Modernization of BC’s justice system, including our courts, is top of mind as public access and confidence demand a simple, cost-effective approach.
BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”) is Canada’s first online dispute resolution (“ODR”) model offering information, negotiation, facilitation and adjudication services. CRT integration within BC’s Provincial Court will save money and simplify the system.
The Ministry of Attorney General and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Service Plan 2018/19 – 2020/21 aims to streamline business practices, technology and alternative service delivery models (Objective 1.1), and to strengthen sustainability of the justice system and public safety sector through increased efficiency of resource management and effective human resource planning (Objective 3.1).1
Those objectives, along with considering user experience, complexity and cost, all favour integration.
User Experience: I applaud the CRT’s user-centric design and propose seamless integration through all services. Once a claim initiates,2 CRT facilitators provide negotiation, mediation and case management3 services, and judges adjudicate trials. Integration resolves issues of procedural fairness and judicial independence.
CRT has no oral hearings – all decisions are based on written submissions, including findings of credibility.
The tribunal restricts judicial review by the courts to “patently unreasonable” decisions or unfair procedures. However, if the CRT and courts are integrated, decisions would not be insulated and reviews would be on a question of law.
Lawyer appearances currently restricted by the CRT to Motor Vehicle Act claims could be expanded by integrating with the Provincial Court while encouraging users to resolve disputes with negotiation and mediation.
Judicial independence is established within the courts while CRT adjudicators are not independent – they are government employees who are appointed for 2-5 years and report to government.
Complexity: CRT jurisdiction includes strata disputes, small claims, society and co-operative disputes, and minor injury claims under the Motor Vehicle Act. This patchwork of jurisdiction complicates the justice system for the user. Moreover, a user dissatisfied with a CRT outcome must re-start a claim in court. Here are the confusing and inefficient requirements for such a user:
- a CRT strata decision and a Dispute Notice issued on or before December 31, 2018 requires leave to the BC Supreme Court, but a CRT strata decision and a Dispute Notice issued on January 1, 2019 or later, must meet a high judicial review threshold in the Supreme Court.4
- a CRT final decision in a small claims dispute requires a Notice of Objection filed with CRT within 28 days of the final decision and the filing of a Notice of Claim and a Certificate of Completion in the Provincial Court.
- a CRT motor vehicle injury decision must meet a high judicial review standard in the BC Supreme Court.
Cost: Court registries supported by BC Court Services (“CSB”) are not modern, partly due to limited resources. The 2019/2020 budgets for CSB and CRT are $110,498 million and $10.5 million respectively. The CRT budget is expected to grow to $24.5 million (20/21) and $29 million (21/22).5
Public funds support two separate systems. A consequence is CRT technology is incompatible with CSB tech despite being part of the same ministry. This siloed approach means a user cannot electronically file CRT materials in the courts.
An ODR system was recently developed in the UK under the auspices of the courts6 and similarly, the CRT should be part of the BC Provincial Court. The government’s stated commitment to streamlining business processes and efficiently using resources supports CRT integration within the Provincial Court.
- Ministry of Attorney General and Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General 2018/19 – 2020/21 Service Plan. bit.ly/bt0619p2-1 | ↩
- The system design would have alternative options for those users who are unable to use an online system. | ↩
- Case Management is currently performed by Provincial Court judges. | ↩
- bit.ly/bt0619p2-2 | ↩
- bit.ly/bt0619p2-3 | ↩
- bit.ly/bt0619p2-4 | ↩
Margaret A. Mereigh