COVID-19 FAQs

This information was posted on May 5, 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.

Urgent matters
What kind of urgent matters are being dealt with in Provincial Court during the pandemic?
How do I ask for an urgent hearing?
Where will urgent hearings and trials be held?
What can I expect in a family or small claims hearing held by telephone or video?
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?
What can I do if I fear violence from a family member and want to extend a protection order that ends before July 3?
What can I do if a protection order was made without notice to me and I believe it is urgent to cancel it?

Other matters
Is the Provincial Court dealing with matters that are not urgent?
What’s happening with my Provincial Court:

How are public health emergency matters dealt with?
What if I’m to be a witness at a trial between March 16 and July 3?

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


What kind of urgent matters are being dealt with in Provincial Court during the pandemic?

Urgent matters will generally involve 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. But there may be other factors that create urgency - judges will decide whether a trial is an exception to the general measures the Court is taking to protect health, and should proceed.

See, for example, J.W. v. C.H., 2020 BCPC 52, pages 1 – 5 for more on what may be urgent and what is not in family matters.

Child protection (CFCSA) presentation hearings and protection hearings are urgent and will proceed by telephone on the day they are scheduled.

The COVID-19 Notice (NP19) gives some other examples of urgent criminal, family, child protection (CFCSA), maintenance enforcement (FMEA), and small claims matters that may proceed during the period of reduced court operations. It also provides directions on how hearings can be arranged for urgent matters.


How do I ask for an urgent hearing?

To apply for an urgent order, fill in this Urgent Application Form and email it to your local court registry. If this is a problem for you, you can send the court registry an email saying you need an urgent hearing and explain why. And if this is a problem, just telephone the court registry to ask for an urgent hearing. Find contact info for BC court registries at Court Registries. (Applications may also be mailed or faxed to fax filing registries listed in 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 hearing on your application.


Where will urgent hearings and trials be held?

The courthouses in Kelowna, Prince George, Victoria, Surrey, and Vancouver (both Vancouver Criminal at 222 Main Street and Vancouver Civil and Family at Robson Square) have been designated “hub courts”. The hub courts are larger buildings with bigger work areas that can accommodate more court registry staff while maintaining physical distancing. This reduces the court staff needed at smaller court registries so they too can maintain physical distancing. Centralizing operations has also made it possible for cleaning companies to focus more resources on the hub courts.

While court staff have been centralized in the “hub courts”, judges are working, either in courthouses around the province or from home, to conduct urgent hearings, pre-trial conferences, family and small claims conferences, and some less urgent matters suitable for remote proceedings, by telephone or videoconferencing.


What can I expect in a family or small claims hearing held by telephone or video?

See What to expect in a family or small claims hearing held by telephone or video.


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.

To apply for a protection order, fill in this Urgent Application Form and email it to your local court registry. If this is a problem for you, you can send the court registry an email saying you need an urgent hearing and explain why. And if this is a problem, just telephone the court registry to ask for an urgent hearing. Find contact info for BC court registries at Court Registries. (Applications may also be mailed or faxed to fax filing registries listed in GEN 01 Practice Direction.)

For more information, see:

Q & A - Family Violence – Legal Aid BC
COVID -19 Legal Questions - BC Government Family Justice website
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


What can I do if I fear violence from a family member and want to extend a protection order that ends before July 3?

See How do I ask for an urgent hearing?


What can I do if a protection order was made without notice to me and I believe it is urgent to cancel it?

See How do I ask for an urgent hearing?


Is the Provincial Court dealing with matters that are not urgent?

We are hearing some matters that are not urgent by phone or videoconference and we’re working on expanding the types of matters that can be heard while ensuring we continue to protect public health.

See this eNews on increasing Court capacity to hear matters during COVID-19 and watch www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/COVID19 for updates.


What’s happening with my family, child protection (CFCSA), or maintenance enforcement (FMEA) case?

Family and child protection case conferences

• Family and child protection case conferences scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020 are being put off (adjourned). The Court will contact you or your lawyer with a new date to attend a case conference by telephone or video.
• Family and child protection case conferences scheduled from May 19 to July 3 will proceed by telephone or video on the date originally set. The Court will contact you or your lawyer with connection details and any change in start time.
• At a case conference, a judge will try to help you settle any issues you can agree on. If you need a trial, the judge will discuss with you how the trial can proceed (for example, using written evidence, by telephone, or by video if the technology is available). See What to expect in a family or small claims conference held by telephone or video.

Child protection (CFCSA) presentation hearings and protection hearings

• Child protection (CFCSA) presentation hearings and protection hearings are urgent. They will proceed by telephone on the day they are scheduled. If they are on a “list day”, they will proceed that day.

