We have clients from all over the country. Each province and territory has been scrambling to try to find ways to meaningfully respond to the COVID19 pandemic that is effectively shutting down the country. The responses of each jurisdiction, and each level of court within that jurisdiction, have been similar but differ in details. In general, the courts have shut down non-essential services and are trying to put into place measures to keep both court staff and the community at large safe.
Below is a summary of what we have gleaned so far. Please be advised that these are all subject to change and the information below may not be accurate at the time you are reading it, as the situation is evolving and changing nearly every day (actually sometimes hourly). This is not a substitute for legal advice. You are encouraged to check with one of our lawyers to get the most up-to-date information possible.
In Alberta Provincial Court, if the matter does not fall under a category of an essential function, any dates currently scheduled for court between now and May 22, 2020 is adjourned for 10 weeks. If the accused is in custody, one should presume that those matters are proceeding. The Court considers those to be part of the Court’s “Essential functions” and will be proceeding as they normally do.
For family law matters in Alberta Provincial Court, the general principle is that if there is the potential for imminent harm (such as child abduction or family violence) those family law matters will likely proceed with all others being adjourned, as noted above, for 10 weeks. As with the criminal law matters, if the court date is between now and May 22, neither counsel nor the client need appear; the matter will be automatically adjourned for the 10 week period.
Alberta Traffic Court
Until further notice, all Traffic Courts in Alberta are now closed in the province. If there is a court date scheduled in the near future, one does not need to attend court in person, but will need to take one of the following steps:
The matters in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench where the accused is in custody will proceed as usual. Queen’s Bench bail reviews and detention reviews will go ahead as scheduled, as will arraignments for in custody accused. For Queen’s Bench criminal matters where the accused is out of custody in Edmonton (other jurisdictions such as Peace river may be taking a different course of action) trials and appeals appear to be getting adjourned to QBAC on April 3, 2020 in order to set a new date.
Generally, all civil and family law matters between now and June 1, 2020 are cancelled unless otherwise directed. The same can be said for criminal matters outside of Yellowknife except for emergency matters (likely on a case-by-case basis) and matters except where the accused is in custody and their matter can be conducted by video-conference. Where a matter does not fall under this exception, the case will be adjourned to the next sitting date in that jurisdiction that arises after June 1, 2020.
All criminal and youth trials currently scheduled in Yellowknife will proceed as scheduled (as always subject to further developments with the pandemic). Those who simply have court dates (for plea, for example) coming up should check with the court’s website as to what their next court date is likely to be.
Most matters are being adjourned to June 3, June 5 or thereafter. Where possible, people are encouraged to appear (when necessary) by phone. All in-custody trials, preliminary inquiries and sentencings will be proceeding as usual. Non-urgent small-claims matters are over to May 31, 2020.
Urgent child-protection matters will likely proceed, preferably with counsel appearing by teleconference.
This is an unprecedented situation. The lawyers and staff at Gunn Law Group have been working diligently to ensure the safety of our clients as well as that of our firm. We are constantly needing to adapt to the changing landscape and appreciate your patience as we navigate these uncharted waters. Stay healthy and stay informed!