The Applicant, the Corporation of the City of St. Catharine’s, unsuccessfully applied for judicial review of an arbitration decision regarding two firefighters employed by the City. The firefighters had been represented by the Respondent, St. Catharine’s Professional Fire Fighters’ Association in asking an arbitrator to set aside their demotion.

Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Arbitration Board – Professional governance and discipline – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness

St. Catharines (City) v. St. Catharines Professional Fire Fighters’ Assn., [2017] O.J. No. 6672, 2017 ONSC 7638, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, December 21, 2017, S.N. Lederman, M.G.J. Quigley and W.M. Matheson JJ.

The Respondent, the St. Catharine’s Professional Fire Fighters’ Association (the “Association”), represented two firefighters in grievance arbitration. The two employees had been arrested and charged for impaired driving in two different incidents while they were off-duty. They both pled guilty and received drivers’ license suspensions. Following the suspensions, they were both required to drive vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device for a period of time. Firetrucks are not equipped with these devices and therefore the employees were unable to drive for work for 12 months.

The Applicant, the Corporation of the City of St. Catharine’s (the “City”) demoted the firefighters for one year. The employees filed a grievance and the arbitrator allowed the grievance of their demotions. The arbitrator replaced each demotion with a 2-day suspension. The City filed an application for judicial review of this arbitration decision.

The Court held the standard of review was reasonableness. The City argued the arbitrator unreasonably concluded the employees could still do their jobs despite being unable to drive, and imposed an unreasonable penalty.

The arbitrator had decided that the City had just cause to discipline the employees. The arbitrator then had to consider whether to exercise her discretion to substitute a different penalty than the demotion imposed by the City. The Court had to consider whether the arbitrator’s decision, as a whole, was reasonable. The arbitrator did consider whether the employees could still serve in the same first class rank with a temporary loss of their drivers’ licenses. The arbitrator had considered several factors before substituting a 2-day suspension.

The Court held there was no basis for it to interfere with the arbitrator’s decision in the circumstances.

The application was dismissed, with costs to the respondent.