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Guide to Court Procedures in Canada During COVID-19

June 02, 2020

COVID-19 has forced courts in every province to adjust their procedures.  In this guide we outline how each jurisdiction is handling:

  • Electronic Filings
  • Jury Trials
  • In Person Hearings
  • Virtual Hearings
  • Regional Variances in Each Province
  • Urgent Matters
  • Limitation Periods
  • Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents
  • Virtual Processes

Please note that changes to court procedures in each province are changing on a frequent basis. Please contact one of the RMC lawyers listed below if you have questions about a specific matter.

Territories Covered


Alberta | British Columbia | Manitoba | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Ontario | Prince Edward Island | Quebec | Saskatchewan


Alberta

Calgary
Bruce MacLeod
SVR Lawyers

Edmonton
Debra Woodske
CBM Lawyers

Electronic Filings

Alberta Court of Appeal and Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

Documents can be filed electronically via fax and email.

Alberta Provincial Court

Fax filings are being accepted but other forms of electronic filing, such as email, are not.

Jury Trials

Criminal jury trials and jury selections have been adjourned until September 8, 2020 at earliest. Select civil trials may still go ahead with consent of all parties.

In-Person Hearings

Alberta Court of Appeal

The majority of trials are going ahead electronically or via writing, with the Court of Appeal reporting that 90% of scheduled matters were heard in the month of April.

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

As of March 15, 2020 all Civil and Family proceedings, including chambers matters, Special applications, Early Intervention Case Conferences and all Civil Trials not yet started are adjourned sine die. This order has been extended until June 26, 2020.

However, commencing in June, July and August, select in-person Criminal trials will be heard based on a determination of urgency.

Alberta Provincial Court

Operations are currently resuming according to COVID-19 Staged Resumption of Court Operations – Part 1. As such no in-person hearings will be permitted at any location.

Not-in-custody adult criminal court appearances between May 25, and July 3 have been adjourned 6 weeks from the date of the schedule court appearance or the next available date thereafter.

Virtual Hearings

Alberta Court of Appeal

The majority of trials are going ahead electronically or via writing, with the Court of Appeal reporting that 90% of scheduled matters were heard in the month of April.

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

The only matters currently being heard are those which qualify as Urgent or Emergency according to Master Order #2. However, Without Notice Applications may be submitted electronically as per this procedure; With Notice Application are being heard in writing for Masters chambers according to this procedure; and virtual Masters and Justice Chambers are set to begin on June 3, 2020 according to the procedure found here.

The Court is also now hearing Criminal summary disposition matters via Webex in cases where all parties agree.

Alberta Provincial Court

Trials presently scheduled after May 25th (other than simplified trials) will be case managed by a Judge. If the matter is not suitable for trial by teleconference or videoconference the matter will be adjourned. Applications that can be heard by teleconference may be scheduled.

Docket Courts will only be held remotely by teleconference or videoconference. The Court will continue to hear urgent out of custody matters with leave of a Judge.

Limitation Periods

As per Ministerial Order M.O. 27/2020 of March 30, 2020:

  • Limitation periods are suspended in the enactments under Appendix A from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020 retroactively.
  • Any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding is suspended subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal, or other decision-maker from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020.
  • The limitation period resumes running on June 1, 2020 and the temporary suspension period will not be counted.

It was announced on May 27, 2020 that the suspension will not be extended past June 1, 2020.

Under Master Order #2, and subsequently #3 and #4 all filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court, with the exception of those Rules applicable to the commencement of proceedings, including originating applications, are suspended until June 26, 2020.

Swearing Affidavits of Witnessing Documents

Alberta Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal has adopted the Court of Queen’s Bench practice regarding the remote commissioning of Affidavits

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

As per their announcement on March 25, 2020, the Court of Queen’s Bench will accept remotely commissioned affidavits for Civil and Family matters according to the provided protocol found here.

Emergency/Urgent Matters

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta

Matters of Highest Priority Requiring Immediate Attention (as of March 23, 2020):

Emergency matters, in which serious consequences to persons or harm to property may arise if the hearing does not proceed, or if there is a risk of loss of jurisdiction or expiration of an existing protection or restraining order, including, but not limited to:

  • Emergency matters are those in which serious consequences to persons or harm to property may arise if the hearing does not proceed, or if there is a risk of loss of jurisdiction or expiration of an existing protection or restraining order including, but not limited to:
  1. Family Matters:
  • Orders where there is a risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or a child.
  • Orders where there is a risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction.
  • Emergency Protection Order reviews.
  1. Civil Matters
  • Orders relating to the pandemic, including quarantine orders.
  • Injunctions, where there is prima facie urgency, including refusal of treatment/end of life matters.
  • Civil Restraining Orders.
  • Preservation Orders.
  • Urgent Orders in the nature of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus and
  1. Surrogate Matters
  • Emergency Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Orders, where there is a risk of harm to an individual or their property.
  1. Criminal Matters:
  • Detention and bail review Orders.
  • Wiretap, Production and related Orders.
  • Fresh arrest warrants and matters where the accused are in pre-trial custody.
  • Urgent matters are those that do not meet the first priority level, but must be addressed in a timely way, including:
  • Arraignments, including for in-custody accused.
  • Urgent Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Orders.
  • Receivership/CCAA stay extensions.
  • Urgent Surrogate Orders.
  • Anton Piller or Mareva-type injunctions.
  • Freezing Orders.

Alberta Provincial Court

The Provincial court is only hearing urgent matters upon application to a judge. The relevant materials are sent electronically to the Judge who then makes a determination on their urgency. Urgent Civil, Family and Criminal matters are currently being heard on a case-by-case basis


BRITISH COLUMBIA

Contact:

Vanessa Gauthier
Lindsay LLP

Electronic Filings

British Columbia Supreme Court

Electronic filings for pleadings and requisitions are still being accepted and filed.

Provincial Court (Small Claims)

No electronic filings are being accepted at this time except for applications for urgent matters.

British Columbia Court of Appeal

The BC Court of Appeal is accepting filings in all matters and parties are encouraged to advance their appeals if able to. For civil appeals, electronic filing is mandatory.

Jury Trials

British Columbia Supreme Court

Civil Jury trials have been suspended up to and including September 7, 2020. If parties wish to have their trial that is set during that period heard by judge alone, they may make an application at a TMC for an order that their matter be heard by judge alone.

In-Person Hearings

British Columbia Supreme Court

All trials set between March 19, 2020 and June 5, 2020 have been adjourned. At this time, the court is beginning to resume trials and plans to have the first set of trials start on June 8, 2020. All TMCs previously adjourned for those trials set to start after June 8, 2020 can be reset and be heard via teleconference.

Provincial Court (Small Claims)

The only applications or hearings being heard in-person for Small Claims court are warrants for arrest, limitation periods, and extensions of time to file documents or renew notices of claim.

British Columbia Court of Appeal

Currently, all hearings at the Court of Appeal are being heard by videoconferencing using the Zoom platform, or by teleconference or in writing.

Virtual Hearings

British Columbia Supreme Court

Chambers applications for less than 2 hours will be heard via telephone. There is no longer a limit on affidavit length. Application records must be filed a day earlier and will not be returned.

Provincial Court (Small Claims)

Settlement conferences will be heard by audioconference or videoconference on the date originally set from May 19 to July 3, 2020. The registry will contact parties with videoconference or audioconference details. All small claims trials and trial continuations scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020 will proceed on their original dates. Pursuant to section 17 of the Small Claims Act, the Chief Judge directs that on the trial date parties will have a pre-trial conference (not a trial) in order to determine whether the matter can be resolved or how to proceed. The Court will contact parties with videoconference or audioconference details for the pre-trial conference.

British Columbia Court of Appeal

Currently, all hearings at the Court of Appeal are being heard by videoconferencing using the Zoom platform, or by teleconference or in writing.

Limitation Periods

Per Ministerial Order No. M086, all limitation periods are suspended until the state of emergency is over.

Per, the BC Provincial Website, the current intention is to end the state of emergency on the end of day May 26, 2020.

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

British Columbia Supreme Court

Affidavits may be sworn virtually as long as certain requirements are followed, as outlined in the hyperlinked notice.

Provincial Court (Small Claims)

Affidavits may be sworn virtually as long as certain requirements are followed, as outlined in the hyperlinked notice.

British Columbia Court of Appeal

Affidavits may be sworn virtually as long as certain requirements are followed, as outlined in the hyperlinked notice.

Urgent Matters

British Columbia Supreme Court

The only civil matters the BCSC considers urgent are:

  • orders under the Quarantine Act;
  • orders under the Public Health Act;
  • refusal of treatment and end of life matters, including applications under the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act;
  • detention of individuals, including under the Mental Health Act and the Adult Guardianship Act;
  • emergency adult guardianship and committeeship orders, including under the Adult Guardianship Act and Patients Property Act;
  • housing evictions, including interim stays of orders of possession under the Residential Tenancy Act;
  • civil restraining orders;
  • preservation orders;
  • urgent injunction applications; and
  • urgent orders in the nature of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus and prohibition.

Provincial Court (Small Claims)

Urgent Small Claims matters will only be heard upon application to a judge. The only matters considered urgent are warrants for arrest, limitation periods, extensions of time to file documents and to renew notices of claim, pre-trial conferences and settlement conferences.


MANITOBA

Dean Giles
Fillmore Riley LLP

Electronic Filings

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench (including Small Claims)

The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench registry remains open but asks that only necessary documents be filed. No electronic filings are being accepted.

Manitoba Court of Appeal

The Manitoba Court of Appeal registry remains open, no electronic filings are being accepted.

Jury Trials

All jury trials scheduled to take place before June 30, 2020 were postponed. It is not yet known when these trials will resume.

In Person Hearings

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench (including Small Claims)

With the exception of jury trials, trials scheduled to take place between May 26 and June 30, 2020, are presumptively set to proceed.

Small Claims contested matters (trials) scheduled on or after June 8, 2020 will proceed in person, following appropriate social distancing guidelines. All other Small Claims matters including first appearances, uncontested, motor vehicle accident and collections lists will proceed by teleconference until further notice.

Access to all courthouses in Manitoba, including circuit court locations, are restricted to only those persons who are necessary to the proceedings before the courts. This includes counsel, litigants, accused, witnesses and victim service workers. The general public is not allowed to entre, though press and media personnel are allowed to attend.

Manitoba Court of Appeal

Until further notice, all Court of Appeal matters will be heard remotely. Appeals will be heard by videoconferencing, and motions or applications will be heard by teleconferencing.

Virtual Hearings

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench

While civil trials are set to proceed in-person, the current approach to the scheduling and hearing of pre-trials, case management meetings, case conferences, motions and JADRs will continue for the foreseeable future, and all of those services will proceed by teleconference or video conference.

During the summer court recess from June 29 to September 7, 2020, the uncontested civil motions list will operate by teleconference.

The Masters’ civil uncontested list resumed daily on May 19, 2020 by teleconference.

The Court of Queen’s Bench Small Claims Court Officers will resume hearing Small Claims actions on June 8, 2020. Matters that had been scheduled to be heard between March 17, 2020 and June 7, 2020 will be assigned to an administrative list to proceed by teleconference. Small Claims contested matters (trials) scheduled on or after June 8, 2020 will proceed in person, following appropriate social distancing guidelines. All other Small Claims matters including first appearances, uncontested, motor vehicle accident and collections lists will proceed by teleconference until further notice.

Manitoba Court of Appeal

As of Monday, April 20, 2020, all appeals will be heard remotely by videoconferencing. All motions or applications will be health remotely by teleconferencing.

Urgent Matters

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench

To have any emergency or urgent matter heard, a request must be made to the motions coordinator to have the matter added to the uncontested list, at which leave will be sought for any eventual expedited hearing.

Limitation Periods

All Courts

Statutory deadlines have remained in place throughout. Court filing deadlines remain in place as well, though judges have been asked to exercise their discretion mindful of the special circumstances arising from the COVID-19 situation

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

The Court of Appeal is allowing affidavits and declarations to be filed without compliance with the formal requisites as long as they are filed with an undertaking by the lawyer to file a compliant original prior to the hearing date.

Pursuant to The Emergency Measures Act, CCSM c E80, Order re Temporary Suspension of In-Person Commissioning and Witnessing Provisions, commissioning and witnessing of certain documents such as oaths, affirmations, statutory declarations, powers of attorney, wills, and land titles documents can be done through clear partitions or over videoconferencing as long as certain requirements are complied with. This measure is expected to be temporary, and will end once the Order is no longer in force on October 1, 2020 or sooner if the Order is revoked at an earlier date.

