COVID-19 action committee on court operations meets to discuss priorities

Guidance released on orienting principles, core principles and perspectives, and terms of reference

COVID-19 action committee on court operations meets to discuss priorities
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti

The Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 has released its initial guidance documents, available online on Justice Canada’s website. These include orienting principles, core principles and perspectives and terms of reference.

The committee held its second meeting via teleconference on May 22 and agreed to prioritize the challenges faced by small courtrooms, circuit courts and remote courts in conducting jury trials and hearings and progressively reopening courts.

The orienting principles build upon the framework of control measures developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada for the safe reopening of various workplaces across Canada. In this document, the committee discusses how courts can identify and mitigate COVID-19-related risks and provide accessible communications.

The core principles include public health principles, such as science and evidence-based decision-making, and fundamental justice system principles, such as federalism, judicial independence, access to justice and the rule of law. On the other hand, the core perspectives cover health and safety, judiciary and court administration considerations.

The terms of reference explain the committee’s mandate, its key principles and considerations, its membership, its timelines and its sources of operational support.

These initial guidance documents were developed in collaboration with representatives from the justice system, governments, public health authorities and workplace safety authorities.

The committee was launched to provide national guidance and leadership to assist the relevant provincial, territorial and judicial decision-makers in the gradual resumption of safe and accessible court operations. It is co-chaired by Richard Wagner, Canada’s chief justice and chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, and David Lametti, federal justice minister and attorney general.

Wagner stressed the importance of maintaining public confidence and trust in the justice system.

“This means that we cannot simply view our response to COVID-19 as temporary measures to bridge us back to ‘normal’ – they must be seen as opening the door to imagining a new normal,” Wagner said in the news release.

Lametti said that he hoped that the committee’s guidance would not only help the justice system transition to a new normal but would also lead to reform and renewal in the system. “The timely and safe restoration of court operations as we emerge from the pandemic is essential to Canadians, and to our social and economic recovery,” Lametti added.

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