One month since A2J Triple Aim: Let’s show mediators are walking the walk!

During the event, and shortly after, a flurry of press releases and news articles were published by Vancouver SunThe Lawyer’s Dailyand Slaw, to name a few (a full list can be found at the bottom of this blog post).
 
Ian Mulgrew of Vancouver Sun commended the efforts of the A2J Triple Aim for providing a measurement framework for improving population access to justice, user experience, and costs, but made an all too familiar criticism: “Slogans aside… neither B.C. nor any other jurisdiction seems to be doing a very good job at finding a remedy for this [Access to Justice] disaster that has been a generation in the making.”
 
Mulgrew’s criticism has a point. Evidence is mounting that B.C. is in an Access to Justice crisis, which is precisely why a unifying measurement and goal-setting framework like the A2J Triple Aim is an important step in the right direction; and we believe mediation and collaborative dispute resolution practices are critical parts of the suite of A2J options.

How Mediators “Walk the Walk”

Mediation is, at its core, an access to justice process. Any successful mediation, regardless of a client’s socio-economic status, can increase end-user satisfaction and free up court resources for issues needing judges’ expertise. So long as quality is maintained, mediation is an inevitable improvement to the justice system and a major step to fulfilling at least part of the Triple Aim.
 
In addition to this inherent contribution, tons of you are also passionately going the extra mile and making your services accessible to various populations. Some offer intentionally low rates and others offer pro or low bono services, sliding scale or legal aid mediations. We know many of you are also out there volunteering to raise public awareness and provide resources to those in need. 
 
Finally, as an organization, Mediate BC currently supports several of the components of the Triple Aim (see them listed at the bottom this blog post).  
 
To show mediators are willing to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk,” or to at least gauge how you feel, we would like to hear your thoughts and stories about access to justice. We know mediators are making huge contributions in B.C. and want to be able to back that up with some evidence.
 
We’ve compiled a short 5-question survey. The questions are:
 
1) How important is Access to Justice (A2J) to your collaborative dispute resolution practice? (multiple choice answer)
 
2) What does Access to Justice mean to you as a practitioner(text) 
 
3) What are some key ways you improve access to justice in BC according to the three elements of the A2JBC Triple Aim measurement framework (page 9)? (text)
 
4) What more would you like to see Mediate BC doing to take action? (text)
 
5) Are you a mediator or med-arb practitioner?
 
Let us know what you’re doing to walk the walk!
 

Answer 5 Questions

 

Ways Mediate BC Supports the Triple Aim

Here are some of the ways Mediate BC currently supports various components of the A2J triple aim (on page 9 of this report):

1.2.1 People’s choice of path to justice – by outling various options to people in a conflict, e.g. on our website and by phone/email. 

1.2.2 Legal info and education needs – by providing online and over the phone info, as well as through public education efforts like our annual Conflict Resolution Week.

1.2.5 Need for consensual dispute resolution process – by providing a central place for information and finding mediators.

1.4.4 Public Confidence in social institutions – by having objectively verifiable training & experience requirements, Standards of Conduct and Complaint Process so users can be confident in the Roster Mediators, and thereby raising confidence in mediation as a viable process to resolve their conflict. 

2.2.3 User empowerment – mediation is a process that holds firm on user empowerment and decision making authority remains with the users.

2.3.4 Prevention of conflicts – by providing resources (e.g. Conflict Resolution Virtual Expo) for people to help themselves before a conflict escalades. 

2.4.3 Voice and participation – mediation allows the users to have their voices heard in the process and be able to tell their truths. Meaningful participattion is key to feeling heard. 

Our past projects that have taught us and the dispute resolution community valuable lesons in:

2.1.1 Obstacles to access (distances, technology, affordability) – through the Distance Family Mediation Project, Small Claims ODR Pilot Program, Family Sliding Scale Mediation, and Family Unbundled Legal Services Project.

1.4.6 Justice for Indigenous people – through the Aboriginal Human Rights Project

 

The A2J Triple Aim in the Media

Vancouver Sun

SLAW

The Lawyer’s Daily

The Indo-Canadian Voice

Ming Pao Vancouver

Announcements from the Justice Sector

Access to Justice Research Network

Mental Health Review Board

Chief Justice Robert Bauman

Canadian Bar Association

Provincial Court

People’s Law School

CLEBC

BCLI

Courthouse Libraries

Thompson Rivers University

 

 

Mediate BC and 50 Organizations Sign Access to Justice Triple Aim

Despite the countless efforts of many dedicated organizations over the years, the civil and family justice system continues to be overly complex, slow, and expensive in British Columbia.[1] That’s why Mediate BC, along with more than fifty justice sector organizations, join the Attorney General and the Chief Justice of BC to endorse the Access to Justice Triple Aim in downtown Vancouver. 

