While public health measures adopted in BC during the pandemic have been relaxed, COVID-19 remains a communicable disease with potential for serious consequences. On July 18, 2022 the BC Provincial Court’s operations will move from the pandemic response phase of the last two years to a communicable disease phase.
What will this involve? While some court appearances will continue to be remote, there will be some additional appearances that, by default, will be in-person and some that will be “hybrid", meaning participants may choose to attend court either in person or remotely without having to make an application.
Also, when lawyers attend court proceedings remotely using MS Teams, they must appear by videoconference or apply to the Court to appear by audioconference only. The application can be made orally before the presiding judicial officer on the same day as the court appearance. No materials need be filed in advance unless otherwise directed by the Court. (See NP 21.) The requirement for an application reflects the importance the Court places on having lawyers appear on camera, fully engaged and with appropriate demeanour, when making remote appearances
Lawyers should generally have their cameras off while waiting for their matter to be called. When dealing with their matter, lawyers must leave their cameras on, even when not speaking, unless the judge or justice directs otherwise. Self-represented parties, witnesses, and other court participants are encouraged to do the same.
The Court has issued a new notice, Notice NP 28, and revised SM CL 02, FAM 11, Notice NP 21, and the Access to Court Proceedings Policy to set out these and other changes taking effect on July 18. Other changes include:
- The default method of attending the following family applications will be in-person:
- Attendance at Family Management Conferences and Family Settlement Conferences under the Provincial Court Family Rules will remain remote.
- All small claims appearances, except Settlement Conferences and Trial Conferences, will be in-person. (The default method of attending small claims applications to a judge that require a hearing and payment hearings is changing to in-person.)
- There are minor changes in criminal court operations at this time.
• Applications for Order about Priority Parenting Matter
• Applications for Order to Prohibit Relocation of a Child
• Applications about Enforcement
• Applications for Case Management Order (where notice required)
As for Notice NP 19, it will remain in effect until Notice NP 28 replaces it starting July 18, 2022.
The Court remains committed to using technology in appropriate cases to better serve court users and improve access to justice. Remote attendance options provide the flexibility to support greater access to justice, including for those living in remote communities, vulnerable people served by the Court, and those who test positive for COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate.
Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie said, “Our Court has learned a great deal since the beginning of the pandemic about the importance of using technology where appropriate to support access to justice, as well as the need to recognize that not everyone has access to technology. This Notice reflects what we have learned. We are committed to continuously looking at how operations are working in order to ensure that we are serving the public by providing an accessible, fair, efficient and innovative system of justice.”
To repeat: Notice NP 28 will take effect on July 18, 2022. Notice NP 19 will be rescinded (it will end) on July 18.
Like NP 19, NP 28 continues to provide that Provincial Court registries are accepting all filings at the applicable court registry either in person or remotely (by mail, email or fax to fax filing registries under GEN 01 Fax Filing Registries – Family and Small Claims, or using Court Services Online where available).
These policies, practice directions, and notices have been or will be updated for consistency with Notice NP28:
• CRIM 05
• CRIM 08
• CRIM 12
• CRIM 13
• CRIM 14
• NM 01
• NP 21
• FAM 11
• SM CL 02
The effective date is listed at the top of each one.
A new practice direction “FAM 12 Default Method of Attendance for CFCSA Proceedings” will be issued in due course.
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