Pitblado Law is pleased to announce that three of its lawyers recently won a unanimous decision at the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of our client, Nor-Man Regional Health Authority. Lawyers Bill Gardner, Bryan Schwartz and Todd Andres spoke to a case that involved application of the principle of Estoppel by a labour arbitrator. On behalf of our client, Pitblado was successful at arbitration. The Union then applied for judicial review before the Manitoba Queen’s Bench. The application was dismissed whereupon the Union appealed to the Court of Appeal. A unanimous Court of Appeal found in favour of the Union and quashed the arbitrator’s award imposing the Estoppel. Pitblado then appealed to the Supreme Court. The decision, rendered by a unanimous panel of the Supreme Court on December 2, 2011 allowed the appeal and found that: The standard of review of the decision of the arbitrator was reasonableness, not correctness. Labour arbitrators are entitled to develop a distinct body of law and take a flexible approach to the application of legal and equitable principles. In this case the SCC considered that the arbitrator applied the doctrine of Estoppel in a manner that was reasonably consistent with the objectives and purposes of labour relations and the facts of the case submitted to him. The decision of the arbitrator was restored in its entirety. This decision is important because it reinforces the principle of judicial deference to labour arbitrators and confirms the right of arbitrators to develop a distinct body of law that is responsive to the realities of the Collective Bargaining relationship. This means that the parties, both Union and Management will be held accountable for their actions, and inactions, and that basic principles of fairness which are the underpinning of the doctrine of Estoppel may be applied in a manner which is both flexible and grounded in the realities of the workplace. As a result, the decision (a complete copy of the ruling can be found here) will provide precedent for future cases on this matter.


Congratulations to Bryan, Bill and Todd for their work on this case and special congratulations to our client, Nor-Man Regional Health Authority, for their win.