Family and child protection trials

• Family trials (Family Law Act, Child Family Community Service Act, and Family Maintenance Enforcement Act) and continuations of trials scheduled from March 16 to May 16 will not proceed as trials. Instead a pre-trial conference will take place by telephone or video. The Court will contact you or your lawyer to set a date for the conference.
• Child protection (CFCSA) trials and continuations of trials scheduled from May 19 to July 3 will not proceed as trials. Instead, pre-trial conferences by telephone or video will be set. Contact the judicial case manager at your local court to set a date. See Notice NP 19 for target time frames for these conferences.
• Other family trials and continuations of trials scheduled from May 19 to July 3 will not proceed as trials. Instead a pre-trial conference will take place by telephone or video on the trial date. The Court will contact you or your lawyer with connection details.
• At a pre-trial conference, the judge will talk to you about whether any issues can be resolved or how the trial can proceed (for example, with written evidence, by telephone, or by video, if available).

Non-urgent family matters and appearances

• All other non-urgent family matters scheduled from March 16 to July 3 are being put off (adjourned). See Notice NP19 Appendix A for the date the matter will come back to court to schedule a new date.

Urgent family matters

• For urgent family and child protection matters (Family Law Act, Child Family Community Service Act, and Family Maintenance Enforcement Act), see What kind of urgent matters are being dealt with in Provincial Court during the pandemic? and How do I ask for an urgent hearing?


What’s happening with my small claims case?

Settlement and trial conferences

• Small claims settlement conferences and trial conferences scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020 are being put off (adjourned). The Court will contact you or your lawyer to set a new date to attend a settlement or trial conference by telephone or video.
• Small Claims settlement conference scheduled from May 19 to July 3 will proceed by telephone or video on the date originally set. The Court will contact you or your lawyer with connection details and any change in start time.
• At a settlement or trial conference, a judge will try to help you settle any issues you can agree on. If you need a trial, the judge will discuss with you how the trial can proceed (for example, using written evidence, by telephone, or by video, if available). See What to expect in a family or small claims conference held by telephone or video.

Urgent small claims matters

See What kind of urgent matters are being dealt with in Provincial Court during the pandemic? and How do I ask for an urgent hearing?

Other small claims trials and matters

• All small claims matters that are not urgent, including trials and Simplified Trials (Rule 9.1), scheduled from March 16, 2020 to May 16, 2020 are being put off (adjourned) without anyone having to attend court. See Notice NP19 Appendix A for the date the matter will come back to court to schedule a new date.
• For trials and continuations of trials, the Court will contact the parties (or their lawyers) to set a date – not for a trial, but for a pre-trial conference to find out whether the matter can be resolved or how it can proceed (for example, with written evidence, by telephone, or by video, if available).
• All small claims trials and trial continuations scheduled from May 19 to July 3 will not proceed as trials. Instead a pre-trial conference will take place by telephone or video on the original trial date. The Court will contact you or your lawyer with connection details.
• At a pre-trial conference, the judge will talk to you about whether any issues can be resolved or how the trial can proceed (for example, with written evidence, by telephone, or by video, if available).
• All other non-urgent small claims matters scheduled to proceed from March 16 to July 3 are being put off (adjourned). See Notice NP19 Appendix A (Adjournment Details) for the date the matter will come back to court to schedule a new date.


What’s happening with my criminal matter? (I’m in custody)

Adult and youth criminal trials and continuations of trials

• For all criminal trials and continuations of trials involving people in custody that were scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020 and adjourned, a judicial case manager will contact the parties, even if a new trial date has been set, to set a date for a pre-trial conference to be held by telephone or video. The Court will provide connection details. See Notice NP19 Appendix A (Adjournment Details).
• For all criminal trials and continuations of trials involving people in custody that were scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020 a judicial case manager will contact the parties to set a date for a pre-trial conference to be held by telephone or video. See Notice NP 19 for target time frames for these conferences. The Court will provide connection details.
• The pre-trial conference is to ensure that only those requiring a trial are set for hearing, to discuss how the trial will proceed, and how much court time it will need. See CRIM 12 Practice Direction: Criminal Pre-Trial Conferences During COVID-19 for details, procedures and forms.

New in-custody charges

• For all new criminal files involving adults or youths in custody, with charges occurring between March 16 and July 3, 2020:

• files that have been set for trial or preliminary inquiry must have a pre-trial conference before the trial or preliminary inquiry; and
• people wishing to set files for trial or preliminary inquiry must have a pre-trial conference before a trial or preliminary inquiry is scheduled.
• To schedule a pre-trial conference, contact a judicial case manager at the applicable court location.

In-custody sentencing or bail hearings

• In-custody sentencings and bail hearings will be scheduled to proceed by video or telephone unless the Crown prosecutor or defendant applies to adjourn the hearing and a judge or justice grants the adjournment.

Consent matters

• Consent remand matters will proceed by telephone in court or by submitting a Consent Remand Form, Consent Requisition Form, or an email request to the judicial case manager at the local court location. Find the forms here.
• For consent bail variations without a surety, the Application to Vary Bail by Consent Form (PCR 317) may be sent to the judicial case manager at the local court location by email or by fax where fax is available.
• For consent bail variations with a surety, call the judicial case manager at the local court location.


