The BC legislature has passed a bill that will modernize the International Commercial Arbitration Act, RBC 1996, c. 233 (the “ International Arbitration Act”).

The legislature passed the International Commercial Arbitration Amendment Act on April 12, 2018. The goal of the legislation is to update BC’s International Arbitration Act to reflect current international best practices and to position BC as an arbitration destination for international commercial disputes.

The International Arbitration Act was a front-runner in arbitration legislation at the time it was enacted in 1986, but is now seen by some as outdated and in need of updating.

As Attorney General David Eby said before the Legislature, “the amendments will modernize British Columbia’s arbitration regime, enhance British Columbia’s standing as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, support international arbitration in language and concepts familiar to international business parties and counsel, and provide an opportunity to position British Columbia as an arbitration destination for international commercial disputes.”

The amendments to the International Arbitration Act include clearer standards for arbitral challenges; an expanded definition of an “arbitration agreement” that accounts for technological advances; an increased threshold for challenges to arbitrator independence or impartiality; and the creation of appeals from negative jurisdictional rulings.

The International Arbitration Act was based on the UN Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”) 1985 model law. The UNCITRAL model law was updated in 2006, but the International Arbitration Act was never amended to reflect those changes. The legislation incorporates the latest version of the UNCITRAL model law into the International Arbitration Act.

The amendments to the International Arbitration Act will come into effect once the bill is given royal assent, the timeline for which is currently unknown.