There are other ways of handling a conflict besides court and some of those ways could cost a lot less.
A federally recognized charity called the Alberta Arbitration and Mediation Society (AAMS) offers education on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and wants to get the word out to people who are facing potentially expensive court costs.
Director Pete Desrochers says the AAMS`s purpose is to provide education and understanding to individuals who need someone to step in over a dispute. He has spoken to different community groups such as Lions clubs, chambers of commerce and Rotary clubs.
Desrochers says mediation and arbitration are conducted outside of the courts and each one has bearing on an issue. Mediation is a non-adversarial process that deals with conflicting parties, he explained. It is a formal and structured process. “We create a safe zone,” he explained.
Arbitration, on the other hand, brings lawyers or subject matter experts into a certain dispute and more of than not, the decision made during arbitration is binding.
“Arbitration is more like rent-a-judge,” said Desrochers. In this modality, one person or a panel will review a case and the courts usually uphold the decision, but parties involved don’t face expensive court fees.
“The rules of evidence usually apply here,” he said.
Desrochers believes the majority of decisions made during mediation are honoured by parties involved. He says mediation covers a long list of situations including workplace conflict, sexual harassment, wrongful dismissal, bullying, neighbour disputes, contract negotiations, landlord/tenant disputes and issues with wills.
He says he has seen many cases dealing with wills over the years. Some of the reasons why someone would need arbitration or mediation include resistance to change, standing on principal, pride or other personal concerns, said Desrochers.
AAMS is developing a program to deal with bullying issues in schools and he suggests elementary age students are capable of understanding and dealing with these issues using mediation. Desrochers said they were also looking at possibilities of working closely with First Nations people.
For more information or to be referred to a qualified mediator or arbitrator with the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Institute of Alberta, Desrochers suggests a phone call is the first step. Call 780-989-3797 for more information.
Desrochers says the Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre and Alberta Family Mediation Society are other areas people can find help.