Online Dispute Resolution in BC – Got a strata dispute?

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3a | Part 3b


The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) team is looking for people to help beta-test their web-based Solution Explorer. As we mentioned in our Introduction to ODR in BC, the CRT will be an online tribunal opening in 2016. It will be accessible 24/7, and can be used by people to resolve their small claims and strata/condo disputes.

The first step in the CRT process is called the Solution Explorer, a self-help tool that helps diagnose the type of problem or dispute, provides helpful related information, self-help options and identifies a recommended next stage of the process.

Who Can Take Part?Older-couple-with-laptop

The CRT is looking specifically for a group of 8 to 10 people who are owners, tenants or occupants of a strata. Participants will be observed using the Solution Explorer to resolve real life strata disputes by CRT staff to see how it is used and how it can be made better.

What are the Requirements to Participate?

If you can attend a 30 minute appointment on either of these two dates below, look up the other requirements here on the CRT’s website, where you will find more information on how to get involved:

  • December 3, 2015 in downtown Victoria OR
  • December 7, 2015 in downtown Vancouver

To learn more about the CRT, visit their website.

Related Common Questions on Clicklaw:

Stay informed:

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Increasing BC Hydro rates drive request for an electricity affordability program for BC’s poor

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BCPIAC represents low and fixed income people of BC in utility regulation matters, and works on strategic anti-poverty and social justice issues in BC courts and tribunals.

By Erin Pritchard
Staff Lawyer, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

In September 2015, BC Hydro filed a Rate Design Application (RDA) with the BC Utilities Commission (Commission). This means the Commission, BC Hydro and stakeholders will review rate structures (how BC Hydro charges customers for its services) and terms and conditions of service for residential, business and industrial customers.

In this proceeding, the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) will ask the Commission to implement rate relief, emergency bill assistance, and specific terms and conditions for low income BC Hydro ratepayers.

BC Hydro rates are increasingly unaffordable for low income customers

About 170,000 (10%) of BC Hydro’s residential customers are “low income”, meaning they are living at or below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO).  People living in poverty have a hard time paying for essential services such as electricity when their incomes are stagnant. Since electricity is essential to survival, energy bills can only be paid at the expense of competing household necessities, such as food and medicine.

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“Since electricity is essential to survival, energy bills can only be paid at the expense of competing household necessities, such as food and medicine.”

BC Hydro residential electricity rates have increased by 47% in the last 10 years, and are on track to increase by another 10.5% in the next three years. Rates are projected to continue to rise significantly in future years as the government continues to order BC Hydro to build multi-billion dollar projects like the Site C dam without a full public review of those projects by the Commission. While rate caps are currently keeping BC Hydro rates artificially low, project expenditures will eventually be collected from ratepayers.

BC Hydro’s rate increases have far outpaced increases in provincial income and disability assistance rates and the BC general minimum wage over the same time period. Over the last 10 years, BC social assistance rates have only gone up by $100 or less (for a single person) and the BC general minimum wage by $2.45 an hour.

BC Hydro currently offers no rates or terms and conditions that specifically apply to low income customers.  It offers two programs to its low income customers:

  1. Energy Savings Kits that include a few energy saving products which, if fully installed, might save $30 per year, and
  2. In more limited cases, energy efficiency home upgrades through BC Hydro’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program. This program is not available to BC Hydro customers living in apartments.

While such energy efficiency programs are important, they are not a stand-alone response to low income customers’ increasing inability to afford their power bills – they are only one element of what must be a comprehensive low income bill affordability strategy.

What is BCPIAC doing to help?

In the RDA, BCPIAC will ask the Commission to order that BC Hydro:
Read more about how you can help

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How Do I Get Married In British Columbia?

Photo courtesy of Freepik.com

In British Columbia, opposite and same-sex couples who are 19 years or older (with some exceptions) and are currently unmarried can marry. Although it is not difficult to get married in BC, there are a number of crucial steps that must be taken before, during and after the ceremony. Here is a quick checklist:

CheckboxApply for a marriage licence

You and your partner need a licence to get married in BC. To apply, one of you has to go in person with primary identification for both individuals (e.g. birth certificate, citizenship card) to a Vital Statistics Agency office. The license is ~$100 and is valid for three months.

CheckboxGet married in a religious or civil ceremony

You can choose either a religious or civil ceremony. The person performing the ceremony must be licensed under the B.C. Marriage Act

  • Not all religious officials are licensed. They must register with Vital Statistics.
  • For civil ceremonies, this person is known as a marriage commissioner. The base fee for a marriage commissioner is $78.75 and they may charge additional fees.
  • The marriage ceremony must be held in the presence of at least two witnesses, in addition to the marriage commissioner or religious official.

