Online Dispute Resolution in BC – Got a strata dispute?

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3a | Part 3b

The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) team is looking for people to help beta-test their web-based Solution Explorer. As we mentioned in our Introduction to ODR in BC, the CRT will be an online tribunal opening in 2016. It will be accessible 24/7, and can be used by people to resolve their small claims and strata/condo disputes.

The first step in the CRT process is called the Solution Explorer, a self-help tool that helps diagnose the type of problem or dispute, provides helpful related information, self-help options and identifies a recommended next stage of the process.

Who Can Take Part?Older-couple-with-laptop

The CRT is looking specifically for a group of 8 to 10 people who are owners, tenants or occupants of a strata. Participants will be observed using the Solution Explorer to resolve real life strata disputes by CRT staff to see how it is used and how it can be made better.

What are the Requirements to Participate?

If you can attend a 30 minute appointment on either of these two dates below, look up the other requirements here on the CRT’s website, where you will find more information on how to get involved:

  • December 3, 2015 in downtown Victoria OR
  • December 7, 2015 in downtown Vancouver

To learn more about the CRT, visit their website.

Related Common Questions on Clicklaw:

Stay informed:

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An Introduction to BC Provincial Court Family Orders

This doesn’t need to be you.

In Provincial Court, you can get orders for: guardianship, parenting arrangements, child/spousal support, protection, and more.

See this page for general information and more resources on the BC Provincial Family Court process.

What is a court order?

An order is a statement of the court’s decision. It sets out what you and the other party (for example, you and your ex-spouse) must do.

Court orders must be prepared and filed, or “entered” into the Provincial Court Registry (click for locations).

Read the Legal Services Society (LSS) resource, “All about court orders” for more information about what kinds of court orders you can get, as well as options to pursue before the court makes a final order, to try and resolve as much of your case as possible without a formal court hearing.

Can I get a court order without a lawyer?


If you and the other party agree about what you want the court to order, you can apply for what’s called a “consent order” and may be able to get it without attending court.

  1. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will have the order typed and submit it to the Court. If you don’t have a lawyer, the other party’s lawyer will do this, but you should see a lawyer yourself to review the proposed order before you sign a document showing you consent to the order.
    • Click here to see where to find free or low cost legal advice on family law matters.
  2. Family Justice Counsellors can also help you with family orders.
    Family Justice Counsellors can help you with consent orders.
  3. If you don’t have a lawyer, another direct way to get a consent order is to meet with a Family Justice Counsellor (FJC) who can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court. FJCs work at Family Justice Centres located across BC; they provide free services for people of modest means. FJCs are specially trained to support families to reach agreement on issues of guardianship, parenting arrangements (including parental responsibilities and parenting time), contact and support. They can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court; including preparing the consent order and submitting it to the Court for you. They can also provide information and referrals, short-term counselling, mediation, help with various court forms, and more. In some communities, couples who separate must meet with a FJC before they are given a date to appear in court.
  4. As a last resort, if you cannot meet with a Family Justice Counsellor or get help from a lawyer, it is possible to prepare a consent order yourself. This LSS Resource with Tips on how to draft a consent order contains links to the BC Provincial Court’s website, where you can access a “Picklist” WORDdoc including standard Family Law Act (FLA) terms to help you draft the order. (To “draft” an order means to choose the wording and type it. See also: What does the FLA deal with?) However, both parties should talk to a lawyer to make sure they understand what they’re agreeing to before signing their consent.
    • “How to get a final family order in Provincial Court” explains what to do once you draft a consent order. If a judge approves your order, you won’t have to appear in a court room. However, if there are problems in the wording you choose or the information you provide, you may have to attend court to give the judge more information. This is why it’s so helpful to have a FJC or lawyer prepare and submit a consent order for you.

If, however, you and the other party ultimately don’t agree, you’ll go to court and the judge will make an order:


  • If both parties agree by the time you get to court you can ask the judge to make a consent order on the day of your first court appearance.
  • When you go to court, you can ask for a case conference where you and the other party will meet with a judge to discuss the issues. If you agree during the case conference, the judge can make a consent order there.
  • Your matter can be set for a hearing or trial or an interim application. The judge will make an order after considering evidence and submissions.

Who does the drafting in this case?

