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Digest of the Week | Reasonable Apprehension of Bias

Children's Aid Society of Oxford County v. E.M.T | 2019 ONCJ 427 | Ontario Court of Justice

Judges and courts --- Appointment, removal, disqualification and discipline of judges and other court officers — Disqualification for bias — Conduct

Child protection proceedings — Society brought application for supervision order placing children with mother, with discretionary access to father — Mother supported Society's application but father wanted custodial order in favour of mother with access as outlined in their domestic agreement — Voir dire was held on admissibility of children's statements — Father alleged that reasonable apprehension of bias arose from court's questioning of Society's worker during voir dire and incorporation of two of her answers into ruling — Father brought motion for judge to recuse self — Motion dismissed — Father did not discharge onus of establishing reasonable apprehension of bias — In reasons, court identified 20 elements in evidence that established reliability of statements, and worker's training and notetaking were only two of these elements — Even if evidence adduced from worker were primary basis for finding on admissibility, this was within court's broad discretion where children's best interests were involved — Questions posed by court to worker were straightforward and routine — Reasonable person would understand there was distinction between voir dire decision and final decision on protection application — Disqualifying judge in present circumstances would be waste of resources, cause excessive delay and undermine administration of justice.
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