CheckboxWhere you cannot get married and who cannot marry you

“The City of Vancouver does not provide marriage licences or perform marriage ceremonies any longer”, says Brad, an information rep from City Hall who referred us to the BC Vital Statistics Agency. Nor can you get married inside a courtroom. Similarly, marriages are not performed by judges or judicial justices. As stated above, either a marriage commissioner or religious official conducts the ceremony.

CheckboxRegister the marriage

The marriage commissioner or religious official who conducts the ceremony will help you complete a Marriage Registration Form. This form must be sent, within 48 hours of the ceremony, to the Vital Statistics Agency for registration.

CheckboxFor more information

Details regarding how to get married in BC can be found at: JP Boyd on Family Law, CBA BC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts and BC’s Vital Statistics Agency.

Stay informed:

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New Study Supports the Wikibook Model of Public Legal Education

CRILF LogoBy Lorne Bertrand & Joanne Paetsch
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

Wikibooks are websites built on the MediaWiki platform, an open-source application that powers websites such as Wikipedia, Scholarpedia and the notorious WikiLeaks. Wikibooks are agile and highly adaptable, and are normally used to present large amounts of text from multiple authors in a digestible, easily accessible format. Clicklaw, a public legal education web resource run by Courthouse Libraries BC, has adapted the wikibook concept to provide plain language legal information to the public.

Unlike most MediaWiki websites that allow any user to add and revise content, Clicklaw Wikibooks use a unique development model in which potential contributors are screened by the Clicklaw Wikibooks team before being given editorial privileges. This collaborative approach allows several lawyers to contribute content and ensures that the task of maintaining and updating the material is not overly burdensome for any one individual.

In 2013, Clicklaw added JP Boyd on Family Law to its collection of wikibooks. The resource offers more than 120 webpages of substantive legal information, about 500 definitions of common legal words and phrases, links to hundreds of key government and non-government resources, and more than 100 downloadable forms for the British Columbia Supreme and Provincial Courts.

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released the findings of the first phase of its evaluation of JP Boyd on Family Law, conducted with funding from the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Courthouse Libraries BC. The evaluation used data from several sources to assess the use and usefulness of the wikibook, including: a pop-up survey completed by 546 users of the website; a follow-up survey of 142 users administered one week after completing the pop-up; and website traffic information generated by Google Analytics.

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Know Your Rights for Election Day – October 19

logo_bcclaFurther to our earlier post on the upcoming Election, here is some more information provided via the BC Civil Liberties Association (a Clicklaw contributor organization) on their blog that we wanted to share:

It’s important that we all know our rights when it comes to voting, and what we can do if something goes wrong.

The so-called Fair Elections Act passed by the Conservatives last year changed many of the rules about what you need in order to vote. Here are a few things to remember:

1 – You do not need Photo I.D. to vote.

Some voters were told that they did – this is INCORRECT. If you present two pieces of ID, one of which contains your address, you are good to go. Neither one needs to include your picture. If you’re told you need photo ID on Election Day, ask to speak to the poll supervisor to clear up the confusion.

2 – If you have a Driver’s License or other government-issued I.D. with your: (i) name, (ii) address, and (iii) photo, that’s all you need to vote.

You do not need a second piece of ID if you have your driver’s license.

3 – There are all sorts of documents you can use as identification on Election Day.

These include: a library card, student ID card, a bill or bank statement, a label on a prescription container, a government cheque or cheque stub, and many other options. And it doesn’t even have to be the paper copy; an e-statement or invoice works too. For the full list of acceptable documentation, click here. Just make sure at least one piece has your address on it.

4 – If you don’t have anything with your current address on it, don’t despair!

Although the so-called Fair Elections Act eliminated vouching for identification purposes, it maintained (after much criticism and advocacy) a version of vouching for address. It’s called an Attestation of Residence. If you don’t have anything with your current address on it, someone can “vouch” for where you live as long as they:

        • Live in the same polling division as you
        • Have proof of their own identity and residence
        • Haven’t vouched for anyone else or been vouched for themselves.

While this is not an easy list to meet, a room mate, family member, or neighbour may be able to help – don’t be afraid to ask!

Additionally, Elections Canada has produced a Letter of Confirmation of Residence which can be used by voters who are 1) members of a First Nation band but don’t have a street address on their ID, such as those who live on reserve or 2) those who receive services from a shelter or soup kitchen, or live in a student residence or long-term care facility. Here’s the link to the letter:http://www.elections.ca/id/EC50053_e.pdf – get it signed by the administrator of the facility where you live and bring it, plus a second piece of ID with your name on it to the polls, and you’re set!

5 – Your Voter Identification Card (VIC) has no legal status, but you might want to bring it anyway.

