Frequently Asked Questions about Settlement Meetings (Mediation)

What is a settlement meeting?

It is a voluntary meeting where a Tribunal mediator helps the parties to agree about how to resolve the complaint. Voluntary settlement is one way that the purposes of the Human Rights Code are fulfilled. A settlement meeting is sometimes called mediation.

Is a settlement meeting free?

Yes, there is no charge for attending a settlement meeting.

Is participation voluntary?

Yes. Parties are expected to attend once they agree to participate.  Participating does not affect a party’s right to proceed to hearing or to make an application.

Who attends a settlement meeting?

A mediation is private. Usually, the participants in a settlement meeting are the mediator, the parties to the complaint, their representatives and interpreters. In some cases, affected third parties may attend. In some cases, a party will not attend in person but will authorize someone else to settle the complaint on their behalf. The parties may also agree to have other persons attend, such as support persons.

Is a settlement meeting private and confidential?

Yes. Any document created for the purpose of the settlement meeting and anything said during the settlement meeting is confidential. It is not admissible as evidence at a hearing unless the person who provided the information agrees. Parties must agree to the terms the Tribunal’s Agreement to Participate in Mediation, which confirms this.

When is a settlement meeting held?

The parties may agree to attend a settlement meeting at any time, including before the respondent must respond to the complaint.

Where is a settlement meeting held?

The Tribunal decides whether a mediation will be in person or by phone. In-person meetings are usually held in a neutral setting in locations convenient for the parties. Generally, the Tribunal may hold an in-person meeting if:

  • the parties are in Vancouver or Victoria
  • a party makes a written request for an in-person meeting that sets out the reasons why the meeting needs to be in-person
  • the mediator recommends an in-person meeting and/or
  • the parties have attended a telephone mediation that did not resolve the complaint

Can I attend by phone?

Yes, that may be possible. Discuss this with the Scheduling Clerk.

How is a settlement meeting scheduled?

The Tribunal may offer to schedule a settlement meeting or a party can phone or write the case manager to request one at any time.

How long will it take? Will there be breaks?

A mediation usually starts at 9:30 am. It may be finished before lunch time, or it may go to 4:30. Sometimes, everyone agrees to schedule more time.

Yes, there are breaks to eat, rest, or use the washroom. If you need a break, tell the mediator.

Feel free to bring snacks.

What is the role of the mediator?

The Tribunal appoints a mediator who may be a Tribunal Member, a Tribunal lawyer, or an outside mediator. In all cases, the mediator is neutral. Mediators may use different approaches, including:

  • Interest-based mediation where the aim is to move the parties away from conflict, to focus on interests rather than positions, and to generate solutions to the issues raised.  The parties themselves generate solutions.
  • Early evaluation, also called rights-based mediation, where the mediator reviews the facts with the parties and provides the parties with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the complaint, and may advise the parties of remedies that might be expected should the matter proceed to hearing and the complainant is successful.

The mediator may contact the parties before the settlement meeting to prepare for the settlement meeting and to answer the parties’ questions.

The mediator may encourage the parties to explore public policy issues and to formulate remedies that address them, but will not require the parties to do so.

The mediator has discretion to withdraw the Tribunal's mediation services at any time, including if the mediator determines that:

  • A participant is not abiding by the terms of the Agreement to Participate in Mediation
  • A participant is not following the mediator's directions and/or
  • The mediation process is unfair, unproductive, or abusive.

Can I request a specific mediator?

No, the Tribunal decides who the mediator is. However, if you believe that a certain style of mediation would be best, you may contact the Registrar to request a mediator with that style or approach.

Can a Tribunal Member act as mediator?

Yes. When acting as a mediator, a Tribunal Member has no power to decide the complaint. 

If we don’t settle, will the mediator decide my case?

The Tribunal Member who acted as mediator will not hear or decide the complaint, except where all parties agree in writing that the Tribunal Member may decide the complaint. All participants must sign the Agreement to Participate in Mediation with Presiding Member. See the Tribunal`s Policy respecting Mediation with Presiding Member.

Does the Tribunal provide interpretation services?

Yes, if they are needed. Parties are asked to bring their own interpreter to settlement meetings. If a party is unable to provide an interpreter, and is not able to participate meaningfully without one, they may request the Tribunal to provide interpretation services. A request must be made at least three weeks before the meeting.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. Although the Tribunal does not require parties to be represented by lawyers, it is strongly recommended that self-represented parties obtain independent legal advice.  Time will be provided to allow parties to obtain independent legal advice before agreeing to settle.

What if the complainant is a minor?

The Tribunal may accept complaints filed by mature minors (people under 19). The Infants Act governs contracting by minors. A contract with a minor is unenforceable against them except in limited circumstances. If the Tribunal is aware that the complainant is a minor, it will refer the respondent to the Infants Act. The respondent may agree to participate in the mediation with the minor, or may request that the legal guardian attend. If the parties are unable to agree on the mediation participants, the mediation will not proceed.

What happens if the complaint is not resolved?

The complaint will continue in the Tribunal’s process.  That may include filing a response to the complaint, filing an application to dismiss the complaint without a hearing, or preparing for a formal hearing before a Tribunal Member.

What happens if the complaint is resolved?

If all or some of the complaint is resolved the complainant will sign a Form 6 – Complaint Withdrawal. After it is filed, the Tribunal will dismiss the complaint (or part of it).

What if the other side breaches the settlement agreement?

After the complainant withdraws the complaint, the Tribunal process is over. The Tribunal does not enforce settlement agreements. Section 30 of the Code governs the enforcement of settlement agreements.