Natural Justice

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Cowan and Kuttner, writing in the Canadian Encyclopedia (reference below), note that a key role of tribunals and courts in Administrative Law is to ensure Procedural Fairness by following the principles of natural justice.

Cowan and Kuttner note that:

“Administrative agencies must follow proper procedure in arriving at their decisions. The various procedures stem from the basic requirement of the “right to be heard.” In some cases a statute or regulation will set out the basic procedures that govern the process of decision making, such as what notice must be given of a hearing and to whom, the right to have counsel, the right to call evidence and to cross-examine witnesses. Where a statute establishes no procedures, common-law principles apply to ensure that all persons subjected to government action are treated fairly. These are the previously mentioned principles of “natural justice.” They have 2 basic objectives: to ensure that every person whose interests are at risk is entitled to participate in the process before a decision is taken affecting their interests, whether by hearing or otherwise, and that any decision made by tribunal is impartial and not biased.

“What constitutes procedural fairness will depend upon the nature of the power being exercised, the party affected, the consequences of the intended action and the practicalities of requiring time-consuming procedures. In serious cases affecting individuals, such as revoking a doctor’s licence to practise medicine, procedures similar to those found in a court of law will be imposed. In other cases, such as the decision to terminate a lease in a public-subsidized apartment building, the courts have held that there is only a “duty to act fairly,” which is satisfied if the tenant is informed of the complaints made against him or her and is provided with an opportunity to answer or to remedy them. In a few cases, such as a Cabinet decision on a petition from a tribunal that awarded a rate increase to a large private utility, the courts have held there is no duty of fairness to be followed because the decision maker, the Cabinet, was performing a legislative function of a political nature.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Courts, Tribunals, and Commissions (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


J.G. Cowan and Thomas Kuttner (2013), Administrative Law, Canadian Encyclopedia, at, accessed 7 November 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 7 November 2016.