Spearheaded by Access to Justice BC (A2JBC), this Triple Aim has three elements:

1. Improving access to justice on a population level,

2. Improving the experience of individuals with accessing justice, and

3. Improving costs. (see more here)

In all three of these goals, Mediate BC plays an important role. Improving access is about having a range of suitable options depending on what the people and their situation need. As more people turn to collaborative dispute resolution processes, like mediation, there will be an inevitable improvement of user experience and a decrease of costs in the overall system.

Research has shown that over 90% of family lawyers who use collaboration or mediation agreed the results they achieved are in the client’s interest, compared to only about one-third of lawyers using arbitration or litigation.[2] About 66% to 75% of family lawyers agreed that mediation is cost-effective, while 87.1% said litigation is not.[3] Similar statistics exist in the realm of civil law as well. Participants in the Mediate BC small claims court mediation program had consistently rated an average of 86% in satisfaction.

Since mediation and med-arb are two important parts of the suite of access to justice options, the role of Mediate BC is critical. Only by ensuring mediators are trained, experienced, and professional can quality be maintained in the province. Mediation is an unregulated field and anyone can call themselves a mediator. That’s why Mediate BC was formed, to protect the public.

To read the full PDF Media Release, click here. You can also read more about the Triple Aim at the Access to Justice BC website


[1] Page iii. Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change. Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. October 2013. https://accesstojusticebc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ACFJ-Roadmap-Change-Report.pdf

[1] Page 52. An Evaluation of the Cost of Family Law Disputes. Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. December 2017. http://www.crilf.ca/Documents/Cost_of_Dispute_Resolution_-_Mar_2018.pdf

[2] Ibid.

 

 

Northern Navigator Celebrates 3 Years

Back in 2013, I asked why the Attorney General’s ministry was not implementing mandatory family mediation. Their response was that costs would be a challenge. So I offered to start a program in the Peace River region that would operate on a different model. This was the impetus for the Northern Navigator (NN).

In June 2016, after a false start that January, NN officially opened for business. 3 years have passed and it’s now a perfect time to share the NN word!

How Northern Navigator Works

Our original idea was to have an assessor (a.k.a., “The Navigator”) employed by a Resource Agency who could attend at the provincial court where she could review new family files with each party and assess their situation. If appropriate, cases would be referred to mediation to be paid by the parties on the sliding scale. This original concept was then modified to involve less assessment but still include interviews with the NN before the court might order parties to mediation.

The Navigator introduced parties to the idea of mediation, and described local resources, lawyers, and determined their incomes for setting their fees. From there they returned to court where they might be referred to mediation. If they did not want a Family Justice Councilor mediator (which would be by distance), the Navigator would refer them to one of those mediators willing to work according to the Sliding Scale. The parties would have 2 mediation sessions for 2 hours, plus 1 hour of screening and assessment. The court provided a return date, and if the matter or some issues settled, the court would prepare a consent order. If they did not settle, the matter was referred for a Family Case Conference.

We have used up most of the operating funds, so have just overhauled the program. Now when a judge orders a couple to mediation, the court provides parties with a Handout. This has some disadvantages, in that the personal touch is gone. However, the program cost to SPCRS is almost nil. Advantages include the fact that people who had been providing administrative support now can be mediators (there are presently 5 active mediators). which allows service to continue in one of our cities. Also, the court registries now have a document (the Handout) that they could refer to people.

Also, when someone attends mediation before their appearance date, the mediation costs are reduced by 10%. This encourages voluntary attendance in mediation and people who come voluntarily seem more motivated to settle.

 

Getting it Started

For such a project to work, we needed a supporting organization. Stefan Pavlis, then E.D. of South Peace Community Resources Society (SPCRS) committed his organization to the work.

We needed a pool of mediators. We were able to offer much of the training here. Mediate BC’s Associate Mediator program worked very well, as I was able to mentor six Associates, of whom one tragically passed away, and four are now on the Family Roster. Ann Lee, then Roster Manager, did a lot of work in terms of supporting and organizing! 

