Online Dispute Resolution in British Columbia

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The increase in number of self-represented litigants has created need for justice reform. The cost and time associated with bringing an action to court has urged the BC Government to re-examine the justice system and to take a closer look at needs and requirements of people looking to resolve disputes.

A shoutout to Freepik for this great graphic.
Resolve your dispute online–anytime, anywhere.

A BC Judges report (p. 19) in 2010 showed that 90% of Small Claims parties are self-represented; it can take up to 16 months (p. 27) for a small claims case to be heard. At the higher court level, less than 3% (p. 90) of BC Supreme Court civil cases ever make it to trial. These barriers form ongoing frustrations for the public trying to navigate a daunting court system on their own with limited resources.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is an online platform that allows parties in a dispute the chance to come together online either in real time or at each party’s convenience to negotiate, reach an agreement and avoid going to court. Other jurisdictions, such as the UK Judiciary, have examined ODR. BC is also looking at merging modern technology with the traditional court system to resolve disputes.

The government established the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) in 2012 with the idea to increase access to justice. As as a new part of BC’s justice system, they are building from the ground up and expect to have it working later this year. The concept envisions an online dispute platform that can be accessed by the parties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Primary focus will be on small claims matters and strata property disputes. The CRT builds on lessons gleaned from a number of pilot projects tested previously in BC.

In 2011 the BC Ministry of Justice started testing ODR, with initial focus on tenancy and consumer disputes. Participation was voluntary. The case volumes were low but results proved encouraging in terms of resolution and user satisfaction.

Today in BC, ODR experimenting continues with organisations such as Consumer Protection BC, BC Property Assessment Appeal Board and Small Claims BC. Mediate BC tested ODR for family matters.

Legal Services Society’s upcoming MyLawBC may give future consideration to the ODR platform: “The MyLawBC platform…could be expanded to include online mediation and arbitration services.”

A future blog post will give a glimpse into how ODR is utilized by Consumer Protection BC and Small Claims BC. We tested their dispute resolution tools and will walk you through the processes. To be continued…

Update 05/13/2015: See Case Study #1 on Consumer Protection BC’s ODR platform here.

Photo Credit: Freepik


7 Most Popular Clicklaw Resources of 2014

At Clicklaw, we use Google Analytics to track which pages are getting the most views, as well as where people are following through and clicking on links to resources and services on other websites.

There are of course other factors to consider in calculating resource helpfulness, but here is an interesting snapshot of the seven most viewed and clicked resource topics and links of the past year:

1) HelpMap: The Clicklaw HelpMap helps provide access to free low-cost legal advice and legal information services in BC. helpmap.jpgYou can look for services related to a particular topic in a particular city in BC using the search tool located on this page.

Although people referred to fact sheets and written resources, it was clear that many were also seeking additional in-person help. Our most popular service pages referred to were for the Family Justice Centres and Court Registries in BC.

Continue reading 7 Most Popular Clicklaw Resources of 2014


Public Libraries and Nidus Personal Planning Events

Recently, Courthouse Libraries BC’s LawMatters program partnered with Clicklaw contributor Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry to celebrate their Personal Planning Month with a series of events. LawMatters asked public libraries to host some Nidus events and 9 libraries signed up for a series of 15 public events, including presentations and webinars for the public. Over 400 people attended the free events that explained Representation Agreements and other planning tools.

The launch of the series was held at Vancouver Public Library and attracted over 250 people. A panel of speakers included an innovative example of using audience participation to get the message across. Watch the video of “Gonna Get a Rep Agreement” sung with ukelele to “Sentimental Journey” – it was a crowd hit!

Capacity crowds also attended presentations by Nidus staff at the Burnaby, West Vancouver and Richmond Public Libraries.

Other libraries throughout the province were able to host several Nidus webinars for the public. The webinars brought crowds as large as 50 people to libraries in New Westminster, Kitimat, Victoria, Greenwood, North Vancouver District and Whistler. Nidus presenter Joanne Taylor encouraged questions from the audience through virtual chat.

