Written by Carrie Akister
The Provincial Court of Alberta (“Provincial Court”) has implemented its staged resumption of court activities, following the temporary suspension of court activities due to COVID-19, and is increasing the number of criminal, family and youth, and civil matters that can be heard in-person at base point locations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Base point locations include: Camrose, Calgary, Drumheller, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Fort Saskatchewan, Grande Prairie, High Level, High Prairie, Hinton, Leduc, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Stony Plain, St. Paul, and Vermillion.
Circuit point locations remain closed.
As we discussed in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Court of Appeal of Alberta update, strict health and safety measures have been put in place for attendance at all courthouses in Alberta.
The health and safety measures for Provincial Court include:
- physical distancing requirements (2 metres);
- mandatory mask wearing or protective face coverings in public areas at courthouses;
- mandatory hand sanitization upon entry to the courthouse and any courtrooms;
- the requirement for persons attending courthouses to follow all other recommended health and safety protocols and directions;
- modifying courtrooms and other spaces; and
- enhanced cleaning.
Effective July 6, 2020, certain base point courtrooms which have been retrofitted for COVID-19 and that have these measures in place will be opened for limited in-person hearings, with other base point trial courtrooms opening once they have implemented the requisite health and safety measures.
Other Provincial Court guidelines in effect during the staged resumption of court operations include
- Restricted access: access to the Provincial Court continues to be restricted to participants who are necessary to the proceedings before the Court (including counsel, accused, witnesses, complainants, members of the media, parties to actions, and support workers).
- Remote hearings: most docket courts, Case Management Offices, and certain other hearings will continue to be dealt with remotely by videoconference or teleconference.
- Screening at entrances by Alberta Sheriffs: all persons attending courthouses are required to participate and cooperate with COVID-19 health and safety protocols and screening. Alberta Sheriffs will also be screening people to ensure that the individual’s presence is required in court and that it is safe for them to attend.
- Physical distancing monitoring by Alberta Sheriffs: Sheriffs will also be monitoring physical distancing in courtrooms while on their routine patrols.
- Court users must confirm they are COVID-19 symptom-free: counsel and self-represented parties must confirm at the beginning of the court hearing (and each day thereafter, as applicable) that to their knowledge, no one, including counsel, the party/accused or any witnesses, has any symptoms that may be related to COVID-19 or has been in contact with a person who has the virus.
- Witness attendance: prior to any proceeding, counsel or parties must determine if any potential witness is reluctant to attend court due to health-related concerns or for other reasons related to COVID-19. Parties should arrange to discuss whether the witness can give evidence by other means, such as by affidavit or testimony by telephone or videoconferencing.
- Maximum capacity limits in all courthouse areas: the number of people in courtrooms, elevators, public washrooms and waiting areas will be limited.
- Public and media attendance limited: the number of seats available in courtrooms will be reduced in order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media, parties and the public.
- Virtual appearances encouraged: hearings or proceedings with some parties appearing virtually are encouraged in order to minimize the number of people in any given space when possible.
- Mandatory face masks and coverings: everyone entering a courthouse in Alberta is required to wear a mask or protective face covering in the public areas of the courthouse. The requirement to wear a face mask inside the courtroom is left to the parties but subject to the ultimate discretion of the presiding Judicial Officer (Judge or Justice of the Peace). The Judicial Officer may request removal of a mask where necessary in order for the participant’s evidence or submissions to be heard and understood.
Civil Claims in Provincial Court from July 6, 2020 to September 4, 2020
- There will be no presumptive adjournments of any civil matters during this time period;
- Matters scheduled in Provincial Court after July 6 will proceed as scheduled;
- There may be in-person mediations, pre-trial conferences, trials and other applications. In Edmonton and Calgary, pretrial conferences and applications will be conducted in person. In areas outside of Edmonton and Calgary, pretrial conferences and applications will be conducted by telephone;
- In-person trials across Alberta will start July 6;
- Urgent filing of documents will be accepted at civil counters in base point locations;
- Non-urgent filing of documents will be accepted by way of drop box or at the Provincial Court civil counters.
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Please contact any member of our Commercial Litigation team with any questions you may have about any litigation-related issues.
*This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.