  • This does not mean that the judge types up the order that is filed at the registry. The Rules require the successful party’s lawyer to do that.
    • However, if you are successful and do not have a lawyer, the court clerk (registry staff) prepares the order unless the judge orders otherwise. For example, if the unsuccessful party has a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to draft the order.
    • If the other party’s lawyer will be preparing an order, ask the judge to permit you to approve its wording before the lawyer sends it to the Court.
  • Whether an order is submitted by a lawyer or prepared by the court registry, it will be checked by court staff and/or the judge to ensure it reflects what the judge said in court.

How should the court order be drafted, and why?

The order should clearly and precisely reflect the court’s decision. It should state who does what, to whom, when, and in some cases where or for how long.

It should be understandable even by someone who is unfamiliar with the case. This is because the court’s orders may need to be enforced by people who were not involved in the case.

Use the Picklists provided by the BC Provincial Court to draft better family orders.

Poor Example of a term in an order:

John Smith will pay child support of $800 a month.

  • There would be problems enforcing this order if John did not pay. It doesn’t say who he must pay or when, among other details missing.

Better Example of a term in an order:

John Smith will pay to Jane Smith the sum of $800 per month for the support of the children, May Smith born June 1, 2011 and Lee Smith born July 3, 2012, commencing on October 1st 2015 and continuing on the first day of each and every month thereafter, for as long as the children are eligible for support under the Family Law Act or until further Court order.

  • This wording from the “Picklist” on the Provincial Court website makes it clear who does what to whom, when, when the obligation starts, and when it ends. Use the standard wording of Family Law Act terms provided in the BC Provincial Court Picklists whenever possible; this also helps with faster processing at the Registry: Click here for the Picklist Word Doc.

If a lawyer is involved, they will use their notes of what the judge said to draft the order. If the judge gives written reasons for judgment after trial, the order will be prepared based on these written reasons – you can also order clerk’s notes or a transcript of the proceeding, although this can take some time and is expensive.

The order can be in the following forms (Click here to access forms):

  • Form 20 for consent orders (see what else you need to file – special requirements for applications of guardianship of children and child support),
  • Form 25 for protection orders;
  • Form 25.1 for restraining orders; and
  • Form 26 for all other orders.

Click for links to all the resources


Increasing BC Hydro rates drive request for an electricity affordability program for BC’s poor

BCPIAC represents low and fixed income people of BC in utility regulation matters, and works on strategic anti-poverty and social justice issues in BC courts and tribunals.

By Erin Pritchard
Staff Lawyer, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

In September 2015, BC Hydro filed a Rate Design Application (RDA) with the BC Utilities Commission (Commission). This means the Commission, BC Hydro and stakeholders will review rate structures (how BC Hydro charges customers for its services) and terms and conditions of service for residential, business and industrial customers.

In this proceeding, the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) will ask the Commission to implement rate relief, emergency bill assistance, and specific terms and conditions for low income BC Hydro ratepayers.

BC Hydro rates are increasingly unaffordable for low income customers

About 170,000 (10%) of BC Hydro’s residential customers are “low income”, meaning they are living at or below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO).  People living in poverty have a hard time paying for essential services such as electricity when their incomes are stagnant. Since electricity is essential to survival, energy bills can only be paid at the expense of competing household necessities, such as food and medicine.

“Since electricity is essential to survival, energy bills can only be paid at the expense of competing household necessities, such as food and medicine.”

BC Hydro residential electricity rates have increased by 47% in the last 10 years, and are on track to increase by another 10.5% in the next three years. Rates are projected to continue to rise significantly in future years as the government continues to order BC Hydro to build multi-billion dollar projects like the Site C dam without a full public review of those projects by the Commission. While rate caps are currently keeping BC Hydro rates artificially low, project expenditures will eventually be collected from ratepayers.

BC Hydro’s rate increases have far outpaced increases in provincial income and disability assistance rates and the BC general minimum wage over the same time period. Over the last 10 years, BC social assistance rates have only gone up by $100 or less (for a single person) and the BC general minimum wage by $2.45 an hour.

BC Hydro currently offers no rates or terms and conditions that specifically apply to low income customers.  It offers two programs to its low income customers:

  1. Energy Savings Kits that include a few energy saving products which, if fully installed, might save $30 per year, and
  2. In more limited cases, energy efficiency home upgrades through BC Hydro’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program. This program is not available to BC Hydro customers living in apartments.

While such energy efficiency programs are important, they are not a stand-alone response to low income customers’ increasing inability to afford their power bills – they are only one element of what must be a comprehensive low income bill affordability strategy.

What is BCPIAC doing to help?

In the RDA, BCPIAC will ask the Commission to order that BC Hydro:
Read more about how you can help


West Coast LEAF Report says BC can do better on Women’s Rights

This post introduces a newly added resource in the Reform & Research section of Clicklaw, the public window to legal reform and innovations in BC.

By Kendra Milnelogo_westcoastleaf
Director of Law Reform, West Coast LEAF

After an election campaign in which women’s equality became a rhetorical tool in a divisive attempt to instill fear and xenophobia in voters and control women’s religious choices, Canada has opted for a more hopeful federal government. But where does that leave women in BC?

We know the primary causes of women’s inequality: disproportionate financial insecurity due to unpaid caregiving and wage inequity, and violence, which undermines a woman’s ability to exercise her most basic rights. These are some of the fundamental drivers of women’s well-being and security, in addition to the ability to access assistance to enforce their legal rights. Many of the solutions to these issues fall totally or partially under the responsibility of provincial governments.

With that in mind, West Coast LEAF has released its seventh annual report card on women’s rights in BC. The report card assesses how well the BC government is complying with the obligations set out in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW, often described as an international bill of rights for women, was ratified by Canada in 1981. The focus of the report card is the provincial government, but it provides a useful framework to measure the potential impact of some of the platform promises of Canada’s new federal government. Below are some of the Liberal Party of Canada’s (LPC) campaign promises in areas particularly relevant to women’s equality and some key findings about the BC provincial government’s role and progress in those areas from this year’s CEDAW report card.

Continue reading West Coast LEAF Report says BC can do better on Women’s Rights


How Do I Get Married In British Columbia?

Photo courtesy of

In British Columbia, opposite and same-sex couples who are 19 years or older (with some exceptions) and are currently unmarried can marry. Although it is not difficult to get married in BC, there are a number of crucial steps that must be taken before, during and after the ceremony. Here is a quick checklist:

CheckboxApply for a marriage licence

You and your partner need a licence to get married in BC. To apply, one of you has to go in person with primary identification for both individuals (e.g. birth certificate, citizenship card) to a Vital Statistics Agency office. The license is ~$100 and is valid for three months.

CheckboxGet married in a religious or civil ceremony

You can choose either a religious or civil ceremony. The person performing the ceremony must be licensed under the B.C. Marriage Act

  • Not all religious officials are licensed. They must register with Vital Statistics.
  • For civil ceremonies, this person is known as a marriage commissioner. The base fee for a marriage commissioner is $78.75 and they may charge additional fees.
  • The marriage ceremony must be held in the presence of at least two witnesses, in addition to the marriage commissioner or religious official.

CheckboxWhere you cannot get married and who cannot marry you

“The City of Vancouver does not provide marriage licences or perform marriage ceremonies any longer”, says Brad, an information rep from City Hall who referred us to the BC Vital Statistics Agency. Nor can you get married inside a courtroom. Similarly, marriages are not performed by judges or judicial justices. As stated above, either a marriage commissioner or religious official conducts the ceremony.

CheckboxRegister the marriage

The marriage commissioner or religious official who conducts the ceremony will help you complete a Marriage Registration Form. This form must be sent, within 48 hours of the ceremony, to the Vital Statistics Agency for registration.

CheckboxFor more information

Details regarding how to get married in BC can be found at: JP Boyd on Family Law, CBA BC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts and BC’s Vital Statistics Agency.

Stay informed:

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New Study Supports the Wikibook Model of Public Legal Education

CRILF LogoBy Lorne Bertrand & Joanne Paetsch
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

Wikibooks are websites built on the MediaWiki platform, an open-source application that powers websites such as Wikipedia, Scholarpedia and the notorious WikiLeaks. Wikibooks are agile and highly adaptable, and are normally used to present large amounts of text from multiple authors in a digestible, easily accessible format. Clicklaw, a public legal education web resource run by Courthouse Libraries BC, has adapted the wikibook concept to provide plain language legal information to the public.

Unlike most MediaWiki websites that allow any user to add and revise content, Clicklaw Wikibooks use a unique development model in which potential contributors are screened by the Clicklaw Wikibooks team before being given editorial privileges. This collaborative approach allows several lawyers to contribute content and ensures that the task of maintaining and updating the material is not overly burdensome for any one individual.

In 2013, Clicklaw added JP Boyd on Family Law to its collection of wikibooks. The resource offers more than 120 webpages of substantive legal information, about 500 definitions of common legal words and phrases, links to hundreds of key government and non-government resources, and more than 100 downloadable forms for the British Columbia Supreme and Provincial Courts.

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released the findings of the first phase of its evaluation of JP Boyd on Family Law, conducted with funding from the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Courthouse Libraries BC. The evaluation used data from several sources to assess the use and usefulness of the wikibook, including: a pop-up survey completed by 546 users of the website; a follow-up survey of 142 users administered one week after completing the pop-up; and website traffic information generated by Google Analytics.

Continue reading New Study Supports the Wikibook Model of Public Legal Education


Know Your Rights for Election Day – October 19

logo_bcclaFurther to our earlier post on the upcoming Election, here is some more information provided via the BC Civil Liberties Association (a Clicklaw contributor organization) on their blog that we wanted to share:

It’s important that we all know our rights when it comes to voting, and what we can do if something goes wrong.

The so-called Fair Elections Act passed by the Conservatives last year changed many of the rules about what you need in order to vote. Here are a few things to remember:

1 – You do not need Photo I.D. to vote.

Some voters were told that they did – this is INCORRECT. If you present two pieces of ID, one of which contains your address, you are good to go. Neither one needs to include your picture. If you’re told you need photo ID on Election Day, ask to speak to the poll supervisor to clear up the confusion.

2 – If you have a Driver’s License or other government-issued I.D. with your: (i) name, (ii) address, and (iii) photo, that’s all you need to vote.

You do not need a second piece of ID if you have your driver’s license.

3 – There are all sorts of documents you can use as identification on Election Day.

These include: a library card, student ID card, a bill or bank statement, a label on a prescription container, a government cheque or cheque stub, and many other options. And it doesn’t even have to be the paper copy; an e-statement or invoice works too. For the full list of acceptable documentation, click here. Just make sure at least one piece has your address on it.

4 – If you don’t have anything with your current address on it, don’t despair!

Although the so-called Fair Elections Act eliminated vouching for identification purposes, it maintained (after much criticism and advocacy) a version of vouching for address. It’s called an Attestation of Residence. If you don’t have anything with your current address on it, someone can “vouch” for where you live as long as they:

        • Live in the same polling division as you
        • Have proof of their own identity and residence
        • Haven’t vouched for anyone else or been vouched for themselves.

While this is not an easy list to meet, a room mate, family member, or neighbour may be able to help – don’t be afraid to ask!

Additionally, Elections Canada has produced a Letter of Confirmation of Residence which can be used by voters who are 1) members of a First Nation band but don’t have a street address on their ID, such as those who live on reserve or 2) those who receive services from a shelter or soup kitchen, or live in a student residence or long-term care facility. Here’s the link to the letter: – get it signed by the administrator of the facility where you live and bring it, plus a second piece of ID with your name on it to the polls, and you’re set!

5 – Your Voter Identification Card (VIC) has no legal status, but you might want to bring it anyway.

This summer, the BCCLA intervened in a case brought by the Council of Canadians and Canadian Federation of Students challenging the Fair Elections Act. They were hoping to get an injunction to allow people to rely on their VIC as one of their pieces of ID, but were unsuccessful. So your VIC won’t count as ID on Election Day, but it may make it a bit faster and easier for people to identify which line-up to join. So bring it if you’ve got it.

6 – Your Sex, Gender Expression and the Sex Indicator on your I.D. and Voter Registration Documents do not affect your right to vote.

Check out this great resource from EGALE for more information for trans voters.

7 – Check your ballot!

Dirty ballots – meaning they already had marks on them when they were given to the voter – were observed in a number of ridings over the weekend. Check your ballot, and if there’s any kind of weirdness to it, return it and ask for a new one.

8 – You do not have to pre-register to vote.

While you will save yourself time if you’re already registered, you CAN register to vote at the polling station on Election Day. Just bring the identification you’ll need (described above) and ask to register. No big deal.

