We welcome a special guest post today from Monique Steensma, Manager of the Court Mediation Program of Mediate BC. Monique describes an exciting new Online Dispute Resolution / Mediation initiative available to small claims litigants at Robson Square Provincial Court in Vancouver. Feel free to pass this important information along to your colleagues and clients – anyone who has an active or potential small claims matter in that registry:
On-Line mediation has come to Robson Square Provincial Court through a pilot program (the “ODR Pilot”) being operated by the Court Mediation Program. The ODR Pilot was developed over the past 18 months in cooperation with the Office of the Chief Judge, Court Services Branch, the Dispute Resolution Office at the Ministry of Justice, the Justice Education Society and Mediate BC.
In early November, the ODR Pilot started to invite parties to applicable small claims cases in Rule 7.4 to apply to have their mandatory mediation conducted via the ODR process, instead of the standard process where parties attend an in-person session for two hours at the Courthouse.
In the first stage of the ODR Pilot, a mediator will work with the parties on a text-based platform where they can communicate, upload documents and images, and begin work on a potential agreement. In this stage, parties can participate anytime they like; the platform is available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and communications are asynchronous. All parties require is an internet connection and a computer, tablet or smart phone.
Cases can reach full settlement in the first stage, or may go to a second stage where parties meet with the mediator in a live web conference or teleconference to conclude the mediation. All cases settled in the ODR Pilot can use the same Court-enforceable Mediation Agreement that is used for in-person mediations.
Parties who settle their disputes using the ODR Pilot need never set foot in the Courthouse. Those who do not settle will proceed to trial conference, just as if they had attended an in-person mediation.
A small group of experienced Small Claims Mediators participated in a training program for the ODR Pilot and will be conducting these mediations: Neil Hain, Leanne Harder, Sharon Sutherland and Dan Williams.
ODR Pilot Program
[first published in Mediate BC’s Newsletter December 1, 2014]