Court availability guide during COVID-19 (Canada)

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 September 29, 2020.

On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 8. The Act came into force on July 10, 2020. The Act continues the suspension of mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal.

On August 4, 2020, the Lieutenant Governor made the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, B.C. Reg. 199/2020, and amended the Act. The Regulation and the Act provide that the suspension of mandatory limitation periods and any other mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal in the Supreme Court of British Columbia will end 90 days after the date the state of emergency expires or is cancelled.

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 (2020-08-04):

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 Court has published a webinar on e-filing (2020-07-28).

 

The suspension of filing and service deadlines for all existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, and other existing matters is extended to September 14, 2020, and will not be further extended (2020-08-19).

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).

The cancellation of civil jury selections/trials is extended to January 1, 2021. Trials before January 4 will automatically proceed by judge alone (2020-07-17).

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), and continues to process some desk order applications (2020-04-24).

Effective July 27, 2020, the amendment of certain requirements regarding the timing of TMCs and for filing and serving trial briefs, trial records, and trial certificates no longer apply (2020-07-27).

 

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(2020-08-17):

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).

For scheduled circuit court matters, contact the contact in NP 23 before the scheduled appearance date (2020-08-19).

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 will continue to use electronic hearings for all Court proceedings until at least November 1, 2020 (2020-08-27).

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).

 

The Practice Direction on Electronic Filing came into effect on August 31, 2020. The Practice Direction provides particulars on registration as a registered user, the submission, filing and formatting requirements of documents filed electronically and other matters related to electronic filing.

 

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 was 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
All matters with viva voce evidence will be heard entirely in person in COVID-safe courtrooms. If any remote witnesses or video conference testimony is required, the date and time of the testimony must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. The default for all hearings without viva voce evidence will be via video conference (2020-09-10).

Jury selection and jury trials are scheduled to resume in off-site locations (2020-09-10).

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

The Court will hear regular Masters and Civil Justice Chambers applications (20 minutes or less) remotely via Webex (2020-05-28) and Summary Dispositions 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).

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

The Court will schedule half day Civil Special Justice and Masters Chambers applications remotely via Webex video and audio (2020-06-19).

Instructions and etiquette guide for online hearings (2020-08-20).

Civil matters not required to be under case management will be removed effective February 28, 2020, or following 12 months of inactivity (2020-08-31).

Pilot for the enforcement of the Mandatory ADR Rules extended until further notice (2020-09-04).

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.

Effective September 1, 2020, the Clerk of the Court will only accept filing by electronic mail (email), and will no longer accept filing by fax, as an authorized means under Alberta Rules of Court 13.41(2)(c) (2020-07-27).

Court guidelines for documents filed by email or digital upload (2020-07-08, 2020-07-27).

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 (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 August to December 28, 2020 (2020-07-072020-08-10).

New guidance on inquiries about the status of reserve decisions (2020-09-02).

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 (2020-09-04).

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 accordance with Civil Court Resumption Protocol (2020-08-25).

See Regional Protocols for specific instructions.

As of September 8, 2020, most of the remaining circuit locations will start reopening for in-person and remote hearing. Individual protocols for the different regions are being posted under the corresponding area of the COVID-19 Information page (2020-09-02)

In Edmonton and Calgary, in person filing at the civil counters will be accepted for urgent matters only.

Drop boxes are to be used for non-urgent filing, however the 6 day waiting period has been eliminated. Documents placed in the drop boxes will be processed as soon as reasonably possible.

In areas other than Edmonton and Calgary, filing of documents regarding Provincial Court Civil matters will be accepted at the counters although drop boxes are also available in Red Dear and Wetaskiwin and their use is encouraged.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario has ended the declared State of Emergency. Although the declared Emergency has ended, almost all orders made under Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act ("EMPCA") will remain in effect as orders under Bill 195. Emergency orders currently in force under the EMPCA (as of July 24, 2020) will remain in effect for an initial period of thirty days. Existing emergency orders may be subject to extension by the province.

Limitation periods and time periods will resume on September 14, 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 the practice direction (2020-07-13).

All limitation and procedural time periods that were previously suspended pursuant to O.Reg. 73/20 will resume running on September 14, 2020.

Superior Court of Justice

Hearings Registry Deadlines
As of 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.

Parties who prefer to have matters heard virtually or in writing should be made to the judge or local trial coordinator at the time the hearing is requested and before it is scheduled (2020-07-29)

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).

The court continues to hear both urgent and non-urgent matters in accordance with each Region’s Notice to the Profession (see Regional Notices, Commercial List).

The Divisional Court will continue to hear matters remotely in accordance with this Notice Direction.

The Small Claims Court will hear urgent matters and urgent garnishment hearings by telephone or videoconference (2020-08-24)

All settlement conferences will be conducted over Zoom.

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 Court will continue to accept filings by e-mail at the specific e-mail addresses indicated in each Region’s Notice to the Profession for urgent matters. The Court will also accept the appropriate filings through CaseLines.

All other electronic filings should be made through the appropriate JSO portal (2020-09-02).

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 (2020-08-24).

Procedural timelines are restored effective September 14, 2020.

Court of Justice

Hearings Registry Deadlines
Trials and Preliminary Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice resume August 17, 2020 at College Park, Kenora, Timmins and Peterborough. They will resume August 24, 2020 in Burlington (2020-08-10)

The Ontario Court of Justice will be further expanding its operations as it resumes hearing additional family law matters and criminal trials and preliminary inquiries in select court houses. Court operations will continue to expand with additional courthouses and courtrooms added as the Ministry continues to implement its reopening plan, with a targeted completion date of November 1, 2020 (2020-07-28).

The adjournment of criminal case management appearances is being extended to August 21, 2020 in locations other than Ottawa and Kitchener (2020-07-28).

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

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
As of August 31, 2020, the Court will allow parties to appear in-person or by videoconference (2020-08-31). E-filing available through the Digital Office of the Court of Appeal.  

Superior Court

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

Division de Montréal (2020-06-26): 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).

 

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).  

Supreme Court of Canada

Hearings Registry Deadlines
All hearings postponed due to Covid-19 will be heard in the regular fall session, beginning on September 22, 2020 (2020-08-27). After September 13, 2020, parties will be required to file paper copies of their appeal factum and any volume of the appeal record containing Part I. All other court documents are to be filed by email, whether originating or otherwise (2020-08-27).

 

On July 27, 2020, the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) came into force.  The Act suspends any time limits with respect to civil legal proceedings found in federal legislation, including the Supreme Court Act, between March 13 and September 13, 2020 (2020-08-27).

 

Federal

Court of Appeal

Hearings Registry Deadlines
Three types of hearings will be held: hearings where all counsel appear in person, hearings where all counsel appear remotely and hearings where some counsel appear in person while others appear remotely (hybrid hearings) (2020-09-01). See Requirements and Recommendations for Filing Electronic Court Documents in the Federal Court of Appeal (2020-06-15). Time limits established by federal legislation for starting or taking steps in civil proceedings are suspended until September 13, 2020, by the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) (2020-07-27). The act allows for certain ministerial orders to suspend or extend a time limit.

Note: the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) does not suspend the time limits established under the Federal Courts Rules or set by the Court in an order.

 

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’s Registry counters reopened 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). Time limits established by federal legislation for starting or taking steps in civil proceedings are suspended until September 13, 2020, by the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) (2020-07-27). The act allows for certain ministerial orders to suspend or extend a time limit.

Note: the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) does not suspend the time limits established under the Federal Courts Rules or set by the Court in an order.

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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