COVID-19 and the courts: Nov. 16 update

Today’s roundup for courthouses across Canada

COVID-19 and the courts: Nov. 16 update

Courts across Canada have been taking measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. Below is a roundup of actions courts are taking across the country.

British Columbia

Announcement: Face Masks in British Columbia Courthouses
Robert Bauman, chief justice of the B.C. Court of Appeal; Christopher Hinkson, chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court; and Melissa Gillespie, chief judge of the B.C. Provincial Court, jointly issued a statement regarding the use of face masks in B.C. courts, effective Nov. 9. They are strongly encouraging court users in B.C. to wear face masks everywhere in the courthouses, including in entrances, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. Sheriffs will give face masks to those who do not have any. Court users should continue to observe physical distancing where possible and to comply with the applicable health and safety protocols. The notice lists those who are exempt from using face masks: children under two years of age, individuals with a medical condition or disability that inhibits them from wearing a face mask and individuals who cannot place or remove a face mask without assistance. The presiding judge, justice, master or registrar may modify this recommendation when inside the courtrooms. The courts of B.C. have amended the relevant notices to reflect this directive:

Manitoba

Provincial Court of Manitoba

Notice - COVID -19 - Suspension and Restriction of Hearings
Effective Nov. 12, the remaining circuit court sittings across the province have been cancelled until Dec. 11 or until further notice, while circuit court matters have been adjourned to the first scheduled sitting of that circuit following Dec. 11. Adult and youth out-of-custody appearances in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Dauphin, The Pas and Thompson, including first appearances and trials between Nov. 12 and Dec. 11, have been cancelled. Inquests and standing hearings have been adjourned. The Provincial Offences Court Office at 373 Broadway in Winnipeg will be closed to the public from Nov. 12 until Dec. 11, with Provincial Offences Act matters (Winnipeg and Regional) and Highway Traffic Act matters scheduled to appear for a hearing in the office within that period adjourned. Out-of-custody pre-trial coordinator dockets will be suspended until after Dec. 11. The court has introduced the changes described in the notice in light of the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba.

Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba

Masters' Court - COVID-19 Update
The court is suspending maintenance enforcement dockets in Brandon, Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Morden, The Pas and Thompson, effective Nov. 13 and until further notice, given that the province has been moved to the critical level (red).

Notice - Adjustments to Current Scheduling Protocols – Nov. 16 to Dec. 11, 2020
Currently scheduled trials set to proceed between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, except for judge-alone criminal trials involving in-custody accused individuals, will be adjourned to administrative lists for rescheduling, subject to the stipulation concerning virtual trials stated in the notice. For Family Division matters, adjourned trials will appear on administrative lists set down for Dec. 10, while for General Division matters adjourned trials will appear on administrative lists set down for Dec. 11. Jury trials set to begin between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11 will be adjourned to the Dec. 11 administrative list. These adjustments are in line with the provincial government’s new measures aiming to fight the serious COVID-19 situation in Manitoba.

Ontario

Ontario Court of Justice

Notice to the Profession and the Public: Continuity of Court Operations in Thunder Bay using Remote Technology or at an Alternate Location
Proceedings will move forward as scheduled, unless otherwise stated in a court notice or directed by a judicial official, despite the fire in the Thunder Bay courthouse. The court is conducting proceedings other than trials or preliminary inquiries virtually via teleconference or videoconference until further notice. The court is holding trials virtually if the parties have consented, or in person at a different location. The notice provides general scheduling information that is applicable until further notice to court proceedings in Thunder Bay.

Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding Jury Trials in Brampton, Milton, Orangeville and Toronto
New jury selection and new jury trials will not resume on Nov. 16 in Brampton and Toronto. The court is suspending new jury proceedings until at least Nov. 30, with an update to be given by Nov. 25. The court is also suspending new jury selection and new jury trials in Milton and Orangeville because those court locations used the Pearson Centre in Brampton for jury selection. This change is on account of the public health situation in Brampton and Toronto.

Northwest Territories

Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories

Territorial Court Directive on COVID-19
As per the Nov. 12 update, proceedings in the Civil and Family Court at the Territorial Court, whether in Yellowknife or outside Yellowknife, as well as criminal and youth matters involving not-in-custody individuals and trials, preliminary inquiries or hearings in Criminal and Youth Court involving in-custody individuals in Yellowknife, may be scheduled in the ordinary course. Matters before Justice of the Peace and before the Criminal and Youth Justice Court may be scheduled in the ordinary course subject to the requirements stated in the notice.

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