The Surrey Knights Junior Hockey team – formerly the Langley Knights – won’t be subject to any more court proceedings or other legal action by the Pacific Junior Hockey League related to a fight that broke out on the ice between the Langley Knights and Mission City Outlaws in 2015.
More than five years ago, John Craighead – coach, general manager and one co-owner of the Surrey Knights – entered the Mission City bench and subsequently was accused of assaulting a player and an assistant coach but after police investigated no charges were laid against him.
Nevertheless, the PJHL imposed numerous penalties and suspensions on members of both teams and suspended Craighead indefinitely over the Sept. 24, 2015 incident while the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association investigated, at PJHL’s request, resulting Craighead’s 2016 suspension for six years.
Craighead’s subsequent appeal to the BC Hockey Appeal Committee was dismissed in January 2017, but yet another appeal in May 2017 to Hockey Canada resulted in the coach and team owner’s suspension being reduced to three years. Shortly after that, the PJHI began proceedings under its bylaws to suspend or expel the Surrey Knights from the league on account of Craighead’s conduct.
After that, the Surrey Knights, Craighead and co-owner Amar Gill petitioned the court, under the Societies Act, alleging the PJHL proceedings “had been conducted in a manner that was oppressive, unfairly prejudicial and contrary to the principles of natural justice,” Justice Barbara Fisher, of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, noted in her Dec. 7 reasons for judgment.
“While the respondents raised many complaints about the conduct of PJHL, the chambers judge considered that two issues of procedural fairness—sufficiency of notice and the right to be tried by an unbiased tribunal—were sufficient grounds on which to grant orders to cease the current and any future proceedings relating to the September 24, 2015 incident,” Fisher explained.
In response, Fisher noted, the PJHL applied to have the chambers judge “disqualify herself due to a reasonable apprehension of bias, or alternatively, to reopen the hearing to argue an issue that it asserted was not properly raised in the petition. The judge dismissed both applications.”
The PJHL then launched this appeal, arguing the chambers judge made numerous errors, “including misapplying the legal principles governing procedural fairness, granting a remedy with no connection to the errors identified, and refusing to recuse herself and set aside the October 12, 2018 judgment.”
But Fisher, with appeal court Justices Gail Dickson and Susan Griffin concurring, found the chamber judge had made no error.
“She wisely recognized that establishing oppressive or unfairly prejudicial conduct did not require proof of bad faith or improper motive,” Fisher said of the chambers judge. “However, her findings that PJHL’s conduct was both oppressive and unfairly prejudicial implicitly recognized that re-litigation of a matter that has already been determined in another forum may constitute an abuse of process.”
“In my view,” Fisher decided, “the chambers judge made no errors in her legal or factual analysis that would undermine her conclusions or the basis for the relief granted. For all of these reasons, I would dismiss the appeal.”