British Columbia News
Province to modernize arbitration rules to improve access to justice
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 1:50 PM
Government has introduced a new arbitration act to modernize the province’s domestic arbitration system and improve how British Columbians can quickly and finally resolve their disputes outside court.
“Arbitration is a valuable way for people to resolve disputes in private by agreeing to be bound by the decision of an independent and impartial arbitrator,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “The current legislation reflects practices dating back to the 19th century and hasn’t been significantly changed since the 1980s. This new act reflects current best practices for fair, efficient and final resolution options for British Columbians.”
Key changes include new provisions about:
- how arbitration proceedings can be started;
- clarification around the duties of the arbitrators, parties and expert witnesses;
- simpler and faster appeals; and
- improved confidentiality.
The proposed new legislation builds on recommended changes from the Uniform Law Conference of Canada’s Uniform Arbitration Act and will better align with similar B.C. arbitration legislation that covers disputes of an international nature.
The British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre (soon to be known as the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre) maintains a unique and prominent position in the arbitration act as the “designated appointing authority.” It will be authorized to quickly appoint an arbitrator when the parties are unable to agree, and resolve fee disputes between parties and arbitrators.
The changes will also move family arbitration provisions from the Arbitration Act to the Family Law Act, which already deals with various aspects of family disputes and encourages out-of-court resolution of matters in the best interests of families and children.
- B.C. has two arbitration statutes: a domestic act (the Arbitration Act) and an international act (the International Commercial Arbitration Act). Arbitration is international if the parties are based in different jurisdictions.
- The guiding principles of B.C.’s arbitration statutes are based on the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law), which says arbitration should be fair to both parties, arbitrators should be neutral and unbiased, and parties to an agreement should be held to their bargain.