SUSPENSION AND RESTRICTION OF COURT HEARINGS
In response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and to assist in reducing further risks of infection, various levels of court across Canada have issued notices in recent days regarding the suspension and restriction of hearings and court operations. Hearings will be limited to emergency and urgent matters only, as they will be identified by the Courts. Ontario has extended this suspension period until further notice and other common law jurisdictions in Canada have set out specific time periods for the suspension, subject to evolving information and revaluation.
Details and further announcements regarding the various changes and procedures for scheduling emergency or urgent matters are posted on court websites and can be found as follows:
Ontario Superior Court of Justice - https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/covid-19-suspension-fam/
Ontario Court of Appeal - https://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/notices/notice.htm
British Columbia - https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/
Alberta - https://albertacourts.ca/qb/resources/announcements/covid-19-suspension-of-sittings
Saskatchewan - https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/court-of-queen-s-bench/covid-19-update
Manitoba - http://www.manitobacourts.mb.ca/news/covid-19-manitoba-court-schedule-changes/
New Brunswick - https://www.courtsnb-coursnb.ca/content/dam/courts/pdf/NB-Courts.pdf
Newfoundland and Labrador - https://court.nl.ca/supreme/
Nova Scotia - https://www.courts.ns.ca/News_of_Courts/COVID19_Preventative_Measures.htm
Northwest Territories - https://www.nwtcourts.ca/en/nwt-courts-response-to-covid-19/
Yukon - http://www.yukoncourts.ca/
POSTONEMENT OF TRIBUNALS IN ONTARIO
On March 13, 2020, Tribunals Ontario implemented a policy to postpone in-person hearings and reschedule them to a later date. In a notice on its website, Tribunals Ontario indicated that “[w]here feasible, alternative hearing options such as written and telephone hearings will be considered to minimize disruption to hearings across the organization”. Additionally, all front-line counter services have also been closed until further notice. Further information and updates can be found at: https://slasto-tsapno.gov.on.ca/en/news/tribunals-ontarios-new-policy-for-hearings/.
SUSPENSION OF LIMITATION PERIODS AND PROCEDURAL TIME PERIODS
On March 20, 2020, the Ontario government issued an Order in Council made under s. 7.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9, suspending limitation periods and procedural time periods. The Order in Council provides that any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any limitation period or establishing any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, shall be suspended for the duration of the emergency. This suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020.
The Order in Council can be found at: https://lawsocietyontario.azureedge.net/media/lso/media/news-events/emcpa-order-eng.pdf.
To date, no suspensions or changes to limitation periods have been ordered in other common law jurisdictions.