Article for The Advocate by Managing Director Elsa Sardinha, May 2023 issue

Article for The Advocate by Managing Director Elsa Sardinha, May 2023 issue

Vancouver International Arbitration Centre (VanIAC) appoints Elsa Sardinha as Secretary General & Managing Director ahead of VanIAC-ICCA Conference on Energy Infrastructure Arbitration June 2, 2023 in Vancouver


By Elsa Sardinha

VanIAC Secretary-General & Managing Director


We live in an era of increasing trans-border and transnational transactions, which may involve multiple parties and generate complex contractual and commercial disputes in need of resolution. Against this backdrop, Vancouver remains a vibrant and attractive forum to facilitate the settlement of such disagreements, not least because of the rich breadth of available intellectual resources and the city’s access to the Asia-Pacific region. In this context, lying at the vanguard of transnational and domestic alternative dispute resolution (ADR), VanIAC offers an efficient and extremely appealing mechanism to achieve this objective, offering parties tailor-made dispute resolution options to cater to disputes of any size or complexity.


ICCA-VanIAC Energy Conference June 2, 2023


VanIAC will jointly be hosting a conference with the International Council on Commercial Arbitration on June 2, 2023 in Vancouver, titled ‘Energy Infrastructure Disputes and Arbitration: Today and Tomorrow’. This event will be co-chaired by Tina Cicchetti (Independent Arbitrator), Craig Chiasson (Borden Ladner Gervais LLP), and Joe McArthur (Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP). Registration is available on VanIAC’s website at It promises to be an excellent networking event, with practitioners, arbitrators, academics and energy industry leaders attending from Vancouver, across Canada, and all over the globe. Distinguished speakers include Lucy Reed, Laura Cundari, Doug Jones AO, Dr Ezra Jampole, Miguel Lópex Forastier, Chantal-Aimée Doerries KC, Raëd Fathallah, Constantine Partasides KC, Michelle MacPhee, Wesley Pang, Maria Chedid, RoseAnne Archibald, Alison FitzGerald, Jim Morrison, Vasuda Sinha, Abby Cohen Smutny, Ellis Ross, Jung Lee, Kate Brown de Vejar, Tina Cicchetti and Joe McArthur, KC, FCIArb. We will discuss how clean energy and climate change are transforming construction disputes, predict new substantive areas of dispute and procedural solutions in international energy arbitration, and debate fueling the future versus saving the planet with respect to the extraction of critical minerals required to power ‘clean’ technologies from electrical vehicles to wind turbines and solar panels. We will also discuss what scope there is, or should be, for third party interests to be taken into consideration in energy infrastructure disputes between commercial parties.

About VanIAC


For nearly 40 years, VanIAC has been the leading Canadian arbitral institution administering domestic arbitrations. VanIAC has complete knowledge of the arbitration process, and is now set to become one of the world’s leading arbitral institutions for international commercial arbitration. In July 2022, VanIAC amended its International Commercial Arbitration Rules and are state-of-the-art for efficient and effective arbitral practice. VanIAC’s Domestic Arbitration Rules were revised in 2020, which coincided with BC’s new Domestic Arbitration Act.


Vancouver offers a welcoming environment for international arbitration on the west coast of North America. With over 300 international and 90 US flight arrivals per week, including non-stop access to over 120 destinations, and a mere 20-minute train or taxi ride to downtown from YVR airport, Vancouver has also quickly become the premier gateway to the Asia-Pacific region. In recognition of Vancouver’s global appeal, VanIAC changed its name in 2020 (formerly, the British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre (BCICAC)). Vancouver’s thriving business and trade, along with its geographic and multi-cultural advantages, make it an ideal place for arbitration hearings. Vancouver’s downtown core is compact and walkable, with stunning ocean and mountain views.


VanIAC provides efficient, flexible and impartial administration of arbitration and other ADR proceedings, regardless of location, and under any system of law. VanIAC has access to experienced arbitrators, mediators, and experts from many jurisdictions, and with the widest range of expertise. The international nature of VanIAC’s services is reflected in the impressive list of arbitrators publicly available on its website. VanIAC’s dispute resolution services are available to all contracting parties, without any membership requirements.

