Mediation and the Three Bears
How mediation helps find a solution that’s just right for everyone
Sometimes we need to tell stories a little differently to help readers understand what a process is truly about. This is one of those times.
Once upon a time there were three bears that lived in Alberta. One was from the energy industry, one was a landowner, and one was a neutral mediator.
Landowner Bear was upset with Industry Bear, who had applied to build a pipeline across a recreational area used for berry picking by the landowner and his neighbours. This prompted Landowner Bear to lodge a complaint with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). This complaint confused Industry Bear because he had followed the necessary requirements, which didn’t include notifying Landowner Bear. Yet when Industry Bear was offered the opportunity to discuss the dispute with Mediator Bear and Landowner Bear, he agreed to a meeting.
Mediation can literally happen anywhere, so the three bears met in Landowner Bear’s den, where each bear’s voice would be heard and understood.
Because all the bears involved signed confidentiality agreements, we can’t disclose details on how they reached a solution. But what we can tell you is that, with the help of Mediator Bear—who works for the AER—they found a solution that satisfied all bears, thus resolving the berry bush dispute. They put their agreement in writing, and decided to keep the document private and confidential.
Here are five things to know about mediation:
- The procedures are fair to all parties
AER mediation involves a confidential meeting between two or more parties, often residents and energy representatives, who can’t reach an agreement and who desire a mediator to facilitate a conversation. It’s an opportunity for all parties to have input into a mutually agreeable resolution to many or all issues.
- Responsibility for resolution rests primarily with the parties
The purpose of mediation is to explore all interests and options to arrive at a mutual solution. It is important to have the right parties at the table. Those participating must have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the participants or interests they represent.
- Parties are fully informed of the ADR process and their options
The alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process usually improves relationships between parties. It allows each party to ask questions and explain their interests so all who are involved understand.
Often, participants share common concerns, so there are options for groups to consider. When meeting, the mediator will explore the various options and help parties determine how they want to proceed.
- Mediators are impartial
The mediator’s job is to help parties reach a solution where all can agree. The mediator helps people speak openly and respectfully about their concerns and reach a solution. Mediators don’t offer ideas or solutions, and if at least one presenting issue is inside the jurisdiction of the AER, the mediator will facilitate the discussion.
- There aren’t really bears involved in mediation
Mediation is not always warm fuzzies, and actually involves a lot of hard work. While the above analogy is cute, it’s unlikely that bears are really resolving disputes through mediation (more likely with claws and teeth). However, the process works extremely well for humans. In fact, over 80 per cent of disputes are resolved through AER mediation.