On March 19, 2020, the Provincial and Supreme Court of BC have suspended all regular operations, with the exception of certain urgent small claims, family and criminal matters. The Court of Appeal similarly suspended all matters on March 18, 2020. Updated notices by the BC Provincial court can be found here, notices by the BC Supreme Court can be found here and notices by the Court of Appeal can be found here.
Although the courts are not operational, save for limited, urgent issues, there are other ways for individuals to sort out conflicts amongst themselves. Mediations and arbitrations remain effective and viable options during the pandemic. Many mediators and arbitrators are also able to conduct mediations and arbitrations remotely.
If you have a family law matter, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a Family Justice Counsellor. These are free counsellors that offer counselling services for individuals going through a separation or divorce. Family Justice Counsellor’s can be found throughout British Columbia. Contact information for Family Justice Centers and Family Justice Counsellors can be found here.
Disputes in other areas can also be solved by mediation. Mediators are people trained to help parties involved in a dispute to work together and find a solution that works for everyone. MediateBC has a roster of mediators that are trained in various areas of mediation, such as civil, family or child protection matters. MediateBC has also set up an unique Quarantine Conflict Resolution Services to assist people in dealing with conflicts arising out of isolation due to COVID-19.
Arbitrations are somewhat different from mediators or counsellors. Arbitrators are like private judges and can make binding decisions, much like a judge. Arbitration is not as collaborative as mediation or counselling but arbitrators will sometimes use a combination of meditative and collaborative process to come to their decision. Arbitrators can be used in a variety of legal conflicts such as family, civil or commercial disputes. You can find more information about arbitration at the ADR Institute of BC.