Closures Affecting Ontario Courts and Workplace Tribunals – Updated March 27/20

>>> Updated March 27, 2020

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:

>>> Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB” or “Board”)

  • All in-person mediation meetings up to and including May 4, 2020 will be cancelled and held instead by teleconference or email
  • All in-person hearings up to and including May 4, 2020 will be cancelled. Where possible, mediations may be conducted by teleconference or videoconference.
  • Where possible, Case management Hearings may be conducted by teleconference of video conference.
  • Front reception area is closed to the public for walk-in inquiries
  • All Board forms, submissions, and materials must be filed through the Board’s e-filing process.  E-mail, courier, hand delivery or fax will not be accepted.
  • All representation votes scheduled to occur by April 14, 2020 to be held electronically.  The Board has not provided further guidance with respect to votes after April 14, 2020 but we assume representation votes after April 14, 2020 will still be held electronically.

The Board is continuing to assess the need for the cancellation of hearings scheduled after April 13, 2020.  Parties are able to make submissions to the Board with respect to rescheduling any adjourned hearings to be held instead by telephone or in writing.The OLRB will continue receiving applications, responses, and other forms of submissions; however, processing may be delayed.

As of March 23, and until further notice, the OLRB will be implementing the following changes:

  1. With regards to certification, termination and displacement applications, the applicant is now required to confirm to the Board that the employer is continuing to operate and carry on its business.
  2. Though the Board will continue to hold representation votes electronically, votes will not be held in relation to workplaces that have had to close due to the current public health situation. Moreover, such votes may be delayed.
  3. In relation to grievance referrals specific to the construction industry, default decisions will not be issued until the applicant confirms with the Board by declaration that the employer continues to operate and carry on business.
  4. Case Management Hearings (“CMHs”) may be through teleconference. These CHMs may fall on any weekday, and need not occur on Wednesdays.

Please note that the OLRB has not suspended time periods in which steps in a proceeding must be taken. Provided that the required declarations establishing that an employer continues to operate and carry on business have been made, the Board intends to process applications as usual. However, the Board has indicated its willingness to continue exercising its discretion to extend timelines at the request of the parties to the proceeding, as may be appropriate in all of the circumstances and where there is a specific and compelling reason to do so.

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”)

  • In-person hearings have been postponed, to be rescheduled to a later date
  • All front-line counter services are closed until further notice
  • All limitation periods and procedural time periods relevant to HRTO matters have been suspended, retroactive to March 16, 2020
  • If current and / or new parties are not able to meet a timeline, the HRTO will allow them to do so at a later date

Where feasible, the HRTO will consider alternative hearing options (such as written and telephone hearings) in order to try and minimize disruption to hearings across the organization.

Canada Industrial Relations Board (“CIRB”)

  • All in-person hearings and meetings scheduled between now and May 31, 2020 will not be held as planned
  • It is requested that documents are filed using e-filing rather than mail or courier
  • Offices remain open and Board officers remain available to respond to questions and provide information, however most employees and Board members are equipped to work remotely and continue to provide service as required
  • Certifications: the Board requires original copies, please call one of the regional office to make arrangements for filing

For parties whose hearings, meetings and votes are impacted, the CIRB will be contacting those parties on a case-by-case basis to plan alternative methods to conduct those hearings, meetings and votes.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”)

  • WSIB Offices: WSIB offices have been closed to the public, requests will not be processed by mail. Options available to reach the WSIB include:
  • WSIB Appeals: Coordinators are reaching out to everyone who had a previously scheduled in person appeal hearing with three options: 
    • Hearing via teleconference;
    • Hearing in writing; or
    • Postpone until in person hearings resume.
  • Return to Work Specialists: Return to Work Specialists will not be visiting workplaces until further notice.
  • Loss of Earnings Benefits: The WSIB will continue to pay all wage-loss benefits and have ensured all loss of earnings benefits are up to date.
  • Claim-Related Appointments: If individuals are not able to attend or are uncomfortable attending claim-related appointments, individuals are asked to cancel the appointment directly with the applicable person or organization. A decision to avoid an appointment will not affect entitlement to benefits or services.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (“WSIAT”)