Comments from webinar host librarians included:

“Feedback from the audience overall was very positive, and several people said that Joanne’s presentation was easy to follow given how complex the subject was. I especially appreciated Joanne showing her face briefly to say “hello” and put a face to the voice.”

“We had 50 people attend our webinar. I didn’t have any technological glitches reported to me, which is good! I think there was a fair bit of community interest in this webinar, so I’m glad we were able to host. There was a lot of interest in the next webinar about Representation Agreements.”

“Audience response – all were appreciative. One Credit Union employee attended and said she had never heard of Nidus, and that the info would be useful to her at work–I’m guessing maybe they get requests to access accounts by family or friends of people with dementia and now can direct them to Nidus to get a representation agreement.”

Librarians also collected some feedback from patrons:

“This was an extremely useful program. I was unaware of Representation Agreements and signed up for the workshop because I am thinking of updating my will. This workshop provided invaluable information on a topic everyone should be aware of. As a person now retired and feeling the pinch of a lower income, to be able to access this legal information at no charge was most helpful.”

“I appreciated being given information from a legitimate source in an environment I trusted. No selling or unwanted advice given! I would be interested in attending similar events.”

“I found the discussion session very useful. It was much better than watching a webinar on my own.”

Nidus offers a regular monthly series of free webinars, and any library or individual can register for future events on the training page. Nidus also offers training to the intermediary and legal communities, and a well-received session was held recently for Access Pro Bono lawyers.


BCCPD is now Disability Alliance BC


By Jane Dyson
Executive Director, Disability Alliance BC

Yes, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities’ name is now Disability Alliance BC. BCCPD members voted strongly in favour of the change at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June. Since then, we’ve been gradually transitioning over to using our new name.

Organizations change their name. In fact, we changed ours 24 years ago. In 1977, our founding name was British Columbia Coalition of the Disabled. In 1990, we changed it to BC Coalition of People with Disabilities. The change reflected the fact that people with disabilities are people who happen to have a disability, rather than being “the disabled.”

So why change our name? Two years ago, we decided it was time to update our logo. We connected with Spring Advertising who generously volunteered their time to help us develop one. They suggested we also look at our name. They asked us if it continued to reflect who we are and how we are changing, what we do and why we do it?

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities is a long name and, while it has served us well, Board and staff agreed it was time to update. A Board member suggested the word “Alliance”–we liked it because it expresses strength and community. As a provincial organization, we also wanted to keep “BC” in our name. We serve people with disabilities and, while the experience of disability is unique to each person, we have many things in common that affect us. “Disability”, of course, reflects this common ground.

So, Disability Alliance BC was born. We are very excited about this change and it is a landmark event for our organization. Spring also designed our new logo and tagline that speak to the importance of building strong connections both within and outside of the disability community.

We hope you like our new name and logo. Change can be challenging—and this is a big change—but it is just a name. Disability Alliance BC–or D-A-B-C for short–will be doing the same work for the disability community. That has not changed.

A note from Clicklaw Editors: You can find Disability Alliance BC’s resources and services through the Clicklaw website. Clicklaw also connects you to a range of common questions, resources, and HelpMap services about disabilities.


Conflict Resolution Week October 11-18, 2014

MediateposterMediate BC is launching BC’s first ever Conflict Resolution Week, October 11-18, 2014.

During the week of October 11-18, Mediate BC and its Roster mediators will be organizing events throughout the province to build awareness of healthy ways to resolve conflicts, including mediation.

The theme for this year is “Let’s Talk It Out”.

“Many people still believe that going to court is the default option to resolve conflicts. The truth is there are many ways to solve most conflicts outside of, or earlier in, the court system which can save you time and money,” says Mediate BC’s Executive Director Kari D. Boyle.

Check out events in your local community.

During Conflict Resolution Week, Kari Boyle, will also announce the highlights of the 2014 survey of its Roster Mediators which confirms that mediation is an effective, timely and affordable option. Join this free interactive seminar at the Vancouver Public Library (350 W Georgia Street, Vancouver) on Tuesday, October 14 from 12:00 – 1:00pm to learn more.

