Mar 8, 2016

This action was resolved before appeal, however, the Chief Firearms Officer argued that the issue required greater certainty and clarification at law, such that the moot appeal should still be entertained by the Court.

Facts: Mr. Runkle was issued an authorization to transport firearms under s. 19 of the Firearms Act. At some point thereafter, he was issued a revised authorization which contained a number of conditions. He asked the Chief Firearms Officer to relieve these conditions, but his request was declined, and as such, Mr. Runkle treated this response as a refusal to issue a license. He sought relief at the Provincial Court under s. 74 of the Act.

The Provincial Court judge refused to make a determiniation, ruling that she did not have jurisdiction to deal with the matter since the CFO's response was not a refusal. The Court of Queen’s Bench, however, disagreed and sent the matter back to Provincial Court for determination on the merits. Leave to appeal to this Court was also granted on three questions, including: whether the response was a “refusal”, whether the Provincial Court has jurisdiction to review and direct terms and conditions on an authorization to transport, and whether an application under the Act can be made by letter.

The authorization originally sought by Mr. Runkle has now been granted by license and he udnertakes to discontinue his Provincial Court Reference. He also argues there is no residual issue of controversy requiring the appeal to continue. The Chief Firearms Officer, however, wishes to maintain the appeal, arguing that clarification on the law is needed.

Analysis: The Court has jurisdiction to entertain a moot appeal under limited circumstances. These include when there is an issue that is of recurring nature and an answer is needed, or, when there has been intervening legislative and jurisprudential context that may have bearing on an outcome. The Court noted, however, that in this application, neither of these situations were the case.

In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to hear a moot appeal, the Court must consider whether an adversarial relationship still exists between the parties, the concern for conserving judicial resources, and the sensitivity awarded to the court’s proper law-making function.

Upon reviewing the circumstances, the Court determined that the parties in this appeal were only adversarial in the sense that they take different positions on the legal issues raised. This is likened to opposing debaters, rather than litigants opposed in interest on issues of ongoing legal controversy. In most cases, an issue is moot on the facts, but the law can still use clarification. The requirement for an adversarial system, however, “contemplates that there is a real dispute existing in order to nourish the exercise of appellate jurisdiction.” As that did not exist here, the appeal was dismissed as moot.

Conclusion: For a court to exercise its discretion to hear a moot appeal, the parties must demonstrate that an adversarial relationship continues to exist between them, based on a real dispute and issue of ongoing legal controversy.