleged to have repudiated arbitration agreement – #536

In Saskatchewan v Capitol Steel Corporation, 2021 SKQB 224, Saskatchewan alleged that Capitol Steel Corporation (“CSC”) had repudiated the arbitration agreement in written submissions made just before the arbitration hearing. Saskatchewan’s position was that these submissions denied one of the recitals in the parties’ arbitration agreement that showed agreement on a matter which CSC then put in issue in the arbitration. Saskatchewan challenged the arbitrator’s jurisdiction as a result of CSC’s alleged repudiation of the arbitration agreement. The arbitrator dismissed the application and Saskatchewan then applied to the Court “to decide the matter” under s. 18(9) of The Arbitration Act, 1992, SS 1992, c A-24.1, which states that, “[i]f the arbitral tribunal rules on an objection as a preliminary question, a party may, within 30 days after receiving notice of the ruling, make an application to the court to decide the matter.” Justice Clackson found that the standard of review of an arbitrator’s preliminary decision on jurisdiction, where one party alleged the other repudiated the arbitration agreement, was correctness. He held that the arbitrator was correct in finding there was no repudiation because there was no anticipatory breach. The alleged breach did not deprive Saskatchewan of any of the rights that it had under the arbitration agreement.

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B.C. – Whole award to be considered when examining for patent unreasonableness – #525

In Potherat v, Slobodian, 2021 BCSC 1536, Justice Crabtree of the British Columbia Supreme Court found that the decision of an arbitrator of the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch was neither patently unreasonable nor wrong when read as a whole. In determining whether a decision is patently unreasonable, the court is required to examine both the reasons and the outcome. Justice Crabtree quoted extensively from the arbitrator’s reasons; while sentences or paragraphs are sometimes quoted by courts when reviewing arbitral awards, it is rare that large portions of the arbitrator’s reasons are quoted. Justice Crabtree followed Sherstobitoff v. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal), 2019 BCSC 1659, which held that that reasons “are to be read as an organic whole, not parsed or dissected in search of error”. Justice Crabtree found that the petitioner’s submissions were a parsing of the decision.

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