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COVID-19 and the courts: July 20 update

Today’s update for courthouses across Canada

COVID-19 and the courts: July 20 update

Courts across Canada are 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 Court

Federal Court Strategic Plan 2020-2025
In its strategic plan the court describes how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how much more it needs to do to achieve its objective of increasing access to justice by expanding its digital capabilities. The court’s plan for a digital court mentions e-filing, electronic service, electronic courtrooms, electronic scheduling, electronic access to court records and the acceptance of electronically filed applications, actions and motions as official court records. The court will also increase the use of web-based videoconferencing and webcasting, adopt online resolution procedures for certain kinds of proceedings and explore the use of artificial intelligence.

British Columbia

Provincial Court of British Columbia

FAM 09: Practice Direction: Consent Adjournment (FLA/FMEA)
Effective July 16 and until further direction, lawyers can email a completed consent adjournment form to the applicable local court registry to adjourn matters under the Family Law Act or the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, if they want to adjourn from one family remand date to another, or if they want to adjourn generally.

NP22: Updated Notice to the Profession and Public COVID 19: Resuming in-person proceedings during COVID-19: health and safety protocols
Parties or their counsel have the responsibility of communicating with the court services branch to ensure that the applicable court location is equipped with the resources necessary for witnesses to appear remotely via video or audio conference. They also need to see to it that their witnesses have the technology needed to appear remotely.

NP21: Guide to Remote Proceedings (telephone and video)
The guide gives information for those involved in remote proceedings through audio conference, including via telephone or Microsoft Teams, or videoconference, including via Microsoft Teams.

NP 19: Updated Notice to the Profession and Public: COVID 19: Resumption of Court Operations
The process for dealing with urgent family matters has reverted to the process applicable pre-COVID-19. As of July 13, the court’s registries have started accepting filings either in person or remotely by mail, email, fax or Court Services Online. The court, however, urges parties to utilize remote filing options where possible.

Supreme Court of British Columbia

COVID-19 Notice No. 37 – Notice to media regarding access to court proceedings
Media representatives have a few options to observe court proceedings, such as through monitoring the hearing lists, attending in person if the space permits physical distancing and attending via telephone, for accredited media.

Revisions to COVID-19 Notice No. 14 (applications by written submissions) and COVID-19 Notice No. 28 (chambers applications by telephone)
Effective July 13, with respect to Notice No. 14, the court is no longer waiving the requirement that a judicial case conference be held before a party can serve another party a notice of application or affidavit in support. As for Notice No. 28, certain requirements for making chambers applications have been reinstated.

COVID-19 Notice No. 36 – Case planning conferences
Effective July 13, parties may apply for case planning conferences in accordance with the pertinent rules. These will be conducted via telephone unless the court directs otherwise.

Alberta

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta

Suspension of the emergency/urgent hearing request process
The court has suspended the emergency or urgent hearing request process in light of the reopening of court sittings across the province.

Ontario

Court of Appeal for Ontario

Amended Practice Direction Regarding the Electronic Conduct of Matters During the COVID-19 Emergency
The court is dealing with all appeals and motions by remote appearance or in writing. Parties should file the required documents electronically in accordance with the Guidelines for Filing Electronic Documents.

Northwest Territories

COVID-19: Resumption of in-person services offered by court registries and Sheriff’s Office
Effective July 20, the court is reopening its registries and the Sheriff’s Office. The court has implemented precautions to avoid the spread of the virus, including symptom screening, physical distancing and requesting the use of hand sanitizer and wearing of masks for all court users. Until further notice, remote services are still available for those unwilling to attend court in person. At the Yellowknife and Hay River courthouses, documents may be filed via the drop-boxes. Certain sheriff services will recommence, including document service, seizures of assets or land and evictions, except those involving unpaid rent.

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