Discussing Family Mediation on CKNW

Recently, the Provincial Government expanded the Notice to Mediate Regulations – Family, to the whole of B.C. If that sounds like Greek to you, in a nutshell there is a program in this province that allows a party involved in a lawsuit to compel the attendance of the other party at a mediation. Since 2007, parties to a family law action (that is, people who are divorcing and have started a court action) have been able to make use of this process, starting in Nanaimo, later expanding to Victoria and Vancouver, and this month, expanding further still to the entire province.

Following the government’s announcement, debate ensued surrounding the appropriateness of mediation in certain family contexts, such as circumstances of abuse, violence or significant power imbalance. In my role as Roster Manager at Mediate BC, I am responsible for appointing the mediators under this process. As a result, on Tuesday, I had the good fortune of being able to chat once again with Simi Sara on CKNW about some of these issues. 

Unfortunately the strictures of live radio didn’t allow for a full review of all of the safeguards in place under the Regulations to protect vulnerable parties (which is a probably a good thing, as I could wax poetic for hours – not necessarily great radio). I was able to note that the mediators must be Roster members, who all have training in family violence and managing power imbalances. I was also able to point out that individual pre-mediation meetings are mandatory, and are the best opportunity for the mediator to assess the appropriateness of proceeding with the mediation.

What we didn’t have time to cover was the fact that the mediations needn’t take place face to face – the Regulations allow for the mediator to decide the process. The parties might be in different rooms, with the mediator shuttling back and forth, they might meet by telephone, or by another electronic means, or the mediator might decide no meeting at all should take place, and the parties should communicate solely through the mediator.

Further, the mediator, at any time, can advise the Court that mediation is inappropriate, or if begun, should not continue. The parties themselves can also ask the Court to be excused for reasons of safety. Indeed, if a restraining Order exists, the Notice to Mediate Regulations do not even apply.

Even that’s just scratching the surface. So much to say, so little time… The point I was hoping to make was that the goal of interest groups and the mediation community is the same – the safe, effective resolution to the dispute in a way that most benefits the parties. Mediation is a fantastic tool for many, but not necessarily the right mechanism for all. In those cases, other, more appropriate resources should take its place.

If you’re interested in the full interview, you can find it at ; choose the 2:00 time slot on May 15 and click through to about the 32 minute mark.


Posted on May 18th, 2012 by Renee