COVID-19 FAQs

This information was updated on July 2, 2020. It may change as circumstances related to the spread of COVID-19 in BC change. For the most up-to-date information, see www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/COVID.

General
What steps are being taken to protect people attending court from COVID-19?
I’m participating in a telephone or video conference or hearing and have questions about it.

Urgent matters
What if I have an urgent matter during the pandemic?
How can Victims’ Services workers get information about a case?

Protection orders
What can I do if I fear violence from a family member and want to get a protection order to protect myself or children from harm?

Criminal, family, youth and small claims matters
I have a criminal, family, youth, or small claims case scheduled in BC Provincial Court after July 3, 2020. Will it go ahead?
I had a criminal, family, youth, or small claims case in BC Provincial Court scheduled between March 16 and July 3. When do I go back to court?

Other matters

I have a traffic court matter that was scheduled after March 17. When will my trial take place?
What’s happening with my Provincial Court matter in an Indigenous or First Nations Court?
What’s happening with my Provincial Court matter in a circuit court?

How are public health emergency matters dealt with?
What if I’m to be a witness at a trial?

Filing applications and documents that are not urgent
Can I file applications and documents in court?
What if the restriction on filing documents caused me to miss a deadline?


What steps are being taken to protect people attending court from COVID-19?

The measures being taken inside courtrooms are described in the Court’s Notice to the Profession and Public NP 22: Resuming In-Person Proceedings During COVID-19 (Health & Safety Protocols).

See our NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Further Court Operations (July 2, 2020) for information on safety measures in Traffic Court.

See too the Ministry of Attorney General’s Information Bulletin summarizing the steps government has taken to ensure everyone’s safety at courthouses and in courtrooms, including obtaining expert advice, initiating a verbal screening process, and cleaning and physical distancing protocols.


I’m participating in a telephone or video conference or hearing and have questions about it

See Remote conferences and hearings (by phone or video).


What if I have an urgent matter during the pandemic?

As a result of COVID-19, in mid-March the Court reduced services and the documents that could be filed in court registries were restricted. At the same time, the Court developed a procedure to ensure urgent applications (such as matters involving someone’s safety, a child's well being, a person who is waiting in jail for their trial or a time limit imposed by law) could be filed with the Court.

The Provincial Court registries will accept filings as follows:

• Starting July 2 traffic court filings can be made by email, mail or fax.
• Starting July 8 family and criminal court filings can be made by email, mail or fax.
• Starting July 13 small claims filings can be made by email, mail, fax or using CSO.

The urgent hearing process adopted in March will no longer be necessary and will be concluded for the family and criminal divisions on July 8, and for the small claims division on July 13. The pre-COVID court process for having urgent matters come before the Court will then apply. See NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Further Court Operations (July 2, 2020) for more information.

To deal with an urgent family matter before July 8, or an urgent small claims matter before July 13:

  • You (or your lawyer if you have one) can file an application for the court order you’re seeking and include a request for an urgent hearing. Filing may be done by email, telephone, or mail to your local court registry or by fax to fax filing registries (see GEN 01 Practice Direction).
  • You may be given a hearing by telephone for a judge to decide whether your application is urgent. If the judge doesn’t require this, they will decide that after reviewing the written documents. The Court will then notify you of the judge’s decision on the urgency of your matter. If the judge agrees that the matter is urgent, the Court will set a date for a telephone or video hearing on your application.  

How can Victims’ Services workers get information about a case?

Victims’ Services workers interested in a particular case may telephone the applicable court registry for information about how they can monitor it (e.g. by dialing into a teleconference. However, currently telephone access may be subject to limits on the number of callers that can be connected through a single teleconference number.) They may also access case information as set out in our Access to Court Records policy.


What can I do if I fear violence from a family member and want to get a protection order to protect myself or children from harm?

Talk to a lawyer – both Legal Aid and Duty Counsel are available by telephone. Find phone numbers and other info at familylaw.lss.bc.ca/coronavirus-updates.

You (or your lawyer if you have one) can file an application for the court order you’re seeking and include a request for an urgent hearing. Filing may be done by email, telephone, or mail to your local court registry or by fax to fax filing registries (see GEN 01 Practice Direction).

For more information, see:

Protecting yourself & your family - Legal Aid web page on protection orders, peace bonds and safety plans
Live Safe, End Abuse - Legal Aid fact sheets on abuse, where to get help, peace bonds and family law protection orders
Protection Orders Questions & Answers - BC Government information
For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders - Legal Aid pamphlet
Protection Orders – Provincial Court eNews article explaining who can apply, and in what circumstances.

If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 911. Get information and support from:

VictimLinkBC - 1-800-563-0808 - information 24/7 (no charge for long distance) - service available in more than 150 languages
Battered Women Support Services - 604-687-1867 or toll-free at 1-855-687-186, text 604-652-1867 or email intake@bwss.org for emotional support and help making safety plans
BC Housing - a list of shelters near you


I have a criminal, family, youth, or small claims case in BC Provincial Court scheduled after July 3, 2020. Will it go ahead?

This is a summary. See Notice NP19 for details.

