ADR Institute of Ontario supports government plan to expand mandatory mediation program

Expansion to generate work openings for mediators: ADRIO

ADR Institute of Ontario supports government plan to expand mandatory mediation program

The ADR Institute of Ontario (ADRIO) has publicly announced its response to the Attorney General of Ontario’s request for input on potential legislative changes to the mandatory mediation program in the province.

In its written submission, ADRIO backed the government’s plan to expand and apply mandatory mediation throughout the province to improve the early resolution of civil disputes and increase access to justice in civil proceedings.

“Given the backlog in the courts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding mandatory mediation across Ontario would be particularly timely and necessary in facilitating the resolution of civil disputes within reasonable timeframes,” ADRIO wrote.

ADRIO added that the expansion would have positive financial implications in reducing the costs for court processes and generating work opportunities for mediators.

But ADRIO noted that the government need not mandate mediation before filing an action with the court since “there are too many unknowns at such an early stage.”

“Also, making mediations mandatory before filing an action with the court would take mediations out of the judicial stream and court process, and there are no clear benefits for doing that,” ADRIO said.

In terms of maintaining access to justice for those unable to afford mediation fees, ADRIO suggested the attorney general team up with law schools and colleges providing paralegal and ADR programs to offer field placements.

ADRIO also revealed that the current mediation rosters are not adequately supporting mandatory mediation program for the following reasons:

  • The number of mediators on the rosters has been declining over the years;
  • There is no mechanism for mediators to be evaluated and provide input to the program as participants;
  •  There is no mechanism for users of the program to provide feedback;
  • Awareness of the program is still limited, particularly for people who are self-represented;
  • The rosters need to be more reflective of Ontario’s diverse population.

ADRIO writes that there need to be strategies to improve the rosters by retaining existing mediators and attracting new ones. Some of ADRIO’s recommendations include improving the fee structure with a graduated scale incremental to the years of experience of the mediators and providing lists of mediators who possess a minimum level of training and experience to assist parties in choosing a mediator.

To make mandatory mediation more affordable for litigants, ADRIO proposed adequate resourcing for the program’s administration to keep up with demand. It also suggested education for the public about the mediation process, the role of mediators, and the types of mediation offered.

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