Access to Justice during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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December 13, 2016
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March 30, 2020

Access to Justice during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The health and safety of our team and clients is our number one priority. At Magnus Law we are practicing social distancing and are trying to do our part to keep our team and clients safe and healthy.  We are now operating remotely.  We can manage your file from home using a variety of software and procedures to ensure that the process is as seamless as possible.

The BC Legislature has listed legal services as an essential service. How this will play out we will need to see.

On March 18, 2020 The Supreme Court suspended all Regular Court operations.  It adjourned all civil and family matters scheduled before May 1, 2020, unless directed by the Court, including all trials, conferences, chambers applications and other hearings unless otherwise directed by the Court.

However the Court has explained that it will hear essential and urgent matters, which are as follows:

  1. Matters related to public health and safety and COVID-19, including:
    • orders under the Quarantine Act; and
    • orders under the Public Health Act.
  2. Matters where there is a prima facie urgency, including:
    • refusal of treatment and end of life matters, including applications under the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act;
    • detention of individuals, including under the Mental Health Act and the Adult Guardianship Act;
    • emergency adult guardianship and committeeship orders, including under the Adult Guardianship Act and Patients Property Act;
    • housing evictions, including interim stays of orders of possession under the Residential Tenancy Act;
    • civil restraining orders;
    • preservation orders;
    • urgent injunction applications; and
    • urgent orders in the nature of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus and prohibition.

 

In relation to Family Matters, the Court has indicated that it will hear essential and urgent family matter including:

  1. Orders that relate to the safety of a child or parent due to a risk of violence or immediate harm
  2. Order relating to the risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction
  3. Orders relating to the wellbeing of a child.

 

The other Courts in British Columbia have issued similar orders, essentially limiting current Courts in British Columbia proceedings to matters that are essential and urgent. Until normal Court operation restart, it may feel like there is little that can be done to find solutions to problems that are facing you. However this is not so.  There are somethings that can be done (and in some cases should be done). The following is a list of some considerations:

  1. You may need to sue or take some steps to preserve your rights.  While the Courts have suspended filing deadlines until May 1, 2020, other statutory limitation periods continue to apply, meaning that if the limitation period has expired (the time to sue has passed)you may lose the right to do so. Other Provinces have suspended the running of limitation periods but to date the Province of British Columbia has not.
  2. If there is something urgent about your case such as the need for an injunction, or there is immediate risk to person or property you may be able to ask the Court to hear your application.
  3. You can prepare to have your case ready when Courts reopen so that you are ready to move ahead in a timely and decisive manner.
  4. Negotiations can continue. Just because Courts are not open does not mean that the parties are prevented from trying to negotiate a resolution. In fact many law firms are working from home and are available to find solutions.
  5. Your case can be run remotely. Obviously we are available by telephone and email. We can also meet remotely via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp or other video conferencing.  Additionally, mediations and Examinations for Discovery are being offered remotely via video conferencing, which allows parties to be in different locations but still be able to act as if they were in the same room.
  6. Arbitration is an option where parties hire a “private judge” who is often specially qualified in the area of dispute to hear evidence and make a binding decision on the parties. Again Arbitration can be conducted in person or remotely.

Things are changing moment to moment and we are all facing uncertain times. Should you have any questions or want to discuss how your legal affairs may be effected, please contact us. We are always happy to help.