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Ron Ellis Archive

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Ron Ellis is a lawyer and legal scholar well known in the Canadian administrative justice field for his persistent championing of rule-of-law reform of Canada’s systems of tribunal justice. With the benefit of many years working with and in the system, including 12 years as the inaugural chairperson of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal, Ellis brings to his writings the unusual mix of a scholarly perspective and the practical insights of an experienced system insider.

His work focuses on tribunals that adjudicate statutory and constitutional rights, and not on tribunals that regulate industries or professions.

He is best known for his book, Unjust By Design: Canada’s Administrative Justice System, (2013, UBC Press). The book consolidates his criticisms of the tribunal system. It also sets out proposals for structural reform. In addition to his book, Ellis has written numerous articles on administrative justice.

The writings collected here are published articles or the texts of presentations to administrative tribunal conferences. Together they provide an invaluable picture of key issues in Canadian administrative justice from the late 1980’s into the second decade of the 21st century.

1. Administrative Tribunal Design

Administrative Tribunal Design, 1 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 134 (1987) – an explanation of the design and the thinking behind the design of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal in 1985

2. Tribunals – Reasons and Reasons for Reasons

Tribunals – Reasons and Reasons for Reasons (co-authored with Carole Trethewey and Frederika Rotter), 4 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 105 (1990) – an argument for why each tribunal needs a policy on reasons for decision that addresses issues of quality and consistency, and takes account of the audiences the tribunal hopes to reach

3. Deliberative Secrecy and Adjudicative Independence: The Glengarry Precipice

Deliberative Secrecy and Adjudicative Independence: The Glengarry Precipice (co-authored with Paul Aterman), 7 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 171 (1994) – an analysis of the principles of deliberative secrecy in the context of decision-making by adjudicative tribunals

4. Administrative Justice System Reform – The Term of Appointment Issue

Administrative Justice System Reform – The Term of Appointment Issue, 10 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 1 (1996) – an argument against the policy of the then government of Ontario to limit the appointment of tribunal members to two terms of three years each

5. Appointments Policies In The Administrative Justice System - Lessons From Ontario, Four Speeches

Appointments Policies In The Administrative Justice System – Lessons From Ontario, Four Speeches, 11 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 205 (1998) – a critique of the tribunal appointments process in Ontario during the tenure of the Harris government

6. The Workplace Safety and Insurance System – Evidence Law

The Workplace Safety and Insurance System – Evidence Law, speech to the Ontario Office of the Worker Advisor Staff Conference on Advocacy in Complex Cases (1998) – a lecture on how the rules of evidence are adapted and applied in a workers’ compensation tribunal hearing

7. The Administrative Justice System in the New Millennium: A Vision in Search of a Centre

The Administrative Justice System in the New Millennium: A Vision in Search of a Centre, 13 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 171 (2000) – an argument for a national network of provincial and territorial administrative justice centres dedicated to the pursuit of a new vision of administrative justice systems

8. Looking over the shoulders of administrative law judges

Looking over the shoulders of administrative law judges, speech to the annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (2001) – an explanation of why evaluating the performance of tribunal members is a necessary function of the chairperson of a tribunal

9. Super Provincial Tribunals: A Radical Remedy for Canada's Rights Tribunals

Super Provincial Tribunals: A Radical Remedy for Canada’s Rights Tribunals, 15 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 15 (2002) – an argument for the creation of a single rights adjudicating tribunal to insulate the administrative justice system from political and bureaucratic interference

10. Enough of Skills and Process – Let’s Talk Obligations

Enough of Skills and Process – Let’s Talk Obligations, speech to the annual conference of the British Columbia Council of Administrative Tribunals (2003) – a lesson in the fundamental attributes that newly appointed tribunal members need to cultivate in order to become good adjudicators

11. A Smoking-Gun Reform Strategy for Rights Tribunals

A Smoking-Gun Reform Strategy for Rights Tribunals, 16 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 279 (2003) – a proposal for a bi-annual survey of administrative law lawyers and tribunal members that would highlight the ongoing need for reform of adjudicative tribunals

12. Misconceiving Tribunal Members: Memorandum to Québec

Misconceiving Tribunal Members: Memorandum to Québec, 18 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 189 (2005) – an argument against the introduction of life-time appointments for members of adjudicative tribunals

13. Jurisprudence and Consistency

Jurisprudence and Consistency, speech to the annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (2006) – a discussion of what constitutes a tribunal’s jurisprudence, and why a tribunal needs one

14. Legislative Sovereignty and the Rule of Law

Legislative Sovereignty and the Rule of Law, initially a speech to the annual conference of the British Columbia Council of Administrative Tribunals, then reworked as a case comment (2006) – a discussion of the decision of the British Columbia Supreme Court in McKenzie v. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General et al., 2006 BCSC 1372 (CanLII)

