Step 3: The Formal Hearing of a Regulated Marketing Appeal

The hearing process is governed by BCFIRB’s Rules of Practice and Procedure for Appeals (Rules). Hearings are held at a date, time and location that is agreed to by you (the person filing the appeal), and the commodity board.

General Hearing Procedures

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

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 appeal, as identified in Notice of Appeal and agreed to in the Pre-Hearing Conference, and the statutory authority under which BCFIRB hears the appeal.

Opening Statements

You (the person who filed the appeal) will be given a chance to make an opening statement, which is basically a summary of what you consider to be the issues and why BCFIRB should interfere with the decision, order or determination under appeal. You may also explain what evidence you intend to rely on to support your case, and the remedy you are seeking.

The respondent (the commodity board) will then be given a chance to make a similar opening statement.

Presentation of Evidence

You will be given the first opportunity to introduce evidence. This may include testifying under oath, presenting and relying upon documents, or having other persons appear as witnesses. The respondent will then be given a similar opportunity.

In any case where a person provides evidence – whether that is a party or a witness – the other party will be given a chance to ask questions of the person providing that evidence. The panel may also ask questions.

It is important to note that the purpose of this phase of the hearing is to get the evidence before the panel. It is not to argue about how the evidence may or may not support your case. Argument about how evidence may or may not help your case is done at the next phase, discussed in the next section (Closing).

Closing

You will be given an opportunity to argue why you believe the decision, order or determination at issue is wrong or unfair, and why BCFIRB should interfere, based on the evidence that has been presented.

When making these arguments, you should clearly specify what remedy is being sought. This may include asking BCFIRB to

  • Reverse or vary the decision or order,
  • Refer it back to the marketing board or commission for further consideration (with or without directions by BCFIRB) or
  • Make any other order BCFIRB considers appropriate in the circumstances (see section 8(9) of the NPMA).

The respondent will then be given an opportunity to make closing arguments in response to those of the appellant.

If there are any interveners they will usually be given an opportunity to speak at this point. An intervenor is someone who is not party to the appeal, but who may have an interest in it and so has been allowed by the panel to participate.

If any new issues arise through the argument of the respondent or the interveners, the panel may allow some further argument in reply.  If it does so, it will specify who gets to speak further and what they are entitled to speak to.

Decision

The panel will not usually render a decision at the hearing. Rather, the hearing will end and the panel will meet privately afterwards 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. It may take a number of weeks or months before a decision is issued.

Alternatives to a Formal Hearing?

It is up to you and the commodity board involved to decide whether you wish 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 appeal is withdrawn by the person filing the appeal.

At any time during the appeal 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 appeal.

Depending on the circumstances, BCFIRB staff may:

  • Connect parties with appropriate experts,
  • Facilitate communication between parties, including other industry stakeholders (such as a producer association) and/or
  • Draft a settlement agreement.

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.