UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Judicial respect for international commercial arbitration agreements in Canadian courts under the New York Convention and UNCITRAL model law Barbour, Alan Norman


In Europe of the Middle Ages, there existed an autonomous regime of truly private international business law based upon the customs and usages of merchants, the Law Merchant, administered in lay tribunals. The courts and legislators usurped the jurisdiction of the lay tribunals, and subverted the Law Merchant to municipal law. Arbitration was similarly subverted to municipal courts and strict legal controls. The courts continued to guard their jurisdiction jealously into the 20th century, when nations came to realize the inadequacy of national legal systems for international business problems, and the desire of business to escape parochial legal concerns and municipal courts. Canada adopted the New York Convention and UNCITRAL Model Law in 1986, which maximize party and arbitral autonomy and restrict court interference with arbitration. These new laws would permit the resurrection of an autonomous regime of international commercial dispute settlement largely divorced from national law and court controls, if the courts cooperate. This thesis is the first comprehensive, up-to-date study (of which I am aware) of Canadian case law on arbitration in the context of the history of autonomous commercial dispute resolution from the its zenith in the Middle Ages through its nadir, to its present attempted resurrection. This thesis shows that the courts of Canada continue to guard their jurisdiction jealously, finding the means in old notions and precedents to justify their refusal to cede jurisdiction to arbitrators. The courts have ignored the policies underlying the new laws, have failed to apply international precedents and standards, and have continued to apply notions and precedents from an era hostile to arbitration.

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