Canadian jurisdictions continue to relax social distancing measures and take steps towards resuming operations while maintaining safe practices. This post provides an update on the status of the courts across Canada.
We will continue to provide updates as matters progress. Please feel free to reach out to our litigation team with any questions you may have.
The Federal Court
On June 25, the Federal Court released a new Practice Direction Update and a Consolidated COVID-19 Practice Direction outlining all of the measures that remain in force. The Court previously implemented a temporary suspension of regular operations (the “Suspension Period”), which affected Hearings, General Sittings, and Timelines. The Court allowed the Suspension Period to expire in Ontario, Quebec, and the territories on June 30. As the Suspension Period expired in the other provinces on June 15, it has now been lifted throughout the country.
To provide parties and counsel with adequate opportunity for preparation after the expiry of the Suspension Period, the Court has announced these measures:
- Ontario, Quebec, and the territories
- Hearings will not be held before July 27.
- Timelines for the filing of documents and the taking of other procedural steps in proceedings will be suspended until July 14.
- The remaining provinces
- Hearings will not be held before July 13
- Timelines for the filing of documents and the taking of other procedural steps in proceedings were suspended until June 30
Note that the above measures do not apply to proceedings that are or will be moving forward pursuant to one of the exceptions to the Suspension Period.
For all locations across Canada, the lifting of the Suspension Period is subject to the following conditions:
- Until further notice, the Court will continue to schedule all applications for judicial review as well as all general sittings to be heard by video conference (or exceptionally by teleconference).
- The mode of hearing for other proceedings, including, motions, mediations and actions, will be determined after providing parties and their counsel with an opportunity to make representations in that regard.
- Viewing of court files at Registry counters continues to be suspended until further notice. However, members of the media and the general public may request electronic copies of non-confidential court documents.
- Proceedings that are in Case Management will continue to be subject to the discretion of the Case Management Judge.
The Court continues to encourage parties and counsel to file their documents via the e-filing portal. The Court’s Registry counters opened on June 29 throughout the country with reduced staff. The Registry will accept filings for paper copies of confidential documents only; the court requests all other documents be e-filed, faxed or emailed.
On June 11, the Federal Court of Appeal announced it will phase out their Suspension Period by announcing weekly Selected Files that are allowed to proceed. The Court will designate a file as a Selected File primarily on the basis of its age.
On June 22, the Court released its first posting of Selected Files. Each Monday, the Court will add new Selected Files to be added to the list. The Suspension Period for a Selected File will end on the first Monday after the Selection Date.
The Court will continue to hear proceedings remotely, by videoconference, teleconference or in writing until local public health advice allows in-person hearings.
On June 25, 2020, the Ontario Superior Court issued a notice that some in-court hearings will resume in certain locations effective July 6, 2020.
- The Court plans a phased return to in-person hearings with up to 56 courtrooms reopening on July 6 and additional courtrooms being made available on September 15, 2020 and November 1, 2020. Jury matters will continue to be deferred until at least September 2020.
- Directions for the hearing of civil and family matters are provided regionally.
- The Divisional Court will not resume in-person hearings on July 6 and will continue to hear matters remotely. A Notice to Profession was released on June 29, 2020 providing provincewide protocols for all Divisional Court matters
- Guidelines for the filing of materials are found within the regional
- Limitation Periods:
- Limitation periods for matters to be commenced in Ontario courts, tribunals and decision-makers have been suspended by Emergency Order for as long as the Province’s state of emergency remains in effect.
The Ontario Court of Appeal published a practice direction governing how urgent and non-urgent civil matters are heard on April 6, 2020 and it continues to be in effect. The court is primarily hearing urgent matters, with non-urgent matters being restricted to those appeals that have been newly perfected or were adjourned as a result of the pandemic measures. On June 25, the Court released an amended practice direction concerning manner of service and other procedures in criminal matters.
Effective July 16, 2020, the Court will reinstate the prescribed times to take any step in Civil, Criminal or Provincial Offences Act proceedings. The Court has also amended its guidelines for filing electronic documents.
Hearings are only being heard remotely, by telephone or video appearances through Zoom or Court Call, or in writing. The weekly case list provides instruction on how media or members of the public can observe scheduled matters.
Throughout June, the British Columbia Supreme Court has issued numerous notices the resumption of operations:
- On July 7, the Court announced that remote video conferences using Microsoft Teams will be available for Chambers matters expected to last over two hours and Judicial Case Conferences. For other proceedings, parties may apply for a judicial order for the matter to proceed by remote video conference. This option will not be granted if the proceedings require language interpretation or involve witness testimony.
- Registrar hearings will resume with bankruptcy hearings before a master or registrar being done in person in several locations. Until further notice, all other hearings and pre-hearing conferences before a registrar will resume by telephone unless the registrar directs otherwise.
- Chambers applications other than short leave applications estimated for 2 hours or less resumed by telephone effective June 8, 2020.
- Civil and family trials scheduled to begin on or after June 8, 2020 have resumed, unless otherwise directed by the Court. Civil jury trials are cancelled up to September 7, 2020 unless all parties consent to proceeding by judge alone in which case they can seek such an order at a Trial Management Conference or a Judicial Management Conference. .
- Trial Management Conferences resumed on June 1, 2020.
- The court has updated its modified procedures for in-person hearings.
- The running of Filing Timelines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules resumed on May 29, 2020.
- All Supreme Court registries will reopen for in-person filing and services on July 13, 2020. However, parties are still strongly encouraged to e-file, but may also fax file to designated registries, file by mail or file through contactless secure drop boxes.
- As of May 26, 2020 parties not appearing in person will be required to file affidavits of service or delivery with the Court.
- Limitation Periods:
- Limitation periods to commence court proceedings, except for matters under the Builders Lien Act and Strata Property Act, have been suspended by Ministerial Order for as long as the Province’s state of emergency remains in effect.
Limitation periods for matters proceeding before administrative decision-makers are in effect, subject to the decision-maker’s discretion.
On July 7, 2020, the British Columbia Court of Appeal extended the suspension on service and filing deadlines for existing appeals and chambers application until July 27, 2020. In civil appeals, electronic filing is mandatory for all parties until further notice.
Effective July 13, 2020, the Court will accommodate appeal hearings either by video conference or in person with a limited number of participants and attendees permitted. Chambers applications will continue to proceed by teleconference until otherwise directed. Hearings set to proceed before the Registrar will proceed by Zoom, teleconference, in writing, or as directed.
The Court’s weekly hearing list and chambers list are updated daily. The weekly hearing list features public links to observe the matters proceeding by videoconference. In-court proceedings are likely to limit the number of observers to seven individuals. A notice to the public regarding videoconference proceedings can be found here.
* Thanks to Kevin Bushell for his assistance in preparing this summary.