provides that a conciliation officer shall attempt to resolve the issues, with a judge’s assistance, if required. If a settlement cannot be reached the officer reports this fact to the court. A judge can order conciliation workers to prepare home assessment to help determine the best interest of children. However if the family has already been in mediation, a different worker prepares the assessment. If there is closed mediation, then the officer shall not be required to produce any written statement to the court.
10.25The Family Relations Act of British Columbia permits the court to appoint a family court counsellor to assist in resolving the dispute.1082 These counsellors offer mediation, counselling and dispute resolution which is not limited to custody issues.1083 The counsellor is empowered to offer any advice or guidance that will assist in resolving the dispute. If the counsellor receives information in confidence from a party or child then he cannot be compelled to disclose it to the court. A report cannot be prepared for the court without the parties’ consent.
10.26The Attorney General’s Department is proposing a Dispute Resolution Office which is to expand the use of ADR in the courts and in particular to introduce community based, client focused alternatives to court for custody and access disputes.1084 Parent education, mediation and family conferences are to be provided with the ultimate objective of establishing a network of Family Justice Centres which are to be expanded throughout the province. In fact, in some areas pilot projects have already operated with judges assisting with parent education programmes.1085 Counsellors, lawyers and judges refer parties to the programmes.
10.27Saskatchewan court services currently provides parent education programmes, supervised access and custody investigations and assessments.1086 In 1995 Saskatchewan passed legislation requiring both parties to attend a mandatory mediation orientation and screening session.1087 The session is held individually with each party by staff from the Family Law Division of the Department of Justice. The client is also told about the parent education programme. After each client has attended the session a certificate of completion is filed in the court. The parties may choose to go to mediation or proceed with the court process. If they do not attend the
1082 Alberta Research Paper (1994) at 21.
1083 RSBC 1979, c 121, s 3.
1084 Speech by the Attorney General, “Strategic Reforms of British Columbia’s Justice System” June 1997.
1085 Internet site, http://www.courts.gov.ca/SC/Annual1997/FAMILY.
1086 Saskatchewan Justice, Policy, Planning and Evaluation Branch, Promoting Resiliency in Children and Families - a Summary Paper on the Effects of Separation and Divorce, (1998).
1087 Gupta, “The Mediation Screening and Orientation Program - the Saskatchewan Experience”, Family Mediation, vol.6, no. 1, 1996.