Canada: BC's Civil Resolution Tribunal: A Case For Expanding Online Dispute Resolution In Canada

Last Updated: March 28 2018
Article by Ashton Butler

In this comment, I discuss British Columbia's Civil Resolution Tribunal. Through a discussion of its processes, I argue that online dispute resolution should be expanded throughout Canada.

Each year, the University of Saskatchewan welcomes visiting speakers from around the country to lecture at the College of Law. As a student, the lectures have been an enriching supplement to my legal education. The recent lecture given by adjunct professor Shannon Salter from the University of British Columbia ("UBC") Allard School of Law was exceptionally engaging and presented an innovative form of settling disputes online via British Columbia's ("BC") new Civil Resolution Tribunal ("CRT").1

The CRT is Canada's first online tribunal, where individuals can easily access legal information and can resolve strata property claims online.2 The CRT will begin accepting small claims in June 2017.3 At first, curious of its efficacy, I was captivated by the tribunal's ease of use and potential application to dispute resolution. The CRT can be accessed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and provides a flexible, collaborative approach to dispute resolution. Although there are many aspects of BC's CRT to explore, this discussion will focus on the CRT's prospective success in promulgating the changes that can be made to improve access to legal services.

The CRT is a form of online dispute resolution that has a multitude of potential benefits. The ability to access the CRT at any time and from anywhere, along with its user-friendly interface and low fees,4 make it particularly accessible. The ability to resolve disputes online will provide individuals in northern communities access to dispute resolution without incurring the expense of travelling to a larger center. Additionally, the ability to access the CRT at any time allows individuals to resolve their disputes without having to take time off of work to do so. As Professor Richard Susskind put it, "[t]he great social benefit of [online dispute resolution]...will be in offering access to the inexpensive and simple resolution of disputes that parties would otherwise not feel able to take to the courts."5 The efficiency of the CRT and its focus on early resolution has ancillary benefits as well, including reducing stress that can accompany involvement in civil litigation.6

Making a claim through the CRT has four distinct stages: (1) information, problem diagnosis, and self-help; (2) party-to-party negotiation; (3) case management: facilitated alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") and hearing preparation; and (4) adjudication.

The first stage is the "solution explorer" stage, where individuals can anonymously access free information online. During Professor Salter's lecture, she invited us to pull out our smart phones to explore this stage through a simulated condominium strata law dispute. I was impressed by the simplicity of the process, which involved interactive questions and provided answers, tools, resources, and even a template letter to send to a strata board.

If the dispute cannot be resolved at this stage, the user can start a CRT claim, which takes him or her to the second stage, negotiation. At this stage, parties are connected and encouraged to negotiate a settlement. If the claim is not resolved through negotiation, it will move to the third stage, where a dispute resolution expert is introduced to facilitate the process and assist the parties. What is unique about this stage of the process is its flexibility. It can be synchronous or asynchronous, meaning that the parties can utilize the facilitator to have a conversation at the same time (synchronous), or can utilize the facilitator to relay information between each other at different times if they are unable to, or prefer not to, meet at the same time. The facilitators take an evaluative approach to the problem, providing parties with clear, honest feedback.7 Professor Salter indicated that the majority of disputes are settled at this stage. However, if the dispute is not resolved, it advances to the fourth step, adjudication, where it is "heard" by a tribunal. Hearings are usually done through written submissions, although some may be via telephone or video conferencing. Once the tribunal has made a decision, written reasons are provided to the parties. They are enforceable as court orders.

It is noteworthy that through the entire process, pursuant to s. 20 of the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, the parties must represent themselves, subject to several exceptions.8 This rule promotes access to justice initiatives, and seeks to account for potential power imbalances that can arise in disputes, particularly as between an individual and a strata corporation. This is a feature unique to the CRT, and is not a requirement in other dispute resolution processes. Although the role of the lawyer in providing legal services has changed in the past few decades9 due to the rising use of dispute resolution processes such as negotiation and mediation, lawyers are nevertheless involved in the settlement of their clients' disputes. If online dispute resolution gains popularity and follows the CRT's self-representation rule, what will happen to the role of the lawyer in these disputes? This question offers an opportunity to question the traditional approach to civil justice, and whether the status quo is in fact the best approach.

BC's innovative new online tribunal has resulted in some hesitation from lawyers.10 In a media release by the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch ("CBABC"), the President of the CBABC stated the following: "[T]he government plans to launch the Civil Resolution Tribunal, where the role of lawyer representation may be severely restricted. The CBABC will be vigilant in ensuring that the interest of the legal profession and the public is well-represented in these areas."11

On the other hand, lawyers have voiced concern over the lengthy court delays faced in civil trials, and the "financial losses, difficulty working, family troubles, and physical and mental health issues" that can arise while parties wait for their case to get to court.12 Despite lawyers' concern around exclusion from representing clients in CRT claims, law societies are guided by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada's Model Code of Professional Conduct to regulate lawyers in a manner that considers "[a]dvances in technology [and] changes in the culture of those accessing legal services."13 In addition, importantly, "[r]ules...should assist, not hinder, lawyers in providing legal services to the public in a way that ensures the public interest is protected."14 This guidance is in line with the Supreme Court of Canada's statement in Hryniak v. Mauldin15 that "[o]ur civil justice system is premised upon the value that the process of adjudication must be fair and just."16 Justice Karakatsanis also stated the following:

However, undue process and protracted trials, with unnecessary expense and delay, can prevent the fair and just resolution of disputes...The cost and delay associated with the traditional process means that...the trial process denies ordinary people the opportunity to have adjudication. And while going to trial has long been seen as a last resort, other dispute resolution mechanisms...are more likely to produce fair and just results when adjudication remains a realistic alternative.17

With this guidance in mind, perhaps we should be comfortable with the idea that the status quo of the legal profession and the adjudication of civil disputes may change. There has been an emergent interest in online dispute resolution for settling disputes, particularly in the context of e-commerce.18 While lawyers may be concerned with their exclusion from these procedures, online dispute resolution may attract individuals who would not (or could not) otherwise access the legal system to settle their disputes, thus liberating "a latent market—people and organizations, who have not felt able to take action in the past."19 The role of the lawyer may continue to shift if we are to meet societal changes and needs. I am hopeful for the adoption of online dispute resolution in other jurisdictions, and for its expansion to include other areas of law.


* JD Candidate (University of Saskatchewan).

1. Shannon Salter, "Dispute Resolution in the Digital Age" (McKercher Lecture Series lecture delivered at the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan, 11 January 2017). See CRT's website for further details (online: Civil Resolution Tribunal, (

2. BC's Civil Resolution Tribunal Act establishes the CRT and its jurisdiction to resolve strata property claims (SBC 2012, c 25, ss 2(1), 3.6(1) [CRT Act]).

3. See "Small Claims Solution Explorer", online: (, archived: (

4. "Civil Resolution Tribunal Fees", online: (, archived:(

5. Richard Susskind, The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) at 224.

6. For a discussion of the emotional consequences associated with involvement in litigation, see Vincent Cardi, "Litigation as Violence" (2014) 49:3 Wake Forest L Rev 677 at 679-80. Professor Salter estimated the average claim only takes approximately sixty to ninety days to process.

7. Evaluative mediation has been defined as "[helping] the parties to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their positions and the likely outcome of litigation or whatever other process they will use if they fail to reach a resolution in mediation" (E Patrick MacDermott & Ruth Obar, "'What's Going On' in Mediation: An Empirical Analysis of the Influence of a Mediator's Style on Party Satisfaction and Monetary Benefit" (2004) 9 Harv Negot L Rev 75 at 85-86, citing Leonard L Riskin, "Understanding Mediators' Orientations, Strategies, and Techniques: A Grid for the Perplexed" (1996) 1 Harv Negot L Rev 7 at 26).

8. CRT Act, supra note 3. According to s. 20(2)(a), a party may be represented by a lawyer or another individual with authority to bind the party if the party is a child (a person under 19 years of age; see ibid, s. 1) or a person with impaired capacity. The tribunal also has discretion under s. 20(2)(c) to permit a party to be represented "in the interests of justice and fairness" (ibid).

9. Julie MacFarlane, The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law, Law and Society Series (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2008) at 7-9.

10. See e.g. Jean Sorensen, "B.C. Lawyers Worried About Exclusion From New Civil Resolution Tribunal" (2 September 2013), Legal Feeds (blog), online:(, archived: (

11. The Canadian Bar Association, Media Release, "Dean Crawford Named President of the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch" (20 August 2013), online: (, archived: (

12. Jacques Gallant, "Ontario Lawyers Warn Civil Court Delays a Worsening 'Disaster'", Toronto Star (23 January 2017), online: (, archived: (

13. Ottawa: Federation of Law Societies of Canada, 2017, Preface [the "Model Code"].

14.  Ibid.  Further, the Model Code sets out that "[a] lawyer should consider the use of [ADR] when appropriate, inform the client of ADR options and, if so instructed, take steps to pursue those options" (ibid, rule 3.2-4, commentary [1]). Although the Law Society of British Columbia had not adopted this particular rule, the Law Society of Saskatchewan Code of Professional Conduct adopts the Model Code's rule (The Law Society of Saskatchewan, Code of Professional Conduct, Regina: Law Society of Saskatchewan, 2016, rule 3.2-4, commentary [1]).

15. 2014 SCC 7, [2014] 1 SCR 87 [Hryniak].

16.  Ibid  at para 23.

17.  Ibid at para 24.

18. Maxime Hanriot, "Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) as a Solution to Cross Border Consumer Disputes: The Enforcement of Outcomes" (2015-2016) 2 McGill J Dispute Resolution 1 at 2. Hanriot refers specifically to the eBay/Paypal online dispute resolution procedure, which has seen immense success.

19.  Susskind, supra note 5 at 223.

Originally published by Saskatchewan Law Review - May 2017

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions