This page is designed to keep track of COVID-19 related procedural changes to court and ADR procedures. We're going to start with Canadian courts and add more information as we are able to. We're going to keep it very simple, offering blog-style updates with links to court/provider websites and the newest information on top. The likely length of this global emergency could lead to profound change in how institutions operate, including how courts and ADR providers operate. This page aims to document the beginnings of that change. If you have an update, or want to contribute analysis, please e-mail alyssa.king@queensu.ca.

We will make an effort to keep the information on this page up to date, but we're a small team. Nothing on this page constitutes legal advice. You need to check with the relevant court (follow the links) to see what is going on

Canadian Courts

Ontario Update

May 15, 2020

Author: Alyssa King

Supreme Judicial Court

Last week, the Superior Court of Justice (SJC) issued several notices moving appearances to July and suspending jury selection and trials until September. It has now posted a consolidated notice to take effect on May 19. The consolidated notice does not have new dates, but affirms the earlier dates: July for in-person hearings and September for juries. https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/

The SJC was at pains to emphasize that it is “not closed,” and “continues to expand its operations virtually—in writing, or by telephone or video conference hearings.” Litigants and their lawyers are to continue to try to resolve their cases.

In principle, it should be possible to use the same phone and video-conferencing technology to conduct a bench trial. Arbitral institutions are developing manuals for virtual hearings and lawyers are learning to conduct examination for discovery, including cross, by video. Still, new technology presents new difficulties and that may be particularly true for self-represented litigants for whom court is already new. Jury trials also could not be conducted virtually in the traditional matter. These difficulties likely explain why the SJC is leaning heavily on settlement, asking “counsel and parties to engage in every effort to resolve matters.”

The decision to suspend jury trials for so long doubtless creates additional pressure for criminal pleas and for civil parties who have a statutory right to a jury to either settle or forgo that right. These pressures were significant enough that some crown courts in England and Wales will resume jury trials next week. Juries will sit for shorter hours and will practice physical distancing, but there are obvious risks to that move in a jurisdiction that is among the most hard-hit in the world. 

The notice includes more information on how members of the media and public can observe hearings. The SJC is also recording proceedings (note that the public may not record).

Ontario Court of Justice

The provincial court has also issued notices updating and consolidating its previous ones. https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/ The new orders explicitly mentions the media and offer journalists remote access.

Criminal trials and preliminary inquiries have been pushed back until July, but the court is now able to handle non-custody pleas and dismissals. Matters will be “actively case managed,” which means judicial pre-trials in all cases.

Family court trials are also moving to July. However, the court has increased its capacity for audio and video conferencing such that it can resume case conferences for existing matters on May 19.

The new orders include a uniform format for e-mailed documents that should be useful to parties in the absence of an electronic filing system. It would be great to see similar guidance for media that want to send e-mails requesting access.

Administrative Tribunals: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

May 15, 2020

Author: Carlos Faustino

https://irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/legal-policy/procedures/Pages/special-measure…

https://irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/news/2020/Pages/special-temporary-measures-co…

In-person hearings are suspended, exception detention reviews and some admissibility hearings involving detained persons.

The IRB will provide a “Resumption Notice” before proceeding with a previously-scheduled in person hearing or scheduling a new one, with some exceptions as listed on the IRB’s COVID-19 Practice Notice.

When proceedings resume, the IRB will be more flexible in application of its rules due to compliance difficulty caused by COVID-19.

Time limits for submitting documents ordered by an IRB Division are extended to 30 days after the “Resumption Notice” is posted. This applies only to documents whose time limits expired on or before March 16, 2020. Division-specific time limits can also be found on the IRB’s COVID-19 Practice Notice.

The Immigration Division and Immigration Appeal Division are now accepting communication by email.

As of May 1, the Immigration Appeal Division has resumed issuing final decisions.

 


Canada Roundup: Start Here

April 28, 2020

Authors: Alyssa King, Assistant Professor, Paul Burry, JD class of 2021, and Carlos Faustino, JD class of 2021 Queen's University Faculty of Law

With the exception of Nunavut, all provinces and territories have identified cases of coronavirus. The provincial governments have imposed progressively more restricting physical (social) distancing measures. Provincial courts have limited their operations to hearing only some criminal and emergency civil matters, encouraging e-filing, and waiving paper service requirements. Some provinces have also suspended the statute of limitations. Courts at various levels in many provinces continue to run at least partially on paper, but they are beginning to move more matters online to expand their capacity to continue to operate. 