Getting Back to Work

In-person hearings began in Manitoba on May 26th. Contested Small Claims hearings will proceed in person starting June 8, 2020.

To date, the rescheduling of postponed jury trials has not been addressed.

All civil trials adjourned during the period from March 16 to April 17, 2020 were added to the assignment list of April 16, 2020 and all civil trials adjourned during the period of April 20 to May 25, 2020 were added to the assignment list of May 21, 2020. These lists proceeded by teleconference and gave the parties three options for scheduling:

  • Schedule up to a one-day JADR to proceed on a designated date in July or August with a judge selected by the court and also schedule a trial on available dates at the end of the scheduling “queue” (estimated to be two years away);
  • Schedule up to a two-week trial during July or August on an available period offered by the court; or
  • Schedule a trial on available dates at the end of the scheduling “queue” (estimated to be two years away).

If the parties cannot agree on the appropriate option, it was open to the presiding judge to determine how and when the matter would proceed.


NEW BRUNSWICK

Monika Zauhar
Cox & Palmer

Overview of the Current Situation in New Brunswick

On March 16, 2020, the Chief Justice of New Brunswick, the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Chief Justice of the Provincial Court issued a directive setting out the pro-active and protective measures they would be taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the majority of scheduled cases between March 16, 2020 and June 1, 2020 were adjourned. In particular, only urgent or essential matters were heard in person. The Courts are re-opening for June 1, 2020 and the Court of Queen’s Bench anticipates that it will be running at full capacity in July and August. The Courts have provided directives, discussed further below, for the hearing and scheduling of cases.

Electronic Filings

In both the New Brunswick Court of Appeal and the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench, COVID-19 has not interrupted court filings. Both courts are allowing for filings to be made electronically via email.

Hearings

New Brunswick Court of Appeal

Scheduled motions and status hearings are to be heard by telephone conference unless the motion judge or the Chief Justice determines otherwise. Perfected appeals are being scheduled to be heard in the usual manner and will be heard by video or telephone conference, as the court may direct. The Court of Appeal has not yet established a date upon which in-person hearings will resume.

New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench

All in-person matters (with the exception of jury trials) will resume as of June 1, 2020. Judges are currently scheduling pre-hearing case management telephone conference calls to ensure that all parties and lawyers understand the COVID-19 procedures to be followed when arriving at the courthouse and during the proceedings. All small claims are adjourned until September 1, 2020, at which time new hearing dates will be set.

Jury Trials

New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench

All jury trials will resume as of August 15, 2020. Prior to trial, judges will conduct pre-hearing case management telephone conference calls to ensure that all parties and lawyers understand the COVID-19 procedures to be followed when attending the courthouse.

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

While the Renewed and revised Mandatory Order is in effect, Affidavits may be sworn or affirmed by videoconference as long as certain requirements are followed. The specific requirements required are set out in the Updated Directive – Court of Appeal of New Brunswick and on the Law Society of New Brunswick web site.

Virtual Attendance

Once Court of Queen’s Bench matters resume in full and in person on June 1, 2020, witnesses or parties who are unable to personally appear due to travel restrictions or specific health concerns may request to appear by videoconference. Video appearances are subject to the approval of the presiding judge, and such request must be forwarded to the clerk of the court of the respective jurisdiction at least 5 days prior to the scheduled appearance.

Regional Variances

Effective June 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020, all operations of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Fredericton will be moving to the Fredericton Convention Center, located at 670 Queen Street.

Each jurisdiction is taking appropriate steps to ensure physical distancing, although the exact protocols may differ from one jurisdiction to another.

Limitation Periods

Retroactive to March 19, 2020, all limitation periods for commencing any proceeding have been suspended. This suspension will cease to have effect no later than 90 days after the state of emergency ends.

Getting Back to Work

The Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick has created a province-wide docket dedicated to the recovery of matters adjourned as a result of COVID-19 called the “Recovery Docket”.  Once a date is assigned to the Recovery Docket, it will not be rescheduled without the approval of a Judge. All in-person matters will resume as of June 1, 2020, and the Court will be operating at full capacity in July and August. Court dates currently scheduled between June and December 2020 will proceed as scheduled with limited exceptions.


NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR

Stephen May
Cox & Palmer

Following a suspension of regular operations on March 18, 2020, the Registry of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador resumed the acceptance of the all filings for processing effective May 19, 2020. One exception to acceptance of filings is that notices of examination that require an in person appearance will not be accepted.

Hard copy filings remain the preferred method of receipt by the Registry of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Where hard copy delivery is not possible, electronic filings are permitted, but must meet a number of conditions.

Jury trials

Criminal jury trials and jury selection processes have been suspended until September, 2020 at the earliest. Civil jury trials remain suspended indefinitely.

In person hearings and Urgent Matters

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador suspended normal operations as of March 18, 2020. As of June 1, 2020, a limited number of proceedings may be held:

  1. In-Custody criminal matters including;
  2. Matters of public health and safety and relating to COVID-19;
  3. Any other civil matter that the Court deems necessary and appropriate to hear on an urgent basis; and
  4. Some family matters, particularly those matters which require urgent relief or deal with the safety of individuals.

Priority is being given to the processing and hearing urgent and emergency matters.

Where the Court determines than an in-person hearing or appearance on an urgent matter is necessary, the Court will provide directions to counsel and the parties with respect to the conduct of such hearing or appearance.

Virtual hearings

Limited civil proceedings, including Settlement Conferences and Applications may be held by audio and/or video link if allowed by the presiding Justice. The determination of whether a proceeding can be held virtually will be made by consultation of the Court, counsel and the parties. The Court intends to proceed with matters than can be completed in one day or less, but the judge and parties may agree to schedule settlement conferences or applications for longer than one day in certain circumstances.

Limitation periods

Limitations periods set forth in the Limitations Act have been amended by the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Order, made under the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act, as follows:

Limitations periods expiring on or after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020 have been extended to September 14, 2020.

In addition to the temporary variations of limitations periods under the Limitations Act, the Department of Justice and Public Safety made amendments to deadlines set forth in a number of other pieces of legislation.

Court Timelines

The Court extended time periods contained in the Rules of the Supreme Court that require or authorize a person to do or abstain from doing any act in a proceeding until such date as the Court resumes normal operations. This includes periods for service, filing, or amendment of any pleading or other document. While normal operations are not underway, the filing of all documents is now permitted, but such filings are subject to delayed processing timelines.

Swearing affidavits and witnessing documents

Affidavits and other documents requiring a witnessed signature must be signed and witnessed by a commissioner of oaths. This must be completed prior to the filing of the document and the Court Registry will not be witnessing signatures at the Registry counter.

If documents must be witnessed remotely through audio-visual technology, the witness and signatory must comply with the Temporary Alternate Witnessing of Documents Act. These requirements include:

  1. The witness taking all reasonable steps to verify the identity of the person signing the document;
  2. The witness stating on the document that it was witnessed through the use of audio-visual technology in accordance with the Act; and
  3. The witness complying with requirements established by the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador related to the witnessing of documents through the use of audio-visual technology. The particulars of the Law Society requirements are set forth at Rule 18 of the Law Society Rules.

Returning to work

Individuals and businesses are required to obey the Public Health Orders issued by the Department of Health and Community Services, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Law firms may offer in-person services where the applicable public health measures can be met.


NOVA SCOTIA

Joey Palov
Cox & Palmer

Electronic Filings

Nova Scotia is currently accepting very few things for filing electronically.  There are work arounds in place for emergency and essential matters and some judges are receiving documents for virtual hearings and Judicial Settlement Conferences by email.  However, the Courts do not have an electronic filing system nor do they plan to put one in place in 2020.  Therefore, very few items can be filed right now with our Courts.  Once the Courts reopen, no further electronic filing will be accepted.

Jury Trials

Currently jury trials have been adjourned and the Courts in Nova Scotia are targeting September to resume jury trials.  It is clear the courthouses in Nova Scotia are not big enough to accommodate jury trials with safety protocols (physical distancing) in place and therefore they are sourcing a facility that could provide the space required to allow for jury trials to recommence this Fall.

In-Person Hearings

The Courts are targeting a June 15th date for re-opening to some degree.  The Chief Justice had been clear that any re-opening will not look like it did before Covid-19 and many significant changes are going to be implemented.  However, a re-opening would allow some matters to proceed on an in-person basis so long as proper safety protocols can be adhered to.  Matters involving various parties, significant viva voce evidence and many trial exhibits would not be appropriate to proceed in-person.  The Courts also encourage continued use of virtual hearings as appropriate and available.  The judge assigned the matter will review it first to determine whether it should proceed virtually, whether it can proceed in person or whether it needs to be adjourned.  If counsel wish, they can write to the judge assigned the matter to provide input but the final decision resides with the judge.

Virtual Hearings

As of mid-May the Courts in NS were proceeding with virtual hearings for all matters where each party was represented by counsel (ie no self-represented litigants), the matter could be heard in less than 4 hours, and there was no viva voce evidence or cross-examinations.  To date, at least 7 hearings have proceeded virtually and they are looking at expanding the use of Skype for business to possibly allow for short cross-examinations.

Regional Variances

In Nova Scotia there is a lack of consistency with how the district courts are operating as compared to the Halifax Law Courts.  However, the directives are being given by the Chief Justice and are meant to apply across the board despite the district judges modifying the directives slightly.

Limitation Periods

No suspensions of limitation periods and anything with an upcoming limitation period is deemed urgent and essential.

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

There is a lengthy practice memorandum as to how an affidavit can be sworn virtually for filing with the Court.  It is quite cumbersome and not very practical.  It is available on the courts website.  However, other oaths are being administered virtually on things like deeds, releases and statements by simply adding reference to “sworn by way of video conference.”

Urgent Matters

There has been no directive from the court on what is urgent but counsel is to convey their belief as to why a matter is urgent in letter form accompanying the documents for filing or the request for a hearing date.  If a matter is deemed urgent, an in person hearing can be convened quickly.

Virtual Processes

Nova Scotia is using Skype for Business exclusively.  Many Judicial Settlement Conferences are proceeding on this platform.  In addition, telechambers are happening daily in Halifax and monthly in the districts.


ONTARIO

Ottawa
Mitch Kitagawa
Kelly Santini LLP

Toronto
Larry Reimer
Blaney McMurtry LLP

COVID-19 Impact on Civil Matters in Ontario          

As of March 17th, 2020, the operations of the Ontario Superior Court have been suspended indefinitely. However, the court expects that procedural timelines will still be met and that documents will continue to be produced and that cases will proceed through virtual means to complete examinations for discovery, mediations, pre-trials, case conferences and other hearings where possible.

Electronic Filings

Claims and defences can still be filed electronically.

Jury Trials

No jury trials will proceed until September 2020 at the earliest.

In Person Hearings

During the suspension of in-court operations, matters will only be heard in-writing, or by telephone or video conference. There will be no in-person hearings until July 6, 2020 at the earliest. No order or consent is required for a hearing to proceed by virtual means.

Virtual Hearings

During the suspension of in-court operations, matters will only be heard in-writing, or by telephone or video conference.

If you are on a virtual hearing, find an appropriate space, speak slowly and clearly and ensure your phone or computer is charged or you have a charger with you.

If on a phone chose a land line where possible. If on a cell phone consider using a headset with a microphone. Don’t use speakerphones or voice over internet and mute your phone when not speaking. Say your name before speaking.

If on a video conference, business dress is required, test your camera, mic and sound beforehand. Close any apps you may have open and reduce any devices using your internet, log in 15 minutes before the start time. Mute your mic when not speaking, mute notifications, your screen name should have your first and last name and say your name when you start speaking.

Hearings will still be made public.

Regional Variances

Most regions are hearing motions and pre-trials where there is a real chance of settling either in writing or by way of phone conference or video conference. The methods of filing the documents and scheduling dates vary from region to region.

Urgent Matters

Urgent matters can be heard and each jurisdiction will have its own procedure for having the documents filed and the proceeding scheduled. Urgent matters include time-sensitive motions and application in civil matters where immediate and significant financial repercussions may result if there is no judicial hearing and outstanding warrants issued in relation to a Small Claims Court or Superior Court civil proceedings.

Both the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Appeal will continue to hear matters on an urgent basis. Processes have been put into place to help the Courts determine whether a matter can be deemed urgent.

Limitation Periods

The suspension of the Limitation Period in Ontario has been extended to September 11, 2020. Any provision of any statute, regulation rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any limitation period shall be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to March 16, 2020.

Any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any period of time within which any step must taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding, shall, subject other discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding, be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday March 16, 2020.

