Toronto as a seat for Commercial Arbitration

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As a more convenient and less expensive place to conduct an arbitration than many of the world’s more traditional arbitration centres, Toronto is quickly gaining recognition as one of the best places to arbitrate commercial disputes.

In 1986, Canada became the first country to adopt arbitral legislation based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. Soon after, Ontario adopted the International Commercial Arbitration Act and the Arbitration Act, 1991, putting Canada and Ontario on the arbitral map.  Essential to Model Law is party autonomy and limited court intervention and, with very few exceptions, Ontario courts have shown a willingness to interpret the legislation in accordance with these principles.  The result is that parties are free to design their own arbitral process with minimal intervention from the court.

Modern international commercial transactions have favoured arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism.  And, as international parties become more sophisticated and plan for potential disputes within the commercial relationship, they have begun to take an interest in where these arbitrations will be “seated”.   American parties contracting with European or Asian parties are finding that the overseas parties are wary of agreeing on a seat of arbitration in the US, for fear of giving the US party some “home court advantage”. 

Toronto is the perfect alternative.

A cosmopolitan city, Toronto is not only Canada’s economic capital but one of the leading financial centres in North America.  It has a sophisticated financial services infrastructure that is known for its safety and stability. Ontario and Canada have a strong tradition of the rule of law.  There are world-renowned arbitrators, counsel and experts based in Toronto.  Toronto is easily accessible from most large American cities, in same time zone as New York and Washington DC.

Toronto is also home to the Commercial List, a specialised team of Superior Court judges with expertise in managing complex commercial litigation.

I am a member of the Toronto Commercial Arbitration Society (TCAS), an organization that was formed three years ago to promote and develop Toronto as a centre for excellence in arbitration.  TCAS’ website has information on facilities, arbitrators and counsel in Toronto. I encourage you to check it out.