What Is ODR? And Should It Be Part of The Ontario Justice System?

In Canada, there is a push to establish ODR. Although there can be a variety of frameworks, this technique of conflict resolution typically uses mediators or arbitrators as well as other resources that are accessible online and frequently available 24/7.

ODR aspires to provide a quick and affordable substitute for going to court for some forms of litigation. British Columbia, for example, is already operating a trial project to adopt ODR procedures in conjunction with resolving some of that province’s Small Claims matters. Such matters that the pilot project more precisely addresses includes:

  • Consumer agreement with a maximum liability or debt owed of $25,000
  • Recovery of personal property
  • Specific performance of a contract involving personal property or services
  • Certain disputes between or involving strata condominium owners

This pilot project also entails the establishment of a Civil Resolution Tribunal with a sizable ODR component. It would include the Tribunal handling particular types of conflicts and giving the parties information that could even prevent problems from occurring entirely. If negotiations fail, such matters can be brought before mediation and failing that, the matter can be then heard before an arbitrator. While the mediator would be allowed to contract the parties online and initiate negotiating services through that medium, the ODR component would be restricted to the negotiation process alone. Additionally, a web-based negotiating tool with templates and other bargaining tools would be available to the parties remotely.

A variation of the ODR model has previously been effectively used in other regions of the world, most prominently in the U.K. and Australia. Other countries and Canadian provinces are also taking it into consideration, including Belgium, Luxembourg, and Quebec. Meanwhile, the Ontario government has lagged in implementing such a process. As a result, it could be denying the judicial system of a lot of potential advantages. One of the benefits of the British Columbia initiative is that it anticipates employing ODR to speed up dispute resolution compared to the 12 to 18 months it presently takes for a matter to proceed through Small Claims Court in that province. Individual litigants might thus take advantage of a quicker and possibly less expensive approach to settle their smaller disputes. Additionally, it goes without saying that the taxpayer may potentially save some money if there are fewer litigants cluttering up the courts.