If you conduct activities regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, circumstances may arise where you may be asked (or might ask for) a hearing before a Director. A hearing is a legal process used to decide:

  • licensing status: refusal, suspension, reinstatement, conditions, or revocation
  • the outcome of detained product
  • whether to uphold, or vary, orders issued

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

If you request a hearing or are named as a party to a hearing you will receive a notice that tells you:

  • the time, date, and location of the hearing
  • the reason the hearing is being called
  • the Act and regulation the hearing will be held under

If you are lawfully served with a hearing notice and choose not to attend, the Director may proceed with the hearing in your absence. You will not receive further notice about your hearing until the Director’s decision is issued.

If you demonstrate compliance with the law in question before your hearing, the Director may cancel the hearing.

The hearing process

Hearings follow the rules set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act to ensure the process is fair, orderly, and unbiased. Your hearing may be held in person, electronically, or in a written format.

At your hearing, you will typically see:

  • a Director appointed under the Act
  • a hearing coordinator who supports all parties throughout the hearing process
  • a ministry representative who presents the ministry’s case
  • any witnesses that may be called to provide evidence at your hearing

Hearing stages

Your hearing will generally have four stages.

  1. Opening statements
  2. The ministry's evidence
  3. Your evidence
  4. Closing statements

Opening statements

The Director will ask each party for an opening statement. As you are a party to the hearing, you may wish to prepare your opening statement in advance of the hearing and consider including:

  • a brief outline of the evidence you will present
  • a list of your witnesses, if applicable
  • what outcome you are seeking

The ministry's evidence

The ministry may present its evidence through witnesses. Each witness will answer questions in the following order:

  1. Initial questions from the ministry representative
  2. Questions from you
  3. Possible re-examination from the ministry representative
  4. Questions from the Director (if any)

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 or call other witnesses. If you have witnesses, you will be asked to question them. Then, you or your witnesses will answer further questions in the following order:

  1. Questions from the ministry representative
  2. Possible re-examination from you
  3. Questions from the Director (if any)

Closing statements

After all the evidence is presented, each party may make a closing statement, called a summation. The summation is a summary of:

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

Once all the evidence and summations are heard, the hearing is concluded.

A written hearing will follow a similar format but in writing.

Director powers

Under Ontario law, the Director may impose orders on persons conducting regulated activities depending on the Act. The orders can include the requirement that:

  • licensed operations continue with restricted activities and corrective action must be taken within a set timeframe
  • the license is suspended for a specified period, or until specified corrective action is taken
  • the license is revoked, meaning regulated activities requiring a license must cease
  • the detained or held product is disposed
  • other orders will bring operations into compliance with Ontario law

Hiring a lawyer

Whether you hire a lawyer is your choice. You may present the case yourself or you may ask a lawyer or another competent person to represent you.

Available language services

Hearings may be held in English or French. If you require a hearing in French, a request must be made 10 business days prior to the hearing to allow time to arrange for interpretation and translation. If you require an interpreter in a language other than English or French, you must notify the Director within 10 business days prior to the hearing and provide the interpreter at your own cost.

Public access

In most cases, anyone can attend a hearing. The Director may decide to exclude the public from some parts of a hearing if confidential, personal or financial information is presented.

Withdraw your hearing request

If you request a hearing and decide you no longer wish to have a hearing, you can simply withdraw your request for a hearing by contacting the hearing coordinator at any time prior to the scheduled hearing date.

Prepare for your hearing

At your hearing you will be asked to provide statements and evidence.

Make notes of all the circumstances and evidence you want to present. Check the accuracy of your information and be prepared to provide materials that demonstrate it. Do not assume the Director knows the details or arguments in favour of your case.

Gather documents or other pieces of evidence that explain or support your position. This can include invoices, photographs, or other records. Your documents must be submitted before the hearing and you will receive instructions from the hearing coordinator with your hearing notice. Bring your documents with you on the day of your hearing. Any documents introduced for the first time on the day of the hearing may not be considered or could result in an adjournment of the hearing to provide the Ministry time to review.

Ask witnesses who have related information to attend the hearing and present their evidence on your behalf. The Director may accept second-hand and hearsay evidence. But in most cases, witnesses with direct, first-hand knowledge are the most suitable. These witnesses can be beneficial to your case if important facts are in dispute.

The Director’s decision

You will receive the Director’s decision in writing, usually within 30 business days after the hearing is over. There may be a verbal decision given at the end of the hearing, which will be followed up by a written decision.

Appeal of a Director’s decision

Some Acts allow you to submit an appeal to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (“AFRAAT”) if you disagree with the Director’s decision. If this option applies to you, the written decision will include the contact information for AFRAAT and the timeline to appeal.

Contact us

For more information, contact:

The Hearing Coordinator

Regulatory Compliance Unit - Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

1 Stone Road West, 5SE

Guelph, Ontario N1G 4Y2

Tel: (519) 826-4537

Fax: 226-780-0094

Email: regulatory.compliance@ontario.ca