To reduce the number of people entering courthouses, when a litigant has a lawyer the Court encourages the lawyer to use forms to adjourn matters by consent where nothing substantive will occur at a court appearance, and to appear on behalf of their client whenever possible.

Hearings and trials

• Criminal, family (Family Law Act and Family Maintenance Enforcement Act), child protection (CFCSA), small claims, and youth court trials scheduled after July 3, 2020 will remain on the trial list on the scheduled date.
• Self-represented litigants and lawyers should prepare for trial and attend court at 9:00 AM on the scheduled date to say whether they are ready to proceed with their trial. After hearing from them, the Court will decide whether to grant any adjournments requested and decide which trials will proceed that day.
• All witnesses and any parties represented by lawyers should wait outside the courthouse (within a 30 minute distance) and be ready to attend when called.
• For small claims Rule 9.1 Simplified Trials at Richmond and Robson Square, Vancouver courthouses see Notice NP19

Conferences

• See Guide to Remote Proceedings (telephone and video) NP21 for tips on participating in conferences by telephone or video.
• Family and child protection case conferences (and case management conferences in Victoria) will proceed by telephone or video on the scheduled date. The Court will contact you or your lawyer with connection details and any change in start time.
• Small claims settlement conferences will proceed by telephone or video on the scheduled date. The Court will contact you or your lawyer with connection details and any change in start time.
• Criminal trials, preliminary inquiries and continuations of trials and preliminary inquiries (excluding summary proceedings court files) that are not able to proceed due to lack of court time or are otherwise adjourned will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference before a new hearing date is scheduled. See Notice NP19 and Practice Direction CRIM 12 for details.

First and other short appearances in criminal and youth matters

• People having an Initial (first) Appearance on a criminal charge after July 3, 2020 must attend court. See Practice Direction CRIM 13 - Initial Appearance Court during COVID-19 for details.
• People who will be hiring a lawyer or applying for Legal Aid may reduce the number of times they need to attend court by doing that before their first appearance, when possible.
• To reduce the number of people entering courts, the Court encourages lawyers to appear on behalf of clients whenever possible and use forms to adjourn matters by consent where nothing substantive will occur at a court appearance. See Practice Direction CRIM 13 - Initial Appearance Court during COVID-19 for details and forms.

First and other short appearances in family, child protection, and small claims matters

• Child protection (CFCSA) presentation hearings and protection hearings will proceed by telephone on the day they are scheduled. If they are on a “list day”, they will proceed that day.
• Non-urgent family, child protection, and small claims matters scheduled after July 3, 2020 will be heard by telephone on the date scheduled. Please contact the applicable court registry before your scheduled date for dial-in information.
• When both parties agree to adjourn (put off) a matter they may do so by filing a Consent to court date (PFA883) form.


I had a case in BC Provincial Court scheduled between March 16 and July 3. When do I go back to court?

See charts for criminal, family, child protection and small claims cases in “Appendix A” in Notice NP19. For smaller court locations you need to email or telephone a Scheduling Contact to find out your next court date.


I have a traffic court matter that was scheduled after March 17. When will my trial take place?

Some traffic trials will take place in the original court location and some will take place in alternate locations and at alternate times. You will receive a new Notice of Hearing in the mail. See NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Further Court Operations (July 2, 2020) for details.


What’s happening with my Provincial Court Indigenous Court matter?

• All Indigenous Court matters scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020 (and May 11 and 15, 2020 in Duncan), and matters scheduled after July 3, 2020, will remain on the date scheduled unless otherwise notified by the Court. The Court expects to hear these matters by audioconference or videoconference without the participants attending court in person until further notice.

• All Indigenous Court matters scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020 (except for those matters scheduled in Duncan on May 11 and 15, 2020) have been adjourned. See Notice NP19 Appendix “B” - Indigenous Courts Adjournment Details for more information.


What’s happening with my Provincial Court circuit court matter?

• An Announcement is posted on our website with updated information about circuit courts.


How are public health emergency matters dealt with?

The pre-COVID court process for having matters come before the Court will apply as of the dates set out under What if I have an urgent matter during the pandemic?

See NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Further Court Operations (July 2, 2020) for more information.


What if I’m to be a witness at a trial?

• Trials and hearings scheduled after July 3, 2020 are resuming. If you haven’t already heard from them, contact the lawyer who arranged for you to testify to find out if the trial is proceeding and how it will be held.


Can I file applications and documents in court?

• Starting July 2 traffic court filings can be made by email, mail or fax.
      • Where the location has an email address specific to a criminal registry (such as the Surrey          Courthouse) email should be directed to that email address.
• Starting July 8 family and criminal court filings can be made by email, mail or fax.
• Starting July 13 small claims filings can be made by email, mail, fax or using CSO.
• And starting July 13 Provincial Court registries will be accepting all filings in-person as well. However, to protect the health of court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19 people are encouraged to use remote filing options wherever possible.
• Get court registry email addresses, fax numbers and mailing addresses at BC Courthouse Locations.


What if the restriction on filing documents caused me to miss a deadline?

The mandatory time periods within which family and small claims action must usually be commenced have been suspended during the provincial state of emergency. Judges also have the power to extend other time periods. If you think you need to extend a time period, you can make an application to do this.

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