Dunsmuir’s Flaws Exposed: Recent Decisions on Standard of Review


In Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, the Supreme Court of Canada attempted to clarify and simplify Canadian judicial review doctrine. I argue that the Court got it badly wrong, as evidenced by four of its recent decisions.

The cases demonstrate that the new categorical approach is unworkable. A reviewing court cannot apply the categorical approach without reference to something like the much-maligned “pragmatic and functional” analysis factors. The categories regularly come into conflict, in that decisions could perfectly reasonably be assigned to more than one category. When conflict occurs, it must be resolved by reference to some factors external to the categorical approach.

The new, single standard of reasonableness is similarly unworkable without reference to external factors. Different types of decision attract different degrees of deference, on the basis of factors that are external to the elegant elucidation of reasonableness offered in Dunsmuir.

Clarification and simplicity have thus not been achieved.

Table of Contents :


I. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. Alberta Teachers’ Association

II. Nor-Man Regional Health Authority Inc. v. Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals

III. Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) v. Canada (Attorney General)

IV. Catalyst Paper Corp. v. North Cowichan (District)




This content has been updated on May 2, 2023 at 16:19.