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Business Plan 2015 – 2018

Table of Contents

Executive Summary. 1

Mandate and Mission Statement of the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal                  Tribunal (Tribunal) 2

Mandate and Mission Statement of the Board of Negotiation (BON) 3

Values/Operating Principles. 3

Agricultural Employee Protection Act Special Roster: 4

Overview of Current and Future Programs and Activities. 4

Strategic Directions

1.       Liaison with Public. 4

2.       Processing of Appeals, Applications and Complaints. 5

3.      Hearings and Decision Making. 6

4.       Ongoing Education. 6

5.       Compliance with Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and                                                                                                                                             

        Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA) and Agencies & Appointments Directive                     

        (AAD) 7

Resources Needed to Meet Strategic Directions. 7

Risk Identification, Assessment and Mitigation Strategies. 8

Environmental Scan. 8

Human Resources. 9

Expected Outcomes. 10

Performance Measures. 10

Financial Budget and Staffing. 11

Information Technology (IT) / Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) Plan. 11

Initiatives Involving Third Parties. 11

Communication Plan. 12

Inquiries. 12

Executive Summary

Introduction

The Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) is an independent, quasi-judicial appeal body constituted under Section 14 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act that hears appeals concerning matters in the agriculture and food industry. Established under section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act, the Board of Negotiation (BON) negotiates settlements of claims under that Act.

The Tribunal and BON operate in an impartial manner with full regard for the legislation under which appeals or notices are brought forward. The Tribunal and BON operate in a less formal manner than a court.  However, hearings and negotiations are conducted in a manner that respects the rights of all parties.

The Tribunal and BON are accessible to any citizens of Ontario who are aggrieved and impacted by decisions made under various legislations in Ontario that govern the agriculture and food industry.

All members of the Tribunal and BON are part time per diem appointees appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.  Each member represents varied geographical areas in Ontario and has background and expertise in areas relating to agricultural production, processing, marketing, labour, consumer interests, and drainage matters. This mixture of membership allows the Tribunal and BON to address all appeals or notices for negotiation brought forward including those that require specialized technical knowledge as part of the process.

The manner in which the Tribunal and BON operate and the diversity of expertise amongst the members supports the expectations of clients, government and the general public that matters before the Tribunal will be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.

Key Achievements for 2014/2015

The Tribunal provides timely and efficient adjudicative services to the public in accordance with its mandate. To date, the BON has had no requests for negotiation. The Tribunal and BON are in compliance with the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA)and the Agencies & Appointments Directive (AAD). Governance and Public Accountability documents which are compliant with both the ATAGAA and the AAD are accessed by the public through the Tribunal website or by contacting the Tribunal office. All members and staff are compliant with the requirements of the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.

Total expenditures for 2014-2015

Year Salaries and Wages Employee Benefits Trans & Comm Services Supp & Equip Total
2014-2015 220,937 29,629 37,913 293,003 3,600 585,082

Expectations for the planning horizon

The Tribunal and BON will continue to deliver on its key commitments and strategies for 2015-2018.  These commitments and strategies encompass the Tribunal’s goal of providing a fair and impartial hearing and decision process in an accessible venue.  The Tribunal focuses on proficient delivery of adjudicative services, confidence in the Tribunal by parties in the appeal process, efficient decision making and timely release of decisions and compliance with all regulatory requirements.  Details of each commitment/strategy are outlined under Strategic Directions on Page 4.

The Tribunal and BON will continue to provide adjudicative services to the public by exercising its powers and performing its duties in accordance with their mandates. New members will be appointed to the Tribunal in 2015/16 to replace those whose term will be expiring.  Orientation and training will be provided to ensure these new members are equipped to address any issue that arises in their proceedings.  Members and staff will continue to be diligent in meeting the requirements of the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive. Hearing and travel arrangements will be done in the most cost effective manner.  The Tribunal and BON will ensure its Business Plan, Annual Report, and other governance and public accountability documents are in compliance with the Agencies & Appointments Directive and the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009.

The Tribunal continues to be mindful of the need to meet the public’s expectations for decisions to be released in a timely manner.  However, appeal matters have increased in complexity and more often involve multiple parties with legal representation.  As a result, the Tribunal will continue to inform stakeholders that some decisions may take longer to complete depending on the complexity of the matter under appeal and the volume of evidence required to be considered.

The Tribunal will continue to use a client survey to obtain feedback on the services it provides. The results of the survey will assist the Tribunal in its ongoing efforts to improve the delivery of its services, and to evaluate the Tribunal’s performance.

