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Relations &
Planning Division

Dispute Resolution


Alternative dispute resolution that emphasizes interest-based negotiation strives to achieve solutions that are acceptable for everyone involved in a dispute. Widely used in a variety of fields, alternative dispute resolution encourages open communication and helps foster understanding between the parties and better long-term relationships. BC was one of the first provinces in Canada to put alternative dispute resolution provisions in legislation, which is aimed at helping to resolve disputes between government jurisdictions. This process is available to local governments through the regional growth strategy and regional district service review provisions of the Local Government Act and through the dispute resolution provisions of the Community Charter.

Conflicts can arise for a variety of reasons, including: unequal impacts, benefits or costs; different expectations, assumptions or forecasts; different definitions of the issue; different values; fragile relationships; different standards of behaviour; and decisions/actions on unrelated issues.

Conflicts can arise on a variety of issues, including:

  • land-use planning;
  • service arrangements;
  • economic development;
  • environment or natural resource protection;
  • community programs; and
  • partner agreements.

Alternative dispute resolution that aims to resolve disputes collaboratively helps parties to: identify their interests; explore options for resolution; develop and implement solutions acceptable to all; and obtain the services of a neutral mediator, if needed. Solving disputes as early as possible will also help parties avoid stressful and costly arbitration or court action.

To utilize one of the alternative dispute resolution processes in the legislation one or more of the parties to a dispute may request process advice and assistance from the Ministry of Community Services. Please note that ministry assistance is not available for legal or labour disputes.


In addition, under the Local Government Act and Community Charter certain disputes between or among local governments, must be settled using one of the binding arbitration methods, if non-binding methods fail to resolve the dispute.

Disputes subject to mandatory binding arbitration as a last resort include those that relate to: acceptance of a regional growth strategy; regional district service withdrawal; an inter-municipal boundary highway; an inter-municipal transecting highway; an inter-municipal bridge; an inter-municipal watercourse; and a matter prescribed in an order by Cabinet.

Any party to an inter-governmental dispute may apply for process assistance to the ministry. A dispute resolution officer or facilitator may then help the parties resolve the matter by any process the officer or facilitator considers appropriate, including by referring the matter to mediation and other non-binding resolution processes. For those disputes not subject to mandatory arbitration under either the Local Government Act or the Community Charter, if the parties agree, the officer must direct the dispute to binding arbitration through a process of final proposal arbitration, or full arbitration.

Further information and best practices regarding the resolution of Regional Growth Strategy or regional district service disputes is available in the following Ministry publications:

For further information please contact:
Intergovernmental Relations and Planning Branch
Tel: 250 387-4046
Toll Free through Enquiry BC
In Vancouver call: 604 660-2421
Elsewhere in BC call:1-800-663-7867

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