The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Strickland v Canada will ensure that all potential applicants think twice before going to the Federal Court with a judicial review challenge.
The ruling in Strickland involves a divorce case from Alberta in which the appellant, Robert Strickland, challenged the validity of federal Child Support Guidelines under the Divorce Act, arguing that the regulations were inconsistent with the legislation. Strickland sought a judicial review at the Federal Court of Canada.
The court denied application for review, arguing that it had little experience in family law matters and was an inappropriate forum. Subsequently, the applicants turned to the Federal Court of Appeal, arguing that the lower court’s reasoning was insufficient to deny the review.
In the Court’s reasoning, Justice Thomas Crowmwell considered the jurisdictional question of whether Provincial Superior Courts possess the jurisdiction to rule on the validity of federal regulations. In addition, the Court also raised the more administrative law question of whether the Federal Court erred by declining to hear the appellants’ judicial review application.
With respect to the jurisdictional question, the Court explicitly recognized that provincial superior courts have jurisdiction to address the validity of the federal regulations where doing so is a necessary step in resolving the case.
Additionally, the Court affirmed the discretionary nature of judicial review, stating that:
The appellants’ position that they are entitled to a ruling on the legality of theGuidelines through a judicial review is fundamentally at odds with the discretionary nature of judicial review and with the broad grounds on which that discretion may be exercised. The appellants do not have a right to have the Federal Court rule on the legality of the Guidelines; the Federal Court has discretion to do so, which it has decided not to exercise. . . .
The Court, in emphasizing the importance of a forum’s suitability for review, noted that even if the Federal Court were to declare the federal regulations to be invalid, such a declaration would not bind the provincial superior courts which could continue to apply them until successfully challenged in those courts.