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Challenging a Decision

You may not be satisfied with a decision a government agency has made. In some cases you can ask the agency to reconsider their decision. Some agencies have their own review or appeal boards. You can ask the agency about appeals. The time limit on appealing and the process to appeal will vary from agency to agency.

Review by Court

There are some situations where you can ask a court to review a decision. To do this you will usually need a lawyer to help you. Courts can review a decision only in limited circumstances. For example, if the agency‘s process was unfair the court can review the case. The court can also review the case if the agency did not have the authority to deal with the matter. However, courts reviewing an agency's decision do not consider if the agency came to the right decision.

There are a number of actions a court can take if they find that an agency has made a decision that they did not have the authority to make or that the agency’s decision-making process was not fair. The court can strike down the decision. The court cannot make a new decision but they can require the agency to make a new decision that complies with procedural fairness and that is within their authority.

If immediate harm would be caused because of a decision of an agency, the court can issue an injunction to prevent anyone from acting on the decision until the court has considered if the decision is valid. This could happen, for example, if an agency approved the demolition of a building and their decision is going to be challenged - but not in time to stop the demolition. In some cases, especially if there is no other remedy, a court can order that the agency pay monetary compensation to the person wronged by their decision.


If you think you have been treated unfairly by the provincial government, including government agencies, you may be able to get help from the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is separate from the government. Before making a complaint, you need to use any appeals that are available through the board or agency.

When deciding if you have been treated unfairly, the Ombudsman will consider things like:

  • what information was considered
  • whether you were able to tell your side of the story
  • how you were treated

If they find that you have been treated unfairly they can make recommendations to the government about how to correct the situation.

At the federal level, there are also a number of independent bodies that can look into complaints concerning federal government agencies. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman are two examples.

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