Canada’s online legal magazine.
Carswell Start-up Guide for Sole Practitioner
LexisNexis Legal Products

Archive for the ‘Dispute Resolution’ Columns

The Supreme Court on Summary Hearings: The Implications for Administrative Tribunals

The recent decision of the Supreme Court on summary hearings in the courts has sparked discussion within civil litigation circles, including on But what, if anything, does the decision tell us about the court’s possible approach to summary processes in the administrative justice system?

The court appears to be open to new models of adjudication:

[t]he balance between procedure and access struck by our justice system must come to reflect modern reality and recognize that new models of adjudication can be fair and just.

The court also noted the importance of public adjudication of disputes for the development . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

The Social Lab: a Bridge Over the Implementation Gap for Justice Reform?

Justice reform is a hot topic in Canada these days. In particular, we have the benefit of the CBA’s Envisioning Equal Justice Summit and report and the final report of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family matters. These follow a long series of reports federally and provincially that include many of the same recommendations for change including BC’s Civil Justice Reform Working group report and the CBA’s 1996 report. In fact, in 1919 Reginald H. Smith identified delay, court costs and fees and the expense of counsel as the three primary defects in the . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Assessing an Arbitrator’s “Predilection for Bias”

Arbitrator independence and fairness are the cornerstones of arbitration. They seem to be coming under greater scrutiny, both in Canada and abroad.

There are many sources of bias in any adjudication system, whether it is court or arbitration. (This may be a topic for another column, but see for example arbitrator Edna Sussman’s paper, “Arbitrator Decision Making: Unconscious Psychological Influences and What You Can Do About Them,” December 20, 2013, American Review of International Arbitration, Vol., No. 3, 2013 available online here.)

The accepted test for arbitrator bias in Canada was established by the Supreme Court of . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

“Low-Value, High-Volume” Disputes: Defining the Indefinable

Since 2010, those of us in the online dispute resolution (ODR) community have usually either ended the year or begun the new one reading reports from the November session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law’s (UNCITRAL) Working group on online dispute resolution (Working group III or WG3) to see what – if any – strides have been made since the preceding Summer session. We (and others) have discussed at great length the work being done by this working group and have even expressed our doubts as to whether said work would ultimately be useful . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Active Adjudication and Impartiality

Access to justice should not stop at the hearing room door. Much of the current discussion of access to justice has focused on getting people into the justice system, with little discussion of how to make justice accessible once they get there. In a justice system that increasingly has self-represented parties as well as unequal representation, fairness and efficiency require that adjudicators take a more hands-on role in the hearing process. This hands-on approach has been termed “active adjudication” by commentators and adjudicators.

There are a great variety of adjudicative tribunals in Canada, all with different rules and approaches to . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

The Public / Legal Profession Divide in Access to Justice

We need to change our primary focus. Too often, we focus inward on how the system operates from the point of view of those who work in it. ….. The focus must be on the people who need to use the system. … Litigants, and particularly self-represented litigants, are not, as they are too often seen, an inconvenience; they are why the system exists. … Until we involve those who use the system in the reform process, the system will not really work for those who use it.
National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

The Courts and Arbitration – an Australian View

As the courts in Canada continue to struggle with difficult issues relating to the enforcement of arbitration agreements and the enforcement of arbitral awards, it is worth looking at how courts in other common law jurisdictions see the relationship between the courts and arbitration.

The Hon James Allsop, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, gave a very thoughtful address at 2013 Clayton Utz University of Sydney International Arbitration Lecture (29 October 2013).

Like others, he sees serious problems with the trend in many countries toward “over-elaborate, over-lawyered, and slow and costly [arbitration] hearings. …[R]ecalcitrance and excessive demands for . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Cybercourts, ODR and Cyberjustice: What Does It All Mean?

Two years ago, almost to the day, Simon Fodden contacted us to write a bimonthly column on online dispute resolution (ODR). A dozen columns later, and after going through the most important current developments on the topic, we realized that we might have skimmed over the core question that should have preceded all of our previous entries: what is ODR?

Obviously, definitions of ODR are plentiful. However, as is often the case when everyone has his or her own idea of a word’s meaning, definitions are sometimes incompatible. That being said, as explained in a recent paper published by Julio . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

The Promise of Labour Arbitration: Delayed but Not Forgotten

There has been a much-needed recent focus on the state of the civil litigation process in Canada. Of course, the courts are only a small (albeit vital) part of our system of justice. In fact, a majority of people in Canada will have little, if any, direct contact with the courts; they are more likely to encounter various aspects of the administrative justice system in disputes with neighbours, in their workplace and with governments. In this column, I will focus on the justice system for unionized employees – the labour arbitration process.

Labour arbitration was introduced as part of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Enhancing Access to Justice by Combining Unbundled Legal Services and Mediation

In my last Slaw post I explored how lawyers can assist their clients through effective mediation advocacy and by providing mediation coaching. In this post, I would like to explore another combination of legal services and mediation that has enormous potential to create affordable and accessible dispute resolution opportunities for clients.

Unbundling (or limited scope representation as it is commonly referred to in the U.S.) is becoming more recognized and highlighted as a key tool to increase access to justice, particularly for those who do not qualify for legal aid services but cannot afford full representation (the CBA, NAC . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

CETA and ODR: Facilitating Trade Through Online Dispute Resolution

Unless you’ve been completely disconnected from international economic news, you’ve heard about the fact that, for four years now, Canada and the European Union have been negotiating “the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in order to bring their trade and investment relationship to a new level”. As explained on the EU’s website:

CETA will cover the key issues relevant to a modern trade and investment environment, from ambitious new market access opportunities to clear rules for European and Canadian traders and investors.

Of course, one of the key issues relevant to a modern trade environment (or . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Drafting Arbitration Clauses

Over the years I have seen dozens of contracts with dreadful arbitration clauses.

They are generally found near the end of the agreement, with the other so-called “boilerplate”. One often wonders whether the lawyers even read them before the contract was signed. Almost certainly, the business people didn’t. One consequence of this neglect is that, if and when the clause must be dusted off and used in a dispute, it may not work as intended. And unworkable arbitration clauses tend to give the process as a whole a bad name.

There are 7 essential elements of an effective arbitration clause. . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution