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Nunavut Court of Justice suspends regular operations; Appeal Court cancels May sitting

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 @ 3:15 PM | By Terry Davidson


Widespread court proceedings in Canada’s northern territory of Nunavut are being suspended in response to COVID-19.

On March 17, it was announced that the Nunavut Court of Justice in the capital of Iqaluit will suspend its regular operations and emergency closure orders will be issued on a “community-by-community basis” for the various circuit courts throughout the vast northern territory.

According to the announcement, criminal matters that were to be heard during the suspension will return on June 1 for the Iqaluit court and on or after that day for the community circuit courts.

All trials are adjourned; counsel are to appeal in Iqaluit assignment court on June 1 to set new dates. Jury trials scheduled to start before May 31 have been cancelled and members of the public who have received a summons are “not to show up to court.”

Lawyers wanting to “bring forward an urgent and/or in-custody criminal matter” can e-mail a supplemental docket request to the trial co-ordinator.

“The NCJ will monitor all developments with the COVID-19 and will amend return dates as appropriate,” states Chief Justice Neil Sharkey in the announcement.

Nunavut’s Court of Appeal in Iqaluit has cancelled its May sitting, moving the one hearing that had been scheduled to the court’s next sitting on Sept. 15, according to a court spokesperson. 

Bails, detention reviews, urgent in-custody matters and child welfare matters will all be continuing, as resources permit, they said.

Pretrial conferences (PTCs), done through the trial co-ordinator, will be conducted over the phone and lawyers will file matters electronically. All PTCs scheduled prior to March 17 are proceeding.

Bail and detention reviews will continue to be done via telephone and other alternative appearance options, including video conferencing.  

In urgent circumstances, guilty pleas and sentencing can be done remotely.

All “special chambers” civil appearances have been adjourned. After June 1, a date will be given “to address all suspended civil matters.”

“Every civil appearance, where required, will occur via phone,” states the announcement.

Time-sensitive child welfare matters will be heard via telephone.

In efforts to encourage “social distancing,” the Iqaluit courthouse is only accepting electronic filings through the ncj.civil@gov.nu.ca and ncj.criminal@gov.nu.ca.

Extensions will be granted for mandatory delivery of documents once regular operations resume.