On February 19, 2020, the British Columbia (BC) government introduced Bill 7 – 2020: Arbitration Act (the “New Act”) to redefine and modernize arbitration proceedings in BC. By way of Order in Council, these changes will come into force on September 1, 2020, at which time the current Arbitration Act (the “Old Act”) will be repealed.
Key Changes in the New Act
The New Act consists of numerous revisions which simplify the arbitration process and provide both clarity and predictability to arbitrations in British Columbia. Some of the significant changes made in the New Act include:
- Clear Procedures for Commencing Arbitral Proceedings
If parties previously agreed on how to commence an arbitration, the New Act requires them to adhere to their agreement. If the parties have not agreed on how their arbitral proceeding will commence, the New Act will provide a clear procedure for them.
The new Act will allow parties to send one of several types of notices to another party, including notice that an arbitrator has been appointed, notice requesting the other party participate in appointing an arbitrator or notice demanding arbitration (Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2, s. 8).
- Appeal Rights to the British Columbia Court of Appeal
A significant change to the new Act deals with the arbitral appeal process. The new act changes the jurisdiction to grant leave to appeal an arbitral award from the British Columbia Supreme Court to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Leave must be sought by the parties within 30 days of the award, as opposed to the 60 day period provided under the Old Act (Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2, s. 59-60).
Under the New Act, unless agreed upon by the parties, proceedings will be conducted in private and kept confidential. As a result, both the parties and arbitrator are prohibited from disclosing information about the proceedings, evidence, documents, or the award (Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2, s. 63).
- Interim Measures and Preliminary Orders
Under the New Act, there is now a clear process for obtaining and enforcing interim measures and preliminary orders. Parties may request specific orders as interim measures, such as orders for the provision of security for costs, preservation of assets and preservation of evidence.
The New Act also grants a specific regime under which parties may request interim measures as a preliminary order. The arbitrator may allow a request if disclosure of the request risks frustrating the purpose of the interim measure. (Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2, s. 41-43).
- Enforcement of Arbitral Awards from Other Provinces
Parties will now be able to apply to the BC Supreme Court to recognize and enforce arbitral awards made in another Canadian jurisdiction (Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2, s. 61).
Being aware of the changes made under the New Act is essential if you are considering arbitration as your dispute resolution process. The lawyers at Sodagar & Co. can use their extensive experience and knowledge to assist you in determining whether arbitration is right for you.