3.68: Court options to deal with significant deficiencies

Case Summary

The Appellant appealed a Decision striking her claims against her employer (the “Employer”) and her union (the “Union”) under Rule 3.68(2) because of a lack of jurisdiction (the “Decision”). The Chambers Judge had held that the essential character of the dispute was covered by the collective agreement and the labour relations system, and that the Court should not intrude on a residual jurisdiction basis. The Calgary Police Association (the “CPA”) cross appealed the Chambers Judge’s Decision to permit the Appellant’s claim against the CPA to proceed.

The Court held that the Chambers Judge had correctly found that Alberta Courts have no jurisdiction over claims that essentially engage the duty of fair representation and dismissed the Appeal.

The Court found that there are two exclusive jurisdiction areas that were relevant. One was the labor relations system applicable to alleged violation of collective agreements, which permits a residual jurisdiction. The other was the labor relations system applicable to fair representation claims against unions.

The Court affirmed that where a complete statutory labour relations regime exists and a complainant is capable of understanding their rights under the collective agreement, the complainant should not be allowed to circumvent that labor relations process. Furthermore, the Court’s residual discretion should only be exercised in exceptional circumstances. The test is whether the dispute resolution procedures provide the remedy required to resolve the dispute.

The Court held that the Appellant’s claims were more about a “fair representation” concern, and that the duty of fair representation is “a corresponding obligation” to the Union’s role. Accordingly, the Appellant’s complaints about fair representation likewise belonged within the labour relations system.

Finding that the Chambers Judge erred in considering the question of residual jurisdiction to the Appellant’s claims against the CPA, the Court allowed the cross Appeal. The Court held that the nature of the dispute determines the jurisdictional outcome regardless of the legal nature of the claim. The statutory labour relations regime forecloses the Court’s residual discretion where the essential character of the dispute engages the duty of fair representation.

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