Year of establishment
Scope of service
Condominium, small claims, non-profit and motor vehicle personal injury disputes.
British Columbia, Canada
Authorised under the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal Act (part of the government)
Number of affiliated staff members
Number of cases resolved
Approximately 5,000 per year
According to the Participant Satisfaction Survey (2021), 80% felt the CRT’s online services weren’t difficult to use, 89% agreed the CRT provided information that prepared them for dispute resolution, 84% felt their CRT dispute was handled in a timely manner, 91% felt the CRT treated them fairly throughout the process. For more information, see the section on ‘Impact.
Costs of services for citizens (average and range)
$125 filing fee, further $100 fee if adjudication is necessary. Fee waiver for people with a low income.
Average processing time
Median small claims time to resolution is 57 days
$15 million CAD
The British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), formed in 2016, is the first online administrative tribunal in Canada and one of the first of its kind in the world. It is part of the formal justice system, and can resolve condominium, small claims, non-profit and vehicle accident disputes. Modelled on some of the private online dispute resolution platforms, for instance those of eBay or PayPal, the vision for the platform evolved to provide multi-channel service, with a focus on access to justice for vulnerable people.
The BC Civil Resolution Tribunal was set up in response to the dissatisfaction that the owners of condominiums in British Columbia expressed with respect to the time, expense, and complexity of resolving their minor disputes at the BC Supreme Court. So the Ministry of Justice in British Columbia developed the idea of the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal as a more accessible way to resolve everyday disputes between citizens.
The process of developing the one stop shop dispute resolution platform included the Ministry of Justice, technology partner PricewaterhouseCoopers, a business analyst, a user experience expert and initial team that was leading the development of this platform. Together, the team used an agile development process which created room to do extensive user testing between sprints. The prototype was primarily tested with advocates who represent the most marginalised sections of society, including people who don’t speak English as a first language, new immigrants to Canada, people with physical or cognitive impairments, people with mental health issues, people with a low income, and others.
After that, the prototype was tested with everyday people and lawyers to ensure that the legal information that this prototype provides to people was correct. Because the technical aspects of the platform were also being developed at the same time, these two processes of user testing and technical development were able to integrate seamlessly.
The team always explores opportunities to improve services provided by the platform through private software providers. Much of the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal is based on Microsoft 365 and other everyday computer applications. Off the shelf software, including Salesforce has been integrated to run the technical process smoothly.
In addition to the survey, BC Civil Resolution Tribunal recently created short videos using fictional characters to show the user journey. One video gives information about ‘How to make a claim with BC Civil Resolution Tribunal’ and another on Accident Benefit.
The BC Civil Resolution Tribunal offers support to users in all stages of dispute resolution that the users are likely to experience. The first stage in the system is a free expert system called the Solution Explorer, which offers users free legal information and tools to resolve their problems. If the users need additional help, they can file an application for dispute resolution on the platform. As a starting point, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal serves one of the parties in the dispute, and at the appropriate time, both parties are invited to negotiate. If the parties can resolve their dispute at the negotiation phase, it is turned into a binding court order.
Many disputing parties need additional help, which is when a mediator steps in and helps them in reaching an agreement. If mediation fails, as a last resort, one of the tribunal members from the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal makes a binding decision based on the evidence and submissions.
While the Solution Explorer and application form are online, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal also has a human component in much of its services. This includes the intake staff, the mediators who work with the parties to achieve settlement, and the tribunal members who resolve disputes if that is unsuccessful.
Much of the focus of the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal is on providing the users with choices about where, when and how to resolve their disputes. It also emphasises on collaborative dispute resolution.
The decisions and orders of the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal are electronically validated and emailed to the parties, unless they’ve requested a mailed copy. They then need to take the order to a court registry or other government agency in order to enforce it.
The BC Civil Resolution Tribunal collects feedback from users via surveys. So far, the feedback on the services provided has been quite positive. According to the Participant Satisfaction Survey (2021),
One of the users of the platform expressed his satisfaction with the services offered by the platform saying “BC Civil Resolution Tribunal provided an easy and user friendly process to get the dispute resolved.” Another user remarked that there is no need to involve lawyers and that the services provided are affordable.
The BC Civil Resolution Tribunal Act was created by the British Columbia Ministry of Justice, in response to a strong need in the condominium community for an accessible resolution method for everyday neighbour disputes. Because the platform was set up by the government itself, it did not encounter any regulatory barriers. It has exclusive jurisdiction over condominium, small claims and motor vehicle disputes disputes and the discretion to determine the method of hearing, among other procedural issues.
The platform coordinates with the courts to make sure they are aware of the format of the orders and understand how to make sure they are authentic. If users want to go directly to court without going through BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, there is a process in the legislation by which a person can apply to the court for an exemption, but this is almost never used.
The team at the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal initially used Google Ads to direct people with particular dispute types to the platform’s website, but that now happens organically as search engine rankings are optimised. Apart from Google Ads, the team also did a lot of outreach with community organisations, paid media, and community advocates.
The BC Civil Resolution Tribunal has scaled considerably over the last five years, gaining a new area of jurisdiction almost every year. Using the same general process and software, the platform has seamlessly scaled up by adding staff in proportion to new dispute volumes. The government’s decision to expand the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal’s jurisdiction to include new dispute areas was directly related to the tribunal’s success (reported monthly in participant satisfaction surveys) in providing accessible, understandable, timely, affordable, and fair access to justice.
As a public sector body, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal has faced challenges in receiving public funds that can be challenging in the current fiscal environment. Having said that, factors that help the platform in attracting funds are participant satisfaction, detailed data on case volumes and cost per case, as well as being able to demonstrate responsible use of taxpayer funds by operating a paperless, small footprint, remote operation.
Apart from receiving funds from the government, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal also charges an application fee to users. Because the platform’s aim is to keep its services affordable, the fee exemptions have been decided upon after conducting consultations with community legal advocates.
Lessons that can be taken from the experience of setting up BC Civil Resolution Tribunal are:
The factors has helped the BC Civil Resolution in scaling and improving its service delivery model are:
This case has been developed by Shannon Salter with suggestions from the HiiL team.
Salter, S. (2017). Online Dispute Resolution and justice system integration: British Columbia’s BC Civil Resolution Tribunal. Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice / Recueil annuel de Windsor d’accès à la justice, 34(1), 112–129.
BC Civil Resolution Tribunal (2021). Participant Satisfaction Survey, (blog).