Have You Been Called to a Hearing?

A quick guide to the hearing process

At some point in your work in the agri-food industry, you may be required to appear at a licensing hearing. If so, you may have questions about how a hearing works. Here is some important information that will help you prepare and know what to expect. Use the links below to skip to the questions that relate most to you.

 

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What is a hearing?

A hearing is a legal process used to settle certain kinds of disputes. For example, a hearing could decide if an operation should be licensed. Or, a hearing could decide how to dispose of detained product.

A hearing works in some ways like a legal court. Like in court, both sides of the case will present evidence. But instead of a judge, a Director under the Act is in charge of the hearing and will make the final decision.

The hearing gives the Director under the Act a chance to hear both sides of the case before making a decision. As the hearing process is conducted under the rules of the Statutory Powers Procedures Act, hearing decisions are determined with respect to the following Acts:

Who attends a hearing?

You can expect to see at least three other people at your hearing:

  • The Director or Deputy Director under the Act conducts the hearing. He or she establishes the procedures and determines all other matters related to the conduct of the hearing.
  • The Hearing Co-ordinator supports the Director during the hearing. For example, he or she will make sure the Director has all the necessary papers at hand.
  • An Operations Liaison/Intelligence Officer will likely represent the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This person may bring witnesses to present the ministry's evidence in the case.

As a party to the hearing, you should plan to attend. You may also bring witnesses to present evidence in support of your case.


Note: All hearings are public. In most cases, anyone can observe. However, the Director may decide to exclude the public from some parts of a hearing if confidential, personal or financial information is being presented.


What happens if I don't attend my hearing?

If you are properly served with notice of your hearing and do not attend at the set time and location, the Director may proceed in your absence. If this happens, you will not be entitled to any further notice of your hearing. If you comply with the law in question before your hearing, the Director may cancel the hearing.

Where are hearings held?

If you are located within a two-hour drive from Guelph, your hearing will likely take place in the hearing boardroom of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This boardroom is located at the ministry's Guelph office complex. However, every effort will be made to hold the hearing in a convenient place for all parties.

When you arrive in the boardroom, you will notice that it looks a lot like a courtroom. The Director will sit in the centre. The Hearing Co-ordinator and the Ministry representative will sit to the left. As a party to the hearing, you will sit to the right.

When a witness is called to testify, he or she will be asked to sit between the ministry and the other parties, facing the Director. Any observers sit behind the witness chair. It is a general practice at hearings to require witnesses to either swear an oath on the Bible or make a solemn vow to tell the truth.

Should I hire a lawyer?

This is your choice. You may present your case yourself. Or, you may ask a lawyer or another person to represent you. Most cases that come before the Director do not involve lawyers.

How can I prepare for my hearing?

  • Make a note of all the circumstances and evidence that you want to present. Check the accuracy of your information.
  • Be prepared to prove your case and present everything that is relevant to it. Do not assume that the Director knows the details or the arguments in favour of your case.
  • Ensure that you bring with you and present any documents or other pieces of evidence that explain or support your position. This can include photographs or other records. These documents should be disclosed to the Ministry before the hearing.
  • Ask witnesses who have related information to attend the hearing and present their evidence on your behalf. The Director may accept second-hand (hearsay) evidence. But in most cases witnesses with the most direct (first-hand) knowledge are the most persuasive. These witnesses can be very important to your case if important facts are in dispute. It's in your best interest to make sure they attend.
  • Before the day of your hearing you will receive a copy of all documents and written evidence to be presented. This includes ministry witness statements, if there are any. If it is not possible to send you these documents in advance, you will receive copies on the day of the hearing. You may then ask for an adjournment or for time to review the documents before the hearing starts.

What happens during the hearing?

Hearings follow the rules set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. The process is similar to many court proceedings. It provides for a fair, orderly, and unbiased process. At the beginning of the hearing, the Director will explain how it works. You will find there are three main parts:

1. Opening statements

The Director asks the parties involved (the Ministry representative and you are parties to the hearing) for opening statements. This may include:

  • a brief outline of the evidence you will present
  • a list of your witnesses
  • what decision you feel would be fair
2. The Ministry's evidence

The ministry presents its evidence through witnesses. Each witness will answer questions in this order:

  • Initial questions from the ministry representative
  • Questions from you
  • Possible re-examination from the Ministry representative
  • Questions from the Director, if any
3. Your evidence

After the ministry has presented all its evidence, you will present yours. As a party to the hearing, you may want to testify yourself and/or call other witnesses. If you have witnesses, you will be asked to question them. Then, you and/or your witnesses will answer further questions in this order:

  • Questions from the ministry representative
  • Possible re-examination from you
  • Questions from the Director, if any

Please note: it is a general practice at hearings to require witnesses to either swear an oath on the Bible or make a solemn vow to tell the truth.


4. Summary statements

After all the evidence is presented, each party may make a summary statement (called a summation). This will be a brief summary of:

  • the evidence you presented
  • the arguments that support the decision you feel is fair

Once all of the evidence and summations have been heard, the hearing is concluded

When will I learn the results of the hearing?

You will receive the decision in writing, usually within 21 days after the hearing is over, however, there may be a verbal decision given at the conclusion of the hearing. You will receive the original decision document by courier. Decisions are public documents and the ministry posts them on its website.

What can I do if I disagree with the decision?

You may appeal a decision if:

  • there was a negative impact on your licence
  • any other decision under the Milk Act

You must file your appeal with the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.

Toll Free: 1-888-466-2372 ext. 63433
Local: 519-826-3433

E-mail: appeals.tribunal.omafra@ontario.ca


What language will the hearing use?

Hearings may be held in English or French.

For hearings in French: You may give your evidence in French or make submissions in French if you request this in advance. You must make your request at least 10 days prior to the hearing. This is to allow time to arrange for interpretation and translation.

For other languages: If you require an interpreter in a language other than English or French is required, you must notify the Director and provide the interpreter at your own cost.

For more information, contact:

The Hearing Coordinator
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
1 Stone Road West, 5SE
Guelph, Ontario N1G 4Y2
Tel: (519) 826-4537
Fax: (519) 826-3940


For more information:
E-mail: regulatory.compliance@ontario.ca

Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 29 June 2011
Last Reviewed: 25 November 2011