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Alberta Cricket Association v. Alberta Cricket Council:

Arbitrator’s Award Set Aside Due to Inadequate Reasons

In Alberta Cricket Association v. Alberta Cricket Council,[1] Justice Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice set aside an arbitral award on the basis that the Arbitrator failed to provide adequate reasons and did not provide an explanation for the award.

Background

The Alberta Cricket Association (the “Association”) brought an application to set aside an arbitration award and supplemental arbitration award of an Arbitrator of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. The awards were made in a dispute between the Association and the Respondents Cricket Canada and Alberta Cricket Council (the “Council”).

Cricket Canada is the governing body for the sport of cricket in Canada. Under its 2019 Bylaws, there is one category of membership. The key determinant of membership is that the provincial association “demonstrates effective control of organized competitive cricket within the province.”

The Council was created by a group of dissident members of the Association, and sought membership in Cricket Canada. Its membership application stalled, and it asked that its membership application be submitted to arbitration. All three parties agreed to proceed by way of binding arbitration.

The Arbitrator’s award declared that the Council had demonstrated “effective control” of organized competitive cricket in Alberta and should therefore be considered a member of Cricket Canada. The supplementary award clarified that the Council had replaced the Association as the member of Cricket Canada.

The Association sought an order pursuant to s. 46 of the Arbitration Act, 1991,[2] setting aside the Arbitrator’s awards on a multitude of grounds.

The court’s decision

The task of the Arbitrator was to answer the question of whether the Association or the Council had demonstrated “effective control of organized competitive cricket” within Alberta. The Arbitrator did answer that question; however, s. 38 of the Arbitration Act, 1991[3] obliged the Arbitrator “to state the reasons on which it is based.” The Arbitrator never stated the reasons why she concluded that the Council had effective control of organized competitive cricket within Alberta. The Arbitrator’s reasons were inadequate and did not provide a legal explanation for her awards.

Not finding it necessary to make a decision on all of the grounds of appeal, Justice Perell granted the application to set aside the Arbitrator’s awards because, contrary to s. 38(1) of the Arbitration Act, 1991,[4] the Arbitrator’s awards did not state the reasons on which it was based. Justice Perell directed that a new arbitration be held before a new arbitrator.

Conclusion

This case highlights the importance for an arbitrator to adequately set out the reasons for their awards. Providing reasons for a decision removes the appearance of arbitrariness, makes the process transparent, and makes the decision-maker accountable because he or she is called on to explain and justify the decision.[5] Failing to provide reasons may invite a court in Ontario to set aside that decision.