Mandate and Mission Statement of the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal)

The Tribunal is an adjudicative agency of the Ontario government where decisions made by other bodies can be appealed or where applications and complaints can be heard pursuant to legislation that authorizes the Tribunal to hear those matters.  It is an accessible venue that allows due process to occur. All Tribunal members also serve on the Board of Negotiation.

Mandate of the Tribunal

Constituted under Section 14 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act, the mandate of the Tribunal is to provide an independent, accessible avenue of appeal on a variety of agricultural issues under the following provincial statutes and have them heard by an impartial and knowledgeable Tribunal:  the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002; the Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act; the Animals for Research Act; the Animal Health Act, 2009; the Assessment Act; the Beef Cattle Marketing Act; the Commodity Board Members Act; the Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996; the Drainage Act; the Farm Implements Act; the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993; the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001; the Grains Act; the Livestock Community Sales Act; the Livestock and Livestock Products Act; the Livestock Medicines Act; and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (for appeals of decisions made under the Farm Products Marketing Act and Milk Act).  

Mission Statement of the Tribunal

To provide a fair and impartial hearing and decision process for those who are aggrieved by a direction, policy, order or decision, or who require the resolution of a dispute pursuant to legislation that falls under the mandate of the Tribunal.

Mandate and Mission Statement of the Board of Negotiation (BON)

Mandate of BON

Established under the authority of the Environmental Protection Act, the mandate of the BON is to negotiate a settlement of a claim where a contaminant is causing or has caused injury or damage to livestock or to crops, trees or other vegetation.  Where a claimant has requested an investigation by the Minister of the Environment and a report is filed, and where the claimant and the person responsible for the injury or damage are not able to reach a settlement of the claim, either party may refer the matter to the BON for settlement.  Settlements negotiated by the BON are non-binding.

Mission Statement of BON

To provide a fair and impartial process for the negotiation of a settlement of claim where a party has served a notice of negotiation upon the BON in accordance with section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act.

Values/Operating Principles

The Tribunal values:

1)         Finding facts from evidence, leading to clearly reasoned and expressed decisions.

2)         Respect and consideration.

3)         Fairness and accessibility.

4)         Continuous professional development.

5)         Adherence to principles of the adjudicative process.

6)         Endeavouring to reach consensus in the decision-making process.

Agricultural Employee Protection Act Special Roster:

Some members of the Tribunal are also appointed to a special roster of members who may hear complaints and applications under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002 (AEPA).

Overview of Current and Future Programs and Activities

Strategic Directions

The operations of the Tribunal and/or BON support the five key strategic directions:

  1. Liaison with Public
  2. Processing of Appeals, Applications and Complaints
  3. Hearings and Decision Making
  4. Ongoing Education
  5. Compliance with ATAGAA and AAD

1. Liaison with Public

  1. The Tribunal undertakes a number of initiatives to enhance its profile and accessibility.  A member of the Tribunal makes an annual address at a Drainage Engineers Conference which is attended by engineers practicing in drainage matters and drainage superintendents employed by rural municipalities.  This conference provides an opportunity to update attendees on interesting cases that have been decided by the Tribunal and to inform them of any concerns of the Tribunal.  Tribunal staff routinely liaises with parties to appeals providing non-legal advice regarding appropriate hearing, pre-hearing and post-hearing practices and procedures.
  • The Tribunal has a section on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website www.ontario.ca\omafra located under Agencies, Boards and Commissions.  General information about the Tribunal and BON, information on how to prepare for a hearing, information about upcoming hearings, the Rules of Procedure and agency accountability documents are posted on the website.  The Tribunal is working on improvements to its web content and location.
  • The Tribunal will continue to post all decisions on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website with the exception of decisions under the Assessment Act andreligious exemptions pertaining to the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993.  This provides greater public access to Tribunal Decisions as well as improved management and efficiency of posting decision documents.
  • The Tribunal will meet the standards outlined under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.  The Tribunal remains compliant with these standards and will strive to meet the new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to Level AA by January 1, 2021. An accessibility report is filed annually and made available to the public on the Tribunal website.  
  • Newspapers and radio newscasts periodically report on Tribunal hearing matters.  The Chair responds to media inquiries for the Tribunal and BON in a timely manner as per its media protocol.
  • The Tribunal will continue to ensure it is in compliance with the French Language Services Act. 
  • Feedback from Tribunal hearings is obtained through a survey distributed to participants to hearings directly after the decision is released. As well, clients are able to provide feedback via the Tribunal website. 

