Focus On


Friday, March 15, 2019 @ 8:32 AM  

Application by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) for leave to intervene in an appeal of a decision of a Human Rights Board of Inquiry. Dichmont, a former marriage commissioner, submitted her letter of resignation on January 14, 2005, explaining that she was unable to marry same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs. She then filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, claiming discrimination regarding employment or a term or condition of employment on the basis of religious creed. Her complaint was dismissed. Dichmont passed away after the hearing but before the adjudicator released his decision. Dichmont’s estate filed an appeal of the decision. The JCCF defined itself as an independent, non-religious, non-partisan, registered charity that was dedicated to advocating for rights and freedoms under the Charter, particularly the fundamental freedoms set out in s. 2. Neither the Province nor the Commission asserted that the participation of the JCCF would unduly lengthen or delay the proceedings or impose an injustice or excessive burden on the parties. However, they disagreed as to the sufficiency of the JCCF’s interest and whether the JCCF could make a useful contribution beyond that provided by counsel for the Dichmont Estate. The JCCF acknowledged that it did not have a direct interest in the outcome of the appeal. However, the JCCF noted that a direct interest in the outcome was not required as the matter raised important Charter issues, being issues of public interest.

HELD: Application allowed. The issue of placing Charter obligations directly on individual public servants and the reconciliation of Charter rights and obligations would be of interest to the broader public and certainly to the broader public service, not just marriage commissioners. Furthermore, the decision on this judicial review could be persuasive both on other courts, a future Board of Inquiry, and the Province. A sufficient public law issue had been identified. The JCCF had identified a different perspective it could bring by focusing on the evolution of case law on the issue of how the Charter applied to public servants. The JCCF therefore could make a useful contribution by providing the Court with submissions with no injustice being imposed on the immediate parties. Leave to intervene was granted on conditions.

Dichmont Estate v. Newfoundland and Labrador (Minister of Government Services and Lands), [2019] N.J. No. 36, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court - General Division, R. McGrath J., February 1, 2019. Digest No. TLD-March112019010