As of April 16, 2020, the above does not apply to provisions of the Construction Act.

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

Where it is not possible to administer an oath, such as signing an affidavit, in the physical presence of the deponent, a lawyer or paralegal may commission an affidavit by video. The affidavit should state that it was commission by video conference.

Where it is impossible to commission an affidavit by video conference, an unsworn affidavit may be delivered to the Court, but the deponent must be able to participate in any telephone or videoconference hearing to swear or affirm the affidavit.

Virtual Processes

On the 5th of May 2020, the Superior Court released a decision referenced as Arconti v Smith, 2020 ONSC 2782, where the Court ordered examination for discovery to be conducted by way of video conference in the course of a mini trial. The Court noted that to prevent litigation from coming to a standstill, these virtual processes will be implemented. Accordingly, we anticipate that electronic processes will become the norm.

Getting Back to Work

The Superior Court of Justice will not conduct in-person hearings until July 6th of 2020 at the very earliest. Beyond this date, each Superior Court jurisdiction will have its own timetable for re-scheduling in-person matters going forward.

Presently, the backlog of adjourned matters, including trials, has yet to be addressed. This may prompt the use of alternative dispute resolution tools be they mediations, private pre trials, neutral evaluations, or arbitrations.


PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Steven Forbes
Cox & Palmer

On March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island and Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal reduced operations to only essential, emergency, or urgent matters. As of May 19, 2020, the Courts began limited operations as set out below.

Electronic Filings

Claims and defences can be filed electronically, as well as materials for Motions and Applications.

Jury Trials

Given the limited number of jury trials on Prince Edward Island, the Courts have made no specific announcement regarding jury trials. It would be consistent with their previous notices to assume that jury trials will be managed on a case by case basis as they arise.

In Person Hearings

Matters that are “essential, urgent, or an emergency” (as determined by the Court) may be conducted in person with appropriate social distancing and protective equipment precautions. As restrictions begin to ease, in person hearings or in person judicial conference may be granted on a case by case basis in collaboration with the Case Management Judge.

Virtual Hearings

The Court is open to conducting hearings and judicial conferences in writing, by telephone, or by video conference. The appropriate mode of hearing and attendance is being determined on a case by case basis in collaboration with the Case Management Judge.

Urgent Matters

If a party believes that its matter is urgent, essential or an emergency, then the Court has instructed that counsel is to send correspondence to the Court setting out its reasons why their matter meets that criteria. The opposing party will have an opportunity to respond and the Court will determine whether the criteria is satisfied and in person hearing or conference is warranted.

Limitation Periods

All limitation periods remain in full force and effect. There has been no suspension period in Prince Edward Island.

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

The Court has issued no specific direction on the swearing of Affidavits in civil proceedings. Due to an ambiguity in Prince Edward Island’s Affidavits Act, there is some controversy regarding whether an Affidavit may be sworn without the physical presence of the deponent. Notwithstanding that it has not issued a formal direction, the Court has signaled that it will accept Affidavits sworn by video conference.

Virtual Processes

The Court has encouraged counsel to pursue virtual options for completing steps in the litigation process such as discovery. As for the application of virtual processes to court proceedings, formally a motion is required to proceed by telephone or video conference. The Court has signalled that they will largely be accommodating of such motions, unless it is in the interest of justice that the matter should not proceed by telephone or video conference.

Getting Back to Work

Public Health has been easing back restrictions by stages since May 1, 2020. As noted, the Court has resumed limited operations on May 19, 2020. Rather than setting out strict rules applicable to all matters, the Court has taken the approach of dealing with each matter on a case by case basis. That permits the Court to triage matters as necessary and proceed in a manner that is workable for all parties. In order to accommodate that process, on the short term, most matters are being case managed by a judge.


SASKATCHEWAN

David Thera
McKercher LLP

Updates to all Saskatchewan Court procedures in light of COVID-19 can be found at the following websites:

Provincial Court: https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/provincial-court/covid-19-update

Court of Queen’s Bench: https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/court-of-queen-s-bench/covid-19-update

Court of Appeal: https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/court-of-appeal/covid-19

See also: https://www.mckercher.ca/resources

Electronic Filings

Provincial Court

Electronic filing of documents is permitted, except with respect to Small Claims Court (for which documents should be filed via mail or the Court House drop box).

