Vancouver International Arbitration Centre
British Columbia’s new
1 September 2020
VANCOUVER – Significant changes are taking place today in the legal world, with an updated Arbitration Act and rules coming into force, as well as the renaming of a well-known 34 year-old arbitration centre.
The newly-named Vancouver International Arbitration Centre (VanIAC) – formerly the BC International Commercial Arbitration Centre, which was established in 1986 – is the designated appointing authority under the new Arbitration Act. It will have the power to quickly appoint arbitrators when parties cannot agree on a decision-maker, and to resolve any fees disputes between arbitrators and parties without going to court. VanIAC has new domestic arbitration rules designed to supplement the new Arbitration Act and ensure orderly resolution of arbitration disputes.
“This new legislation keeps British Columbia in the vanguard of jurisdictions supporting arbitration throughout the world,” said Leslie Maerov, Governing Director and Chair of VanIAC. “And in turn, VanIAC is increasing its prominence as an integral part of the justice system to achieve a just, speedy and economical determination of disputes. As for our new name, we found the name ‘Vancouver’ is better known internationally than the name of our province. The 2010 Olympic Games and other events have raised the profile British Columbia’s biggest city, and we are building on that recognition as we continue to promote our services on the world stage.”
The updated Arbitration Act, passed by the British Columbia legislature during the spring session, modernizes the domestic arbitration system. The changes are based on a United Nations arbitration model that has been adopted by many other jurisdictions. Important changes include strengthened confidentiality, broad procedural powers to ensure just, speedy and economical dispute resolution, long with simpler and faster appeals. Parties can agree to opt out of appeals altogether.
“With the Courts being busier than ever due to COVID-19 backlogs and delays, interest in alternatives to traditional litigation to resolve disputes has never been greater,” says Barry Penner, QC, Managing Director of VanIAC. “For almost 35 years, we have been a trusted alternative to the court system. To complement the new Arbitration Act, VanIAC has developed updated procedural rules for arbitrations administered by VanIAC to ensure greater clarity and efficiency, including an expedited process for claims under $250,000. These new rules offer greater access to the benefits of arbitration to a wider variety of claims.”
Chief Justice Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court has previously stated courts are facing a formidable challenge in playing “catch-up” with cases which have been adjourned due to COVID-19, including 2,400 civil matters, 1,000 family law matters and 600 criminal cases.
“There is a need to provide business and individuals with a variety of options outside of court, and the new Arbitration Act, along with the new procedural rules adopted by VanIAC makes arbitration an even more attractive alternative,” noted Penner. “We look forward to fulfilling our new legislative responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner.”
While matters dealt with in Court are generally open to the public, arbitrations are typically kept private which can be helpful for businesses operating in a competitive environment. Parties to an arbitration can shape the process themselves, including choosing the procedural rules and selecting a knowledgeable arbitrator, who can in essence serve as a private judge.
Arbitration is different than mediation. While mediation involves a neutral third party who can help resolve a dispute by making recommendations, arbitrators have the authority to make decisions which are binding on the parties. VanIAC maintains a roster of pre-approved arbitrators and mediators with expertise relevant to many different areas of business, such as the construction and energy industry.
The Arbitration Act, which covers domestic commercial disputes, is one of two arbitration statutes in B.C. The other is the International Commercial Arbitration Act which applies if one of the parties is based in a jurisdiction outside Canada. The new Arbitration Act can be found here: www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/5th-session/bills/third-reading/gov07-3
Arbitration proceedings offer the flexibility to accommodate social distancing measures without suspending resolution of disputes. Hearings can and have been conducted by teleconference, videoconference or in writing. Parties considering submitting pending litigation matters to arbitration have the ability to preserve appeal rights. VanIAC’s domestic commercial rules offer the ability to opt into an appeal process internal to VanIAC. Alternatively, parties may agree in their arbitration agreement to preserve the appeal rights they would have had if the dispute had been litigated.