In all levels of court within British Columbia, persons have the right to be represented by legal counsel. This is not necessarily the case with the Civil Resolutions Tribunal (or CRT).
The CRT is governed by the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, S.B.C. 2012, c. 25 which sets out in section 20;
20 (1) Unless otherwise provided under this Act, the parties are to represent themselves in a tribunal proceeding.
(2) A party may be represented by a lawyer or another individual with authority to bind the party in relation to the dispute if
(a) the party is a child or a person with impaired capacity,
(b) the rules permit the party to be represented, or
(c) the tribunal, in the interests of justice and fairness, permits the party to be represented.
Section 20 clearly limits person’s right to have representation if they wish in front of the tribunal. Section 20 does not apply if the claim in front of the tribunal relates to an accident claim.
While some matters may be simplier and not require representation others can be far more complex than they originally appear and representation can be essential to a person to handle their claim. In the recent decision of The Owners of Strata Plan NW 2575 v. Booth, 2020 BCCA 153, the BC Court of Appeal had to consider if the tribunal was reasonable in its decision to refuse the Strata the right to be represented.
In this case, the claim concerned the responsibility for maintenance of a sunroom attached to the Booth’s strata unit. The Booth’s sued the Strata for $700 for repairs to the sunroom, $300 for the costs to file an action, and $25,000 for loss of enjoyment of life, threats, abuse and stress. The Strata filed a request for Representation that was denied by the tribunal.
The tribunal decided that Strata did not require representation since the opposing party was also unrepresented and that there was “nothing exceptionally unusual or complex about the subject-matter of the dispute. It is a common dispute type within the tribunal’s strata jurisdiction.”
The Court of Appeal quashed the CRT’s decision on the grounds that the matter was more complex than they had suggested. The Court of Appeal noted that the tribunal had not considered the scale of claim for loss of enjoyment of life, threats, abuse and stress, nor the asserted basis for those claims, and the complex zone of legal issues that would have to be considered while determining that claim. The court determined that “the issues raised include allegations of the commission of torts, vicarious liability for torts, issues of personal and corporate reputation and, potentially, jurisdiction” and “that absent meaningful consideration of these features, the Tribunal’s reasoning is flawed, and the decision is not reasonable.”