Court of Queen’s Bench

Documents relating to urgent matters may be filed by e-mail.

Court of Appeal

All documents should be filed electronically via the eCourt system, but they may also be filed by e-mail.

Jury Trials

All jury trials in the Court of Queen’s Bench have been adjourned to Fall 2020 at the earliest.

In-person Hearings

Provincial Court

Effective June 1, 2020, criminal trials and preliminary hearings can be scheduled to be heard in person.

Counsel case management conferences may proceed in person at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Urgent child protection matters have been proceeding in person as usual.

Small Claims trials and case management conferences as well as some provincial ticket and Bylaw Court matters will be dealt with in person starting on June 1, 2020.

Court of Queen’s Bench

Few in-custody criminal matters are appearing in person. All other matters are being heard via teleconference.

Court of Appeal

All matters are being heard via teleconference or videoconference, although parties may apply to the Court for an in-person hearing where they believe such a sitting is necessary.

Virtual Hearings

Provincial Court

All matters except trials and preliminary hearings can be heard via teleconference.

Court of Queen’s Bench

All matters except for trials are to be scheduled to be heard via teleconference. A significant number of Chambers matters will be heard in June 2020 and a significant number of pre-trial conference sittings will be scheduled in June, July, and August 2020 to help deal with the backlog of matters that have been adjourned.

Court of Appeal

All matters are being heard via teleconference or videoconference unless other arrangements have been made.

Regional Variances

Provincial Court

All Permanent Court locations remain open, while some Circuit Court locations are currently closed (with matters being administered through one of the Permanent Court locations).

Limitation Periods

All limitations prescribed by statute have not changed. Filing deadlines also have not changed—except for with respect to the Court of Appeal, which has indicated that parties may write to the registrar in advance of a deadline to request an extension where the deadline cannot be met because of issues related to COVID-19.

Swearing Affidavits and Witnessing Documents

The Government of Saskatchewan has enacted emergency Regulations that allow for the remote execution of some documents via videoconference during a public emergency period. The Law Society of Saskatchewan has also released Practice Directives that must be followed when engaging in remote execution of documents.

(https://www.lawsociety.sk.ca/regulation/act-code-and-rules/practice-directives/practice-directive-1/; https://www.lawsociety.sk.ca/regulation/act-code-and-rules/practice-directives/practice-directive-3/)

Additionally, the Court of Queen’s Bench and Small Claims Court have indicated they will accept unsworn affidavits for filing where the matter is urgent or it is not possible to have the affidavit sworn. However, the Court will not rely on unsworn evidence, so the affiant must either file a sworn affidavit as soon as possible or be available by phone when the matter is heard to swear/affirm to the truth of the evidence.

Urgent Matters

Provincial Court

Urgent child protection matters have been proceeding in person as usual.

Court of Queen’s Bench

Parties with urgent civil and family Chambers matters have been permitted to apply to the Court to have the matter heard via teleconference since the state of emergency was declared. Starting on June 1, 2020, there will no longer be a distinction between urgent and non-urgent Chambers matters; all Chambers matters will be heard via teleconference.

Court of Appeal

There has been no distinction between urgent and non-urgent matters since all matters are being heard via videoconference as scheduled.

Virtual Processes

As indicated above, certain documents can be executed via videoconference during a public emergency period.

Some questionings have also taken place, such as through Zoom videoconferencing with Royal Reporting.

The Dispute Resolution Office offers the opportunity to conduct a mediation via teleconference where the parties consent. Some arbitrators are also holding arbitrations via teleconference or videoconference.

Returning to Work

Provincial Court

While some of the Circuit Court locations remain closed at this time, the Permanent Court locations are open to the public for certain matters (as described above). Persons attending the Courthouses are required to obey all social distancing guidelines and protocol at each location and are asked to not attend at the Courthouse unless it is necessary.

There is no estimated time for all Court locations to become fully open to the public once again.

Court of Queen’s Bench

Very few matters are being held in person at this time, and the Court is asking people to refrain from attending at the Courthouses unless it is necessary. For those that do attend, social distancing guidelines and protocol at each location must be adhered to.

There is no estimated time for all Court locations to become fully open to the public once again.

Court of Appeal

Since virtually all Court of Appeal matters are able to be heard via videoconference, there is no expected date for the Court of Appeal to reopen to the public at this time.

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