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Fair Decision-Making

A decision by a government agency can have a serious impact on the lives of people affected by these decisions. For this reason government agencies are required by law to treat people fairly.

Procedural Fairness

Fairness in decision-making means that the process for making the decision is fair. This is called procedural fairness. It does not mean that the decision itself is necessarily fair. For example, the law says that a landlord can evict a renter if they are more than 15 days behind in their rent. This may not be considered fair to a renter who has just been laid off, but procedural fairness only deals with the process used to come to a decision not the outcome.

There are a number of ways that the requirements of procedural fairness can be met by the decision-maker. Factors such as the importance of the decision to the individual, the type of decision being made, the process used to make the decision and whether there is a right to appeal the decision can determine the steps needed to ensure procedural fairness.

For example, a final decision that could result in someone being deported from Canada or losing their job requires a higher level of procedural fairness. On the other hand, decisions that result in something like recommendations for how things will be handled in the future require a lower level of procedural fairness.

Right to be Heard

You have the right to tell your side of the story but that does not always mean there must be a hearing before a decision can be made.

For example, if there are fixed criteria for you to qualify for a certain benefit your right to be heard may simply be the right to provide the decision-maker with your information in written form. In other cases there may be a board or other kind of body that has responsibility for making the decision and you may have the right to appear before that body to tell your side of the story.

Notice

You must be informed that a decision is going to be made that may affect you. Sometimes this just means that the process used to reach a decision about your case is clear. For example, if you completed a form to apply for a benefit, you would know that a decision was going to be made about whether you are eligible for that benefit.

In other situations you may be entitled to written notification about a decision being made. For example, if there is going to be a hearing conducted by the Office of Residential Tenancies that involves you, you will receive a written notice stating when and where the hearing will take place. The notification must also clearly set out what is being decided.

Disclosure

You must be told what information will be used to make the decision and be allowed to review the information that will be used in the decision. If part of the information that will be used is statements from third-parties, their right to privacy will be considered. This may result, for example, in you seeing their statements but not their names.

Reasons

You must be told why the decision was made. Like other rights to procedural fairness, how the reasons are provided and the detail required depend on the situation. In some cases written reasons may be required.

Impartial Decision-Maker

The right to have an impartial decision-maker means that you have the right to a decision-maker who is seen as impartial. For example, if the decision-maker is related to one of the parties the decision-maker would not be considered impartial even if there was no evidence that this influenced the decision.

Reasons why a decision-maker may not be considered impartial include when the decision-maker...

  • has a connection to one of the parties
  • was previously involved in the case
  • stands to benefit if they decide the case a certain way
  • makes comments that show they may have decided the case before even hearing your side
  • appears to be prejudiced against one of the parties

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PLEA gratefully acknowledges our primary core funder the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for their continuing and generous support of our organization.