Why Give Reasons for Decisions?

From the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal comes a useful overview of the requirement to give reasons:

[17]         In a series of cases, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the importance of reasons in various settings: e.g., Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1999 CanLII 699 (SCC), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817, [1999] S.C.J. No. 39; R. v. Sheppard, 2002 SCC 26 (CanLII), 2002 SCC 26; R. v. Braich, 2002 SCC 27 (CanLII), 2002 SCC 27; R. v. Walker, 2008 SCC 34 (CanLII), 2008 SCC 34; F.H. v. McDougall, 2008 SCC 53 (CanLII), 2008 SCC 53; R. v. R.E.M., 2008 SCC 51 (CanLII), 2008 SCC 51.  Their import can be summarized thusly:
(a)      the need for, and adequacy of reasons, is contextual and depends upon the adjudicative setting, (Sheppard, para. 19);
(b)     reasons inform the parties – and especially the losing party – of why the result came about, (R.E.M., para. 11);
(c)      reasons inform the public, facilitating compliance with the rules thereby established, (Sheppard, para. 22);
(d)     reasons provide guidance for courts in the future in accordance with the principle of stare decisis, (R.E.M., para. 12);
(e)      reasons allow both the parties and the public to see that justice is done and thereby enhance the confidence of both in the judicial process, (Baker, para. 39);
(f)      reasons foster and improve decision-making by ensuring that issues are addressed and reasoning is made explicit, (Baker, para. 39; Sheppard, para. 23; R.E.M., para. 12);
(g)      reasons facilitate consideration of judicial review or appeal by the parties, (Baker, para. 39);
(h)     reasons enhance or permit meaningful appeal or judicial review, (Sheppard, para. 25; R.E.M., para. 11).

The instant case involved an appeal from the oral reasons of a Family Court judge granting an order for permanent care. Pursuant to the relevant legislation, the trial judge’s conclusions had to be accompanied by a statement of the evidence on which his conclusions were based. It is interesting to observe how the Court’s interpretation of the statutory reason-giving requirement was influenced by jurisprudence from different fields of law, including that of administrative law.

The appeal was dismissed.

This content has been updated on June 11, 2014 at 09:48.