You are tired of the music that your neighbor plays at the top of his lungs at all hours of the day, the nauseating smell of his trash that he has just under your window or the incessant comings and goings of cars in front of his house? To prevent the situation from escalating while still obtaining satisfaction, you could try mediation.
In Quebec, mediation services are offered free of charge by non-profit organizations that call on volunteers trained to arbitrate disputes and legal experts. It all depends on the nature of the conflict that plagues your life.
Alternative justice organizations offer citizen mediation services in every region of Quebec. Their goal ? Bring the two parties together.
The Alternative Outaouais is part of this network. Year in and year out, its volunteers respond to an average of 85 requests from citizens for advice or information. But, in the last year, they received 141 calls: the pandemic has taken effect!
“The nature of conflicts generally remains the same. They relate to noise, water, snow and leaves. The difference is that people work from home. So they are more aware of what is going on around their homes, ”explains Geneviève Laramée, co-manager of the conflict resolution program at L’Alternative.
She gives the example of a citizen whose neighbor has opened a mechanical workshop in her garage. She couldn’t take the noise and the traffic anymore. However, none of this bothered her before the health crisis led her to telecommute.
To help these unfortunate people, the Alternative Outaouais first gives them advice, particularly on the best time to discuss, but also on how to convey their message. “We’re there to support them, but we don’t have a magic wand; people must get involved, ”insists Geneviève Laramée.
Less than one in five cases make it to the mediation stage, which includes at least two meetings with the people concerned. In more specific cases, the volunteers recommend that citizens in conflict turn to legal services.
What is the success rate? Difficult to say, according to Geneviève Laramée. “Sometimes it doesn’t end the way we wanted it to, but then people take a step back and change their perspective. Mediation may have made them progress. “
Small Claims Division
In the event that you decide to sue your neighbor in the Small Claims Division, you are entitled to a free three-hour mediation session, before appearing before a judge. Since May 13, 2021, you can prepare for this meeting by obtaining information on the process from a lawyer at a local justice center, whether by phone, videoconference or face-to-face.
“Often people are stressed to go to mediation. They don’t know what the mediator can do. We support them by giving them tips and tricks, ”explains the director general of the Greater Montreal Community Justice Center, Mr.e Jennifer Fafard-Marconi.
She specifies that these services are provided on a voluntary basis. No one is obliged to speak with a representative of a local justice center, but she believes that this meeting could tip the scales. “People will be in a better position for mediation and it will be more effective,” says the lawyer. She is very enthusiastic about this new service, although it is too early to present concrete results.
The lawyer explains that in many cases “people need to be heard”. Expressing their point of view and the emotions they feel can lead them to open up to a solution, which means mediation is worth trying, she says.
What’s more, the waiting time before a case is heard by a small claims judge is quite long. In Montreal, it reaches nearly 24 months. ” [Si la médiation ne fonctionne pas], the person has at least gone to explore all the possibilities and, when he arrives in court, he knows a little more where he is ”, says Me Fafard-Marconi.
Obtain legal information
If the conflict escalates with your neighbor, you can still receive free legal information from local justice centers, which have offices in most regions of Quebec.
“We’re going to look at the person’s needs and interests and try to find solutions that are good for them,” says Me Jennifer Fafard-Marconi. She points out that these services are given over the phone due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that, in her organization, the wait time is a week or two, at most.
In Montreal, the demand for legal information from the Proximity Justice Center has jumped 38% over the past year and a half. The fact that the services are no longer offered face-to-face, but rather over the phone, would explain this increase, according to the lawyer.
If you are ready to take legal action, you can get the necessary forms and a lawyer will walk you through the next steps. ” Occasionally, [aller au tribunal], this is what will meet the needs of the person, but it is not the case in most situations ”, adds Me Fafard-Marconi.
It should be noted that lawyers who provide legal information remain neutral. None of them will go to court to represent a citizen met at the local justice center.
>> Read also: Get free or low-cost legal information