Types of Dispute Resolution Procedures in Canada

In all Canadian jurisdictions, both federal and provincial, there are legislated dispute resolution procedures that involve using neutral third party interventions to assist the disputing parties resolve their issues.

These third party interventions include the following:

These dispute resolution procedures serve the purposes of:

  • making the public aware of the dispute and seeking public pressure to influence the parties to reach a speedier resolution
  • providing a fact-finding and information source to assist the parties in resolving their dispute
  • allowing a cooling off period for the disputing parties to reconsider their stance on the issues in dispute
  • enabling both parties to save face by yielding to the advice and suggestions of a neutral third party, and
  • intervening through compulsory grievance arbitration; or
  • back-to-work legislation.

Types of Dispute Resolution Procedures


The purpose of formal fact-finding is to investigate the issues in dispute, listen to evidence from both union and management, then make recommendations to the labour relations board. However, these recommendations need not be accepted by the parties.


Another use of fact-finding is as a stage in the conciliation or mediation process where the fact-finding is merely to help gather the relevant facts for the conciliator or mediator.

Compulsory Conciliation

In Canadian jurisdictions, where the conciliation procedure is applied, conciliation has to occur before any strike or lockout can legally occur. This compulsory stage differs from the American system which only includes a voluntary stage of conciliation.

Either party to the dispute can apply for conciliation to take place. On this application a conciliator is appointed by the province's ministry of labour. After meeting the parties in dispute to explore possible solutions, the conciliator prepares a report to the minister of labour. Once the report has been submitted and a specific waiting period has been met, a strike or a lockout is now allowed to take place.

In some jurisdictions, when conciliation is not successful the dispute is then referred to a conciliation board for consideration.


Mediation differs from conciliation in that mediation occurs only after both parties have agreed to the use of a neutral third party to help reach a solution.

In mediation, unlike in conciliation, the mediator's role is more as intervenor with the mediator trying to get the parties to compromise on a solution. He/she will also suggest proposals that would help the parties reach a settlement. The parties are free to either accept or reject the mediator's suggestions.


Arbitration is the most powerful type of third-party intervention in that the terms and conditions of the arbitration decision are binding on both parties and alters their collective agreement.

There are two important forms of arbitration; interest arbitration and rights arbitration. Basically, interest arbitration deals with the terms and conditions of the collective agreement, and the rights arbitration (also known as grievance arbitration) deals with the interpretation of the collective agreement.

Special Back-to-Work Legislation

On a number of occasions both the federal and provincial governments have had to resort to special back-to-work legislature forcing the strike to end and the parties back to the negotiating table.