May 28, 2015

Back in 1991, when the Arbitration Act was introduced

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Going back to Hansard transcripts, here’s what the government said when it introduced the Arbitration Act, 1991:



Hon Mr Hampton: One of the commitments this government has made to the people of Ontario is to improve access to justice in the province. The fulfilment of this commitment will involve a wide range of programs and policies. It will also include initiatives in law reform to simplify the often intimidating legal system for the use of the public.

In this context I will be introducing today for first reading the Arbitration Act, 1991. Arbitration is a good and accessible method of seeking resolution for many kinds of disputes. It can be more expedient and less costly than going to court. The parties can design their own procedures and select appropriate arbitrators.

The new statute will make it easier for people to submit private disputes to resolution by arbitration. It will do so in several ways:

First, when people have agreed to go to arbitration, the act will help ensure that all parties abide by this agreement.

Second, the ability of the courts to intervene in an arbitration is spelled out precisely, and as a result, the role of the courts will be constructive and less likely to be used by reluctant parties to delay the proceedings.

Third, the parties are given much freedom to design the procedures that suit them best. However, the act also sets out procedures to be followed if the parties do not choose their own and gives the arbitrator the power to bring the arbitration through to its conclusion.

Fourth, the enforcement of the arbitral award is made more certain and less dependent on the discretion of the court. Enforcement of all awards from other provinces is enhanced as well.

The new act is substantially the same as a uniform statute adopted in 1990 by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. It is also related to Bill 226, introduced by the former government last year. We appreciate the groundwork laid by the former Attorney General in this area. Changes have been made to the new legislation to reflect comments received on Bill 226. The former bill said an arbitrator could become a mediator or conciliator and still resume the role of arbitrator with consent of the parties if those methods failed. To avoid an appearance of unfairness, this rule has been changed in the current legislation. If arbitrators engage in mediation or conciliation, they may not return to arbitrating on the failure of the other methods.

By passing this act, Ontario will be promoting consistent legislation across the country on the subject, as urged by the Canadian Bar Association and the Arbitration and Mediation Institute of Canada. I expect other provinces to follow our lead in this direction.

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