For questions and information contact: 1-888-713-0433 ext. 104 or



Employment Dispute? Share Your Experience

The Government of BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal Branch is creating an online dispute resolution website and they’re looking for help from the public. They’d like to talk to people who have had a recent dispute with their employer or employee so they can learn more about the kinds of experiences people have had in these kinds of situations. They’ll use this information to inform the design of their online dispute resolution website to make sure it meets the needs of people in BC.

The interviews will take place in the fall in Vancouver and Victoria, and will take about an hour. In exchange for your time, they’re offering a $60 gift card. If you’re interested in participating or learning more, please email them directly at



Employment Law for Temporary Foreign Workers

The same laws and regulations that protect all British Columbians also apply to temporary foreign workers. However, as temporary foreign workers, there may be some restrictions on their terms of employment. For example, a temporary foreign worker is usually restricted to working for a specific employer.

For workers who aren’t familiar with employment law in BC, it can be tricky trying to tell the difference between what may be an actual restriction and what is against the law. Two organizations, MOSAIC and the Employment Standards Branch, have resources available on Clicklaw that can help.

MOSAIC is a multilingual non-profit organization that supports immigrant and refugee communities and has produced the following resources with information for temporary foreign workers, available in four additional languages (Chinese (simplified), Korean, Punjabi, Spanish):

Additionally, MOSAIC has a Legal Clinic for Temporary Foreign Workers.

The Employment Standards Branch has a series of employment fact sheets, including the resource Employment Standards for Foreign Workers, which is available in in PDF format in six additional languages (Chinese (traditional), French, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino). The resource describes what the law says about the rights of foreign workers, including payment of wages and what happens if employment ends.


Better Legal Information Handbook

cleo-betterlegalinformationhandbookIf your group produces legal information for the public you’ll want to bookmark this new resource, Better Legal Information Handbook – Practical Tips for Community Workers. Produced by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), this handbook provides a comprehensive overview of steps involved in planning, producing, distributing and evaluating public legal education and information (PLEI) resources. As CLEO Executive Director Julie Mathews explains in the handbook’s acknowledgements:

“The handbook covers the fundamentals: knowing your audience and writing for them, choosing the best format for your information, and usability testing and evaluating. It draws together the principles of plain language and design and gives practical advice on how to apply them.”

With practical examples from across Canada, the tips and tools in this resource will be extremely valuable for anyone involved in the development of PLEI.

The online PDF version is available for free. Copies outside Ontario are $20 – for more information on ordering a print copy, visit


Clicklaw Wikibook Author Cliff Thorstenson Visits the Merritt Public Library

Clicklaw Wikibook author Cliff Thorstenson and Merritt Branch Librarian Deborha Merrick
Clicklaw Wikibook author Cliff Thorstenson and Merritt Branch Librarian Deborha Merrick

Continuing the tradition of Clicklaw Wikibook authors visiting their local public librariesLegal Help for British Columbians author Cliff Thorstenson recently visited the Merritt Branch of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Library System. Local librarian Deborha Merrick told Cliff that she was pleased to add the latest edition of this very popular legal guide to her library’s legal information collection.

Written in plain language, the guide includes over 40 common legal problems faced by low income people, and outlines the first steps your client can take to address the problem. An annotated listing of over 60 referral resources is also included. The 2013 edition features updated information in family, welfare, employment insurance, and immigration law.

Cliff published the first edition of Legal Help for Rural British Columbians; A guide to help non-legal professionals make legal referrals for their clients in 2008. Recognizing that this guide would be a helpful addition to public library collections and training, the LawMatters program worked with Cliff and a team of volunteer editors to update the 2009, 2011 and 2013 editions. Since 2012, the guide has also been available in a wikibook format. This innovative format makes the online guide easy to search, easy to update by the author and editors, and easy for readers to download and print a recently updated version of a page, chapter, or the whole guide.

For readers who would like their own copy, both wikibooks Legal Help for British Columbians and JP Boyd on Family Law are now available as an e-pub for e-readers and mobile devices. Just look for the e-pub download information on the right hand side of the main page of each wikibook. We are planning to have an information page available soon that will explain how e-pubs work, and how they compare to a PDF version.