 


Alberta

Court of Appeal: Filing deadlines have not changed, but most sittings have moved to video conference. https://www.albertacourts.ca/ca/publications/announcements/notice---covid-19

Queen's Bench: Suspension of sittings. https://www.albertacourts.ca/qb/resources/announcements/covid-19-suspension-of-sittings

Alberta Provincial Court: Fewer courthouses are open and traffic court is entirely closed. Albertans do not need to attend court in person unless it they have an in-custody or urgent criminal matter or an urgent family or child protection matter. Hearings in civil cases from now through May 22 are adjourned. The statute of limitations has not been suspended. The courts are processing urgent applications (see link for definition) and have dropboxes for non-urgent matters. https://www.albertacourts.ca/pc/resources/covid

 


British Columbia

Suspension of limitation periods under the Emergency Program Act as of March 26, 2020: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/mo/mo/2020_m086

Court of Appeal: Some deadlines suspended. Criminal parties should continue to file and serve notices and applications within the required time period. The registry is closed and the court prefers filings by fax or mail, but provides a number to call if you don't have those options. With the exception of "matters that must proceed" hearings adjourned. Parties to "matters that must proceed" can consent to teleconference or paper process.  https://www.bccourts.ca/Court_of_Appeal/documents/Revised_Notice_to_the_Public_March_30_2020.pdf

Supreme Court: Suspension of court proceedings. "Essential and urgent matters" can be heard through online or paper process. If a judge decides that a hearing is required, the parties may file their materials. The hearing will be by video or phone if possible. https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/documents/Notice%20of%20Suspension%20of%20Civil%20Proceedings%20REVISED%20re%20Insolvency%20April%202%202020.pdf

The court provided a message explaining these decisions: https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/documents/Message_from_Supreme_Court-April_6_2020.pdf

Provincial Court: Only urgent matters are going ahead and the court is using judges to screen applications to determine whether they are, in fact, urgent according to the court's criteria. Matters proceed by video or telephone as a default. https://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/downloads/Practice%20Directions/NP%2019%20COVID-19%20Suspension%20of%20Regular%20Court%20Operations.pdf

Message from the Chief Justice: https://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/COVID19

 


Manitoba

One website: http://www.manitobacourts.mb.ca/news/covid-19-updates-and-notices/

Court of Appeal: Hearings suspended sine die until April 17, 2020. Registry remains open and filing deadlines in place.

Queen's Bench: Non-emergency/urgent matters adjourned April 17. The court asks parties to refrain from making non-urgent filings.

Provincial Court: Most sittings cancelled until May 1, 2020 except for urgent matters. Bail hearings and simple dispositions can be done by teleconference in some courtrooms.

 


New Brunswick

Restrictions on who can enter courts, judge screening of whether appeals are urgent. https://www.courtsnb-coursnb.ca/content/dam/courts/pdf/NB-Courts.pdf

Court of Appeal: Provisions for filing documents and signing affidavit electronically, telephone or video hearings. Media access, limits on recordings also addressed. https://www.courtsnb-coursnb.ca/content/dam/courts/pdf/2020-04-07-Update-Directiverefilingdocuments.pdf 

Queen's Bench: Provisions for e-mail filing; Small Claims matters before Aug. 1 adjourned (small claims adjudicators are helping with family division backlog). Motions adjourned, but can be heard by teleconference. Most trials adjourned until May 29th unless they involve in-custody defendant, some family matters, are COVID-19 related, or a judge considers them urgent. https://www.courtsnb-coursnb.ca/content/dam/courts/pdf/COVID19-PD-CQB-e.pdf

Provincial Court: Directive in effect until May 31. Urgent matters heard via video conference if appropriate. Urgent matters are all proceedings involving a defendant in custody and trials and preliminary inquiries that a judge deems to be urgent. https://www.courtsnb-coursnb.ca/content/dam/courts/pdf/PRESSRELEASE.pdf

 


Newfoundland and Labrador

Court of Appeal: Appeals suspended; urgent matters heard by alternate means. Scheduled applications will be heard by video or phone. Documents filed electronically. https://www.court.nl.ca/appeal/

