Court availability guide during COVID-19

Dentons

Court availability and limitation period suspension during COVID-19

In response to the developing COVID–19 pandemic, Canadian courts have modified their operations, temporarily closed or introduced limited in-person hearings to urgent matters only, with some exceptions.

Please note that Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta (resumed on June 1, 2020), and Québec have suspended the running of some limitation periods. To help our clients stay informed, and due to the detailed nature and different directions from each Province, we have summarized and attached the relevant links for ease of access to updated directions in real time.

The Dentons Litigation and Dispute Resolution group is available to answer questions and address concerns as the situation evolves. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will continue to keep our clients updated as the courts provide more information about their operations.

Disclaimer

The law and guidance from the courts, government and law societies continues to evolve rapidly during this time. This page focuses on information relevant to civil matters and may omit information in the interest of brevity. Practitioners should review the websites of the court or tribunal in question before taking (or not taking) any steps.

British Columbia

Effective April 22, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General authorized the Chief Justice and the Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to dispense with some procedural steps under the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules related to applications, where the procedural steps cannot reasonably be taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic or would be inconsistent with public health advisories (Ministerial Order M121).

Effective March 26, 2020, limitation periods and mandatory time periods for the commencement of civil proceedings are suspended until the state of emergency under the Emergency Program Act expires or is cancelled, except those under the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act (Ministerial Orders M086, M098). Under the same order, a statutory decision maker may waive, suspend or extend a mandatory time period relating to the exercise of their power. The Government of British Columbia extended the state of emergency to July 21, 2020.

On June 23, 2020, the province introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, SBC 2020, c. 8, which will allow measures created in response to the pandemic to be formalized and unwound as appropriate after the state of emergency ends. The legislation, provides that, absent additional regulations, the suspension of limitation periods (M098) will be repealed 90 days after the expiration or cancellation of the state of emergency.

All courts have adopted accommodations for the commissioning of affidavits by video conference in circumstances where it is not possible or is medically unsafe for the deponent to physically attend before a commissioner (See, for example, 2020-03-27).

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines

The Court will hear the following (2020-07-07):

parties may request that their appeal hearing proceed in a courtroom or by Zoom videoconference, or consent to the appeal being conducted in writing;

all chambers applications (including non-urgent), by teleconference or in writing, unless otherwise directed;

all Registrar’s appointments (including non-urgent) will proceed by Zoom, teleconference, in writing, or as directed by the Registrar.

Notice to the Public Regarding Videoconference Proceedings in the Court of Appeal (2020-07-07)

 

The registry is accepting filings in all matters, including non-urgent matters.

As of 14 July 2020, and despite Rule 54.1(5), all documents in civil appeals must be electronically filed by counsel using Court Services Online. Paper, fax, or email filings are permitted only in the cases set out in the Court’s published Filing Directions (2020-07-07).

 

The suspension of filing and service deadlines for all existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, and other existing matters is extended to July 27, 2020 (2020-07-07).

For all new chambers applications or appointments, litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelines required under the Court of Appeal Act, Court of Appeal Rules and the Court’s Practice Directives.

Neither the direction of the Chief Justice nor Ministerial Order No. M098 suspends the timelines for taking a step required by court order or direction.

Supreme Court

Hearings Registry Deadlines
As of July 13, 2020, the Court processes for requesting urgent hearings and certain non-urgent telephone conferences will no longer be available.

The Court will continue to hear other matters by telephone, including Judicial Case Conferences, chambers applications (other than short leave), (2020-06-05, Order), Trial  Management Conferences, Case Planning Conferences (2020-07-10), and Registrar’s hearings (2020-06-30).

Certain matters may also be heard by remote video conference via Microsoft Teams 2020-07-07).

Civil jury selections are suspended and jury trials on or before September 7, 2020, are cancelled. Parties can seek a trial by judge alone at a TMC (2020-06-03).

Changes to court configurations/processes are required to comply with public health directives (2020-06-05).

