Arbitration Development in Canada: A Push for a Unified Commercial Arbitration Law

The Arbitration Act Reform Committee of the Toronto Commercial Arbitration Society is pushing the government in Ontario to adopt a single commercial arbitration act to govern both domestic and international commercial disputes. The Committee argues that this would streamline arbitrations whilst also moving more in line with the Model Law on Commercial Arbitration and the New York Convention.

Ontario is the busiest arbitration province in Canada but currently has two laws governing arbitration: (1) International Commercial Arbitration Act, 2017, SO 2017, which covers international and cross-border disputes, and (2) Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O, which governs all domestic issues, including commercial disputes. However, the latter also governs everything from family law to labor issues, which has caused confusion with even the courts at times not entirely sure which act governs which dispute.

By adopting a single commercial arbitration act, Ontario would be more parallel with Canada’s federal commercial arbitration act, Quebec’s commercial arbitration act, and the English Arbitration Act. In its report, the Committee examined the existing legislation and whether all of the necessary aspects could be unified under a single act.

Several nations currently utilize a single arbitration law:

  • In India, arbitration is governed by Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
  • In England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, arbitration procedures are regulated by Arbitration Act of 1996.
  • In the United States of America, the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 regulates arbitration.

In comparison, Singapore, the most sought-after seat of arbitration in Asia employs two primary legislations that dealt with arbitration proceedings: the International Arbitration Act, and the Arbitration Act. The latter concerns domestic arbitration. This is slightly similar to what Ontario currently uses whereby one legislation governs international disputes and the other domestic, however Ontario legislation is more geared towards commercial disputes.

The two main changes being proposed by the Committee are creating a single act to govern all commercial arbitration, as well as establishing rules concerning appeals from awards, which would be on an opt-in basis.

To read a copy of the Committee’s report, please click here. If you require an arbitrator for a dispute please click here to view our roster of arbitrators, or contact us for assistance in selecting an arbitrator.