Courts continue to relax COVID-19 restrictions and protocols
Despite recent warnings of a sixth wave of COVID-19, various Canadian courts continue to relax health protocols.
With 81 per cent of Canadians considered fully vaccinated and with nearly 47% having received an additional dose as of March 25, and with provinces easing health measures, courts across the country are continuing their efforts to operate regularly again.
This, despite reports from health experts who have recently warned of the possible spread of a sixth wave, with provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia already seeing a resurgence of infections.
Still, the Ontario Court of Appeal will begin hearing in-person appeals and panel motions beginning April 4, but will still give those affected the option to attend remotely, according to a update.
“Until further notice, the Court will continue to encourage physical distancing,” he said. “In-person participation is generally limited to those who make oral submissions and a maximum of two additional people per party. All others, including members of the public and media, will be able to observe remotely through Zoom. »
Inmate calls will also return to the in-person format, but will continue to be done via video for the time being.
The move comes as the province’s health experts warn Ontario could face a sixth wave there.
In Saskatchewan, which would also be facing a resurgence of COVID-19, the province’s Court of Queen’s Bench announcement end of March that as of April 4, all jury trials “should proceed as scheduled.” The new directive notes that jury trials that were scheduled to begin between Jan. 31 and April 1 have been postponed.
He goes on to say that a September 2021 directive said all jury trials would be held in locations other than courthouses “until further notice.” This new directive states that effective April 4, 2022, “jury selection and/or the jury trial itself may or may not, depending on the circumstances, be held at an offsite location.”
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, as part of the Atlantic province’s Phase 3 reopening plan, will on April 4 end temporary accommodations that have been put in place to make it “easier and safer for lawyers and self-represented individuals to prepare for civil and family matters…during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a note.
He goes on to note that it was in the spring of 2020 that the court began allowing “commissioning of virtual affidavits” when “it was not possible or medically unsafe for the affiant to physically appear before a commissioner.” In addition, the court allowed “personal service by e-mail”.
The notice goes on to say that the court will continue to operate under a safe services model, which includes masking people.
In addition, the provincial court of Nova Scotia will be lifting its temporary suspension of deadlines for paying summary fines effective April 1, meaning those who receive summary tickets on that date and later will have to pay their fine by the date shown on the ticket – unless they plead not guilty.
The court also recently expanded the types of cases that can be heard in person in its night court in the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia recently resumed in-person trials and other hearings in criminal, civil and family matters.
According to a COVID-19 note of the court, civil and family cases scheduled for the week of March 20-April 1 would continue, as well as new continuing criminal cases scheduled between March 28-April 1 and the week of April 4-8.
In-person proceedings scheduled to begin or continue on April 11 or later “will be subject to future guidance.”
According to a notice issued earlier in March, people entering courthouses should always wear a mask.
As for the territory of Nunavut, its Court of Justice has further relaxed its COVID-19 protocols as public health officials there lift restrictions and plan to lift the territory’s emergency public health order, according to the official. communication from the court.
They noted that as of March 28, the court ceased its contact tracing and began removing plexiglass screens in courtrooms. They noted that the Nunavut Court of Justice “held in-person hearings, traveled the circuits and conducted jury trials… [for] some time” with social distancing, masking and “room number restrictions” in place.
But not all courts are ready to move forward with in-person appearances.
Alberta Court of Appeal announcement in mid-March it extended the electronic hearing of appeals and applications until April 29 “due to short-term operational difficulties”.
“Appeal conferences, judicial dispute resolution matters and single judge cases will continue to be heard electronically until further notice,” a notice read.
Alberta is one of the provinces that has seen a recent increase in infections.
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