The managing director of VanIAC speaks about the strategic advantages of arbitration and mediation
The Vancouver International Arbitration Center (VanIAC) was recognized as one of the Top 10 Arbitration Chambers by Canadian Lawyer magazine this year. Barry Penner, VanIAC’s managing director, says in a recent interview that the award represents the collective efforts of the center’s board of directors and its roster of experienced arbitrators.
VanIAC offers arbitration and mediation services, as well as a combination of both. Penner says that 2020 has been a record-breaking year for VanIAC due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted people to look for alternatives while courts were closed during lockdowns.
“We had our most successful year ever last year. But even without the COVID pandemic conundrum that’s confronting the courts, we know that the Canadian court system is fairly notorious for being slow, whereas arbitration can proceed fairly quickly and you can get your matter resolved in an expeditious time frame with a fair degree of certainty about when it will be concluded,” Penner says. He adds that the strategic advantages of arbitration and mediation are speed because the process can last for less than a year; confidentiality because the procedures are outside the public court system; and reduced cost due to the faster resolution of cases.
“I strongly recommend that parties, when they’re drafting agreements, when talking about who’s going to sell what to whom and for how much and when, that, also think about [an] unfortunate possibility – which does happen all too often – where a disagreement arises. And that means [parties need] a dispute clause that references arbitration, otherwise [they will] likely end up in court if there is a dispute rather than staying out of court, keeping the matter confidential and having it happen on a quicker time frame. So, we recommend an arbitration clause, and we have standard wording that [clients] can select from or point their solicitors to on our website, vaniac.org,” he says.
Penner says that having an alternative internal appeal process serves as a form of quality control that contributes to the maintenance of justice in the country. An innovation introduced by VanIAC is the creation of an expedited procedure for claims under $250,000, where a fixed fee is paid to the arbitrator so that the parties involved are aware of the exact cost.
“This has actually attracted quite a bit of attention since we introduced it in September 2020. I think it’s an innovation that will serve us well,” he says.