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Canadian Online Arbitration and Applicable Law

Thursday, August, 25, 2011

Online arbitration is not a new phenomenon, but the increasing pace of technology has led some industry observers to question the interaction between existing law and remote arbitration technologies that exist now or may be developed in the future.  In Canada, the Uniform Arbitration Act of 1990 controls most arbitration procedures in six provinces, with British Columbia following its own similar statute.  What is at issue, however, is the application of those statues to situations in which a human arbitration attorney may play a diminishing role.


Online Arbitration: The Technological Challenge


Most industry experts believe that when online arbitration still involves humans who are interacting at a distance instead of in proximity, Canadian laws would fully apply – though there might be some jurisdictional issues if one party to the dispute is located in a province that has not signed on to the UAA of 1990.  The real challenge to the laws begins when, for example, a real estate arbitration award is awarded by a computer rather than a human being. 


At heart in this question is the role of Canadian courts.  Like U.S. courts, they are bound by law to uphold and enforce arbitration awards.  This principle is based on the idea that a reasoning human being has issued the award after careful consideration of all relevant facts and circumstances.  If the award is instead calculated by a thinking machine or computer, it is less clear that the courts should grant it such deference.