Waiting times in the justice system are increasing and have been a concern for many years.
For a Small Claims Court hearing, the average waiting times have increased significantly in recent years and now average 664 days, or just under two years. This represents a significant increase from the average waiting times of 305 days in 2017.
This court congestion increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the temporary suspension of many court hearings and proceedings, but also due to the lack of resources and personnel in the justice system, and the litigiousness of cases that could be resolved out of court.
Some disputes brought before the court therefore drag on for many months, even years, and are very costly.
This crisis also strongly affects the world of co-ownership, whereas a conflict in mediation or arbitration could be settled more quickly, sometimes in a few days or weeks.
With Bill 8 and the promotion of mediation and arbitration, it is hoped that waiting times for co-ownership and other civil matters will be reduced.
Bill 8, an Act «to improve justice efficiency and accessibility, in particular by promoting mediation and arbitration and by simplifying civil procedure in the Court of Québec» makes free mediation mandatory, and arbitration automatic, for cases under $5000. It was adopted by the National Assembly on March 15.
Mediation and arbitration are alternative methods of dispute resolution that allow parties to find a quick and effective solution to their dispute without the need to engage in lengthy and costly litigation. By promoting the use of these methods, Bill 8 will help co-owners and co-ownership syndicates to resolve disputes in a faster and less costly manner, which will be beneficial to all parties involved.
The Minister informed the Parliament that files under $5,000 represent more than 50% of the files filed in Small Claims Court and that the rate of agreement in mediation is more than 60%.
According to him, this would allow the cases to be settled within an estimated three to nine months.
The Act also aims to simplify civil procedure in the Court of Quebec and prohibits pre-trial examinations for cases under $50,000.
Another new feature: the bill will allow notaries having at least ten years’ practice to be appointed as judges to the Court of Quebec.
The Centre de médiation et d’arbitrage en copropriété (CMAC), which was launched last November and whose objective is to provide better access to justice for co-owners, managers and co-ownerships in Quebec, had submitted a brief to the National Assembly concerning this Bill 8.
The CMAC praised “the openness and boldness of the Minister of Justice in putting forward the necessary measures to improve justice efficiency and accessibility for all citizens, particularly by promoting mediation and arbitration.”
CMAC was supportive of this “mediation and arbitration” aspect: “since it is in line with what many Declarations of Co-ownership in Quebec have already provided for since 2016, namely that mediation and arbitration are mandatory for all disputes relating to the interpretation or application of the provisions of the Declaration of Co-ownership.”
Although this law is not directly relevant to co-ownership, by promoting the use of mediation and arbitration to resolve disputes, it will allow the parties involved in a dispute to find a quick and less costly solution without having to resort to a lengthy and costly legal procedure.
This should also help to relieve the civil courts of all cases involving co-ownership.
We have been talking about it for years in Quebec … the creation of a co-ownership administrative tribunal, as it exists in Ontario, would be another very good step towards accessibility to justice for co-owners and co-ownership syndicates. The Condominium Administrative Tribunal (CAT, Condominium Authority Tribunal) was created in Ontario in 2017.
This tribunal has a real expertise in co-ownership matters and deals with a variety of issues related to co-ownership, such as disputes or conflicts between co-owners and syndicates of co-ownership, claims for damages, disputes relating to condo fees and special assessments, and violations of co-ownership regulations…
The CAT is an online tribunal, designed to be a less expensive and more accessible judicial option for the parties involved. It offers a quick resolution to condominium disputes and is easily accessible in person, by phone or video conference. CAT has also developed an online dispute resolution system to help people resolve their disputes quickly, conveniently and affordably while encouraging everyone to work together.
Its creation was an important step in improving access to justice for co-owners and condominium syndicates in Ontario.
Quebec professionals in the co-ownership sector are unanimous that the creation of such an administrative tribunal for co-ownership in Quebec could help relieve the congestion of the civil courts by handling co-ownership cases more efficiently, more quickly, and by reducing costs.