In order to ensure cost-effective services, VanIAC’s administrative charges, and the fees charged by the tribunals it appoints, are not based on sums in issue. A commencement fee is payable with the Notice to Arbitrate and with any counterclaim, and thereafter, hourly rates are applied by the arbitrators and by VanIAC. For disputes <$250,000, Expedited Procedures are available which use flat fees. For example, the Fee Schedule for both Domestic Arbitration Rules and International Commercial Arbitration Rules, for expedited disputes <$100,000, VanIAC’s commencement fee is $682 and $5,000 to the arbitrator; if an oral hearing is held, an hourly rate of $450/hour to the arbitrator. Pursuant to VanIAC’s Domestic Rules, the tribunal has 30 days from the last written material, or within 45 days from the oral hearing, in which to render their final award. Under the International Rules, this cost-efficient procedure requires an award within 45 days.


VanIAC can also act as Designated Appointing Authority for a flat fee of $750 and select the arbitrator where the parties cannot agree on one, or where the parties wish from the outset that VanIAC appoint.


The advantages of utilizing VanIAC in a domestic or international dispute are manifold. A key benefit of resorting to this mechanism is that its procedures are more flexible than in domestic litigation, which remain firmly within the control of the parties in the arbitral context. Indeed, VanIAC offers a cost-efficient solution, as litigation is expensive: not only must lawyers’ fees be covered, but disbursements and court costs are to be taken into account, not to mention the demand on management time for prolonged discoveries and review of documents. As a result, the litigation process can be lengthy and costly from a business perspective, pending the final resolution of a dispute that could take years. VanIAC’s arbitral process thus provides a viable and attractive alternative to traditional litigation, ensuring speedy and effective dispute resolution while avoiding unnecessarily protracted disputes. The process under VanIAC’s rules is confidential, which is not the rule in traditional domestic litigation. In fact, the contrary is true in litigation. By contrast, the extent to which any publicity is granted in VanIAC’s arbitral process is entirely within the control of the parties and the arbitrator.


Moreover, as opposed to domestic litigation, in VanIAC’s arbitral process the parties are free to choose their own arbitrator(s), failing which the Centre has a list of panel members who are recommended to each side and who are selected on the basis of their expertise in the subject-matter of the dispute. If there is a failure of each side to select an arbitrator(s), under the Centre rules the arbitrator is then appointed by the Centre. Conversely, in domestic litigation, the parties have no say in appointing the decision-makers tasked with resolving their dispute, a mandate carried out by tenured judges, perhaps with no relevant subject-matter expertise for the purposes of the dispute at hand.


The Centre has a Panel of commercial arbitrators and mediators who range from judges to senior lawyers, accountants, appraisers, architects and engineers. The arbitrator has general jurisdiction over the proceedings and is(are) not bound by the Rules of Court, to allow the parties to present their respective positions to the neutral decisionmaker with equity and fairness. The arbitrator(s) must decide the dispute in accordance with the law governing the dispute, which is typically agreed in the parties’ agreement or, in some cases, determined by the arbitral tribunal. The award of the arbitrator(s) sitting in British Columbia must be made no later than 60 days after the closure of the arbitration hearings, thus avoiding delays. All of the above factors can help preserve a healthy and continuing commercial relationship between the parties, thereby enabling them to focus on the harmonious resumption of their business dealings without facing an overly contentious setting. By contrast, the proceedings are normally not as adversarial as those found in court.


VanIAC also administers domain name disputes through its Canadian International Internet Dispute Resolution Centre (CIIDRC).


About me

After 14 years developing my Canadian and international arbitration expertise in The Hague, London, Singapore, Washington DC, Paris, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, I am delighted to take the helm at VanIAC, in my hometown Vancouver, as Secretary-General and Managing Director. I was appointed to the role on 1 February 2023 by VanIAC’s esteemed Board of Directors, led by Joe McArthur FCIArb, along with Ludmila Herbst KC, Sarah McEachern, Jayde Wood, David Gruber FCIArb, Peter Senkpiel, Alexandra Mitretodis, Prof Bradford Morse, Joanne Luu, and Ken Duke.


