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Bill 44: British Columbia’s Alternative to Court Proceedings

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In early May 2012 the British Columbia Legislature introduced the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, creating a new adjudicative tribunal with jurisdiction to hear and decide some claims that are currently heard by the B.C. Courts.  The Act has now received Royal Assent and will come into force by regulation.

When the Act comes into force, the Tribunal will be structured to provide an alternative to traditional dispute resolution processes, such as the B.C. Provincial Court’s small claims division.  In the words of the Ministry of Justice, the Tribunal “will be structured to encourage people to use a broad range of non-litigation based dispute resolution tools to resolve their disputes as early as possible, while still preserving adjudication as a valued last resort.”

These non-litigation based dispute resolution tools include an on-line dispute resolution process and an initial case management phase in which the parties may seek a negotiated resolution.  Of particular note are Sections 19, 25 and 29 of the Act, which allow for the use of electronic communication tools in conducting all or part of a tribunal proceeding or facilitated dispute resolution process, and Section 20 which prohibits parties from being represented by legal counsel subject to certain exceptions.

Currently the Act applies only to strata property disputes and some small claims matters. It remains to be seen whether the Tribunal’s jurisdiction will increase over time.