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Stories from the Frontline: Steven Samuel

We love our frontline staff! In this edition of Stories from the Frontline, we hear from Steven Samuel, Decision Processing and Member Support Clerk at the Civil Resolution Tribunal.


Years/time you’ve been in this sector?
I became a civil servant 11 months ago. I’ve been with the Civil Resolution Tribunal for the duration of that time.

What was your background prior to working in this role/sector?
In a snapshot: prior to working with the government, I was in hospitality for 8 years. Almost all of that time was spent working at the Fairmont Empress as a cook. Prior to being a cook, I worked in finance for several years with CIBC. I have a BA in Communications, have worked in radio broadcasting, and I’m a professional voiceover artist. I am now in my third career in the last 10 years. My grey hairs have increased ten-fold.

Describe your role as it is on paper. Now describe how it actually goes in real life.
The role of a Decisions Clerk on paper:
• Edit, format, and stylize legal documents to be published publicly.

The role of a Decisions Clerk in real life:
There are 4 different functions served as a Decisions Clerk, in a nutshell;
• Assigning disputes to tribunal members
• Formatting, editing, styling, publishing merit disputes
• Formatting, editing, styling, publishing default disputes
• Responding to public inquiries

Each assignment requires various tasks which can include data processing, communicating with tribunal members, and parties within a dispute, communicating with adjacent departments (i.e., RSC, TDP) and understanding and applying legislation, namely the CRT Act. Attention to detail is critical as any misinformation or typographical error can result in legal action or poor public perception against the CRT and its employees.

How have you and your team had to adapt during the pandemic for service delivery?
Our team transitioned well during the pandemic. 5 of the 8 people on our team began at the same time, and we all trained together prior to working remotely. While still in an office setting, I started doing morning meetings with our team to serve as a way to check in, enjoy some light conversation, and discuss our work for the day and week. When we transitioned to working remotely, we already had a tight bond and were able to communicate effectively throughout. We were even able to onboard two new members, one just prior to, and one during the pandemic. We were able to offer training through MS Teams screen sharing, and the support of the group through chat, email or monthly meetings. The biggest issue we faced for service delivery was regarding printing and mailing. That issue was addressed and fixed almost immediately, and no other pertinent service delivery issues have arisen since.

What is one thing (or more) you’d like others to know about your work that they probably don’t realize?

I think the most important thing to take away is to recognize how valuable the creation of the CRT has been. The development of the CRT has been instrumental in creating speed, efficiency, and ease of how small claims disputes are handled. It’s also created a conduit for such matters that would have otherwise gone through the Provincial court system causing backlogs, allowing those courts to alleviate pressure in the areas the CRT has jurisdiction over. It’s a way for the public to learn how these proceedings work and allows the public to be involved in their dispute processes from beginning to end. The CRT is progressive. There are many women that serve as tribunal members or are in chair positions, we have a multi-ethnic tribunal, and we continue to grow on every level.

Where do you see sector innovation or modernization most clearly in your work?
The CRT has innovated the way small claims are filed, proceeded, and decided in the province of British Columbia. The public is able to be involved in the dispute process, have access to a case manager that works with them for the duration of their dispute, and everything is done online. All of the tribunal members work remotely as well, and with some intuitive foresight perhaps, the functionality of our work has adapted extremely well to the global pandemic.

Describe what innovation means to you in the context of your work. Why does it matter? Where do you see it happening? Where would you like to see more of it?
Innovation in the context of my work is seen everyday through the daily procedures of our jobs. The fact that the public can file small claims, strata and co-ops, and motor vehicles disputes online while still having access to a human to work with throughout the process is amazing. The biggest challenge with doing things online is not having a person to ask questions to or get answers from. Case managers assist parties within a dispute with everything from evidence collection, answering questions, and facilitating communication between the parties. I think that the more options we have for services that can be done online or remotely with the assistance of real people is key, especially when integrating new ways of life such as we’ve seen with the pandemic.

How do you connect your work to the bigger picture?
I connect my work with the bigger picture by our innovation standards. The CRT is the world’s first online tribunal and has been applauded by many countries worldwide. The CRT has effectively come up with a way to decrease traffic in Provincial Courts, while still maintaining speed, efficiency, professionalism, and trust amongst the public. Technology has no pause button and we need to be prepared to offer services to the public at their doorstep or in the palm of their hands. The CRT has effectively answered both questions, and therefore I believe I see how our innovative ways affect the big picture everyday.

Thank you, Steven!