Appealing Decisions

Last Reviewed: October, 2023 Reviewed by: JES

If You Don’t Agree with the Decision

If you do not agree with the decision you need to act quickly. Deadlines for filing for a review can be very short, even just a few days. If you miss a deadline you could lose your right to a review altogether.

​Internal Review

If you do not agree with the tribunal’s decision in your case, there can be different options to pursue, depending on the tribunal. Many agencies have internal informal and formal review processes. Some agencies, such as WorkSafeBC have their own internal review process, followed by an appeal to an independent tribunal called the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal.

Some tribunals act as a review board and when the public disagrees with a decision, the case can then go before an appeal board. For example, disputes regarding the assessed value of a property (home or business) go before Property Assessment Review Panels. If someone is not pleased with the decision, the case can then be submitted to the Property Assessment Appeal Board.

If you are still not satisfied with the decision of the internal review process, or if there are not internal review processes, you may decide to file for Judicial Review and/or make a complaint to the Ombudsperson. These processes are explained below. Before you pursue either of these options however, you must exhaust all available internal review processes.

Judicial Review

For some administrative tribunals, their decisions can be reviewed by the Courts through a process called “judicial review”. The BC Supreme Court conducts judicial reviews of agencies under provincial jurisdiction, such as the Residential Tenancy Branch, while the Federal Court conducts judicial reviews of agencies under federal jurisdiction such as the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The fact that you do not agree with the tribunal’s decision is not a reason that entitles you to review by the court – you must show that the tribunal’s process was flawed or that the adjudicator made an error of law, jurisdiction, or fairness.

If judicial review is an option, the court usually does not “second guess” the tribunal and make its own decision. The court can usually only review the process the tribunal used to reach its decision and any mistakes the tribunal made when applying the law or deciding that it had the authority (jurisdiction) to hear the case. The court may also set aside a tribunal’s decision if it is clear that the tribunal breached its duty to be fair.

In general, the courts are reluctant to reverse a tribunal’s decision where the tribunal adjudicators had highly specialized expertise or knowledge that the court does not have, as long as the tribunal has acted appropriately and considered the relevant evidence.

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Judicial Review is a complex process with short deadlines to apply (for many tribunals, you need to apply within 30 days of the decision being made). It can be expensive and if you lose you may be ordered to pay the legal costs of the other parties. It is a very good idea to get legal advice as soon as possible to understand the strength of your case and the process. See Get Help to learn about resources available.

Complaint to the Ombudsperson

An ombudsperson is an independent and impartial official who investigates complaints about unfair government actions. Anyone who feels like they have been treated unfairly by a public sector organization can make a complaint to an ombudsperson. You can make a complaint to the ombudsperson in addition to filing for Judicial Review, but filing a complaint to the Ombudsperson is a good option when you don’t have strong grounds for a judicial review but you still want to change the part of the government structure that led to unfairness.

The BC Ombudsperson can investigate complaints about many BC and municipal government agencies but not all. They can not, for example, investigate Federal government agencies, the police, or First Nation government actions.

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There are several different federal ombudspersons who deal with different types of issues from Canada Post to Victims of Crime.

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