What’s happening with my criminal matter? (I’m in custody)

Adult and youth trials and continuations of trials

• For all criminal trials and continuations of trials involving people not in custody that were scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020 and adjourned, a judicial case manager will contact the parties, even if a new trial date has been set, to set a date for a pre-trial conference to be held by telephone or video. The Court will provide connection details.
• For all criminal trials and continuations of trials involving people not in custody that were scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020 you must contact the judicial case manager at your local court location to arrange to have a judge decide whether the trial is urgent and any next steps. If you do not make “an urgency application” you are deemed to consent to having your trial put off (adjourned) and witnesses will be cancelled. Here are the deadlines:

• For trials and continuations of trials set from May 19 to 29, 2020, if you don’t contact the judicial case manager by May 8, your matter will be adjourned to August 18 to set a date for your next appearance.
• For trials and continuations of trials set from June 1 to June 12, 2020, if you don’t contact the judicial case manager by May 15, your matter will be adjourned to August 31 to set a date for your next appearance.
• For trials and continuations of trials set from June 15 to July 3, 2020 if you don’t contact the judicial manager by May 29, your matter will be adjourned to September 15 to set a date for your next appearance.

• The pre-trial conference is to ensure that only those requiring a trial are set for hearing, to discuss how the trial will proceed, and how much court time it will need. See CRIM 12 Practice Direction: (Other out of custody criminal matters)

Other criminal matters

• Other criminal matters involving people out of custody, including initial appearances, remands, applications, and sentencings that are scheduled to proceed from May 19 to July 3, 2020 are adjourned without anyone having to attend Court. See Notice NP19 Appendix “A” - Adjournment Details for the next date.
• However, there are exceptions to this.

1. If you think your matter (other than a trial) is urgent, you or your counsel must contact the judicial case manager at the local court location and they will arrange to have a judge decide, by telephone, whether the matter is urgent and any next steps.

2. If you wish to plead guilty and be sentenced by telephone, and your case meets the requirements set out in Notice NP19 section 2(d), your lawyer can submit a form called “Request for Resolution of Non-Urgent Matter (Persons out of custody)” and a judicial case manager will contact them to schedule a telephone sentencing hearing before a judge.


What’s happening with my Indigenous Court matter?

• All Indigenous Court matters scheduled with court dates from March 16 to May 16, 2020 (except for matters scheduled in Duncan on May 11 and 15, 2020) are adjourned without anyone having to attend Court. See Notice NP19 Appendix B for more information.
• All Indigenous Court matters scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020 (and May 11 and 15, 2020 in Duncan) will proceed on the date scheduled, by telephone or video unless the Court notifies you of different arrangements.


What’s happening with my circuit court matter?

• The Court is reaching out to stakeholders to see if remote hearings are possible.
• The procedures outlined in What’s happening with my criminal matter? (I’m not in custody) and What’s happening with my criminal matter? (I’m in custody) apply to matters in circuit courts.
• Find contact information for scheduling in Notice NP19 Appendix “A”.


What’s happening with my traffic, ticket or bylaw matter?

• Traffic, ticket or bylaw matters scheduled from March 18 to May 29, 2020 (revised date) are being put off (adjourned) without anyone having to attend court.
• A notice of a new date to attend court will be sent to the disputant (a person who received a ticket and is disputing it) by mail to the address on file with the Court. If you change your address, please contact the court registry to let them know or find out your next court date.
• Anyone who receives a ticket may:

1. Decide not to dispute it and pay the fine(s) on the ticket. The timeline to pay fines in a Provincial Court traffic, ticket, or bylaw case is extended to June 30, 2020.
2. Decide not to dispute it but ask for a lower fine or more time to pay. Use this form to state your reasons for requesting a fine reduction and/or extra time to pay.
3. Decide to dispute it and have a future trial date set. Use this form to dispute a violation ticket and mail it to: Ticket Dispute Processing, Bag 3510, Victoria, B.C. V8W 3P7.


How are public health emergency matters dealt with?

• Matters related to public health and safety and the COVID-19 pandemic, including matters under the Quarantine Act, Public Health Act and similar laws, are urgent hearings and will proceed by telephone or video.
• Applications can be sent by email or mail or by making a telephone call to the local court registry.


What if I’m to be a witness at a trial between March 16 and July 3?

• 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.
• If the trial is being adjourned (put off), you will receive a subpoena (an order requiring you to testify) for a new date, or be contacted by the lawyer or party who arranged for you to testify.


Can I still file applications and documents in court?

No new family or small claims filings will be accepted by BC Provincial Court registries unless they are urgent, or are listed in Appendix C of NP 19 COVID-19: Commencing Recovery of Some Court Operations. The documents now being accepted by court registries for filing include financial statements, consent orders and agreements, and change of address.

Delaying the filing of new applications and non-urgent documents is allowing the staff who continue to work in court registries to process urgent matters more quickly and deal with the many telephone calls from people needing information.


What if the restriction on filing documents causes 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 request an urgent hearing. A judge will decide whether your mater is urgent, and if so, whether to extend the time period.

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