Mediation is a process where a mediator is hired to guide parties through a dispute resolution process.  Unlike a judge, a mediator will not impose a solution but will rather facilitate discussion to help the parties find a solution they can both live with. 

Mediation and Access to Justice

What is Mediation?

Mediation is an informal process where an impartial third-party helps the disputing parties find a mutually satisfactory solution to their differences. Mediation is a voluntary, confidential extension of the negotiation process where a facilitator guides the parties toward a mutually agreeable settlement. This is achieved by helping the parties clarify their underlying interests and concerns, and encouraging compromise and trade-offs based on the relative importance of each item to each party.  

Mediation is usually well-suited to disputing parties who still have a somewhat amicable relationship, who are still able to negotiate, and who do not want a third-party to make final decisions.

Mediators cannot impose a resolution upon the parties since they are not able to make legally binding decisions. Any settlement reached, if in fact one is reached, is simply a contract signed by the parties just like any other contract. The settlement does not have the same legal force as an arbitration “award”, which is the written decision resulting from an arbitration.

Cases for Which Mediation May Be Appropriate

Mediation may be particularly useful when parties have a relationship they want to preserve. So, when family members, neighbors, or business partners have a dispute, mediation may be the process to use. Mediation is also effective when emotions are getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator can hear the parties out and help them communicate with each other in an effective and non-destructive manner.

Mediation works well when highly confidential or sensitive information that should not be disclosed to the public is involved, a speedy resolution is vital, good ongoing relations must be maintained, there is some trust involved, or both parties are desirous of reaching a settlement.

Drawbacks of Mediation

Mediation may not be effective if one of the parties is unwilling to cooperate or compromise. Mediation also may not be effective if one of the parties has a significant advantage in power over the other. Therefore, it may not be a good choice if the parties have a history of abuse or victimization.

Mediation depends on cooperation and goodwill between the disputing parties. When there has been some wrongdoing involved or blame needs to be assigned it is unlikely that proper disclosure will be made and crucial information may be withheld. Mediators have little power to compel parties to produce evidence and documentation when they are unwilling to do so.

Also, when one of the parties is weaker, mediation may just exacerbate that weakness. This can be a serious problem in family disputes, when the weakness of one of the parties, or desire to accommodate leads to an unbalanced result.

What is a Mediator

A person who does not make decisions but facilitates the discussion, making sure that each side has the opportunity to put their side forward, eliciting information, finding areas of possible compromise, identifying potential problem and solutions, and encouraging settlement.

How can you find a Mediator?

The ADR Institute of Canada has regional branches across Canada where names of mediators and arbitrators may be available. ADR Atlantic ( has a partnership with the Legal Info Nova Scotia, and you may be able to get a referral to a mediator by calling Legal Info Nova Scotia's Mediator Referral Service at 902-455-3135 or toll free- 1-800-665-9779, or by email or live chat at