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Company News: Blog
22 May 2013
Now that the verdict is finally in, whoever our incoming Attorney General turns out to be really needs to take a second look at the case of the Queen of the North. Taking seven years to conclude a case such as this, not to mention four months’ of court time, should stand as an indictment of our...
Dispute Resolution for Dummies
|Written by Chris Green|
|Monday, 18 June 2012 12:28|
On the brand-new woolly-headed Civil Resolution Tribunal Act
There have been a surprising number of important changes to the legal landscape quietly introduced into legislation this past session of the BC legislature, and it’s interesting how little fanfare or opportunity for debate there has been.
One interesting new creature which will soon be inhabiting these pastures is the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act - an adjunct to the Small Claims Court.
Reading between the lines, I’m guessing that the actual genesis of the CRT were complaints to the Attorney General Department from the overburdened Small Claims Court, pleading for some way to get the myriad of low level disputes, which are rife in strata titled living, out of the court system.
Without resorting to stereotypes, in my observation, most strata councils end up being controlled by petty demagogues, and every strata development has a least one and usually several households that have no business trying to live in a communal environment with strict rules presided over by said demagogues. That combination gives rise to an endless litany of petty disputes over pets, parking, lifestyle choices and so forth.
And so the CRT was conceived, as a Small Claims Court devoted to strata issues, where strata owners could go to whine about unfair actions by the strata council, or the arbitrary, uneven, or non-enforcement of strata bylaws, or irregularities in the conduct of strata council proceedings, or the injustice of being required to chip in for the cost of a new roof...
Since strata owners still have to live with one another even though they are at war, it made sense to make the CRT a dispute resolution mechanism that was not litigation based. In other words, it would encourage collaborative problem-solving approaches to dispute resolution. On paper it makes perfect sense (to anyone who’s not actually attended a raucous strata council meeting).
The problems began when some bright spark in the AG’s office came up with the idea that the CRT might have applications beyond strata disputes, and so the legislation, as passed, is not limited to the strata community but can be used to attempt to resolve a wide variety of suits which would otherwise be resolved in the Small Claims Court.
Apparently, the first step in a CRT process is for the parties to go online for information and education as to how to resolve the dispute without going to court. The assumption seems to be that the parties would happily resolve their disputes in good will and harmony, once they were given the tools to do so.
Next, the parties would proceed to negotiate with each other directly online, with the dialogue being monitored by CRT staff. (We are not sure how this process will differ much from the traditional exchange of flaming e-mails that seem to attend every dispute these days, but what do we know.)
Next, if the parties still stubbornly refuse to see the light, they may proceed to something called, “facilitated settlement discussions with active case management,” which probably just means that a mediator will try more vigorously to bang heads together.
Ultimately, for the real diehards who insist on their day in court, the dispute can be adjudicated, but not in a court room where witnesses are heard and cross examined, but “online”, based upon the written submissions made. Good luck, if your written presentation skills aren’t your strong suit.
Lastly, it appears you will be on your own, since rumour has it that lawyers will not be permitted to represent clients before the CRT, except in exceptional circumstances.
A court without lawyers! Hmmm, be careful what you wish for.