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CUSTOMS AND EXCISE - Customs - Tariff classification - Imports - By type of product

Thursday, September 16, 2021 @ 5:29 AM  

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Appeal by the Attorney General of Canada from a decision of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) classifying television stands imported by the respondent Best Buy as parts of televisions under the Customs Tariff rather than furniture. The goods were metal and wooden models of floor stands for flat-panel televisions. In the CITT’s view, the goods in issue were more like cases and cabinets than those covered by the classification opinion. Canada argued that parts of televisions must be articles essential to the functionality of the devices which tainted the decision that the floor stands were parts of televisions, rather than furniture. Canada alleged the CITT both erred in law, and in applying the law to the facts of the case. Canada challenged the CITT’s consideration of the practices and procedures of the World Customs Organization and of the opinion of an interior designer who testified as a witness. At issue in this appeal was whether the Federal Court of Appeal could review a CITT decision for issues other than questions of law, contrary to the wording of the Customs Act.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The issues of mixed fact and law raised by Canada could not be raised in the context of an appeal under s. 68 of the Customs Act. Even if the appellant had filed an application for judicial review, the same result would follow as the alleged errors of mixed fact and law raised by the appellant fell well short of the sort of error that might lead to review under s. 18.1(4)(d) of the Federal Courts Act. Section 18.5 of the Federal Courts Act provided that access to judicial review was barred only to the extent a right of appeal otherwise existed in respect of an issue. The combined effect of this provision and the treatment of privative clauses in the case law of the Supreme Court of Canada led to the conclusion that factual errors made by the CITT may be reviewed in the context of a judicial review application under the reasonableness standard. Conversely, errors of law were reviewable under the correctness standard in the context of a statutory appeal under s. 68 of the Customs Act. Any overlap in proceedings could be addressed through joinder of an appeal with an application or other appropriate directions as might be required from time to time. The scope of review in respect of factual matters was limited, providing for intervention only in a narrow range of cases beyond those where there was a complete lack of evidence on a point.

Canada (Attorney General) v. Best Buy Canada Ltd., [2021] F.C.J. No. 848, Federal Court of Appeal, D.G. Near, M.J.L. Gleason and R. LeBlanc JJ.A., August 5, 2021. Digest No. TLD-September132021008