Mediate BC Blog

Reflecting on a Year of Pandemic Mediations

Posted by Amanda.Semenoff

The Quarantine Conflict Resolution Service (QCRS) officially launched one year ago this week. Anniversaries have always felt like a natural moment to reflect on what we’ve been through and how far we’ve come.

When Mediate BC approached me to help create the QCRS program we were expecting it to last 6-12 weeks and handle mostly roommate and shared space conflicts. The stories we were hearing from friends and colleagues in Europe and Asia had us anticipating a lot of roommate issues. A year later we are expecting to maintain the QCRS until at least September and roommates have been less than ¼ of our calls.

The whole program came together incredibly quickly. In less than 3 weeks we went from discussing how BC might need a way to handle roommate conflicts in a lockdown to launching the QCRS Program. I was blown away by the generosity of our mediation community. Forty mediators volunteered right away to do low bono and pro bono mediations and then added their wisdom and insights to help fill in all the gaps created by moving so quickly. It felt a bit like we were building a car while driving it full speed down the highway.

I was so impressed to see our mediation community pull together and support one another to pivot to distance processes. A huge thank you to the very patient, tech savvy mediators that coached, supported and co-mediated many through their first zoom or phone mediations. We are all better and our clients are safer because of your efforts!

All kinds of new questions were raised. What should safety screening look like in a distance housing mediation? What about elders? How do we balance comfort with tech in a process? Some of our questions were even answered.

What surprised me early on, though obvious in hindsight (and probably to our family mediators from the beginning), was the number of co-parents whose parenting plans didn’t work under Public Health Restrictions. Our entire first wave of calls was families needing help. The majority of family issues were resolved before referral to mediation. Just the intention to work it out without going to court created a space where families were able to find solutions.

The roommate calls came later, along with a lot of Landlord/Tenant issues, and so far housing conflicts have made up 40% of our inquiries and mediations. The tone and timing of housing disputes tracked where we were as a province in the pandemic. The first set of housing calls were from landlords whose tenants stopped paying rent and stopped responding to them. Then we started hearing from roommates and neighbours about challenges around noise, shared space and shared internet. Now the majority of our calls are coming from tenants wanting support in talking to their landlords.

We also did a lot of media and other presentations, and a wide variety of publications picked up the story. My uncle called me one morning in April really excited at having heard me on the radio.

My chat with Adam Stirling on CFAX

Sharon Sutherland on the Jill Bennett Show

Ashley Syer on BC Today with Michelle Elliot

A full list of publications is on our media page 

Landlord BC and BCNPHA partnered with us to spread the word to their members and we were invited to present virtually at Chambers of Commerce around the province. It has been really helpful to hear directly from people about the specific challenges they are facing.

Scottish Mediation spotted our launch on Twitter and quickly created their own program. It was so interesting to learn from them as they adapted our program to their context and made many changes in language and structure.

As we look back we also look ahead trying to anticipate the kinds of challenges and conflicts we will be seeing in the future. As vaccinations are rolled out to the broader community, new conflicts are expected to arise from how we return to in-person work, including issues around vaccinations, masking and the how/when of easing Covid protocols.

It has been a whirlwind of a year, and this post leaves out a lot of important things that happened within QCRS, our mediation community and more broadly. I would love it if you would add in the comments below any insights, impactful events or things you want to remember in conflict resolution and mediation during the pandemic.

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