The Government of British Columbia has introduced legislation — the International Commercial Arbitration Amendment Act — to help position Vancouver as a more desirable location to host international commercial arbitration proceedings, by updating its legislation to align with accepted international standards.
Vancouver is geographically well-situated for parties from the United States, Asia or other countries who seek a neutral arbitration venue. If approved by the legislature, the amending legislation will modernize B.C.’s arbitration regime and enhance the province’s reputation as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction for international commercial and investment treaty disputes. The amendments also aim to encourage additional benefits, in the form of increased business for professional services, hotels, translators and other arbitration support providers.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that our legislation is modern, meets the standards of the bar and judiciary, and has the confidence of domestic and international clients,” said Attorney General David Eby. “These amendments will do that, while also attracting more business to the province and enhancing our reputation as a desirable venue for arbitration.”
The proposed amendments will make the International Commercial Arbitration Act (ICAA) an efficient, comprehensive piece of arbitration legislation that will align with current international best practices and contain language and concepts familiar to the business and legal communities.
Vancouver is bidding on the 2022 International Council for Commercial Arbitration Congress, one of the world’s most prestigious arbitration conferences. Updated legislation would strengthen its bid.
The amendments will include the following updates to the ICAA:
- The addition of provisions that deal comprehensively with interim measures and preliminary orders;
- The addition of a new privacy and confidentiality provision, which will limit disputes regarding the scope of common law confidentiality;
- A new immunity provision to protect arbitrators;
- Clarified standards for arbitral challenges;
- An expanded definition of arbitration agreement that accounts for technological advances;
- An increased threshold that must be met for challenges to arbitrator independence or impartiality;
- The creation of appeals from negative jurisdictional rulings; and
- The removal of out-of-date language and references throughout the act.
B.C.’s present ICAA is based on an outdated version of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) 1985 Model Law. The UNCITRAL Model Law was significantly updated in 2006, but the Province has not yet amended its legislation to incorporate these updates.
Australia and Ontario have overhauled similarly dated legislation, with the aim of capturing international arbitration hearings and spinoff benefits.