2. Processing of Appeals, Applications and Complaints

This activity includes all administrative actions necessary to process an appeal, application or complaint from the date of filing to the date of the hearing.  It also includes the release of decisions once they are signed by the Chair, Vice Chair or member who chaired the proceeding.  For the most part, staff of the Tribunal process appeals, applications and complaints made to the Tribunal.  The exception is the Drainage Act which provides that the clerk of the municipality in which an appeal/application is initiated will act as the clerk of the Tribunal.  In the case of the Assessment Act, appeals are first received by the Assessment Review Board and are later referred to the Tribunal. 

The processes followed when appeals, applications or complaints are received to the Tribunal include:

  • Screening the appeal, application or complaint to assess its compliance with the Act under which it is filed.  Further information may be solicited from the parties.
  • Informing the Chair of the receipt of the appeal, application or complaint so that he may assign a panel of members to hear the dispute.
  • Scheduling the hearing.  Pre-hearing conferences may be scheduled where appropriate. 
  • Responding to questions about the Tribunal’s processes and procedures.
  • Tracking and administering the appeal process through to the rendering of the written decision.

3. Hearings and Decision Making

In most cases a quorum of the Tribunal consists of two members.  For proceedings held under the Drainage Act or the Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996, one of the panel members constituting a quorum must be a lawyer who is eligible to practise law in Ontario.  Only members appointed to a special roster may sit on proceedings under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002 (AEPA). A quorum for proceedings under the AEPA is one member. Normally the Tribunal sits in panels of three, but larger panels may be used if the specific expertise of more than three members is desired.  Proceedings are usually chaired by the Chair or a Vice Chair, although that is not a legal requirement. 

All Tribunal decisions are issued in writing.  Although a decision is only signed by the Chair, Vice Chair or panel member who chaired the proceeding, the decision of the Tribunal is the decision of the majority of members constituting a quorum.  If a matter is extremely time sensitive, the Tribunal may issue an oral decision with reasons to follow.  In those rare cases, the panel will write the oral statement by hand, agree on its wording, and then read it to the parties. Similarly, there have been cases where a written decision has been provided with reasons to follow.

A quorum of the BON consists of two members and may sit in any place in Ontario. If a matter is referred to the BON to be heard, its purpose is to negotiate a settlement of a claim. Settlements negotiated by the BON are non-binding. 

4. Ongoing Education

Public confidence in the Tribunal is affected by peoples’ perception of the fairness of the appeal process, the conduct of the hearing, the extent to which the decision reflects the evidence, and the adequacy of the rationale that each panel provides for its decision.  The Tribunal is committed to training its part-time members to ensure that they are well equipped to address any issue that arises in their proceedings and that they are able to write well-reasoned decisions which respect their statutory authority.

The Tribunal and BON have a number of ongoing education initiatives which may include:

  • Annual training sessions of all members, with the focus of the agenda items determined by issues that arise over the course of the year.
  • Intensive adjudicator training courses offered by the Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators for the Chair and Vice Chairs, as well as those members appointed to the special roster. 
  • Training and orientation of newly appointed members, which includes their participation as an observer at one or more Tribunal proceedings before they are assigned to a panel.
  • Circulation of legal cases and articles of relevance to administrative tribunals to all members. 
  • Occasionally having members participate in conferences or short courses which focus on specific areas of administrative law.

5. Compliance with Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA) and Agencies & Appointments Directive (AAD)

The Agencies & Appointments Directive focuses on increased accountability, and the mandatory accountability tools required under the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009:

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) originally signed in April 2011, reflects the accountability framework and a mutual understanding of the responsibilities of the Ministry and the agency. The memorandum of understanding is reviewed upon a significant change in the Agency’s mandate, governance, structure or powers. If a new Minister or Chair takes office, the Minister and Chair must affirm by letter within 6 months that the MOU will continue in force without a review, unless they agree to a review.
  • Annual Business Plan – each plan covers three years and includes a budget, risk assessment and management plan. The 2015-2018 business plan will be completed for approval in 2015.
  • Risk Assessment Evaluation – reports on risks and the management plan to address each risk are evaluated on a quarterly basis.
  • Annual Report – reports on activities for the past year. The report is tabled in the Legislative Assembly and available to the public. The 2014-2015 annual report will be completed for approval in 2015.

The purpose of the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance & Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA)is to ensure that adjudicative tribunals are accountable, transparent and efficient in their operations while remaining independent in their decision-making.  Many of the requirements under the Act parallel existing requirements under the Agencies & Appointments Directive (AAD).   Governance accountability documents are the Memorandum of Understanding, Business Plan, and Annual Report.  Public accountability documents are the Mandate and Mission Statement, Consultation Policy, Service Standard Policy, Ethics Plan and Member Accountability Framework including Code of Conduct. These documents are reviewed every three years and are available to the public.

