Nanaimo residents who wish to contend tickets for minor bylaw infractions will soon be able to take their disputes to an independent adjudicator instead of to a courtroom.
British Columbia’s Ministry of Justice announced earlier this week that Nanaimo will join more than 50 local governments in B.C. using an adjudication system that was piloted more than eight years ago in the City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver and the City of West Vancouver.
According to the ministry, the new system saves time and money and makes better use of already overwhelmed court resources.
“Taking a matter to court can be a lengthy process and this system saves people time and helps reduce pressure on the courts without increasing costs to taxpayers,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Shirley Bond in a release.
Disputes commonly include parking tickets, dog licences and minor zoning infractions, but each municipality is allowed to determine the bylaws it wants covered by adjudicators to cater to its specific local needs.
The new program is expected to begin in January.
Randy Churchill, the city’s bylaw manager, said instead of the current 12-month wait time to resolve a dispute, the new program will take about six weeks, will reduce the city’s legal fees, and won’t require the presence of bylaw or police members to take part, freeing up their time to perform core duties.
“It’s very fast. If were were to take tickets today for a bylaw matter it takes 10 to 12 months in provincial court to have a decision made,” said Churchill. “We write 2,000 tickets a year already and we’re taking parking in-house, so we’re anticipating about 20 to 25 disputes a month at this point. The volume there alone warrants us taking a look at this new model which we really like.”
People who wish to dispute a ticket will have 15 days to file the necessary forms, which will be available online or at the new city annex. A $25 administration fee will be added to handle disputes but that fee is waived for people who make a successful challenge.
Independent adjudicators will be appointed by the deputy attorney general based on qualifications and experience, post-secondary training in adjudication and completion of specialized bylaw dispute training.
Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said the new process will save money and streamline the dispute process.
“Bylaw adjudication is a win-win for both our residents and the city,” said Ruttan. “It will make it simpler for people who get tickets to deal with them either by payment or challenge and it will lessen the time the city has to spend in court defending the tickets.”
Bond added that as part of the ongoing reform to the justice system, the provincial government is increasing the number of alternatives to resolve dispute matters without requiring people to use the court system.
People who wish to dispute a ticket will have 15 days from receiving it to file the necessary forms.