15. The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals

The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals, Part I, 19 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 303 (2006) – an argument that adjudicative tribunals are part of the judicial branch of government and that “justicizing” them – not judicializing them – will make them compatible with the structural imperatives of a valid justice system

16. The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals

The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals, Part II, 20 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 69 (2007) – the second part of the argument is that the structural imperatives of a valid justice system require that tribunal independence and impartiality be constitutionally protected, and that tribunal competence be optimised through systemic improvements

17. The Big Question: In administrative justice is the Rule of Law optional?

The Big Question: In administrative justice is the Rule of Law optional?, speech to The Future of Administrative Justice Symposium, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law (2008) – an analysis of the evolution of the independence jurisprudence in the court system, and an argument that the same rule-of-law principles are not merely optional in the case of the tribunal system

18. Hearing and Listening - Respect in Action in Adjudicative Hearings

Hearing and Listening – Respect in Action in Adjudicative Hearings, speech to an Ontario tribunal training conference (2008) – an explanation of techniques for tribunal adjudicators in conducting a fair and respectful hearing.

19. Tribunal Independence and Impartiality in Canada. How Real is it? Not Real by any Measure

Tribunal Independence and Impartiality in Canada. How Real is it? Not Real by any Measure, speech to the Canadian Institute, 8th Annual Advanced Administrative Law & Practice Conference (2008) – an argument that, with the exception of the tribunal system in Quebec, the necessary guarantees of independence and impartiality are lacking in all the tribunal systems in the Canadian federation

20. Judicial Tribunals and the Rule of Law – A Cautionary Tale

Judicial Tribunals and the Rule of Law – A Cautionary Tale, speaking notes in a debate at the annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (2009) – Ellis’s argument against the resolution “Be it resolved that court-like principles of independence should not be guaranteed for tribunals, and that there should be no restrictions on how governments may wish to design tribunals and their membership and processes”.

21. The Corporate Responsibility of Tribunal Members

The Corporate Responsibility of Tribunal Members, 22 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 1 (2009) – an explanation of the corporate obligations that members of an adjudicative tribunal have toward the decision-making enterprise, and how these obligations differentiate tribunal members from judges

22. Ocean Port or the Rule of Law? The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board

Ocean Port or the Rule of Law? The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (co-authored with Mary McKenzie), 22 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 267 (2009) – a critique of the reasoning the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench employed to uphold the mid-term termination of the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan (Attorney General), 2009 SKQB 20 (CanLII).

23. Dunsmuir and the Independence of Adjudicative Tribunals

Dunsmuir and the Independence of Adjudicative Tribunals, 23 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 203 (2010) – a critique of an aspect of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9 (CanLII), that appears to treat the relationship between administrative decision-makers and the government as contractual in nature, and that can be terminated without cause upon payment of compensation in lieu of notice

24. The Provincial Auditor and the Administrative Justice System

The Provincial Auditor and the Administrative Justice System (co-authored with Kathy Laird), 23 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 237 (2010) – a critique of the provincial auditor’s incursion into the substantive work of an adjudicative tribunal as another example of bureaucratic intrusion that undermines tribunal independence

25. Quasi-Judicialism: The Cuckoo Chick in the Administrative Justice Nest

Quasi-Judicialism: The Cuckoo Chick in the Administrative Justice Nest, 25 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 289 (2012) – an argument against “quasi-judicialism” as a concept that undermines the perceived integrity of tribunal adjudication by placing it on a lesser footing than that of the courts, even though the adjudicative function is exactly the same in both domains

26. Ethics: The Duty of Lawyers Vis-à-vis Tribunals

Ethics: The Duty of Lawyers Vis-à-vis Tribunals, 26 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 39 (2013) – an argument that lawyers are under a professional obligation to defend tribunals from unfair criticism by politicians and the media, in the same way that they owe that obligation to courts

27. Unjust by Design: Canada’s Administrative Justice System

Unjust by Design: Canada’s Administrative Justice System, speech to the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (2014) – a short presentation of the main ideas in Ellis’ book, Unjust by Design

28. An Ignis Fatuus? The Rule of Law in the Administrative Justice System

An Ignis Fatuus? The Rule of Law in the Administrative Justice System, 28 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 55 (2015) – an argument that the courts are consciously reducing the rule of law in the administrative justice system to an illusion, with particular scrutiny of the decision of the Federal Court in Muhammad v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 FC 448 (CanLII)

29. Rule of Law, Antidotes for the Ignis Fatuus Syndrome

Rule of Law, Antidotes for the Ignis Fatuus Syndrome, 2014 blog post from Ron Ellis’ website administrativejusticereform.ca which cites various prominent Canadian judges endorsing the rule of law values as essential to tribunal adjudication

