COVID-19 Update: Canadian Federal Courts Announce Easing Of COVID-19 Measures

June 12, 2020

The Canadian Federal Courts have now announced that the temporary measures implemented to address the COVID-19 pandemic, such as adjournment of hearings and suspension of certain timelines in ongoing proceedings, will be gradually lifted, with significant opening up across Canada, except in Ontario, Quebec and the three Canadian territories. 

Federal Court

Partial lifting of Suspension Period

The Federal Court will allow the suspension period in the four provinces of Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and the four provinces in Atlantic Canada (Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) to expire on June 15, 2020.  However, the timelines for the filing of documents and the taking of other procedural steps in proceedings in these provinces are extended to June 29, 2020.

The suspension period in Ontario, Quebec and all three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) has been extended until June 29, 2020.  Where one or more counsel or a self-represented party to a proceeding in Western or Atlantic Canada is situated in Ontario, Quebec or one of the territories, the proceeding will remain subject to the suspension period. 

Hearings

For Western and Atlantic Canada, the Court announce the following provisos with respect to the resumption of hearings:

  • The court will not hold hearings before Monday, July 13, 2020.
  • Until further notice, the Court will continue to schedule applications for judicial review to be heard by video conference or exceptionally by teleconference.
  • Upon resumption of general sittings, all matters made returnable will be heard by videoconference or teleconference until further notice.
  • 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.
  • Requests to have matters heard in-person will be considered and determined after considering recommendations by public health authorities, the availability of court staff and court officers, and any delays that may occur in reconfiguring the Court’s facilities to ensure safety.

In Ontario, Quebec and the three territories, all hearings previously scheduled to take place from July 11 to July 26, 2020 are adjourned sine die, and all general sittings in that period are cancelled.  The Court will not schedule hearings to occur until July 27.  However, the Court has encouraged parties to avail themselves of the opportunity to move their proceedings forward and to have their matters determined by video conference, teleconference or in writing as set out in the Court’s previous COVID-19 practice notices.

Registry and Filing Fees

The Court will re-open its Registry counters in Western and Atlantic Canada on June 29, 2020 but encourages parties and counsel to file their documents via the e-filing portal.  Registry counters in Ontario, Quebec and the three territories remain closed until further notice. 

The waiver of court filing fees effective will expire across Canada as of June 30, 2020.  As of that date, fees may be paid by phone using a credit card. 

Federal Court of Appeal

Partial lifting of Suspension Period

The Federal Court of Appeal has announced that subject to any further notices, the suspension period is extended indefinitely for all files except for files already released from the suspension period and for certain selected files (“Selected Files”).  On Monday, June 22, 2020, a list of Selected Files will be posted on the Court’s website. New Selected Files will be added to the list every subsequent Monday. 

The suspension period for a Selected File will end on the first Monday after the date it is added to the list.  As such, time will begin to run for the Selected File under the Federal Courts Rules, orders and directions from that date.

The Court will designate a file as a Selected File primarily on the basis of its age but may also consider other factors.  A party may bring a motion under in writing for:

  • a Selected File to be deselected and made subject to a suspension period; or
  • a file subject to a suspension period to be made a Selected File.

On the motion the Court will consider: (a) the age of the file; (b) the health and regulatory situation existing in the region where the files are being prosecuted; (c) the availability and capacity of court staff; (d) the urgency of the file; and (e) any other consideration to secure the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of the proceeding on its merit.

Hearings

Until public health advice in a particular jurisdiction allows in-person hearings, the Court will continue to hear proceedings remotely, by online video-conference, teleconference or in writing.

Registry and filing fees

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). The Court is encouraging parties to continue to file electronically and to limit in-person attendance at the Registry to the extent possible.

For Selected Files, all documents, with the exception of appeal books and application records, may be filed by email.  Appeal books and application records must be filed in paper form. Parties wishing to file these documents only or partly in electronic format may bring a motion in writing.

Any filing fees shall be payable as normal as of June 29, 2020.

Copies of the notices issued by each Court easing the COVID-19 measures can be located at the links below:

DISCLAIMER: This publication is intended to convey general information about legal issues and developments as of the indicated date. It does not constitute legal advice and must not be treated or relied on as such. Please read our full disclaimer at www.stikeman.com/legal-notice.

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