Focus On

Nova Scotia court to allow virtual affidavits

Thursday, April 02, 2020 @ 4:33 PM | By Terry Davidson

As part of efforts to increase social distancing, Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court is taking the unorthodox step of allowing the virtual swearing of affidavits.

On April 2, Chief Justice Deborah Smith stated in a notice to the bar that the court is now “expanding the options available to counsel when preparing and filing affidavits” with the court to include “virtual affidavits” through video.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, some accommodations must be made for the commissioning of affidavits in circumstances where it is not possible or is medically unsafe for the deponent to physically attend before a commissioner,” said Chief Justice Smith. “Examples might include deponents who are unable to leave their residences, deponents who are not permitted to receive visitors, or deponents who are required to self-isolate.”

This latest form of accommodation follows the court’s novel practice accepting unsworn copies of affidavits as a way of reducing foot traffic in the courts. But in cases where a judge directs otherwise, a sworn copy is required at the hearing or the individual must affirm their affidavit at the hearing.

Affidavits sworn using video must contain a paragraph at the end of the document “describing that the deponent was not physically present before the commissioner, but was linked with the commissioner using video technology.”

During the linkup, the deponent must show the commissioner the front and back of his or her current, government-issued photo identification, which the commissioner will compare to the deponent’s image on the video screen.

(However, the verifying of identification will not be needed if the commissioner already knows the deponent, states the notice.)

Both the commissioner and the deponent must have a hard copy of the affidavit — including exhibits — during their video meeting and review the pages to make sure both copies are identical. If so, the commissioner and deponent must initial each page in the lower, right corner.  

With this, the commissioner will administer the oath, the deponent will state what needs to be stated and the commissioner will watch the deponent sign his or her name to the affidavit. The deponent will then electronically send his or her signed copy to the commissioner, who will compare it to his or her copy.

The two copies will be attached, along with a signed certificate stating that the commissioner was satisfied that “the process was necessary because it was impossible or unsafe, for medical reasons, for the deponent and the commissioner to be physically present together.”