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Archive for the ‘Dispute Resolution’ Columns

Diversity and Private Sector Neutrals: A Call for Action

The point of making ADR more diverse … is that this element of the legal system remains out of touch with the reality of society, the wider workforce, and the legal profession.

Ontario Bar Association Working Group on Neutral Diversity, “Neutral Diversity in Ontario”, March 2022

We have two systems of justice in Canada – the public system of courts and tribunals – and the private system of ADR (mediation and arbitration). The focus of my previous columns has been mostly on the former. In this column I want to turn the focus to the private ADR system.

There are . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Launch of the Northern Ireland Family Court Info Website & Pathfinder Tool

In the summer of 2019, the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab received an invitation to work with a group from Ulster University in Northern Ireland to improve access to justice for litigants in person (we call them “SRLs”). Led by Professor Gráinne McKeever, the group was eager to use a human-centred design process as part of their research project. Jane Morley Q.C. and I arrived in Belfast in early November 2019 and supported the team to design and implement the first of a series of HCD workshops with diverse participants including, of course, users. It was a wonderful experience, . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Mediators Can Express Opinions in Mediation-Arbitration, but Tread Carefully

Preventing a mediator-arbitrator from expressing a tentative view of the strength of a party’s position during mediation would have a “chilling effect” on the effectiveness of the mediation-arbitration process.

So says the Federal Court of Appeal in a recent labour relations case. It is one of a growing number of cases where courts have recognized the value of mediation-arbitration and expressed reluctance to tie the hands of the mediator-arbitrator too much.

In Fono v. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2021 FCA 125, an employee sought judicial review of the decision of an adjudicator under the Canada Labour Code. The . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Revise, Revise, Revise: The Path to Good Decision Writing

The task of a [decision-maker] is to find the golden mean, to “decant and simplify,” to synthesize the evidence and make the necessary findings; the task is not to be a court reporter.

Welton v. United Lands Corporation Limited, 2020 ONCA 322

Writing is one thing, but rewriting is the real messy thing.

William Germano, “On Revision: the only writing that counts”

Courts are very good at giving advice to administrative decision-makers on how to write reasonable decisions, but often that advice is too general. In Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 (at . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Words of Encouragement for These Complex and Confusing Times

We are living in a world of protests against COVID restrictions, “freedom convoys”, imminent war over Ukraine, and protests about many serious issues including climate change, social injustice, racism, residential schools…the list could go on an on. Humankind is facing complex challenges and our response is increasingly to divide into factions, engage in “othering” and escalate conflict. I often don’t want to listen to the news or open my news app for fear of hearing about yet another form of deep cultural and structural divide.

I’m a seeker of peace. As a staunch advocate of effective conflict management techniques and . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

When Mediation and Arbitration Are Not Really Confidential or Private

In most cases, privacy and confidentiality are recognized as important benefits of mediation and arbitration, but they are not unconditional.

In a recent family law case, the Supreme Court of Canada has again reminded us that there are limitations to the confidential nature of mediation. In particular, mediation communications may be disclosed to prove the existence and terms of a mediated settlement.

Association de médiation familiale du Québec v. Bouvier, 2021 SCC 54, involved a dispute between former spouses over a number of separation, child custody and support issues. In Quebec, the provincial government makes mediation widely available . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

New Report on Phase 1 of the Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project

My post in January 2021 introduced the Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project funded by the Legal Aid BC / Law Foundation BC Legal Research Fund. In this post I am very pleased to advise that the report on Phase 1 of the project is now available here.

Quoting from the Executive Summary:

The Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project (ULSRP) is an initiative designed to both evaluate the effectiveness of family unbundled legal services and to facilitate access to justice by enhancing the working relationships between the existing community of ULS providers and BC citizens most in

. . . [more]
Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Lawyers and the Self-Represented: Ethical Obligations in the Hearing Room

The role of adjudicators in hearings with self-represented litigants (SRLs) has been discussed in many court decisions and articles. What is less explored is the role of opposing counsel. In this column I will discuss the possibly expanding role of opposing counsel in facilitating access to justice for SRLs. Although the adjudicator has the primary role in managing a hearing and in assisting the self-represented party, opposing counsel can play an important role. It is also important that adjudicators clearly communicate their expectations of the lawyer when a hearing includes an SRL.

The Canadian Judicial Council’s Statement of Principles on . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

BEWARE: Pre-Conditions to Arbitration

I’m a strong supporter of stepped dispute resolution clauses in contracts. Business people want a chance to negotiate or mediate a solution to their problems before handing things over to lawyers for arbitration or litigation.

I often recommend stepped clauses to clients when we were negotiating technology contracts. And I still recommend them as a mediator and arbitrator.

But several speakers at the CanArb Week conference earlier this fall reminded us of some of the potential pitfalls of these clauses. And some recent court decisions have highlighted the risks.

One of the most serious is the risk of inadvertent (or . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Toward a Unified Theory of Administrative Law?

“Our administrative law is a never-ending construction site where one crew builds structures and then a later crew tears them down to build anew, seemingly without an overall plan.”

Justice David Stratas, “The Canadian Law of Judicial Review: A Plea for Doctrinal Coherence and Consistency

“The “Quest”, shall we say, for a unified theory of Administrative Law is a constant yearning or aspiration but such a theory, in my view, is probably unattainable, in large measure because there occurs, all along, these repeated shifts in values, and these cognitive or epistemic shifts, in what we consider just or

. . . [more]
Posted in: Administrative Law, Dispute Resolution

A Reminder to Innovators: Change Is About Values and Identity

We know that change is hard, especially when (as it usually does) it involves changing the behaviour of human beings. Can we argue or persuade our way through this kind of change?

According to transformation expert Greg Satell, the answer is a resounding NO!

First, some background. Legal professionals are taught that success depends on sound and logical arguments to persuade the other party(ies) or a decision-maker of the rightness of the client’s position. Most of us are also firmly connected to the need to be “right”. While this approach may suit our adversarial system, it can create a . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Are Hybrid in-Person and Virtual ADR Proceedings the New Normal?

As we (fingers crossed) emerge from the COVID pandemic over the coming months, one of the things we will ponder is how much we want go back to in-person mediation, arbitration and other proceedings.

There will always be many advantage to meeting face-to-face. The personal connection does help facilitate discussion and settlement of disputes. It is also an advantage for adjudicators to see and hear counsel and witnesses in the flesh.

But online tools have improved a lot in the past 18 months. So has our comfort level using those tools, many of which have been around much longer. How . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution