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CHILD PROTECTION - Practice and procedure - Costs

Wednesday, July 14, 2021 @ 6:21 AM  

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Appeal by the Minister from a $250 costs award against the Minister of Community Services following an adjournment necessitated by the late filing of a motion in a child protection proceeding. In her oral reasons for the award, the judge emphasized the importance of timely disclosure by the Minister both for the parties and the court and accepted the mother’s complaints of prejudice from delay. In her written reasons, the judge extended the oral reasons significantly, elaborating on chronic delays, specifically taking issue with the Minister’s compliance with timelines in the Civil Procedure Rules or as set by the court. The Minister argued the process in this case was unfair as she had no opportunity to address evidence, law, or arguments relied upon by the judge in her written decision.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The written decision had to be disregarded since the written decision transcended the parameters of the motion and resulted in unfairness to the Minister. The judge did not place weight on systemic issues in either her oral or written decision when awarding $250 in costs for prejudice caused by the adjournment. Because the judge did not rely on systemic issues in either of her decisions to sanction the Minister in costs, no unfairness in fact resulted. The adjournment triggered by the Minister’s late filing of the motion for the prehearing conference prompted the mother’s costs motion. That she was not successful on all the arguments she offered did not detract from her fundamental success in requesting costs for the prejudice arising from the adjournment. The very modest sum of $250 was a reasonable outcome.

Nova Scotia (Minister of Community Services) v. J.P., [2021] N.S.J. No.  247, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, P. Bryson, E. Van den Eynden and C.A. Beaton JJ.A., June 10, 2021. Digest No. TLD-July122021006