30. Conflict Eliminatus: A Call for Conflict-Free Adjudication of Disability Claims

Conflict Eliminatus: A Call for Conflict-Free Adjudication of Disability Claims, 31 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 201 (2018) – an argument that cost considerations have created a systemic culture of denial in Canada’s disability adjudication regimes, and that this trend can only be reversed by eliminating the inherent conflict of interest that initial-level adjudicators have because of the institutional pressure on them to minimize costs

1. Administrative Tribunal Design

Administrative Tribunal Design, 1 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 134 (1987) – an explanation of the design and the thinking behind the design of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal in 1985

2. Tribunals – Reasons and Reasons for Reasons

Tribunals – Reasons and Reasons for Reasons (co-authored with Carole Trethewey and Frederika Rotter), 4 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 105 (1990) – an argument for why each tribunal needs a policy on reasons for decision that addresses issues of quality and consistency, and takes account of the audiences the tribunal hopes to reach

3. Deliberative Secrecy and Adjudicative Independence: The Glengarry Precipice

Deliberative Secrecy and Adjudicative Independence: The Glengarry Precipice (co-authored with Paul Aterman), 7 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 171 (1994) – an analysis of the principles of deliberative secrecy in the context of decision-making by adjudicative tribunals

4. Administrative Justice System Reform – The Term of Appointment Issue

Administrative Justice System Reform – The Term of Appointment Issue, 10 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 1 (1996) – an argument against the policy of the then government of Ontario to limit the appointment of tribunal members to two terms of three years each

5. Appointments Policies In The Administrative Justice System - Lessons From Ontario, Four Speeches

Appointments Policies In The Administrative Justice System – Lessons From Ontario, Four Speeches, 11 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 205 (1998) – a critique of the tribunal appointments process in Ontario during the tenure of the Harris government

6. The Workplace Safety and Insurance System – Evidence Law

The Workplace Safety and Insurance System – Evidence Law, speech to the Ontario Office of the Worker Advisor Staff Conference on Advocacy in Complex Cases (1998) – a lecture on how the rules of evidence are adapted and applied in a workers’ compensation tribunal hearing

7. The Administrative Justice System in the New Millennium: A Vision in Search of a Centre

The Administrative Justice System in the New Millennium: A Vision in Search of a Centre, 13 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 171 (2000) – an argument for a national network of provincial and territorial administrative justice centres dedicated to the pursuit of a new vision of administrative justice systems

8. Looking over the shoulders of administrative law judges

Looking over the shoulders of administrative law judges, speech to the annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (2001) – an explanation of why evaluating the performance of tribunal members is a necessary function of the chairperson of a tribunal

9. Super Provincial Tribunals: A Radical Remedy for Canada's Rights Tribunals

Super Provincial Tribunals: A Radical Remedy for Canada’s Rights Tribunals, 15 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 15 (2002) – an argument for the creation of a single rights adjudicating tribunal to insulate the administrative justice system from political and bureaucratic interference

10. Enough of Skills and Process – Let’s Talk Obligations

Enough of Skills and Process – Let’s Talk Obligations, speech to the annual conference of the British Columbia Council of Administrative Tribunals (2003) – a lesson in the fundamental attributes that newly appointed tribunal members need to cultivate in order to become good adjudicators

11. A Smoking-Gun Reform Strategy for Rights Tribunals

A Smoking-Gun Reform Strategy for Rights Tribunals, 16 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 279 (2003) – a proposal for a bi-annual survey of administrative law lawyers and tribunal members that would highlight the ongoing need for reform of adjudicative tribunals

12. Misconceiving Tribunal Members: Memorandum to Québec

Misconceiving Tribunal Members: Memorandum to Québec, 18 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 189 (2005) – an argument against the introduction of life-time appointments for members of adjudicative tribunals

13. Jurisprudence and Consistency

Jurisprudence and Consistency, speech to the annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (2006) – a discussion of what constitutes a tribunal’s jurisprudence, and why a tribunal needs one

14. Legislative Sovereignty and the Rule of Law

Legislative Sovereignty and the Rule of Law, initially a speech to the annual conference of the British Columbia Council of Administrative Tribunals, then reworked as a case comment (2006) – a discussion of the decision of the British Columbia Supreme Court in McKenzie v. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General et al., 2006 BCSC 1372 (CanLII)

15. The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals

The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals, Part I, 19 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 303 (2006) – an argument that adjudicative tribunals are part of the judicial branch of government and that “justicizing” them – not judicializing them – will make them compatible with the structural imperatives of a valid justice system

16. The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals

The Justicizing of Quasi-Judicial Tribunals, Part II, 20 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 69 (2007) – the second part of the argument is that the structural imperatives of a valid justice system require that tribunal independence and impartiality be constitutionally protected, and that tribunal competence be optimised through systemic improvements

17. The Big Question: In administrative justice is the Rule of Law optional?

The Big Question: In administrative justice is the Rule of Law optional?, speech to The Future of Administrative Justice Symposium, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law (2008) – an analysis of the evolution of the independence jurisprudence in the court system, and an argument that the same rule-of-law principles are not merely optional in the case of the tribunal system

18. Hearing and Listening - Respect in Action in Adjudicative Hearings

Hearing and Listening – Respect in Action in Adjudicative Hearings, speech to an Ontario tribunal training conference (2008) – an explanation of techniques for tribunal adjudicators in conducting a fair and respectful hearing.