The right to vote is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Knowing our rights is the best first step towards defending them.


Help for people with family law issues who have to represent themselves in BC Supreme Court

By Winnifred Assmann and Nate Prosser
Legal Services Society2015-10-02 16-42-35_Prepare for your trial_ Family Law in BC

Representing yourself is intimidating. It’s also a scenario that is becoming
more common. To help people in this situation, the Legal Services Society has created a new set of online resources to help people navigate Supreme Court trials and hearings.

These include a new self-help guide on how to schedule and prepare for a Supreme Court trial, plus step-by-step guides to walk users through completing the forms required for Supreme Court trials and Chambers hearings. All these resources walk you through the trial process.

Stage 1: Before you schedule a trial

A new fact sheet – Discovery — Sharing information with the other party – explains what discovery is, why you want to share information, and other ways to get information, like a pre-trial examination of witnesses.

Stage 2: Prepare for your trial

How to schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial includes a timeline of significant deadlines and links to videos that set out the court process.

Accompanying this guide are two fact sheets, Making an offer to settle, which explains how to resolve your issue before going to court, and Present your evidence in Supreme Court, which explains the different types of evidence and how to present them.

Videos, produced with the help of People’s Law School, explain topics including: scheduling and preparing for a Supreme Court trial, giving testimonyquestioning a witness, and using documents during a trial.

Stage 3: At your trial and after

The new guide, How to draft a Supreme Court order, walks through how to draft a Supreme Court order if you’re a party in a family law case. To also help with this, LSS created samples of some of the most common court orders.

Other resources include: fact sheets on coping with the court process, tips for conducting your Supreme Court trial, and what happens at a Supreme Court trial. LSS also compiled sample questions that can be asked of witnesses at a Supreme Court trial.

Finally, a new video gives you an overview of Supreme Court, tells you what to bring, shows you the inside of a courtroom, and describes what everyone in the courtroom does.

Drafting affidavits

The final set of resources help you write an affidavit. This includes a self-help guide, samples, and tips.

Those are just some of the new resources LSS has made to help people representing themselves in a family trial in Supreme Court. A full list of links can be found starting at How to represent yourself in a Supreme Court family law trial on the Family Law in BC website.


We need & want your feedback.

We’ve just launched our Clicklaw Visitor Survey to find out more about the needs of Clicklaw users!

This will be our first user survey since Clicklaw went mobile-friendly – the survey will also be available to mobile users.

Click on the logo to visit Clicklaw now!

Visitors to will be prompted by a pop-up window, which asks them to answer a short 5-question survey about their visit. Those who complete the survey will get a chance to enter a draw for a $100 Visa Gift card!

To prevent being asked to fill out the survey again on repeat visits, a cookie will be stored on the user’s computer after they have completed the survey. This cookie can be deleted or cleared by the user to view the survey again. Multiple entries will not be counted.

The draw is open to BC residents, though staff and contractors of Courthouse Libraries BC and their immediate family will not be eligible to enter.

Stay tuned for news about the survey! Subscribe to our blog on the left-hand navigation and follow us on Twitter: @Clicklaw.


#WhyNotMediate: Conflict Resolution Week starts Oct. 17

By Mediate BC 

MBC-poster-letter-size generic
Take a look behind the scenes to understand how mediation works

Mediate BC is hosting BC’s second annual Conflict Resolution Week, October 17-24, 2015.

During the week of October 17-24, Mediate BC and its Roster mediators will be organizing events throughout the province to build awareness of healthy ways to resolve conflicts, including mediation.

The Conflict Resolution Week 2015 theme is “Why Not Mediate?

#WhyNotMediate is the event’s official hashtag.

Mediation is a great option for many people because it’s private, has more flexibility in resolutions and typically is faster and less expensive than going to court. It saves people time, money and stress and allows them to get back to what’s important to them,” says Mediate BC’s CEO Monique Steensma. Steensma is supported by studies that show mediation to be an effective, affordable, timely and accessible option.

Check out free events in your local community.

Mediators invite you to take a “behind the scenes” look at the mediation process and what they do through a series of videos posted at Click here for the Behind the Scenes Videos

For questions and information contact: 1-877-656-1300 ext. 104 or