Step 3: The Formal Farm Practices Complaint Hearing

If you are unable to reach a settlement, the BCFIRB Chair will establish a panel of BCFIRB members to hear the complaint in a formal hearing.

What Happens at a Formal Hearing?

Hearings are held at a date, time, and location that are agreed to by the complainant (the person filing the complaint) and the farmer.

A BCFIRB hearing is not as formal as a court process, and you do not need to be experienced in formal hearings to participate. However, the BCFIRB panel will follow certain practices and procedures to ensure a fair and well-organized hearing. While it is up to the panel to decide precisely what procedures to follow, they will generally consist of the following steps:

Introductory Comments by the Panel Chair

The Chair will introduce the panel members, and ask the parties to do the same. The Chair will outline the matters under complaint, as identified in the Notice of Complaint and agreed to in the Pre-Hearing Conference, and the statutory authority under which BCFIRB hears the complaint.

Opening Statements

The complainant (the person who filed the complaint) will be given a chance to make a brief opening statement describing their complaint to the panel and outlining the remedy sought from BCFIRB. The farmer will then be given a chance to make a similar opening statement. This is optional and the parties may choose not to present opening statements.

Presentation of Evidence

The complainant and the farmer, in turn, present evidence (including calling witnesses). Witnesses are sworn or affirmed by the Chair. Following the testimony of each witness, the opposing party may cross examine, followed by questions from the panel. The party calling the witness will then be given an opportunity to ask questions arising from the cross examination, or arising from the panel’s questions.

Closing

Following the presentation of evidence, the complainant and farmer present their closing arguments and again outline the remedies they are seeking from BCFIRB. The panel Chair will end the hearing.

The Decision

The panel will not usually render a decision on whether the complainant is aggrieved or the practices are normal farm practices at the hearing. The panel will meet privately after the hearing to discuss the case and prepare a written decision. The length of time it takes to prepare and issue a written decision will vary depending on the length and complexity of the case and other factors affecting the availability of panel members.

At any time before a panel decision is issued, the complainant and the farmer can settle their issues informally. However, if a BCFIRB decision is released before a settlement is reached, the decision is binding on the parties.

What Are the Alternatives to a Formal Hearing?

Once a complaint is filed, you may apply to have BCFIRB conduct an informal dispute resolution process to explore the potential for settlement of all or part of a complaint. Section 4 of the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act provides for a settlement process to resolve complaints.

It is up to the people involved to decide whether to engage in a settlement process and, with BCFIRB staff support, what that settlement process will be. A formal hearing always remains an option unless the complaint is withdrawn.

At any time during the complaint process, on its own initiative or at the request of a party, BCFIRB may require the parties to participate in a mandatory facilitated settlement to explore the potential for resolving one or more issues in dispute settlement of all or part of the complaint.

Depending on the circumstances, BCFIRB staff may

  • Connect parties with appropriate experts
  •  
  • Facilitate communication between parties, including other officials (for example, local government, Ministry of Agriculture)
  • Draft a settlement agreement
  • Provide a mediator

User Satisfaction Survey

Your experience matters!  At the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) we are constantly trying to improve our service and would like to hear your feedback on how we performed.

Starting March 1, 2017, BCFIRB is conducting ongoing user experience surveys of persons involved in its appeals and complaints processes. Surveys will be sent to appellants, complainants, respondents, legal counsel, and interveners involved in a hearing under one of BCFIRB’s three mandates:  

  1. farm practices complaints heard under the Farm Practices Protection Act
  2. appeals of animal seizure or cost decisions of the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), or,
  3. appeals of decisions made by the regulated agricultural commodity boards and

Individual responses will be confidential and anonymous and will not be shared with BCFIRB members. Information or reports generated or published from survey responses will present data in aggregate form only, protecting individual confidentiality and anonymity. The information will only be used to identify, evaluate and implement client service and business process improvements within BCFIRB.