The Need for Diversity on Administrative Tribunals and Boards


The Need for Diversity on Administrative Tribunals and Boards

If we are to fully meet the challenges of judging in a diverse society,
we must work toward a bench that better mirrors the people it judges.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., former Chief Justice of Canada

As true as this is for the judiciary, it may be even more so for administrative tribunals and decision makers.

Administrative tribunals make a wide variety of decisions that affect all aspects of our lives: from workers’ compensation and safety, residential tenancies, protection against discrimination, drivers’ licensing, small claims and strata disputes, to property assessment and taxation. It would be fair to say that the lives of British Columbians are more often affected by the administrative justice sector of the legal system than any other sector, including the courts. Therefore, it is imperative that tribunals reflect the population they serve.

Decision makers strive to be neutral and impartial, but are also shaped by our experiences and perspectives from their communities. A representative tribunal or Bench allows these different experiences and perspectives to inform a deeper and fuller understanding of issues and, as well, enhances public confidence in the decisions.

Why be on a tribunal? It is a form of rewarding public service. By making fair and impartial decisions that directly affect the lives of parties, tribunal members provide an important public service in the specific areas that they operate.

Different types of appointments: Not only do tribunals offer positions in a variety of subject matters, there are different types of appointments available. Most tribunals have full-time and part-time (or “as needed”) members. Some part-time members adjudicate a few cases per year while others may work almost full time in their roles adjudicating, mediating and managing cases. The level of commitment and participation required depends on workload, availability, and also the member’s interests and qualifications.

Some tribunals are “expert” tribunals that require specific expertise from their members. For example, members of the Property Assessment Appeal Board should have expertise in property valuation (as appraisers or other real estate professionals) or in law (particularly statutory interpretation).

It is critical that tribunal members not only be representative of British Columbians, but qualified to make complex and wide-reaching decisions.

The appointment process: Section 3 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, SBC 2004, c 45 provides that a member may be appointed by the appointing authority (cabinet), after a merit-based process and consultation with the chair, to hold
office for an initial term of two to four years with reappointments for up to five years.

The appointment process can be slightly different for full-time or part-time members and for different tribunals. Generally, if appointments are required by a tribunal, the Crown Agencies and Board Resourcing Office (“CABRO”) will post a Notice of Position outlining the position’s requirements and core competencies. Once closed, candidates will go through a merit-based process, which can include shortlisting, written assessments, oral interviews and reference checks. The process for part-time appointments may be less rigorous. The chair will then recommend a candidate to CABRO, who will place the request on cabinet’s agenda. If agreeable, cabinet will issue the appointment through an Order in Council.

Treasury Board Directive 1/20 mandates the categories and range of remuneration for each tribunal. The level of remuneration can be a barrier but this can be balanced with the rewards of public service, work-life balance, and interesting adjudicative issues.

Lawyers and other legal professionals should consider serving on administrative tribunals not only because decision makers need to better mirror the people we serve, but because diversity leads to better and more inclusive decision making.