In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of courts and workplace tribunals have announced a cancellation of hearings and other related adjustments to their operations, including:
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
To protect the health and safety of the Courts’ staff, all court users and the community, the Court of Queen’s Bench advises that, until further notice, members of the public are directed not visit courthouses in Alberta;
The Court of Queen’s Bench is limiting hearings to emergency or urgent matters only in effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
“Emergency matters” are considered to be those “in which serious consequences to persons or harm to property may arise if the hearing does not proceed, or if there is risk of loss of jurisdiction or expiration of an existing protection or restraining order…”.
In the context of civil, emergency matters would relate to:
- Orders relating to the pandemic, including quarantine orders (applying to the workplace, this could also include OHS and workers’ compensation issues);
- Injunctions, where there is a prima facie urgency;
- Preservation orders; and
- Urgent orders in the nature of certiorari, mandamus and prohibition.
Urgent matters that are not first priority, but must still be heard in a timely way, will proceed at this time, but are very limited in scope. A full listing of emergency and urgent matters is included in the Court of Queen’s Bench press release here.
Further, for matters before the Court of Queen’s Bench between March 15 and March 27, 2020, matters have been ordered to adjourn until further notice, or rescheduled, with the exception of criminal jury trials already in progress, and other criminal matters, adjourned to various dates across the province (read more here).
- Until March 27, 2020, the Court will make no new bookings on non-emergency and non-urgent matters;
- Filing at the courthouse is, as of yet, unaffected.
In the interim, the Court will continue to assess the situation, and has committed to providing an update by March 25, 2020.
These changes come on the heels of an announcement on March 13, 2020, that the Court of Queen’s Bench was mandating social distancing efforts in the courthouse, and suspending upcoming jury trials and jury selection not yet commenced until May 31, 2020, or until further notice. The Court of Queen’s Bench has also indicated that any counsel or juror exhibiting possible signs of COVID-19 are ordered to contact the Court immediately to seek further instruction from the judge presiding over their case.
Provincial Court of Alberta
The Provincial Court of Alberta announced that it is limiting all regular operations, effective Tuesday March 17, 2020, until further notice. Until further notice, all Traffic Courts in Alberta will be closed effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Parties do not need to attend any Family, Civil, Criminal Court or Provincial Offences/Traffic Court appearances in the Alberta Provincial Court, unless the matter is an in-custody or urgent criminal matter, or an urgent family or child protection matter. The Court implemented the Pandemic Plan, found here, that applies effective until further notice, and applies retrospectively.
No members of the public will be permitted in court rooms unless they are required for a court matter (parties, witnesses, and media). Legal counsel are permitted access to the courthouse for urgent court-related business.
In addition, the implementation of New Criminal Rules has been delayed until further notice.
The court is reducing the number of courthouses and courtrooms that are operational, a list can be found here.
All Provincial Court civil matters (trials, chamber list applications, pretrial conferences) scheduled to be heard prior to May 22, 2020 are adjourned indefinitely. For the time being, all matters scheduled after May 22, 2020 will remain as scheduled.
Effective immediately, the Provincial Court civil matters will only be filing urgent/time sensitive documents:
- Civil Claims where the limitation period/date is about to expire;
- Applications and Affidavits for extending time for service of a Civil Claim that will soon expire;
- Dispute Notes and other time sensitive pleadings;
- Notices of Appeal; and
- Applications that are of an emergent nature (such as setting aside a judgment where collection proceedings have commenced, or Landlord/Tenant matters where safety is an issue).
Please note: the Court will determine if the Application will be filed, and if and when the hearing will be set.
Alberta Court of Appeal
Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, it is recommended that only those persons necessary to the proceedings attend before the Court of Appeal. This will include counsel, litigants and members of the media. No one who is ill or experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms should attend.
- The Court of Appeal continues to hear appeals, applications and motions, but as of March 23, 2020, these are no longer being heard in person.
- Effective March 25, 2020, and unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or judge, where an appeal has not yet been set for hearing, certain deadlines have been extended. Otherwise, filing deadlines with the Alberta Court of Appeal have not changed. The Court’s Case Management Officers remain available to consider requests for extensions, fiats and other administrative directions.
- Parties are being encouraged to file documents by email or fax. Parties that file by fax or email will be temporarily exempted from filing paper copies, but paper copies must be provided at a later time, as required by the Court.
For cases involving the Court of Appeal, parties and counsel are encouraged to provide the Registry with an email address if they have not already done so. At this time and until notified otherwise, correspondence from and to this Court may be sent by email instead of fax.
The Court of Appeal Registry is operating on social distancing guidelines that are posted at the Court of Appeal Registry counters. Additional information on measures being taken by the Court of Appeal can be found here.
Alberta Labour Relations Board
Effective March 17, 2020, the Labour Relations Board is adjourning all in-person hearings and resolution conferences scheduled up to and including April 17, 2020 until further notice. The parties can make submissions to the Board about options for proceeding via teleconference or written submissions. Please note that when rescheduling adjourned matters, the Board will prioritize matters that are mandated under the Code to be heard on an expedited basis.
In addition, the Labour Relations Board’s front-line reception areas in both its Edmonton and Calgary offices will be closed to the public for walk-in inquiries until further notice.
The Board will continue to receive applications, responses and any other submissions in accordance with its Rules of Procedure.
At this time, hearings scheduled after April 17, 2020 will proceed; however, the Board will continue to assess the need for further adjournments of hearings scheduled after April 17, 2020. The parties may also request an adjournment from the Board.
Alberta Human Rights Commission & Tribunal
- Front-line counter services will be limited, but remain open for distributing and receiving complaint forms, response forms, and receiving other documents related to ongoing human rights complaints.
- Scheduled conciliation meetings may be able to proceed by telephone or videoconference, rather than in-person, or may need to be rescheduled.
- All tribunal hearings and tribunal dispute resolution (TDR) meetings will go ahead as scheduled until further notice.
As the COVID-19 situation in the province continues to unfold, it is a high priority of our Firm, and of the legal profession, to continue the administration of justice while safeguarding the health and safety of all those involved in the justice system, including the public. Measures are being taken by our Firm to continue work however possible, particularly through leveraging technologies for working remotely.
We will continue to update our clients with information as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.