Recent changes to the Review Tribunal Rules of Procedures include:
1. A requirement that witnesses testify under oath - as a matter of practice, the Chairperson will ask the witnesses to simply state that he or she promises to tell the truth, rather than do so while holding a holy book or sacred object. In law, this approach is called making a solemn affirmation.
2. Review Tribunal panels will have the discretion to decide whether to exclude witnesses while others are testifying or to allow them to be present. It is worth noting that formal rules of evidence requiring the exclusion of witnesses are intended to enhance the reliability and credibility of the evidence on which a decision-maker relies.
This information has been provided to me from the Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals by way of the Representative's Bulletin.
The afternoon session of the Representatives Information Session included the opportunity to hear from sitting Panel Members who shared their thoughts on effective advocacy when appearing before the Review Tribunal. The Panel consisted of British Columbia members who have been sitting for some time and who I have had the opportunity to appear before.
Some of the tips the Review Tribunal panel members gave were - to use good time management - stick to the facts of the case, using your schedule appeal time to rant about the unfairness of the CPP legislation, or how you much you think "the Feds" suck is a complete waste of your time. Have a strong opening and closing statement and stick to the issues on appeal - use the Minister's Submission as a starting point - written submissions are helpful, and the Panel members really want to hear from the Appellant - what's the impairment and why you cannot work.
The Review Tribunal panel members are aware of the significance of the appeal and how much their decision will affect your life. All of the Panel members have the opportunity to write the final decision. However, although panel members are empathetic to each person's situation, they are obviously bound by the CPP legislation.
This was a good opportunity to hear what the decision makers think and what they feel is effective advocacy.