This summer, the BCCLA intervened in a case brought by the Council of Canadians and Canadian Federation of Students challenging the Fair Elections Act. They were hoping to get an injunction to allow people to rely on their VIC as one of their pieces of ID, but were unsuccessful. So your VIC won’t count as ID on Election Day, but it may make it a bit faster and easier for people to identify which line-up to join. So bring it if you’ve got it.

6 – Your Sex, Gender Expression and the Sex Indicator on your I.D. and Voter Registration Documents do not affect your right to vote.

Check out this great resource from EGALE for more information for trans voters.

7 – Check your ballot!

Dirty ballots – meaning they already had marks on them when they were given to the voter – were observed in a number of ridings over the weekend. Check your ballot, and if there’s any kind of weirdness to it, return it and ask for a new one.

8 – You do not have to pre-register to vote.

While you will save yourself time if you’re already registered, you CAN register to vote at the polling station on Election Day. Just bring the identification you’ll need (described above) and ask to register. No big deal.

The right to vote is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Knowing our rights is the best first step towards defending them.

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#WhyNotMediate: Conflict Resolution Week starts Oct. 17

By Mediate BC 

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Take a look behind the scenes to understand how mediation works

Mediate BC is hosting BC’s second annual Conflict Resolution Week, October 17-24, 2015.

During the week of October 17-24, 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 Conflict Resolution Week 2015 theme is “Why Not Mediate?

#WhyNotMediate is the event’s official hashtag.

Mediation is a great option for many people because it’s private, has more flexibility in resolutions and typically is faster and less expensive than going to court. It saves people time, money and stress and allows them to get back to what’s important to them,” says Mediate BC’s CEO Monique Steensma. Steensma is supported by studies that show mediation to be an effective, affordable, timely and accessible option.

Check out free events in your local community.

Mediators invite you to take a “behind the scenes” look at the mediation process and what they do through a series of videos posted at mediatebc.com: Click here for the Behind the Scenes Videos

For questions and information contact: 1-877-656-1300 ext. 104 or training@mediatebc.com.

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Election Day is October 19th

election-l_eAre you registered to vote?

Check here. If you’re not registered, you can also sign up and/or update your address at that link by next Tuesday, October 13 at 6pm (local time).

Read about other ways you can register here – by mail, or in person.

Busy on the 19th? Vote in advance.

Advance Voting: Friday, October 9 to Monday, October 12, between noon to 8pm. Check your voter information card that was mailed to you for where to go to vote in advance. You can also find your advance polling address here.

Another option is to vote at any Elections Canada office or by mail. Read more about alternative voting options.

If voting in person, bring proper ID: e.g. your driver’s license. See other ID options.

What time can I vote on October 19?

Most of B.C. is on Pacific Time: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
For the pockets of B.C. on Mountain Time: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Is my employer required to give me time off to vote?

Yes, most of us are entitled to 3 consecutive hours to vote on the 19th if you don’t have 3 hours outside of work for voting. Your employer gets to decide when. Read more about time off and some exceptions.

Has my riding changed?

Canada is divided into 338 ridings. One representative, or member of Parliament (MP), is elected for each riding. See the list of candidates for your electoral district here.

Federal riding boundaries are adjusted every 10 years. Thirty new ridings were created in the latest readjustment in 2013, affecting this year’s election – there are six more seats for B.C.

Your riding/electoral district’s information will be included on your voter information card that you receive in the mail, or look it up here. Once you’ve searched, click on “Where do I vote?” to see your location-specific information (see the highlighted section below):

Where_Vote

Extra Help

  • The Canadian Bar Association asked leaders of the main political parties to share their vision of equal justice for all Canadians. See their answers here.
  • VPL has put together a guide designed to help you to find information on a variety of topics related to the current and past Canadian federal elections. It includes a list of recommended books and links to party leader debates.
  • Multilingual Help: S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Federal Election Hotline operates from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday, October 5 until October 19 (except Thanksgiving Day October 12, 2015). Individuals can call 604-408-7260 for key election information in English, Cantonese and Mandarin with a new call back service for Farsi-speaking citizens.
  • Contact Elections Canada for more info: 1-800-463-6868 toll-free in Canada and the U.S., every day from 4am to 9pm Pacific Time.
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Disability Disclosure in the Workplace

By Shelley Hourston
Disability Alliance BC

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DABC invites (1) people with disabilities/chronic illness and (2) employers, to share stories and experiences that illustrate disclosure and accommodation in the workplace.

I’ve been writing about resilience for about 20 years now—most of that time I’ve worked at Disability Alliance BC (DABC). I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to talk to countless people with disabilities or chronic illnesses about their experiences.

