This fall, British Columbians will have a new option for
resolving small claims disputes. The new Civil Resolution Tribunal
will use a mix of online platforms, telephone, videoconferencing,
mail and in some cases, in-person meetings, to resolve small claims
matters under $25,000 and certain strata disputes. The Tribunal
provides a multi-stage process designed to reach mutual agreement
at negotiation and case management stages, with the power to make
final decisions if resolution cannot be achieved. Nominal fees will
be charged to enter the process, escalating as the involvement of
the Tribunal escalates. The ultimate goal of this Tribunal is to
enhance access to justice by providing a forum for cost-effective,
speedy, and informal resolution of disputes with the use of minimal
How the Tribunal will operate:
In order to use the Tribunal, the parties to a dispute must both
consent to an online negotiation process. The negotiations are
monitored by the Tribunal but led by the parties, with the goal of
reaching a mutually acceptable settlement. If no agreement is
reached within a certain time, the negotiation phase ends. The
parties then have the option of agreeing to start a "case
management" phase which involves active facilitation by a
Tribunal case manager. Consent from all parties (except strata
corporations) is required to enter this phase, including an
agreement to be bound by a final order of the Tribunal if case
management fails. Unlike the current small claims model, final
decisions will typically be made based on evidence and arguments
submitted online, and only rarely through an in-person hearing.
The claims the Tribunal can deal with: small claims under
$25,000 and some strata issues
The Tribunal will hear small claims matters up to a maximum
value of $25,000. A party must abandon the amount of a claim above
$25,000 if they want to use the Tribunal's services to resolve
their claim. The Tribunal cannot deal with any constitutional
issues or claims against the government, and may decline to decide
matters involving the B.C. Human Rights Code.
The Tribunal will also hear strata disputes between the owners
or tenants of strata properties and strata corporations for a wide
variety of issues, except matters that affect land or more
significant matters in a strata complex, such as allegations of
conflict of interest.
What does this mean for BC employers?
Given the current method and delays involved in resolving small
claims disputes, the Tribunal offers a way for businesses and
individuals to resolve minor employment disputes in a quicker and
more convenient manner. The Tribunal may be particularly
appropriate if the importance and amount of a dispute do not
justify the time and costs of a more formal court process, and both
parties are comfortable using technology to resolve the
However, there are certain aspects of the new Tribunal which
parties should be aware of before proceeding. First, once a
Tribunal proceeding has begun, neither party can start a new court
proceeding or other adjudicative process until the dispute is
resolved or the Tribunal refuses the claim. Any current court
proceedings or other administrative processes involving the claim
will have to be put on hold for the duration of the dispute
resolution process. Second, claims should be made and defended with
the same attention and care as in a traditional court process
because the Tribunal's final order, once filed with the B.C.
Supreme or Provincial Court, will be binding as though it were an
order of that court. In addition, the Tribunal can order an
unsuccessful party to pay the successful party's costs. Third,
although you may still consult a lawyer as part of the process, all
parties will be self-represented before the Tribunal.
Despite these concerns, the Tribunal is at the vanguard of the
'brave new world' of online dispute resolution, and will
assist in ensuring that dispute resolution processes are
proportionate to the amounts and issues involved. We will keep you
updated once the Tribunal starts its work.
It's not often that our little blog intersects with such titanic struggles as the U.S. presidential race – and by using the term "titanic" I certainly don't mean to suggest that anything disastrous is in the future.
J.J. v. C.C., is an interesting case in which the court held that an automotive garage owes a duty to minor children to secure the vehicles on the premises by locking the cars and safely storing the car keys...
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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