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What Is a Judicial Review and How Do I Get One in Ontario?

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If you’re unhappy with a decision made by a Canadian administrative body, you may be able to challenge that decision through a judicial review. In Ontario, the judicial review process is governed by the Judicial Review Procedure Act. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about judicial reviews in Ontario, including the definition of judicial review, the process for initiating one, the grounds for a review, and the possible outcomes.

Understanding Judicial Review

Definition of Judicial Review

Put simply, judicial review is a process in which a court reviews a decision made by an administrative body or government agency to determine if it was made in compliance with the law. This process is essential to ensuring that the government and its agencies are held accountable for their actions and decisions. It allows individuals and organizations to challenge decisions that affect them and seek remedies if those decisions are found to be unlawful.

For example, if a government agency denies an individual’s application for a permit or license, that individual may seek judicial review of that decision if they believe it was made unfairly or unlawfully. The court will review the decision and determine whether the agency followed the proper procedures and made a decision that was within its legal authority.

Purpose of Judicial Review

The purpose of judicial review is to ensure that administrative decisions are made within the legal framework established by Canadian legislation, regulations, and the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice. This is important because it helps to maintain the rule of law and prevent abuses of power by government officials and agencies.

Without judicial review, administrative bodies and government agencies could make decisions that are arbitrary, discriminatory, or outside of their legal authority, without any means for individuals or organizations to challenge those decisions. This could lead to a lack of accountability and transparency in government decision-making, which is detrimental to a healthy democracy.

Differences between Judicial Review and Appeals

It’s important to understand that judicial review is different from the appeal process. When you appeal a decision, you’re asking a higher court to overturn the decision of a lower court. With a judicial review, on the other hand, you’re asking a court to review a decision made by an administrative body or government agency, not a court.

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Another key difference between appeals and judicial review is the standard of review that the court applies. In an appeal, the court will generally review the decision on its merits and make a determination as to whether the lower court made the correct decision. In a judicial review, the court will generally only review the decision for errors of law or jurisdiction, rather than the merits of the decision itself.

Overall, judicial review plays a critical role in ensuring that government decisions are made fairly, transparently, and within the bounds of the law. It is an important safeguard for individuals and organizations seeking to challenge decisions that affect them and helps to promote accountability and transparency in government decision-making.

The Judicial Review Process in Ontario

Ontario’s judicial review process is a vital component of the province’s legal system. It provides a mechanism for individuals and organizations to challenge decisions made by government bodies and other decision-makers.

Initiating the Process

Initiating a judicial review in Ontario can be a complex process, but it’s crucial to act quickly. You must make an application to the Divisional Court within 30 days of the decision being made. If the decision was made by a tribunal, you should first file an internal review request with the tribunal before seeking a judicial review.

It’s important to note that not all decisions can be challenged through a judicial review. Only decisions that fall within the scope of the court’s jurisdiction can be reviewed.

In your application, you’ll need to explain why you believe the decision was made unlawfully. This can be a challenging task, as you’ll need to provide evidence to support your argument.

Preparing the Application

When preparing your application for a judicial review, it’s important to gather all the relevant information and evidence. This may include transcripts of the original decision-making process, statements from witnesses, and legal research to support your argument.

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You’ll also need to consider the legal arguments you’ll use to support your case. This may involve reviewing case law and legal precedents to build a strong argument.

Filing and Serving the Application

Once you’ve prepared your application, you’ll need to file it with the Divisional Court and serve a copy on the decision-maker. The Divisional Court will provide you with a hearing date for your case.

It’s important to ensure that your application is properly formatted and includes all the required information. Failure to do so can result in your application being rejected.

The Hearing

The judicial review hearing is an opportunity for both parties to present their arguments and evidence in front of a judge. The judge will then make a decision based on the evidence presented.

During the hearing, the judge may ask questions of both parties to clarify points or to seek additional information. It’s important to be prepared to answer these questions and to present your case in a clear and concise manner.

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision. This decision may be to uphold the original decision, to quash the decision and order a new decision to be made, or to make another order as appropriate.

The judicial review process can be a lengthy and complex one, but it’s an important tool for ensuring that decisions made by government bodies and other decision-makers are lawful and fair.

Possible Outcomes of a Judicial Review

When a decision made by an administrative body or government agency is challenged in court, a judicial review is conducted to determine whether the decision was lawful. There are several possible outcomes of a judicial review, each with its own implications.

Quashing the Decision

If the court decides that the decision made by the administrative body or government agency was unlawful, it may quash the decision. This means that the decision is considered null and void. This outcome can have significant consequences for the parties involved, as it essentially means that the decision never existed. In some cases, the court may also order that any actions taken as a result of the decision be reversed.

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Remitting the Decision

Sometimes, the court may find that the decision was flawed but not necessarily unlawful. In these cases, the court may remit the decision back to the administrative body or government agency to be reconsidered in light of the court’s decision. This outcome gives the agency a chance to correct any errors or omissions in the decision-making process.

Declaring the Decision Invalid

In some cases, the court may declare the decision to be invalid or illegal, even if it doesn’t quash the decision entirely. This outcome can be significant because it means that the decision was made without proper authority or in violation of a law or regulation. This can have implications for future decisions made by the same agency or body.

Injunctions and Damages

In addition to these outcomes, the court may also grant an injunction to prevent or require a certain action, or it may award damages to the affected parties. An injunction is a court order that requires a party to do or not do something. Damages are monetary compensation awarded to a party who has suffered harm as a result of the decision being challenged. These outcomes can be important in cases where the decision has had a significant impact on the parties involved.

In conclusion, a judicial review can have a range of outcomes, depending on the circumstances of the case. These outcomes can have significant implications for the parties involved and can impact future decision-making by the administrative body or government agency in question.


Challenging a decision made by an administrative body or government agency can be a complex process, but a judicial review may be the right path for you. With a clear understanding of the judicial review process, grounds for review, and possible outcomes, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision about how to proceed. Remember, the key to a successful judicial review is to gather all the relevant information and evidence, and to present a strong argument that clearly outlines why the decision made was unlawful.

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