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COVID-19 and the courts: a cross-country roundup

Across Canada courthouses are closing to the public and adjourning jury trials in wake of pandemic

COVID-19 and the courts: a cross-country roundup
Courts across Canada have been taking extraordinary measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19. Below is a roundup of actions courts are taking across the country.
 
Federal courts
Supreme Court of Canada
News release regarding COVID-19
 
  • The hearings scheduled for March 24, 25 and 26, 2020, in the cases of Attorney General of Saskatchewan v. Attorney General of Canada (38663), Attorney General of Ontario v. Attorney General of Canada (38781) and Estate of Bernard Sherman v. Kevin Donovan (38695) are rescheduled, tentatively, to the month of June 2020.
  • All other currently scheduled hearings remain on the agenda until further notice.
  • Court will be closed to the public.
Federal Court of Appeal
Notice to the Parties and the Profession: Update on Court Operations in Light of COVID-19 (March 16, 2020)
Notice to the Parties and the Profession: Court Operations in Light of COVID-19 (March 13, 2020)
  • The Federal Court of Appeal is adjourning all hearings scheduled to be heard between now and April 17, 2020, with the exception of urgent matters that will be heard by teleconference. 
Federal Court
Message from the Federal Court in response to COVID-19 pandemic
  • Court will remain open for urgent case-related matters. 
  • For matters before the Federal Court previously scheduled between March 16 and March 27, 2020: The Court will continue to hear any urgent motions or requests pursuant to Rule 35 of the Federal Courts Rules by teleconference. All General Sittings of the Court are cancelled. Matters already made returnable at a General Sittings during that period will be placed on the roll of the next scheduled General Sittings for that City. Hearings, special sittings and case conferences that are already scheduled to proceed by way of telephone conference during that period will proceed as scheduled, unless a request is made to adjourn. All other hearings and trials of the Court previously scheduled to proceed during this two-week period are adjourned sine die. 
  • Court will be closed to the public.
British Columbia
Court of Appeal for British Columbia Modified Proceedings
Supreme Court of British Columbia Modified Proceedings
BC Courts’ Response to COVID-19
Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19)
 
  • The courts are in Alert Level 2: Reduced operations due to moderate judiciary, judicial staff, courthouse staff and sheriff absences, and to protect public health and to reduce and slow the transmission of the virus. Courthouses remain open to the public.
Supreme Court: 
  • All jury selections will be cancelled until the end of May 2020. 
  • For jury trials already underway, the presiding judge will consider whether the trial should continue or be stood down for a period of time.
  • The Court requests that lawyers and parties consider agreeing to adjourn matters (criminal, civil or family), scheduled to proceed between now and May 31, 2020 that do not urgently need to proceed.
Court of Appeal: 
  • The Court requests that lawyers and parties consider agreeing to adjourn matters (criminal, civil or family), scheduled to proceed between now and May 31, 2020 that do not urgently need to proceed.
Alberta
Provincial Court COVID-19 Pandemic Planning for the Scheduling of Matters
Court of Queen’s Bench News & Announcements
Court of Appeal of Alberta Notice - COVID-19
 
  • Provincial Court: As of March 17, anyone with a family, civil, criminal court or a Provincial Offences/traffic court appearance in the Alberta Provincial Court does not need to attend unless the matter is an in-custody or urgent criminal matter, or an urgent family or child protection matter.
  • Court of Queen's Bench: To help contain the spread of COVID-19, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench is limiting hearings to emergency or urgent matters only.
  • Court of Appeal: Effective March 17, it is recommended that only those persons necessary to the proceedings attend before the Court. This will include counsel, litigants and members of the media. No one who is ill or experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms should attend.
Saskatchewan
COVID-19 Update - Provincial Court
COVID-19 Update - Court of Queen's Bench
COVID-19 Update - Court of Appeal
 
  • Provincial Court: Trials and preliminary hearings currently scheduled will proceed on the dates set. The Court’s decision to proceed in this way will be revisited in the week of March 16.
  • Court of Queen's Bench: Effective immediately, all Child Protection Chamber matters appearing in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench will be governed and limited by certain rules.
  • Court of Appeal: At this time there are no plans to cancel or reschedule Court of Appeal proceedings.  However, all lawyers and self-represented individuals slated to appear in matters before the Court are being notified that they may make their submissions by way of telephone rather than in person.
Manitoba
COVID-19 Update (March 16/17, 2020)
 
  • Provincial Court: Effective immediately, all circuit courts sittings throughout Manitoba are cancelled until and including May 1, 2020 or until further notice. All circuit court matters will be adjourned to the first scheduled sitting of that circuit following May 1, 2020.
  • Court of Queen's Bench: During the period from March 17 to April 17, 2020, the Court of Queen’s Bench is limiting scheduled matters to either emergency or urgent matters as they will be identified below based on the distinctive work of the Court’s General and Family Divisions.  The application of this direction to the period following April 17, 2020 is subject to evolving information concerning the virus.
  • Court of Appeal: Effective and including Friday March 20, 2020, the Manitoba Court of Appeal will suspend all appeal and chamber matters up to and including Friday April 17, 2020, at which time the COVID-19 situation will be reassessed. The only exceptions will be urgent matters and matters where all parties consent to having their appeal or chamber matter heard based only on written materials filed with the court. Urgent matters will be heard by teleconference or again, where all parties consent to a paper hearing, based only on written filings.
Ontario
Ontario Court of Justice
COVID-19 Pandemic Planning for the Scheduling of Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice
 
