CRB Process Overview
Once an objection is referred to the Review Board, a formal process begins that structures how the objection will be heard and how a party and members of the public will be permitted to participate.
Each referral is assigned a Review Board “case file number” and the file is assessed for completeness of information, any jurisdictional issues are resolved, and a Pre-Hearing Conference is scheduled.
Pre-Hearing Conferences and Pre-Hearing Settlement Conferences
It is general practice to hold a prehearing conference (PHC) for all CRB matters. The PHC provides an opportunity for all parties (objectors, municipality or Minister of Culture, the property owner, and other recognized parties, as applicable) to discuss the issues with each other and with the Review Board, without prejudice. The two fundamental interests in conducting the PHC are to seek a mediated settlement of the dispute and to prepare all parties for the formal hearing process where settlement is not successful.
The PHC involves the Review Board and the parties or their representatives, and will generally be open to the public except where settlement discussions take place. Pre-hearing settlement conferences under Rule 19 will be closed to the public. It is normally a telephone conference call, but can be an in-person meeting, and is usually scheduled for 90 minutes. The PHC is not intended to be the forum to discuss the arguments of a case, and thus no evidence is presented and no final decisions are made. Some evidence may be permitted by the Review Board to further support the positions of each party and to seek a settlement.
A Pre-hearing Settlement Conference (PHSC) is an event held pursuant to section 67.1 of the Ontario Heritage Act to consider the settlement and simplification of an issue or issues, as well as procedural or other relevant matters that the parties consent to dealing with in advance of a hearing. The Review Board may encourage or request that the parties take part in a PHSC because early discussion of issues may produce a resolution.
The PHSC is only open to the official parties to the hearing; therefore, no members of the public may be involved.
Both PHCs and PHSCs are conducted “Without Prejudice.” This means that if a party makes a statement in the spirit of settlement, but a settlement is not reached, no statements or comments can be used against them in the event of a formal hearing.
If a full settlement is reached, each objector and the property owner (if applicable) must submit a letter of Withdrawal of Objection to the Review Board, or the municipality must submit a letter of Withdrawal of the Notice of Intention to Designate and the case is closed. If a settlement is not reached, the PHC proceeds to the phase of preparing all parties for the formal hearing. Generally, this entails discussing these topics:
- The settlement or simplification of issues.
- Facts or evidence that can be agreed upon.
- Confirmed scheduling of dates for the full hearing and exchange of materials.
- The estimated length of the full hearing.
The Review Board member who conducts the PHC will preside at the full hearing if all parties agree in advance that this is acceptable with them.
While Review Board hearings are less formal than many types of legal proceedings, they are still governed by rules of procedure and conducted in a quasi-judicial, structured manner. Most parties are represented by legal counsel. Those without legal counsel must become familiar with the Review Board’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Ontario Heritage Act, and the Statutory Powers Procedure Act.
Hearings are fully open to the public and the media can attend, although no recording devices are allowed. It is the practice of the Review Board to hold the hearing within the municipality of the subject property, and to conduct a site visit of the property before the commencement of the hearing.
Generally, this is the basic structure of a Review Board hearing:
- The hearing begins with a review of the CRB’s jurisdiction under the Ontario Heritage Act and the types of evidence that it will and will not hear.
- The parties are introduced and briefly summarize their intended case.
- The CRB asks if any members of the public wish to make a statement later in the proceedings.
- The municipality, usually through its legal counsel, is called first to present its case and may call witnesses to present evidence.
- The objector cross-examines the municipality’s witness and the CRB has an opportunity to ask questions.
- The objector is called to present his or her evidence and may also call witnesses. Although recommended, objectors are not required to have legal counsel.
- If there is more than one objector, he or she follows the same procedure.
- Members of the public give their statement and may be questioned by the parties and by the CRB.
- The objectors, followed by the municipality, are given the opportunity to summarize their arguments.
The host municipality arranges the hearing room and any needs such as accessibility, public seating, a location for witness testimony, and table, gavel, and Bible for the hearing panel. Most hearings start at 10 a.m., break for lunch, and end at 4 p.m., continuing for the number of days determined in advance of the hearing start date.
After the hearing, the Review Board issues a report to the municipal council, or the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, whichever has jurisdiction, making recommendations based on the evidence presented and arguments made at the hearing. Typically, the Review Board attempts to release the report within 30 days, but a later release does not invalidate the hearing process. The Review Board’s case file is then closed. The municipal council or the Minister makes the final decision on the matter, taking the Review Board’s report into account.