Each story is unique but the common thread that intrigues me is the extraordinary creativity, commitment and determination that carries people forward despite their challenges. Our society focuses so exclusively on perceived deficits of disability that problem-solving, creative thinking and tenacity are overlooked. The consequences of disability deficit thinking is especially serious in the employment arena. Our experience at DABC led us to explore the flip-side of disability deficit thinking in the form of a guide to disability disclosure and accommodation in the workplace.

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012, there were 334,800 individuals aged 15-64 with disabilities in BC (10.8%).* Statistics Canada reports that in 2011, the employment rate of Canadians aged 25-64 with disabilities was 49% compared with 79% for those without a disability.** In BC, the $800/month ($9,600/year) earnings exemption for a single person receiving disability benefits provides an opportunity for people with disability/chronic illness to supplement their income with part-time employment.

Thanks to support from the Law Foundation of BC, DABC is developing a reader-friendly guide on the law relating to disclosing disability in employment settings. Disclosing Your Disability: A Guide for People with Disabilities In BC is intended for people with all types of disabilities (including visible and invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses). Some people are able to work full-time with appropriate accommodation while others may be able to work part-time. Others may be employed but face a need for disclosure due to acquired disability or chronic illness. The guide will address legal rights and responsibilities of disclosure and provide practical activities and worksheets to guide readers through self-assessment and to elicit and document individual strengths. A reference list of sample accommodations and resources will equip potential employees and employers with ideas and a place to begin planning.

We’d like help from you too. The guide will include six experiences of people with disabilities/chronic illness and six stories from employers to illustrate disclosure and accommodation in the workplace. If you know of someone who would be willing to share their experience, please ask them to contact me.

Shelley Hourston is a program director at DABC and can be reached at 604-875-0188 (toll-free 1-877-232-7400) or Shelley@disabilityalliancebc.org.

*Statistics Canada. Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012. Table 1.11: Prevalence of Disability for Adults by Sex and Age Group, British Columbia, 2012. 

**Statistics Canada. Persons with Disabilities and Employment (Insights on Canadian Society) by Martin Turcotte. 2014.

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The Power of Attorney Project Podcast Feature: Law Reform – from a BC Perspective

What is the Power of Attorney Project?

two year technology-based project funded in part by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, that aims to educate adult children and seniors about Power of Attorney issues. In their Podcast series, legal, financial and social service experts share their knowledge and give individuals and families an opportunity to increase their understanding and to help them deal with some of the complex and difficult issues of aging.

The B.C. Perspective

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B.C.’s Representation Agreement Act inspired Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

One of Clicklaw’s core contributors, Joanne Taylor, Executive Director of Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry, was recently featured in a podcast. She explains B.C.’s unique legal tools that empower people in B.C. to plan for the future.

Nidus was founded by citizens and community groups who were involved in the community-based reform of British Columbia’s adult guardianship legislation. Nidus is currently the only community-based resource in Canada devoted to personal planning. Its existence sets British Columbia apart as a leader in addressing the critical needs of an aging population.

Nidus is the expert on Representation Agreements, which are a legal model for supported decision making.  B.C.’s Representation Agreement Act inspired Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2008) which calls on governments to implement legislation that ensures all adults receive support with decision making without the need to take away or restrict their rights. The Convention has been ratified by Canada.

Listen to the Podcast here. Conversation topics discussed include:

  1. What is Nidus?
  2. What is Nidus’s role?
  3. What legal documents are available in BC to plan for incapacity?
  4. Is it true that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities looked to the Representation Agreement Act of BC for inspiration when it was drafted?
  5. What is the Nidus Personal Planning Registry and could you give us an example of how families can use it?

Webinar-Icon-Orange1-300x281September is Personal Planning Month

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Invite for Newcomer Youth from Across Canada

2015 Youth Action Gathering Conference – Vancouver. B.C. – Oct. 3 & 4

The Canadian Council for Refugees, in partnership with Vancouver Foundation’s Fresh Voices Initiative and MOSAIC, invite newcomer youth from across Canada to participate in the 2015 Youth Action Gathering Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The gathering brings together young immigrant and refugee leaders to learn, share, network and collaborate on actions towards common challenges and experiences of newcomer youth communities.

It is also an engaging weekend of leadership and skills building, developing peer relationships and FUN!

WHO Should Participate?

Everyone is welcome to apply; however, space is limited and priority will be given to:

  • Racialized* immigrant and refugee youth
  • Those who can make a commitment to attend the full event
  • Immigrant & refugee youth from across Canada, aged 16 to 25 years
  • Youth settlement workers and allies

*We recognize that race is a social construct, people as “racialized immigrant person” or “racialized people” are immigrants who also belong to a “racial minority”, “visible minority”, or are seen as “people of colour” or “non-White” (adjusted from OHRC).

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