What is the reasonableness standard for an administrative tribunal's interpretation of a statute by its own statute?

Nova Scotia, Canada


The following excerpt is from Cherubini Metal Works Ltd. v. United Steelworkers of America, 2011 NSSC 94 (CanLII):

Turning the nature of the question, the majority remarked that "[w]here the question is one of fact, discretion or policy, deference will usually apply automatically." The same standard applied to "questions where the legal and factual issues are intertwined" and "cannot be readily separated" (para. 53). The majority continued, at para. 54: Guidance with regard to the questions that will be reviewed on a reasonableness standard can be found in the existing case law. Deference will usually result where a tribunal is interpreting its own statute or statutes closely connected to its function, with which it will have particular familiarity... Deference may also be warranted where an administrative tribunal has developed particular expertise in the application of a general common law or civil law rule in relation to a specific statutory context: Adjudication in labour law remains a good example of the relevance of this approach. The case law has moved away considerably from the strict position evidenced in McLeod v. Egan, 1974 CanLII 12 (SCC), [1975] 1 S.C.R. 517, where it was held that an administrative decision maker will always risk having its interpretation of an external statute set aside upon judicial review.

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