As Legal Counsel at other leading arbitral institutions in London and The Hague, together with experience as both Tribunal Secretary to preeminent international arbitrators and as an Independent Arbitrator myself, I bring to VanIAC extensive dispute resolution experience and knowledge of arbitration procedure and practice. I have provided in-depth administrative and substantive assistance to tribunals and disputing parties in some of the world’s most complex commercial and investment disputes, concerning a range of legal systems and industries. I am familiar with the arbitral process under all the major arbitration rules and institutions. I have directly assisted in the appointment of arbitrators, and challenges to their independence and impartiality. My approach to arbitration is ‘one which reflects real-world industry-specific sensibilities, and an insider’s view of efficient and cost-effective arbitral process and decision-making. A properly managed arbitration—by arbitrators and arbitral institutions with strong substantive and managerial expertise, which treat both sides fairly while remaining decisive—is faster and less expensive than litigation, and provides confidentiality, a bespoke and largely party-driven timeline, and a binding and enforceable final award.’ I also bring to VanIAC a wide network of key contacts in law, government, and business which will be instrumental in raising awareness of VanIAC and confidence in the quality of its appointed arbitrators and case administration services.


I’m listed on several prestigious arbitrator rosters, including the EU’s pool of Arbitrators & Trade and Sustainable Development Experts, the Canada-US-Mexico (CUSMA) Chapter 10 trade remedies binational dispute settlement panels, and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) reserve panel. I am finishing a PhD in international arbitration at McGill University, which explores the prospects and limits of non-disputing State party submissions in the context of investor-State arbitral proceedings. I also hold an Advanced Master of Laws in Public International Law & International Arbitration from Leiden University, a law degree from the University of Windsor, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of British Columbia. I also assisted Christopher Thomas KC and Lucy Reed with the 10-day Singapore International Arbitration Academy. In addition to having presented my sole-authored policy and legal analysis papers at dozens of international arbitration conferences, I have several publications in legal journals, including in the ICSID Review, The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, the Canadian Yearbook of International Law, Routledge’s International Economic Law Series, and The Handbook on International Investment Law and Policy.


I began my legal career as a Litigation Associate at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Vancouver after clerking at Canada’s second highest appellate court, the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Toronto. I am delighted to be able to contribute to the success of both Vancouver’s and Canada’s legal communities in this exciting new role.


The Promotion of Domestic and International Commercial Arbitration in Vancouver


It has been a busy past four months for VanIAC’s educational outreach and marketing efforts. VanIAC recently participated in the following initiatives which promote domestic and international commercial arbitration:

·       On May 5, I was interviewed by Young Arbitral Women Practitioners (YAWP) for their series ‘Meet the Arbitral Institution.’

·       On April 26, I gave a presentation at a full-day BC CLE webinar focused on effective Indigenous business development: ‘An introduction to domestic commercial arbitration in BC as an alternative to courts, VanIAC’s model arbitration clause for the dispute resolution provision of any commercial contract (tailored to include culturally relevant traditions such as opening/closing ceremonies, hearings on Indigenous lands, or whatever elements are important to a particular Indigenous party), and careers in arbitration for Indigenous lawyers in BC, across Canada, and abroad.’

·       March 13-17, I participated in the California Arbitration Week in Los Angeles.

·       On March 1, I moderated a webinar discussion on ‘Efficient International Commercial Arbitration’, featuring VanIAC Board Directors Ludmila Herbst KC and Alexandra Mitretodis, and California arbitrators Dan Welch and Thomas Hanrahan.

·       On 26 January, I attend the ‘Economic Outlook Forum 2023’, hosted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and Scotiabank.


Please visit and our LinkedIn page for more information about upcoming events, such my talk on arbitration at the Aboriginal Law Forum Retreat on June 23-25 at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort in Parksville, BC.


Leave a Reply