  • All in-person hearings that were scheduled from March 16, 2020 until April 3, 2020 have been postponed and rescheduled to a later date;
  • The WSIAT reception area, the Ontario Workplace Tribunals Library, the Ian J Strachan Conference Centre and the Hamilton Hearing Centre are now closed to the public;
  • The WSIAT Mail Room is receiving deliveries, but the public is asked to not make hand deliveries; and
  • WSIAT will continue to receive forms, evidence, and submissions in accordance with its Practice Directions. These documents are to be submitted by mail, courier or fax.

Where feasible, WSIAT will consider alternative hearing options, such as written and telephone hearings, in an effort to minimize disruptions to hearings across the organization. Parties who wish to schedule a written or telephone hearing can send a request to the WSIAT by mail, courier or fax.

Ontario Superior Court of Justice

  • All regular operations of the Superior Court are suspended until further notice
  • All civil matters scheduled to be heard after March 17, 2020 are adjourned, including telephone and videoconference appearances, unless presiding judicial officer directs otherwise
  • Urgent civil matters will continue to be heard
  • All sittings of the Small Claims Court are suspended until further notice, including trials, settlement conferences, motions, assessment hearings, garnishment hearings, contempt hearings and examinations, including telephone and video conference hearings
  • Courthouses to remain open for urgent filings
  • All urgent matters emailed to trial coordinators received at or after 4:30pm will be addressed the following business day due to the high volume of emails received

Electronic filing remains available relevant to workplace law, the Superior Court of Justice will only be hearing urgent and time-sensitive motions and applications involving matters such as:

  • Urgent requests for injunctions related to COVID-19;
  • Urgent Divisional Court appeals and requests for judicial review related to COVID-19;
  • Situations where immediate and significant financial repercussions may result if there is no judicial hearing; and
  • Outstanding warrants issued in relation to a Small Claims Court or Superior Court civil proceeding.

Ontario Court of Justice

  • Provincial Offences Act: All matters scheduled from March 16, 2020 through to and including April 3, 2020, will be adjourned and rescheduled to a later date. Individuals are not to attend at court during this time.  A notice of a new court date will be sent by mail to the address on file with the court.
  • Extension of Timelines: The Chief Justice, pursuant to s. 85, has extended the following timelines until April 23, 2020:
    • Sections 5(6), 5.1(b), 5.1(12), 9(1)(a), 11(1), 11(4), 17.1(6.1), 18(1), 18.1(5), 18.2(1), 18.3(1),  19, 66(1), 69(1), 116(2)(a), 116(3) and 135(2) of the Provincial Offences Act, and sections 5(2) and 5(3) of the Rules of the Ontario Court (General Division) and the Ontario Court (Provincial Division) in Appeals Under Section 116 of the Provincial Offences Act, O. Reg. 723/94.

Ontario Court of Appeal

  • Parties to non-urgent appeals scheduled to proceed before April 30, 2020 are encouraged to request and consent to adjournments
  • Where matters are proceeding, parties are encouraged to consider appearing by video to teleconference

Cancellation of Limitation Period & Time Periods in which Steps in a Proceeding Must be Taken

On March 20, 2020, the Ontario Cabinet issued an Order in Council (available here) suspending any limitation period established under any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario. The suspension will be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020, and will continue until the state of emergency ends.

Furthermore, the Order in Council also suspends any step (including normal filing and other deadlines) in a proceeding established under any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario, subject to discretion by the court, tribunal or other decision-maker overseeing the proceeding.

Much like the limitation period mentioned above, this suspension will also be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020, and will continue until the state of emergency ends.

If you have any questions about this topic or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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