Residents of Williams Lake involved in minor bylaw infractions, such as animal and zoning complaints, can now take their disputes to an independent adjudicator working outside the traditional courtroom, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton announced Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.
“Taking a matter to court can be a lengthy process,” Anton said during the announcement. “This system saves people time and helps reduce pressure on the courts without increasing costs to taxpayers. With the addition of the City of Williams Lake, there are now 65 local governments using or developing the bylaw adjudication system.”
Effective Sept. 30, 2013, the city of Williams Lake, as well as the Regional District of Central Kootenay, the District of Coldstream and the Thompson‐Nicola Regional District will join the bylaw adjudication system, which is offered through the Ministry of Justice.
The adjudication system saves local governments time and money and makes for more efficient use of court resources by eliminating the roles of court and court registries in the administration and hearing of these disputes.
Each jurisdiction determines which bylaws it would like included in the process. Williams Lake plans to use the system to enforce noise, business license, zoning, animal control and licensing, water conservation and other similar bylaw disputes more effectively and efficiently.
“The city of Williams Lake will now have more power over bylaw fine collection,” Mayor Kerry Cook said. “This is a much more efficient system than the city uses currently and allows anyone wishing to dispute a ticket to do so without having to attend an actual court hearing. This not only frees up time for the offender, but for the courts and bylaw officers, as well.”
As part of ongoing reform to the justice system, the B.C. government is increasing the number of alternative ways to resolve disputes, when appropriate, without requiring individuals to use the courts. Court alternatives help to reduce stress, shorten the time required to resolve disputes and ultimately cut costs for both the individual and taxpayer.
Presently there are 65 local governments throughout B.C. using, or in the process of developing a bylaw dispute adjudication system. Dispute adjudication issues range from parking tickets to dog licensing and minor zoning infractions.
The City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver were the first in B.C. to establish a bylaw adjudication system as part of a 2004 pilot project.
Individual municipalities track the number of bylaws managed by the adjudication process, and have screening officers who attempt to resolve disputes prior to the formal adjudication. The overall process has resolved and adjudicated several thousand matters since the inception of the program.
Independent adjudicators are appointed by the Deputy Attorney General.
The qualifications are prescribed in regulation and include: experience as an adjudicator of disputes, post‐secondary training in adjudication and successful completion of specialized bylaw dispute adjudication training.