Ontario Judicial System
In 1986, Canada became the first country to adopt arbitral legislation based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. Ontario adopted the International Commercial Arbitration Act (the “International Act”) in 1988 and on January 1, 1992 the Arbitration Act, 1991 (the “Domestic Act”), also based on the Model Law came into force for domestic arbitrations. These modern arbitration statutes put Canada and Ontario into the arbitral forefront of industrial nations. At the core of the Model Law are the following principles: 1) Party autonomy: Parties are free to design their own arbitral process. Arbitrators take their jurisdiction from the parties, not the State. 2) Limited court intervention: Courts are to assist the arbitral process. They will hold parties to their arbitration agreements and they will permit arbitral tribunals to determine their own jurisdiction. There is also minimal court intervention during the arbitral process and, the resulting award is enforceable with limited judicial review.
In the circumstances, Ontario represents an attractive site for arbitration of commercial disputes. With few exceptions, Ontario courts have shown a willingness to interpret the International Act and the Domestic Act in a manner consistent with the philosophy of party autonomy and the guiding principles of the Model Law. This provides business parties with an opportunity to tailor an arbitral process that suits the needs of the parties and the circumstances of the case. Arbitration in Ontario should be strongly considered as a preferred method of dispute resolution in a large variety of business contexts.