British Columbia’s new Arbitration Act has come into force, modernizing the province’s domestic arbitration system and improving access to justice through out-of-court options.
The legislation, passed during the spring session, replaces outdated arbitration law and reflects best practices based on a United Nations arbitration model that has been adopted by many other jurisdictions.
Under the new legislation:
- there is a clear structure for the steps involved in arbitration;
- arbitrators are provided broad procedural powers;
- there are clear principles for the courts, such as staying litigation in favour of arbitration when parties agree to resolve disputes by arbitration;
- the traditional confidentiality of arbitration proceedings is now prescribed in the act;
- appeals will be simpler and faster; and
- parties can now agree to opt out of appeals altogether.
“Today is a milestone in the history of B.C.’s arbitration system and marks an important step in alternative dispute resolution in our province,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “By updating our arbitration law, we are improving access to justice for British Columbians who want to resolve their disputes quickly, fairly and out of court.”
When parties cannot agree on an arbitrator but agree to the arbitration process, the legislation designates the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre (VanIAC), formerly the BC International Commercial Arbitration Centre, as the appointing authority. This means that at the request of one of the parties VanIAC has the power to quickly appoint an arbitrator to keep the process moving quickly and economically.
“This new legislation keeps British Columbia in the vanguard of jurisdictions supporting arbitration throughout the world,” said Leslie Maerov, governing director and chair, VanIAC. “VanIAC is increasing its prominence as an integral part of the justice system to achieve a just, speedy and economical determination of disputes.”
The Arbitration Act, which covers domestic commercial disputes, is one of two arbitration statutes in British Columbia. The other is the International Commercial Arbitration Act, which applies if one of the parties is based in a jurisdiction outside Canada.
“For almost 35 years, we have been a trusted alternative to the court system,” said Barry Penner, managing director, VanIAC. “To complement the new Arbitration Act, VanIAC has developed updated procedural rules to ensure greater clarity and efficiency, including an expedited process for claims under $250,000. We look forward to fulfilling our new legislative responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner.”
- Arbitration is a way for parties to resolve disputes by agreeing to be bound by the decision of one or more independent and impartial arbitrators, usually chosen by the parties.
- An arbitrator receives submissions from both sides, conducts a fair hearing according to rules of law and renders an enforceable arbitral award.
- Arbitration allows parties to choose their decision-maker, avoid a potentially lengthy and costly court case, and resolve their dispute in private.
- Arbitration is different from mediation. Under mediation, the parties engage a neutral third party to help them reach an agreement. A mediator does not have the authority to make binding decisions.