The Court has established processes to hear certain matters by written submission (2020-04-27), for holding TMCs and filing trial briefs/records/certificates for trials scheduled after May 29, 2020 (2020-05-13), and continues to process some desk order applications (2020-04-24).

 

As of July 13, 2020, all registries will be open for in-person services. At that time, the request for hearing process for urgent and essential civil and insolvency matters will be discontinued, and regular processes will resume except as set out in the Court’s COVID-19 notices (2020-07-07).

As of July 13, 2020, parties may book case planning conferences in accordance with the process set out in the Rules, as modified (2020-07-10).

As of May 26, 2020, and until further notice, parties not appearing in person before the Court as a result of measures put in place during the public health emergency are required to file their affidavits of service or delivery (2020-05-26).

Filing and service timelines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules began to run again on May 29, 2020.

With the exception of any document associated with a Request for Urgent Hearing, Telephone Conference Hearing, or Application by Written Submissions, documents filed between March 19 and May 28, 2020, are deemed to have been filed on May 29, 2020.

A party unable to meet a filing deadline for reasons related to COVID-19 may apply through a Telephone Conference Hearing or an Application by Written Submission for an order amending the timeline for filing.

Provincial Court

Hearings Registry Deadlines
As of June 8, 2020, the Court resumed limited in-person proceedings (2020-05-26).

Changes to court configurations and processes are required to comply with public health directives (2020-06-05)

Limited operations(2020-07-02):

The Court has provided specific guidance on the status of non-urgent small claims appearances scheduled between March 16 to May 16, 2020, May 19 to July 3, 2020, and after July 3, 2020.

The Court will continue to hear certain matters by telephone or video conference. Guide to remote hearings (2020-05-07).

Where a circuit court has not re-opened, matters at the location will be heard by teleconference (2020-07-10).

As of July 13, 2020, all small claims filings can be made by email, mail, fax or using CSO and the pre-COVID process for having urgent matters come before the court applies.

In-person filing is closed.

 

Civil Resolution Tribunal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
The CRT remains open and fully operational. The CRT resumed processing requests for default decisions and orders on June 1, 2020. Ministerial Order M098, which suspends limitation periods for bringing actions in the court, does not apply to the CRT. However, the tribunal has some discretion to waive, suspend or extend mandatory time periods.

Alberta

On March 30, 2020, all periods of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding (including limitation periods and appeal deadlines) were suspended until June 1, 2020, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker, for listed statutes (Ministerial Order MO 27/2020). The Builders’ Lien Act, Municipal Government Act and Garage Keepers’ Lien Act were not listed. For more details click here.

The limitation periods and time periods affected by Ministerial Order 27/2020 began running on June 1, 2020 (2020-05-27).

The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Court of Appeal have adopted accommodations for the commissioning of affidavits by video conference in circumstances where it is not possible or is medically unsafe for the deponent to physically attend before a commissioner (See, for example, Queen’s Bench).

On May 6, 2020, the Alberta courts jointly published a summary of COVID-19-related activities and the works in progress for each of the courts (2020-05-06).

Effective July 6, 2020, all persons entering a courthouse in Alberta shall be required to wear a face mask while in any public area of the courthouse (2020-07-03).

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
The Court of Appeal continues to hear all appeals, applications and motions, but as of March 23, 2020, not in person.

Duty matters before a single judge will be heard by audio conference, and appeals and applications heard by a three-judge panel will be heard by videoconference or telephone, unless otherwise directed (2020-03-23).

Judicial Dispute Resolution has resumed and, until further notice, will be conducted by video conference (2020-07-06).

 

All documents may be filed by fax or email (in PDF format).

Paper copies must be provided at a later time as required by the Court.

The Court will launch the public portal of its e-filing system on August 31, 2020 (2020-06-30).

Where an appeal had not yet been set for hearing and certain procedural deadlines were due on or prior to May 4, 2020, the deadline is extended by two months.

