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ENFORCEMENT AND PROCEDURE - Human rights tribunals and boards of inquiry - Hearing - Order of proceedings

Tuesday, March 06, 2018 @ 8:44 AM  

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Application by Major League Baseball (MLB) for judicial review to set aside an interim decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and to dismiss or stay the HRTO proceedings. MLB was a professional sports league consisting of 30 member clubs in the United States and Canada. In October 2016, the respondent Cardinal, an Anishnaabe elder, commenced an application at the HRTO. In his application, Cardinal alleged that the name used by the Cleveland MLB team, the Cleveland Indians, and the logo used by that team constituted discrimination in the provision of the entertainment service of baseball. The team name and logo were trade-marks registered for use in association with services and various goods. The Vice-Chair held that the relief sought by Cardinal did not violate any of the international treaties to which Canada was a party. The Vice-Chair also held that Cardinal’s application did not seek to deregister the trade-marks or to impose an absolute prohibition on their use in all contexts. Cardinal was therefore not required to proceed under the Trade-marks Act as argued by MLB. The effect of the interim decision was that Cardinal’s application would proceed to a hearing on a full evidentiary record. MLB asked the Court to judicially review the interim decision because it contained a fatal defect on a question of jurisdiction, finally decided a particular issue, and because MLB had no alternative recourse to challenge the interim decision. Cardinal opposed the application and sought to have it dismissed on its merits. In the alternative, he submitted that the application should be dismissed on the grounds of prematurity.

HELD: Application dismissed. The HRTO clearly had the jurisdiction to entertain Cardinal’s application that he had experienced discrimination. None of the issues raised constituted true questions of jurisdiction that justified intervention at this stage. Furthermore, there were no exceptional circumstances that took the case outside the normal rule that administrative proceedings should not be fragmented by bringing judicial review applications challenging interlocutory orders. The application was dismissed as premature.

Major League Baseball v. Cardinal, [2018] O.J. No. 469, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, F.P. Kiteley, M.T. Linhares de Sousa and L.A. Pattillo JJ., January 30, 2018. Digest No. TLD-Mar52018003