On-Line Dispute Resolution

Part two of B.C.’s white paper on Justice reform commits to the appointment this year of a chair for the Civil Resolution Tribunal, and commits to invest in the technology needed to launch Canada’s first “on line” tribunal. The Tribunal is to serve as an alternative to court for small claims and civil property disputes. It will permit citizens to deal with these disputes without having to take time off work for court attendance.

On-line dispute resolution systems are gathering steam. Private systems already exist in Canada for ODR: eQuibbly. The European Parliament approved legislation last month for a resolution system for disputes arising out of on-line purchase of goods and services. The Canadian Centre for Court Technology reports ODR as showing promise.

We may not quite have attained Richard Susskind’s prediction of “immersive telepresence” systems which allow life-size images of people to appear to remotely in the court rooms, but many jurisdictions are moving in the right direction.

Meanwhile in Ontario lawyers often still have to attend in courtrooms to adjourn matters on consent, and to have consent orders made.

As Justice Fran Kitely put it according to an article in the CBA National Magazine, progress in Ontario has been “astonishingly slow”:

“Can [a lawyer] log on the night before to see which building and in which courtroom, with which judge? No. You have to go to the nearest of the three locations, check the array of ‘door sheets,’ and then drag your banker’s boxes or rolling briefcases to the destination, often with client in tow. Can you file your documents online? Of course not. Can you receive the judgment electronically? Normally not. Usually, you have to trudge up to court and receive a paper copy, then scan it and send it to your client.”


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