July 01, 2020 The Big Ideas Issue

British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal

Innovative online system resolves thousands of legal disputes—usually without lawyers.

David J. Bilinsky
An illustration of two clasped hands that turn into a maze of pipes attached to several people's heads against a green background.

An illustration of two clasped hands that turn into a maze of pipes attached to several people's heads against a green background.

via Akindo / Digitalvision Vectors

Some changes are so slow, you don’t notice them, others are so fast, they don’t notice you. —Ashleigh Brilliant

On July 13, 2016, the legal world changed in a small but significant way when an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Tribunal started taking its first cases in British Columbia, Canada. BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) drew on prior private law examples such as eBay and PayPal’s ODR resolution platform. EBay was the proof of concept of ODR: By 2010, it was handling over 60 million disputes each year, most of which were fully resolved by the parties without any additional human intervention.

This development came after academics, scholars, the United Nations, universities, governments, private industry, lawyers and nonlawyers long debated the potential of using the power, reach and resources of the internet to settle legal disputes. This was the first time a government provided a mechanism for parties to settle a dispute in a totally online forum.

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