Supreme Court: Only urgent or emergency matters will be heard, all others adjourned. Court deadlines extended, but statutory filing deadlines are not. Documents may be filed by email. Urgent hearings and appearances will be conducted by video or phone. The court may allow in-person hearings/appearances if necessary. https://court.nl.ca/supreme/covid-19-information.html

Provincial Court: Will not be operating from courthouses. Limited access to court for specific urgent cases.  Criminal matters in which the accused is not in custody, civil matters, non-urgent family matters, and Traffic Court and Contraventions Act matters set to proceed before Friday, May 22, 2020 adjourned and will be rescheduled. Phone or video conferencing used if possible. https://court.nl.ca/provincial/

 


Nova Scotia

One website: https://www.courts.ns.ca/News_of_Courts/COVID19_Preventative_Measures.htm

Court of Appeal: March/April/May/June appeals adjourned and filing deadlines suspended.

Supreme Court: Court will accept documents only in urgent and essential matters as determined by a judge. Virtual affidavits allowed.

 


Northwest Territories

One website: https://www.nwtcourts.ca/en/nwt-courts-response-to-covid-19/

Press access: allowed as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. Total number of media representatives cannot exceed 8 in the Supreme Court and 4 in Territorial Court.

Supreme Court, Court of Appeal: Submissions by phone or in writing for 4/21 sitting.

Supreme Court, Trial Court: Sittings outside of Yellowknife and trials or voir dires in Yellowknife cancelled until June 5. Scheduled hearings and case management conferences will proceed by videoconference or phone. New hearings not being scheduled until June 5. Special chambers hearings in civil and family matters will proceed by phone or video if no witnesses need to be called.

Territorial Court: All lawyers are to appear by phone. Civil and family proceedings outside Yellowknife before June 1 are cancelled unless court directs otherwise. Non-urgent matters canceled until June 1. Urgent criminal and youth, civil, and family matters will go forward in Yellowknife with parties and lawyers appearing remotely. In custody parties will appear via video-link. Bail and other urgent hearings involving a Justice of the Peace will also proceed remotely.

 


Nunavut

One website: https://www.nunavutcourts.ca/index.php/68-flash-news/206-eco-communities

Court of Appeal: Matters that were to be heard on May 12 moved to July 22. 

Court of Justice: All non-urgent matters suspended until June 1 and those affected are to attend court on that date. Filing deadlines from March 16 extended until close of business on June 1. Registry is open electronically and the court will not require personal service of pleadings. Satellite court operations also suspended until June 1. Nunavut is following the Ontario Superior Court's list of urgent criminal matters and procedures for remote hearings. Child welfare matters will also still be heard by phone.

 


Ontario

Limitations period suspended retroactive to March 16. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200073

Court of Appeal: All hearings conducted electronically or by telephone. All documents must be filed electronically. Simplified bail procedure. https://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/notices/covid-19/ochome.htm

Superior Court: Originally only urgent matters would be heard (urgent included some criminal and family matters as well as urgent COVID-related civil litigation). Different regions are now open for a wider range of matters to be heard online or by phone. https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notice-to-the-profession-the-public-and-the-media-regarding-civil-and-family-proceedings-update/

Online filing for general civil claims: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-civil-claim-online

Online filing for small claims: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online

Online filing for divorce: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-divorce-application-online

Ontario Judicial Courts: Only urgent criminal and family matters heard. Video or phone conferencing. Filing for urgent matters by e-mail. https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/

 


Prince Edward Island

Supreme Court and Court of Appeal: https://www.courts.pe.ca/sites/www.courts.pe.ca/files/2020-03/Covid-19%20March%2016%202020_0.pdf

Access to courts limited to persons who need to be present. In-person court appearances except urgent matters are adjourned until further notice. Urgent matters will be heard using technology such as telephone or video as determined appropriate by the court. Filing of court documents in-person are to be done on an urgent basis only. All others must be done by filing via email.

Provincial Court: Access to courts limited to persons who need to be present. Criminal matters for those in custody will proceed, including bail and sentencing hearings. Criminal matters for those not in custody are adjourned to after May 31, 2020. Tele- and video-conference use will be done where possible in order to avoid personal attendance at courthouses. Lawyers are to appear by phone on behalf of their clients, who must not attend adjournments. Lawyers must also attend by phone for routine matters. Unrepresented clients must call Court for instructions regarding rescheduling. 

https://www.courts.pe.ca/sites/www.courts.pe.ca/files/2020-03/COVID-19%20CHANGES%20TO%20PROVINCIAL%20PROCESSES%20MARCH%2020%2C%202020.pdf

 


Quebec

Court of Appeal: Limitations period suspended for the length of the state of emergency. Decisions on the papers alone or single judge hearings by videoconference are possible at the parties’ request. Parties may write to the court to request an urgent hearing. https://courdappelduquebec.ca/en/covid-19-pandemic-update/

Superior Court of Quebec: http://www.tribunaux.qc.ca/c-superieure/avis/covid-19qc.html (in French).

Montreal— As of April 17, hearing wider list or urgent matters.

Quebec— As of April 17, hearing wider list or urgent matters, uncontested matters, and some matters that do not involve witnesses. Some conferences with the judges can go forward after May 4.

Court of Quebec: Most activities suspended, but the courts will hear urgent matters as defined in the March 31 Service Continuity Plan and as defined by the districts. Urgent youth and criminal matters still heard. http://www.tribunaux.qc.ca/c-quebec/codiv19/fs_covid19.html 

 


Saskatchewan

Court of Queen's Bench: A directive on March 19 limited in-person hearings to urgent matters. This directive also required urgent matters, such as bail hearings, to go forward by phone, with documents filed electronically. On April 23, the court began to lift restrictions. Physical access to the courts remains restricted to those who are necessary for court proceedings and do not have COVID-19 symptoms. The court will recommence hearing appearance day applications and holding case conferences on May 1. It will lift restrictions on civil and family chambers applications and pre-trial conferences on June 1. Jury trials scheduled through June will be postponed. https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/court-of-queen-s-bench/covid-19-update

Provincial Court: Physical access to the courts remains restricted to those who are necessary for court proceedings and do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Physical distancing required and no more than 10 people are permitted in a courtroom. Crown and defense counsel have blanket permission to appear by phone except for trials and preliminary hearings. Non-custody docket adjourned until after May 31. https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/provincial-court/covid-19-update

 


Yukon

Supreme Court:  No judge or jury criminal trials, Civil Chambers or Appearance Days, or Family Law Chambers for April, May, through June 2020. Only new and urgent matters, as determined by a judge’s discretion, will be scheduled. E-mail filings and service accepted. Criminal matters and previously scheduled civil and family matters will proceed by phone. New and previously scheduled case management conferences by phone. Settlement conferences and matters requiring in-person testimony rescheduled. 

http://www.yukoncourts.ca/courts/supreme.html

Territorial Court: Crown and defense counsel have blanket permission to appear electronically except for trials and preliminary hearings. All pre-trial, case management, and pre-circuit conferences by phone. No travel for circuit courts. In custody matters proceed by phone or video. Non-circuit show causes for in-custody parties by video. Non-urgent applications adjourned; urgent applications by video. In-custody criminal matters proceed through phone and video, as do certain diversion programs and urgent child protection matters. Youth docket may proceed to sentencing or be adjourned until after May 31. Court will open for setting dates and will schedule dates for non-urgent matters after June 11. Media can request access via telephone.  http://www.yukoncourts.ca/courts/territorial.html

 


Federal Court

Court of Appeal: Timelines suspended between March 16 and May 15. The court can make a preliminary decision to decide matters on the papers or hold hearings by video or phone. It will notify the parties, who can request a different arrangement, but the final decision is with the court. https://www.fca-caf.gc.ca/fca-caf_eng.html

Trial Court: Some timelines suspended between March 16 and May 15. Hearings scheduled before May 15, 2020 are adjourned; urgent matters will be heard by telephone conference if possible. General sittings between April 18 and May 15 cancelled. Case management hearings by phone or video and court will try to accommodate requests for remote hearings. Court will continue to decide some matters on the papers. Parties should use e-filing or e-mail. Certain filing fees waived or postponed.

https://www.fct-cf.gc.ca/content/assets/pdf/base/FINAL%20-%20EN%20Covid-19%20Amended%20Practice%20Direction%20Order.pdf

 


Supreme Court

Hearings scheduled for March, April, and May adjourned. Registry working remotely and accepting e-mail filing. https://www.scc-csc.ca/home-accueil/index-eng.aspx