All other time limits and deadlines must be observed (including commencing an appeal).

Case Management Officers are available to consider requests for extensions and other directions.

Court of Queen’s Bench

Hearings Registry Deadlines
Civil Special Justice/Master Chambers Applications scheduled prior to March 16 to be heard on or after June 29, 2020, will proceed.

As of June 3, 2020, the Court will commence hearing regular Masters and Civil Justice Chambers applications (20 minutes or less) remotely via Webex (2020-05-28).

The Court will hear emergency and urgent matters (2020-04-21), and Summary Dispositions via Webex where all parties agree (2020-05-05).

The Court is processing certain consent orders, desk and electronic without notice applications (2020-05-11, 2020-05-21).

Where both parties are represented by counsel certain with notice applications that would otherwise be heard in Masters Chambers (2020-05-19) or Justice Chambers (2020-05-25) may be submitted to the Court by desk application with written argument (generally, counsel must agree).

Over June, July and August, the Court will hear non-binding judicial dispute resolutions (2020-06-04).

Edmonton/Calgary review offices are booking appointments for review and assessment hearings by telephone (2020-06-15).

As of June 24, 2020, the Court will commence scheduling half day Civil Special Justice and Masters Chambers applications remotely via Webex video and audio (2020-06-19).

The Emergency/Urgent Hearing Emergring Request process is now suspended (2020-07-10).

Clerk offices at all locations remain open to accept filings.

All documents that are currently being fax filed may be filed via email utilizing a current fax filing account.

Court guidelines for documents filed by email or digital upload (2020-07-08).

All desk applications that are signed by a Justice or a Master will first be filed by the Court and the Applicant will be required to pay any outstanding fees pertaining to the processing of the Order (2020-05-22).

Scheduling and filing procedures for half day Civil Special Chambers applications have been posted by the Court (2020-06-19).

Until September 30, 2020, in addition to regular filing fees, documents that are filed via email or fax will be charged at the rate of $1 per page, capped to a maximum of $20 (2020-06-26).

Short civil or commercial trial dates can be requested for July or August (2020-07-07).

 

The suspension of all filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court pursuant to Master Order No. 4 expired on June 26, 2020.

The Court has extended the suspension of Rule 13.41(4) to September 30, 2020 (2020-06-26).

With the non-renewal of Ministerial Order 27/2020 (suspending time periods), counsel should confirm any dates or deadlines with opposing counsel and not rely on the Master Order No. 4.

Where filing deadlines for Civil Special Chambers applications fell between March 16 and June 1, 2020, Civil Practice Note 2 will apply, unless otherwise ordered.

Additional guidance on filing deadlines for half day Civil Special Chambers applications have been posted by the Court (2020-06-19).

Provincial Court

Hearings Registry Deadlines
Status overview for civil matters (2020-06-19).

COVID-19 Staged Resumption Part 1 is in force until July 5, 2020 (2020-05-19).

On July 6, 2020, the Court will increase the civil matters that can be heard in-person (2020-06-26).

There will be no presumptive adjournments of any civil matters. Matters scheduled after July 6, 2020, will proceed as scheduled.

There may be in-person mediations, pre-trial conferences, trials and other applications.

In Edmonton and Calgary, pretrial conferences and applications will be conducted in person. Outside of Edmonton and Calgary, pretrial conferences and applications will be conducted by telephone.

Only urgent/time sensitive documents will be accepted for filing at the Clerk’s counter.

Non-urgent filing is accepted via drop boxes in Edmonton and Calgary.

 

Ontario

Limitation periods and procedural time periods are suspended effective March 16, 2020 up to and including September 11, 2020 (EMPA Order 2020-03-20 amended on 2020-06-05).

The Government of Ontario extended the state of emergency to July 24, 2020.

The Law Society of Ontario has stated that it will interpret the legal requirement to be physically present to commission an affidavit as being satisfied by remote means such as video conference.

