Federal Court Refuses to Interfere in Administrative Process

Today the Federal Court issued its decision in Northern Cross (Yukon) Limited v Canada (Attorney General, 2017 FC 622. The case concerns an application for judicial review pursued by a company involved in the exploration for and potential development of crude oil and natural gas in Yukon. A designated office of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board determined to refer the project to the Executive Committee of the Board for a screening because, after taking into account any mitigative measures included in the project proposal, it could not determine whether the project would likely have significant adverse socio-economic effects. The company applied for judicial review of that decision.

The Court accepted the argument of the Respondent and the Board and held that the applicant's application for judicial review was premature. Absent exceptional circumstances, the Court will not interfere with an ongoing administrative process until after that process has been completed or until the available, effective remedies have been exhausted. A designated office's decision may be subject to judicial review when the designated office makes a recommendation to the decision body or bodies for the project to be allowed, not allowed, or allowed with terms and conditions. A decision to refer assessment of a project to the Executive Committee for a screening does not complete or end the administrative assessment of a project before the Board. A referral decision is merely one to continue the assessment of a project at a higher level in the review process established under the Act.

This decision accords with the jurisprudence that holds that generally speaking courts are reluctant to review the merits of an administrative decision until it has been finalized. Applications for judicial review are properly brought at the conclusion of an administrative process after all issues have been determined and the reviewing court has the benefit of the complete record.

Alison M. Latimer and Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C., acted for the Board in this proceeding. To read the full decision, click here.

We have broad experience in administrative law matters, including environmental assessment procedures.

Alison M. Latimer and Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C. are called to the bar in the Yukon.