19. Tribunal Independence and Impartiality in Canada. How Real is it? Not Real by any Measure

Tribunal Independence and Impartiality in Canada. How Real is it? Not Real by any Measure, speech to the Canadian Institute, 8th Annual Advanced Administrative Law & Practice Conference (2008) – an argument that, with the exception of the tribunal system in Quebec, the necessary guarantees of independence and impartiality are lacking in all the tribunal systems in the Canadian federation

20. Judicial Tribunals and the Rule of Law – A Cautionary Tale

Judicial Tribunals and the Rule of Law – A Cautionary Tale, speaking notes in a debate at the annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (2009) – Ellis’s argument against the resolution “Be it resolved that court-like principles of independence should not be guaranteed for tribunals, and that there should be no restrictions on how governments may wish to design tribunals and their membership and processes”.

21. The Corporate Responsibility of Tribunal Members

The Corporate Responsibility of Tribunal Members, 22 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 1 (2009) – an explanation of the corporate obligations that members of an adjudicative tribunal have toward the decision-making enterprise, and how these obligations differentiate tribunal members from judges

22. Ocean Port or the Rule of Law? The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board

Ocean Port or the Rule of Law? The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (co-authored with Mary McKenzie), 22 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 267 (2009) – a critique of the reasoning the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench employed to uphold the mid-term termination of the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan (Attorney General), 2009 SKQB 20 (CanLII).

23. Dunsmuir and the Independence of Adjudicative Tribunals

Dunsmuir and the Independence of Adjudicative Tribunals, 23 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 203 (2010) – a critique of an aspect of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9 (CanLII), that appears to treat the relationship between administrative decision-makers and the government as contractual in nature, and that can be terminated without cause upon payment of compensation in lieu of notice

24. The Provincial Auditor and the Administrative Justice System

The Provincial Auditor and the Administrative Justice System (co-authored with Kathy Laird), 23 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 237 (2010) – a critique of the provincial auditor’s incursion into the substantive work of an adjudicative tribunal as another example of bureaucratic intrusion that undermines tribunal independence

25. Quasi-Judicialism: The Cuckoo Chick in the Administrative Justice Nest

Quasi-Judicialism: The Cuckoo Chick in the Administrative Justice Nest, 25 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 289 (2012) – an argument against “quasi-judicialism” as a concept that undermines the perceived integrity of tribunal adjudication by placing it on a lesser footing than that of the courts, even though the adjudicative function is exactly the same in both domains

26. Ethics: The Duty of Lawyers Vis-à-vis Tribunals

Ethics: The Duty of Lawyers Vis-à-vis Tribunals, 26 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 39 (2013) – an argument that lawyers are under a professional obligation to defend tribunals from unfair criticism by politicians and the media, in the same way that they owe that obligation to courts

27. Unjust by Design: Canada’s Administrative Justice System

Unjust by Design: Canada’s Administrative Justice System, speech to the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (2014) – a short presentation of the main ideas in Ellis’ book, Unjust by Design

28. An Ignis Fatuus? The Rule of Law in the Administrative Justice System

An Ignis Fatuus? The Rule of Law in the Administrative Justice System, 28 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 55 (2015) – an argument that the courts are consciously reducing the rule of law in the administrative justice system to an illusion, with particular scrutiny of the decision of the Federal Court in Muhammad v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 FC 448 (CanLII)

29. Rule of Law, Antidotes for the Ignis Fatuus Syndrome

Rule of Law, Antidotes for the Ignis Fatuus Syndrome, 2014 blog post from Ron Ellis’ website administrativejusticereform.ca which cites various prominent Canadian judges endorsing the rule of law values as essential to tribunal adjudication

30. Conflict Eliminatus: A Call for Conflict-Free Adjudication of Disability Claims

Conflict Eliminatus: A Call for Conflict-Free Adjudication of Disability Claims, 31 Can. J. Admin. L. & Prac. 201 (2018) – an argument that cost considerations have created a systemic culture of denial in Canada’s disability adjudication regimes, and that this trend can only be reversed by eliminating the inherent conflict of interest that initial-level adjudicators have because of the institutional pressure on them to minimize costs