Resources Needed to Meet Strategic Directions

  • Capable members with adjudicative experience and knowledge of agricultural matters that may be appealed to the Tribunal.
  • Ministry to provide administrative, financial and support services.
  • Legal Services provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Risk Identification, Assessment and Mitigation Strategies

The Agencies & Appointments Directive requires provincial agencies to have a risk-based approach to managing agency oversight. The Tribunal and BON have no medium or high risk issues.  The Tribunal and BON have identified some low corporate risks in the Strategic/Policy and Operational categories along with potential corrective action.


Risk Description
Likelihood of Occurrence Mitigation Strategies
Risk Category: Strategic/Policy
20 day timeline for making decisions in Section 16(12) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act is challenging given the complexity of cases and part time resources of the Tribunal. Low Short Term: The Tribunal strives to release decisions as quickly as possible and informs stakeholders that decisions may take longer than the 20 day requirement depending upon the complexity of the matter under appeal and volume of evidence required to be considered.   Long Term:  The 20 day requirement should be removed and made consistent with Section 17(9) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act ("Act"). Tribunal staff will work with the Ministry on a proposed amendment to Section 16(12) of the Act when the government is prepared to consider another omnibus bill.
Risk Category: Accountability / Compliance
Caseload/number of appeals and appeal complexity could have an impact on the Tribunal’s ability to complete decisions within suggested timelines.  Low Mitigate the risk by informing stakeholders that the decisions may take longer than anticipated for completion depending upon the complexity of the matter under appeal, and volume of evidence required to be considered.

Environmental Scan

The Tribunal and BON are responsive agencies. The Tribunal processes appeals, applications and complaints as they are filed. To date, no parties have asked to appear before the BON. Consequently, the Tribunal’s workload is determined by the number of appeals received each year. Although the Tribunal is required by legislation to provide adjudicative services to the public, the Tribunal is also required to work within a set budget. As an agency, the Tribunal continues to look for ways to enhance efficiencies and effectiveness in administrative, financial and operational business processes.  If the number of Tribunal appeals and related activity increases, resource (financial and administrative) concerns may result.

Of the 18 statutes for which the Tribunal and/or BON can hear appeals, applications or complaints, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act is the only legislation that states a timeline for releasing hearing decisions.  The legislation states that the Tribunal shall, within 20 days after the hearing is completed, send notice of its decision and reasons, if any, to all parties to the appeal and to the Minister.  The 20 calendar day requirement for releasing decisions regarding Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act cases is challenging for the Tribunal given its part time resources, particularly in those cases where multiple parties are involved, hearings are lengthy and the evidence presented is voluminous.

Issues that are likely to impact the volume of appeals, applications or complaints to the Tribunal include:

  • Decisions made by marketing boards that have a significant financial impact on the livelihood of producers.
  • The number of landowners or other entities who appeal drainage matters under the Drainage Act.

Marketing boards have the authority to make decisions, policies, regulations, orders or directions (decisions) pursuant to their powers and authorities.  Where any person is aggrieved by a decision of a marketing board, that person may appeal to the Tribunal providing the appellant has first applied to the marketing board for a hearing or both have waived their respective right to a hearing.  Where decisions of a marketing board have a financial impact on the livelihood of producers and other groups, there is a greater likelihood of decisions being appealed to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal finds appeals and hearings continue to increase in complexity.  Additionally, as the dollar value at stake in appeals increases, the Tribunal may also see more appellants and more appellants with legal representation. 

Human Resources

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs provides administrative, financial and support services to the Tribunal and BON through the Business Services Branch, Research and Corporate Services Division.   

Three full-time employees are assigned to the Tribunal and BON:  two Tribunal Coordinators, and one Bilingual Administrative Service Representative. 

Staff coordinate the administration and operation of the Tribunal by planning, coordinating and supporting all required activities related to hearings, including addressing pre-hearing and post-hearing issues; liaising with parties to appeals to provide information and explanations related to hearing practices and procedures; issuing official correspondence; explaining rules of procedures to parties to appeals and their counsel and completing the necessary accountability documents required by government legislation or directives.

Legal services to the Tribunal and BON are provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Performance Targets

Expected Outcomes

  • Proficient delivery of adjudicative services.
  • Confidence in the Tribunal by parties in the appeal process.
  • Efficient decision making and timely release of decisions.
  • Compliance with the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive. 
  • Compliance with the requirements of the Agencies & Appointments Directive and Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009.

