Sep 28, 2020

How closely do courts review reasons for decisions in registration cases? In Alfahem v College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, 2018 ABQB 539, http://canlii.ca/t/ht02l, the answer is moderately closely.

Dr. Alfahem was an internationally trained physician who sought registration on the basis of a practice readiness assessment. During the course of the first assessment it was determined that his English language fluency skills were inadequate and he would fail the assessment. Rather than completing the assessment, Dr. Alfahem agreed to upgrade his language fluency first. A second assessor was selected to conduct the subsequent assessment. The second assessor found that Dr. Alfahem’s language fluency was adequate, but found that some of his clinical skills were unsatisfactory. The regulator refused registration on the basis of the second assessment report. Dr. Alfahem challenged the decision on the basis that the reasons did not explain why the second assessment’s results on clinical issues were accepted over the tentative conclusion of the first, incomplete assessment.

The Court emphasized the importance of reasons for decision in registration matters that should address the “why” for a decision. However, the Court also noted that it will scrutinize the entire record to see whether the “why” is evident. In this case it was apparent that the regulator was concerned about the objectivity of the first assessor, who seemed to be taking a more educational approach than a true assessment approach. In addition, the first assessment was interim in nature and was not finalized. The Court was not prepared to find the reasons inadequate in the circumstances.

The Court also rejected the ground of review based on the concerns that the applicant had not had full disclosure of the materials upon which the decision was made. The Court concluded that the applicant had not established that he did not have relevant and material information.