Area of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) - Arbitration and Mediation
Answer # 0524
Mediators’ qualifications & selecting a mediatorRegion: Ontario Answer # 0524
The mediation profession is not regulated in Ontario. Therefore, mediators do not have to take any specific required courses or pass any tests in order to practice mediation. As a result, you cannot go to any one source to obtain information about a mediator.
Having said that, however, many universities and colleges offer courses in mediation and dispute resolution that lead to diplomas or certificates.
For example, the University of Western in Ontario offers the course, “Mediation Skills and Processes”. York University, School of Continuing Studies offers a “Certificate in Family Mediation”. A Graduate Certificate in “Mediation – Alternative Dispute Resolution” is available from Durham College.
There is even a course that offers a Master’s degree in law specializing in dispute resolution from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
There are also self-regulating ADR (alternative dispute resolution) organizations. The best known is the federal ADR Institute of Canada and it’s provincial affiliates in:
Full membership in the ADR Institute of Canada is available to individuals who:
- are of good character and reputation,
- are practicing in the area of arbitration, mediation or alternative dispute resolution, and
- have either successfully completed an Institute-approved 40-hour course in arbitration or mediation or have equivalent expertise arising from experience in the field.
The Institute’s list of practitioners includes mediators who have completed the educational requirements established by their organization to receive accreditation and designations such as “Chartered Mediator” and “Certified Family Mediator”.
Members must adhere to a Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics, as well as National Mediation Rules. The organization also provides a Discipline and Complaint Procedure for members of the public.
The ADR Institute of Canada and its provincial affiliates also offer various other ADR services, including:
- Courses and diplomas,
- ADR outsourcing, and
- Referrals to member ADR professionals.
Family Mediation Organizations
Most family mediators have backgrounds in family law, social work, psychology or other finance. Most have taken extensive training and have considerable experience working with separating families. Fortunately, most family mediators are well trained in the research and best practices for assessing risk or power imbalances due to mental illness, domestic violence, addictions, and so on.
In Ontario there are a number of provincially-based mediation organizations and associations specializing in family mediation. Some provide certification and are recognized by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General and are listed in the Family Mediation section of the Ministry website.
Members generally must complete the organization’s approved training courses, be in good standing, pay membership fees, and carry the required liability insurance. Provincial organizations will usually have a Code of Professional Conduct that their members must adhere to.
What should you consider when choosing a mediator?
There are certain things that should be taken into consideration when choosing a mediator. Depending on what the mediation involves, you will want to find a mediator with expertise in that area. For example, in a dispute involving possible financial fraud, you may want a mediator who is also a forensic accountant; or, if your dispute concerns the terms of a contract, you may want a mediator who is also a lawyer specializing in contract law.
Along with expertise in a particular area, you should also look for a mediator who has had experience in the mediation process.
When choosing a mediator, it is advisable that each party also consult their own lawyer who may suggest mediators that they know have the requisite skills and experience.
Mandatory Mediation Program
In civil litigation and estate matters that are subject to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, Mandatory Mediation Program (not family law cases), parties can choose their own mediator, or a mediator from the Program’s list of mediators, available from:
- The Office of the Local Mediation Coordinator
- The Superior Court of Justice offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor
Visit the Ministry of the Attorney General website for office addresses, or for an online listing of mediators.
Once you have found a mediator, contact that individual and ask them to provide a résumé (often available on the individual’s website) as well as the names of lawyers who have referred cases to them. It is a good idea to ask the mediator questions, such as whether they have ever mediated a dispute such as yours before, what they charge for mediating, and how and where they conduct their mediations. It is important that both parties have confidence in, and feel comfortable with, the mediator.
Remember that mediation is a process that only works when both parties are interested in reaching an agreement. Although the choice of mediator is important, choosing the mediator should not become part of the dispute. Agreeing on a mediator should be the first step in the process of reaching an agreement.
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