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
No in-person hearings will be conducted. All matters will proceed by remote appearance, or in writing. Matters to be heard will be conducted pursuant to the Court’s practice direction (2020-07-13).

Scheduled sitting in Ottawa for the week of October 19, 2020 is postponed until 2021.

Urgent appeals will be heard remotely or in writing.

In-person filing is closed.

All documents that are required for the hearing of any matter are to be filed in electronic format only, by email or delivery of a USB key, in accordance with the2020-07-13 practice direction.

Effective July 16, 2020, subject to some limitations, the times prescribed to take any step in any civil proceeding in the Court of Appeal for Ontario will be reinstated (2020-06-25).

The period from March 16, 2020 to July 15, 2020 inclusive will not be included in calculating the time prescribed to take any step in respect of any civil proceeding in the Court of Appeal.

Superior Court of Justice

Hearings Registry Deadlines
On July 6, 2020, 56 courts will resume limited in-person hearings in accordance with the list in Annex A.

 

Additional courtrooms will be available by September 15, 2020.

Trials and other hearings that are urgent or which were scheduled to be heard during the suspension of the Court’s regular operations will be given priority.  Jury matters will continue to be deferred until at least September 2020 (2020-06-25).

Practice Directions vary from region to region. (see Regional Notices, Commercial List).

The Divisional Court will continue to hear matters remotely in accordance with this Notice Direction.  All hearings are suspended until September 4, 2020. (2020-06-29).

On June 2, 2020, the Small Claims Court will begin scheduling select settlement conferences in non-urgent matters, to be conducted remotely. (2020-06-02).

All Small Claims Court proceedings that were scheduled for a hearing between March 16, 2020 through October 30, 2020, and are not assigned a new date between March 16, 2020 and October 30, 2020 are adjourned to November 2, 2020 or to such other date as determined by the Court (2020-07-10).

The Small Claims Court will hear urgent motions and urgent garnishment hearings by telephone or videoconference. A request for an urgent hearing should be done by completing a request form available on the Superior Court of Justice Website.

In-person filing is closed.

For urgent and certain other matters, filings will be accepted by email. Hard copies and fees due when court operations resume.

Originating pleadings and filings for non-urgent matters should be filed through the online filing portal.

Commercial List: Accepting filings by email.

Divisional Court: Materials must be filed by email.

Effective May 4, 2020, counter service at all Small Claims Court locations is suspended and filings will no longer be accepted in person (2020-04-05).

Time periods for steps in civil proceedings are suspended and the court may relieve compliance with procedural rules.

Court of Justice

Hearings Registry Deadlines
The Ontario Court of Justice will be further expanding its operations on July 6, 2020, as it resumes hearing additional family law matters and criminal trials and preliminary inquiries in select court houses (07-06-2020).

The adjournment of criminal case management appearances is being extended to July 31, 2020. 

Court filings can be submitted by email (List of Emails). The Court will require that the time limits for certain urgent matters be adhered to.

Québec

Limitation periods and civil procedural time periods are suspended for the duration of the emergency (2020-03-15). Required time limits in urgent civil matters, as determined by the courts, are not suspended. The emergency was extended until July 15, 2020 (2020-07-09).

Pleadings in civil matters may be served or notified by technological means.

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
As of May 25, 2020 the Court will resume, on a regular basis, the hearing of appeals and motions before a panel held by videoconference (2020-05-01) Only urgent filings are permitted in person.

E-filing is available for civil appeals as a right (2020-04-09).

Civil time periods are suspended, including: filing notices of appeal; applications for leave to appeal; time limits for filing briefs, memoranda and books of authorities.

 

Superior Court

Hearings Registry Deadlines
Division de Québec (2020-07-03): the Court will resume its normal activities starting July 6, 2020. Specific directives are applicable for each district (Districts).

Division de Montréal (2020-06-26): the Court will deem the matters listed in the communiqué as being urgent in addition to matters determined to be urgent by the Court. Certain districts have implemented a plan to gradually resume normal operations (Districts).