A key benefit to using administrative tribunals is that parties to a dispute may have their issue decided in a timely manner.  The Tribunal has established timelines for releasing decisions after a hearing.  Comparisons of timelines can be misleading as the Tribunal hears issues of varying degrees of complexity.  The Tribunal measures the average days to release a decision, the range in days to release a decision and the percentage of decisions released outside its guidelines.

It is unusual that all parties to a proceeding are satisfied with the outcome, nor is that a goal to which the Tribunal ascribes.  Instead, the Tribunal attempts to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and have confidence that the process used to hear the matter was reasonable. 

Performance Measures

The Tribunal measures the number of days it takes to release a decision after the conclusion of a hearing.  The current service standards as prescribed by legislation or the Tribunals’ Rules of Procedure are:

  • 30 days – Proceedings held under Drainage Act, and all other statutes  
  • 20 days – Proceedings held under the Ministry Agriculture, Food and Rural

Affairs Act

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act is the only legislation that states a timeline for releasing hearing decisions.  The legislation states that the Tribunal shall, within 20 days after the hearing is completed, send notice of its decision and reasons, if any, to all parties to the appeal and to the Minister.

It should be noted that, in some cases, decisions may take longer than anticipated for completion depending upon the complexity of the matter under appeal and the volume of evidence required to be considered.  However, once a decision is completed, it is sent to the parties and those entitled to receive notice of the decision as soon as possible.

The Tribunal also monitors the number of days between the receipt of an appeal, application or complaint to the release of the decision.  It does not set performance targets in this regard as delays in setting hearings are largely due to external factors. 

The Tribunal tracks clients’ confidence in the appeal process through a client survey distributed to participants to hearings directly after the decision is released. Client satisfaction is tracked on twenty key indicators.  The Tribunal target is to maintain a minimum of 80% satisfaction rate. 

The Tribunal also tracks the number of appeals filed by commodity and statute.

To date, no parties have asked to appear before the BON.

Financial Budget and Staffing

The budget allocated to the Tribunal and BON is incorporated in the Business Plan of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The budget allocated will continue to be used to deliver on all business priorities of the Tribunal and BON.

The Ministry has three full-time employees assigned to support and provide services to the Tribunal and BON.

Year Salaries and Wages Employee Benefits Trans & Comm Services Supp & Equip Total
2015-2016 223,000 28,000 45,300 244,000 2,500 542,800
2016-2017 223,000 28,000 45,300 244,000 2,500 542,800
2017-2018 223,000 28,000 45,300 244,000 2,500 542,800

 

Information Technology (IT) / Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) Plan

The Tribunal and BON operate within the Management and Use of Information and Information Technology (I&IT) Directive.

Initiatives Involving Third Parties

There is a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that provides a framework by which the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs provides business support to the Tribunal.  The Tribunal in turn provides hearing services to AgriCorp, on a cost recovery basis, on appeals of AgriCorp decisions to the Tribunal under the Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996.

The MOU sets out the duration, guiding principles and financial arrangements of the agreement.  It also establishes a process for review and amendment of the MOU.

Communication Plan

The Tribunal’s hearing room and offices are located in the Government Building at One Stone Road West, Guelph.  The Tribunal also conducts hearings throughout Ontario, as necessary, to improve its accessibility to all parties that appear before it.

The Tribunal website is located on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs site under Agencies, Boards and Commissions.  The public website is at www.ontario.ca/omafra.  General information about the Tribunal and BON, information on how to prepare for a hearing, information about upcoming hearings, the Rules of Procedure and agency accountability documents are posted on the website. The site is accessible in English and French.  Decisions of the Tribunal are posted on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website at http://www.canlii.ca/en/on/onafraat with the exception of decisions under the Assessment Act andreligious exemptions pertaining to the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993.

There is an established system for the retention of Tribunal documents, for making such documents publicly available when appropriate, and for ensuring compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Archives and Recordkeeping Act, 2006 where applicable.

All inquiries to the Tribunal or BON can be made as indicated below.  The Tribunal and BON Chair acts as the spokesperson for all media inquiries.

Inquiries

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal or Board of Negotiation

1 Stone Road West

Guelph, ON N1G 4Y2

Telephone:      (519) 826-3433

Fax:                  (519) 826-4232

Toll Free:         (888) 466-2372 ext. 519-826-3433

Email:              AFRAAT@ontario.ca

Website:          http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/tribunal

this page is available in French