  • As of Monday, March 16, anyone with a Provincial Offences Act, family or criminal court appearance scheduled in the Ontario Court of Justice does not need to attend court, unless the matter is an in-custody or urgent criminal matter or an urgent family matter. 
Superior Court of Justice
  • Effective March 16, all sittings of the Ontario Small Claims Court are suspended until further notice.
  • The Superior Court of Justice is suspending all regular operations, effective March 17 and until further notice.
Court of Appeal for Ontario
  • Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, except as provided below, the Court of Appeal will suspend all scheduled appeals for a period of 3 weeks (until April 3, 2020). 
  • During this period, urgent appeals will be heard based on either the written materials or remotely. 
  • Parties on non-urgent appeals that were scheduled between March 17 and April 3, 2020 can request that their appeal be heard in writing.
Quebec
Service Continuity Plan For The Court Of Québec With Regard To COVID-19
 
  • The Civil Division has suspended all proceedings in its Regular Division and its Small Claims Division. New dates will be determined according to the procedures in the districts where the proceedings were to take place.
  • Likewise, the Civil Division has postponed to dates to be determined in consultation with the parties all hearings in its Administrative and Appeal Division on the merits of cases in appeal or challenges to decisions by an administrative body.
  • The Civil Division is maintaining certain judicial activities related to its jurisdiction in the Practice Division or in the judge’s chambers either because they are considered essential or they can take place by conference call. 
New Brunswick
Jury trials postponed due to COVID-19
 
  • The Court of Queen’s Bench has adjourned all scheduled jury trials until May 12.
Nova Scotia
COVID-19: Additional Preventative Measures For The Nova Scotia Courts
Upcoming Jury Trials In Nova Scotia Suspended
 
  • Courts are continuing to sit. However, preventative measures have been introduced and jury trials suspended.
Prince Edward Island
Notice to the Profession, the Public and the Media regarding Criminal, Civil and Family Proceedings
 
  • Provincial Court: remains open. Social distancing practices recommended. Access to courts limited to those who need to be present. 
  • Supreme Court and Court of Appeal: All in-person court appearances and matters, other than for urgent or emergency matters, are suspended until further notice.
Newfoundland and Labrador
 
  • Provincial Court: All trials and appearances are suspended except where the accused is currently in custody in which case, trials, bails hearings and urgent matters will be heard. A further update regarding future Provincial Court processes will be posted by close of business on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
  • Supreme Court: Supreme Court will be closed to the public on March 17 and 18, 2020, except for counsel, parties, witnesses and those directly involved in court matters scheduled on March 17 and 18, 2020. A further update on court access, court filings and matters scheduled to be heard after March 18, 2020, will be provided by end of day on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
  • Court of Appeal: the Court of Appeal will be closed to the public on March 17 and 18, 2020, except for counsel, parties, witnesses and those directly involved in court matters scheduled on March 17 and 18, 2020. A further update on court access, court filings and matters scheduled to be heard after March 18, 2020, will be provided by end of day on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Yukon
 
  • No information currently available on suspension/cancellation of court proceedings.
Northwest Territories
NWT Courts respond to COVID 19
 
Territorial Court: 
  • All proceedings outside Yellowknife are cancelled until June 1. The sole exception will be matters involving in custody accused that can be conducted by video appearance.  Emergency matters that arise from communities outside of Yellowknife will be dealt with as the circumstances require. 
  • All proceedings outside Yellowknife are cancelled until June 1. The sole exception will be matters involving in custody accused that can be conducted by video appearance.  Emergency matters that arise from communities outside of Yellowknife will be dealt with as the circumstances require. 
  • All Civil and Family docket day appearances in Yellowknife involving individuals who are at liberty are cancelled until June 1 unless otherwise directed.  However, counsel may have the matter brought forward to appear as agent or counsel for such individuals in their absence.  
  • All Criminal and Youth Court docket day appearances in Yellowknife involving individuals who are at liberty are cancelled until June 1 unless otherwise directed. However, counsel may have the matter brought forward to appear as agent or counsel for such individuals.
  • Wellness Court and DVTO Court proceedings are cancelled until following May 31. 
  • All Justice of the Peace proceedings are cancelled until June 1 subject to the following exceptions:
  • Any emergency or time-limited matters that arise at any location in the Northwest Territories will be dealt with as the circumstances may require. 
Supreme Court: 
  • Criminal Matters:  All sittings outside of Yellowknife, (jury trials, non-jury trials, and sentencings) are cancelled until May 1. 
  • Yellowknife Jury trials are cancelled until May 1. 
  • Judge alone trials scheduled in Yellowknife between now and May 1 will remain in place for now.   Pre-trial conferences will be convened in the near future to discuss whether consideration should be given to rescheduling any of those trials.   
  • Pretrial conferences will, until further notice, be held by teleconference.     
  • Criminal chambers – Decision will be made on Monday after meeting with representatives of the bar before a general decision is made. For this coming Monday, further instructions will follow. 
  • Supreme Court List scheduling on March 20, 2020 is cancelled.  Court of Appeal scheduling will proceed by teleconference only.  All counsel and self-represented parties are asked to provide contact information.    
  • Family and civil chambers will proceed by teleconference only until May 1. All counsel and self-represented parties are asked to provide contact information. 
  • Family and civil hearings requiring a hearing between now and May 1 will be scheduled on a case-by-case and will proceed by teleconference where possible.  Pre-hearing conferences will be arranged to discuss. 
Nunavut
Nunavut Courts Current News
 
  • The Nunavut Court of Justice is suspending all upcoming circuit court proceedings outside of Iqaluit in the Territory up to and including May 31, 2020. The directive, issued this morning by the Chief Justice of the Nunavut Court, is effective immediately and applies to all circuit courts that have not yet commenced in court. 
  • The Nunavut Court of Justice is suspending all upcoming jury trials in the Territory up to and including May 31, 2020. 
  • The Court will re-evaluate the situation at the end May 31, 2020.

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