Division de Québec: in-person filing is closed. E-filing can be done at www.justice.gouv.qc.ca/greffenumerique.

Division de Montréal: filing is governed by the procedures of each district (Districts).

Suspension of civil procedure time periods is effective for the duration of the health emergency, except for matters considered urgent.

Court of Québec

Hearings Registry Deadlines
Effective June 1, 2020, the Court resumed operations for certain core services (Core Services) across the province on a district-by-district basis (Districts). Regional rules of operation determine how hearings are held (whether in the presence of the parties or in a semi-virtual courtroom). Filing is governed by the procedures of each district (Districts). Suspension of civil procedure time periods is effective for the duration of the health emergency, except for matters considered urgent.

Supreme Court of Canada

Hearings Registry Deadlines
All hearings postponed due to COVID-19 will be heard in the regular fall session, which will begin the week of October 5, 2020 (2020-04-29). Court documents are to be filed by email, whether originating or otherwise.

The Registrar will issue a directive as to the filing of original paper copies once the Supreme Court Building is fully re-opened.

Deadlines that are imposed by the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada are suspended until further notice.  Deadlines that are imposed by statute, including s. 40 of the Supreme Court Act, remain in force. 

Parties concerned about the ability to meet a deadline imposed by statute should contact the Registry by email at registry-greffe@scc-csc.ca.

Federal

Affidavits sworn or affirmed remotely using modes deemed acceptable in any Superior Court of any province will be accepted for filing during the suspension period.

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
New selected files for which the Suspension Period will be lifted are added to the list posted on the Court’s website every Monday (2020-06-11).

For selected files, time will begin to run under the Federal Courts Rules.

The Court will continue to hear proceedings remotely, by online video-conference, teleconference or in writing. Parties may communicate their preference in the Requisition for Hearing.

The Court may determine and direct that other appeals be moved forward.

Parties are at liberty to request that their appeal be moved forward.

Measures are underway to gradually increase the onsite presence of Registry personnel as of Monday, June 29, 2020, to the extent allowed by public health authorities. Onsite staffing levels will continue to be reduced. Parties are encouraged to continue to communicate with the Registry via email and telephone, to file electronically and to limit in-person attendance at the Registry to the extent possible (2020-06-11). Appeals and applications under the Federal Courts Act, ss. 27-28, are governed by mandatory deadlines. If circumstances prevent timely filing, under the terms of these provisions, parties may seek an extension of the deadlines after they expire.

The deadlines for commencing appeals or applications under other statutes apply and cannot be extended or varied unless permitted under the terms of and in the manner prescribed by those statutes.

Federal Court of Canada

Hearings Registry Deadlines
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) (2020-06-25).

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 (2020-06-25).


The Court continues to encourage parties and counsel to file their documents via the e-filing portal. The Court’s Registry counters will open on June 29, 2020 with reduced staff. The Registry will accept filings for paper copies of confidential documents only. All other documents to be filed should be e-filed, faxed or emailed (2020-06-25).
To provide parties with an opportunity to prepare for hearings after the expiry of the Suspension Period:
1 - The Court will not hold hearings (a) in Ontario, Québec, and the three territories before July 26, 2020; (b) in Atlantic and Western Canada before July 13, 2020.
2 – Timelines for the filing of documents and the taking of other procedural steps in proceedings (a) in Ontario, Québec, and the three territories will be extended to July 13, 2020; (b) in Atlantic and Western Canada before June 29, 2020.
3 – These extensions do not apply to the exceptions of the April 29, 2020, practice direction (2020-06-25).

Deadlines for commencing actions, appeals or applications under other statutes continue to apply.

Parties may request an extension of time for deadlines set out in the Federal Courts Act or Federal Courts Rules once operations return to normal.

Please note that the information provided in this article does not constitute legal or professional advice or a legal opinion of any kind.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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