We needed a fair and reasonable fee arrangement for mandatory family court mediations so we sought inspiration from Mediate BC’s Sliding Scale fee model. We needed the interest and cooperation of the local judges and registries, and of the existing mediators and duty counsel. In addition to time spent introducing the ideas, I worked with Judge Bowry, with Valerie Bernier of the registry, and with mediators Emily Pos and Randolph Smyth to devise a working model.

There was far more work in getting this off the ground than I expected. I was told that the project required the support of the Office of the Chief Judge (OCJ). That led to meetings with their office, and to the inclusion of the Law Foundation, Legal Services, Law organizations, the Ministry of Attorney General, Court Services, and any other organization that they considered to have an interest. Eventually, all agreed on the project; though, of all these groups only the Law Foundation offered financial support.

Kari Boyle, then executive director of Mediate BC, spent a lot of time working beside me and deserves special credit. Carol Hickman QC also had great ideas on how to work with the OCJ. I enjoyed working with the OCJ team assigned by Chief Judge Crabtree. They were a supportive and essential element of the project.

We needed funding, and in addition to the LF, local businesses, professions, Rotary and government contributed. Wayne Robertson QC asked great questions and kept us focused.

We needed a Navigator and hired Kaitlin Fulton (now Sevier). After we launched, a group of lawyers considered that the project needed more study. The OCJ organized a major hearing session, after which we revised a number of our ideas, and 6 months later, the OCJ provided a series of Notices to the Profession, explaining that the project was underway.

Over the past three years, despite many many challenges, we have been able to offer mediations in almost every case where it was ordered, and a number of cases where people attended voluntarily. Almost half the participants settled all or some issues, and every participant who was asked has said that as a general principle, the concept of mediation is a good one. The project is doing what we had hoped.

As it Stands Now

The Ministry of the Attorney General has paid for a major evaluation of the project, which hopefully will be released in the near future. We are very pleased with the general support that mediation has received and at the growth of a mediation community in the Peace River Region.

As can be seen from this post, it took many people and organizations to get NN going. While the Peace River is one of the economic drivers of the province, at the same time, it has a relatively small population and small pool of leaders and providers of help for those who are separating. At the same time, the Provincial family court is very well used. With this project, local people are developing the skills and a processes for working with some of our more challenging family needs. They’re also learning how to improve and transform how parenting after separation takes place.

All of us who have worked on this are proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to seeing what the future holds!

 

About the Author

Wayne Plenert is an experienced mediator, trainer, and retired lawyer based in Dawson Creek, BC. He is a former chair of the Roster Committee of Mediate BC Society and now the mediation mentor leading the Northern Navigator initiative in the Peace River Region Provincial Courts. He also delights in finding practical uses for good theories. His writing includes Personal Injury Mediator Styles and Transformative Parenting.

Workplace Mediation: More than Band-Aids on Wounds

Most notable from their discussion will be an emphasis on a particularly nagging issue: the reality that workplace mediators, especially the private practitioners who are called in “as-needed,” are often limited to the seemingly futile role of putting Band-Aids on gaping wounds.

Conflicts don’t appear in isolation. “There are generally more systemic issues,” says Laraine Ashpole, Mediate BC Roster mediator and chair of the upcoming panel. According to her, the conflicts mediators are brought in to resolve are often just surface issues; and underlying systemic problems tend to put a wrench in the mediation process. As an example, she mentions: “We also find sometimes these aren’t necessarily the right people in the room. The two people in the conflict are there, but the manager isn’t there.”

This frustratingly limited capacity to mediate a real resolution or affect long-term organizational change has led the panelists—Gordon White, Alison Paine, Lori Charvat, and Patricia Vickers—to formulate a toolbox. As much as they appreciate the income generated by putting Band-Aids on wounds, they’d rather see mediators capitalize on their conflict resolution skills to ensure clients see positive, long-lasting change.

What are some of those tools?

Each panelist will provide a unique perspective. Both Alison and Lori have an interest in talking about what they call Complex Adaptive Systems in Leadership. Gordon wants to introduce the concept of Conflict Competent Cultures; and Patricia wants to follow up by offering insights into deeply rooted trauma that affect organizational culture. Practically speaking, panelists will likely give the following advice.

Workplace mediators are encouraged to:

  • Provide recommendations to leadership as part of, or in addition to, the mediation process.
  • Highlight conflict training as a part of their service.
  • Coach HR departments and leadership in developing conflict competent cultures.

