Face masks or face coverings - joint Courts’ statement updated November 24, 2020

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The three British Columbia Courts have jointly issued an updated statement about the wearing of face masks or face coverings in all courthouses. It says that:

• "People attending courthouses in British Columbia are required to wear a face mask or face covering, including in entrances, lobbies, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators; and

• People are required to wear a face mask or face covering in courtrooms unless the presiding judge, justice, master or registrar directs otherwise.

The requirement to wear a face mask or face covering does not apply:

• to a child who is less than twelve years of age;
• to a person who is unable to wear a face mask or face covering because of (i) a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or (ii) a physical, cognitive or mental impairment;
• to a person who is unable to put on or remove a face mask or face covering without the assistance of another person; or
• if the face mask or face covering is removed temporarily for the purpose of identifying the person wearing it."

The Provincial Court has also updated Notice NP 22 In-Person Proceedings During Covid-19: Health and Safety Protocols to accord with this statement.

Individual judges and justices retain their common law authority to make directions about the proceedings in their courtrooms, including when they will direct participants to remove masks. For example, a judge or judicial justice might direct a court participant to remove their mask while testifying or making submissions so their evidence or submissions can be heard and understood.

Other safety measures adopted in BC courthouses since last spring, include:
• modifications to enable physical distancing for all participants
• making sanitizer readily available
• establishing maximum room capacity numbers in courtrooms and other common areas

If parties, witnesses or lawyers have any concerns about the use of face masks or face coverings in the courtroom they should raise them with the Court as early as possible so the presiding judge or justice can consider them.

Everyone attending Provincial Court is asked to read Notice NP 22 for the Court’s health and safety protocols. Court users’ continued cooperation with the Court’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will help protect the health and safety of our communities and the public’s ability to access courts, a fundamental component of the Rule of Law.

This eNews updates and replaces one posted on November 10, 2020.

See also Ministerial Order No. M425/2020.