The reality is many organizations want a Band-Aid. Even if leadership manages to recognize their own shortfalls, they might hesitate to initiate a seemingly slow and costly process of systemic change; but it never hurts to ask. That’s why one of the recommendations from the panel is simply to ask clients: are these themes you would like to explore?

For more information about the panel, or to sign up for the ADRBC Symposium, visit the symposium web page. Mediate BC roster mediators receive a discount, and early bird rate ends May 5.

 

About the Panelists

Laraine Ashpole, Panel Chair

Employer’s Advisor for the Ministry of Labour, as well as a mediator, consultant, and trainer for businesses.

Gordon White

Mediator for over 20 years. His experience encompasses the completion of over 500 cases including a wide range of workplace issues, multi-party meetings, lawsuits, family issues, and community disputes. 

Alison Paine

Mediator, Conflict Coach and Conflict Management Consultant in private practice. As the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Talent Management for the Government of British Columbia she established an all-new way of dealing with conflict for the public service workplace.

Lori Charvat

Workplace mediator, conflict coach, and Board Chair of Mediate BC. Lori helps people and organizations work through conflict and change to co-create socially just, collaborative and productive work teams.

Dr. Patricia Vickers

Teacher, artist, psychotherapist and spiritual director. Her approach to all services comes from the Northwest Coast Feast Hall, Buddhist teachings, and the teachings of Christ and is founded on a relationship with self, the Supernatural and others.

 

Remembering Jory Faibish

With the hope of expressing some of the appreciation he deserves, we have compiled a few statements from fellow Mediate BC roster mediators, along with some friends, colleagues, and admirers.

His Celebration of Life will be on May 25, 2019 from 2pm – 5pm at the Stanley Park Pavilion.

 

“Jory was not only a remarkable mediator but a remarkable man. We will all feel his loss. We will miss his strength of spirit, sense of humour, compassion, and willingness to contribute to everyone’s learning, including his own. My contact with Jory really began in 2017 when he was gracious enough to offer us help with our home renovations. This was just around the time that he got his life changing diagnosis but a friendship went forward and I’m so happy it did. He was giving and inclusive in every way, and I will always remember the great discussions we had with one another.”  

– Vivian A. Kerenyi

 

“Jory, even with your passing, you are often with me, cracking a one-liner with your wry sense of humour, or reflecting on some of the mundane to bizarre foibles of humanity. You’re a philosopher, a coach, an advocate, a peace maker and a community builder. You’ve been a neighbour, friend and mentor to me, and I, like so many others, are richer and wiser for having known you.” 

– Kent Highnam

 

“I had the great privilege to know and work with Jory for about five years.  His kindness, compassion, joy, and sensibility colored every conversation I ever had with him.  The wisdom and presence he shared so generously with clients, colleagues and budding mediators will be one of Jory’s many legacies that will leave our world a better place for having had him here.  I will be ever grateful to have known him.”

-Kat Bellamano

 

“There are few individuals that leave footprints as deep as you have, Jory. We are truly blessed to have known you.  Your kindness, your wisdom and your hilarious sense of humour will stay with me always.”

– Linda Ohashi

Jory was an incredible teacher who always managed to deliver deeply insightlful, challenging feedback with a level of humour and kindness that always inspired me to keep growing. 

– Amanda Semenoff

I met Jory as the instructor on one of my first courses in mediation at the JIBC.  I recall how he defused a situation with an unruly actor and the impact it had on the class. He did the same thing with an unruly (slightly disagreeable) group of mediators several years later, and had the same impact. He was truly an expert in dispute resolution and also a great teacher.  The other thing, felt by all his students and colleagues, was his kindness and generosity.  I am sure that I count myself among many of his students who considered him a friend based simply on the caring he showed, and his willingness to advise.  He will be missed.   

– Matthew Chritchley

Read More About Jory

If you would like to know more about Jory and his many accomplishments, you could visit his obituary on the Vancouver Sun or see his roster profile. The following are some of the ways he was involved in the field of conflict resolution:

Jory received a Certificate in Conflict Resolution in 1994 at the Justice Institute of British Columbia where, shortly after, he joined as faculty. In October 1997 he obtained the designation of Certified Mediator through the Mediation Development Association of BC and became a member of the Civil Mediation Roster at Mediate BC in February 2006.