Focus On

B.C. premier reveals restart plan; provincial court issues guidance on remote proceedings

Thursday, May 07, 2020 @ 12:18 PM | By Ian Burns

British Columbia is moving forward with restarting the province beginning in mid-May, according to a plan announced by Premier John Horgan on May 6.

Under B.C.’s Restart Plan, government will work closely with public health officials, businesses and labour organizations to lift restrictions in phases, gradually allowing for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public.

“Our plan puts safety first. British Columbians have made enormous sacrifices so far, and it’s thanks to them that we’re able to begin to lift some restrictions,” said Horgan. “We’ll allow activities to resume as the evidence and experts tell us it is appropriate to do so. By moving carefully and deliberately, we will help British Columbians get to a ‘new normal,’ where more of our social and economic life can resume.”

B.C. is currently in Phase 1 of the restart plan. Phase 2, which will begin in mid-May, includes:
  • Small social gatherings
  • A resumption of elective surgeries and regulated health services like physiotherapy, dentistry, chiropractors and in-person counselling
  • Provincial parks open for day use
  • Opening more non-essential businesses in keeping with safe operations plans
  • Recalling the provincial legislature for regular sittings

Essential businesses that have remained open during the pandemic, so far, have done so with the support of WorkSafeBC, the provincial workers’ compensation board. B.C.’s plan says that government will build on this experience by supporting all businesses as they take steps toward a successful reopening. Sectors that were ordered closed will be asked to work with WorkSafeBC to develop plans to reopen safely.

WorkSafeBC is developing industry-specific guidance to help employers bring workers and customers back safely. Any business restarting operations must ensure it is in compliance with the provincial health officer’s orders and in accordance with occupational health and safety guidance provided by WorkSafeBC.

The target date for the start of Phase 3, which will include opening up of additional businesses and services, is between June and September 2020, if transmission rates remain low or in decline. Phase 4 will only be achieved when the threat of COVID-19 has been significantly diminished through widespread vaccination, broad successful treatments, evidence of community immunity, or the equivalent.

Most provincial parks will reopen, starting May 14, for day-use only. On June 1, many remaining facilities, including campgrounds, will reopen. A small number of parks that attract large crowds, or where reopening would pose a health risk to nearby communities, will remain closed.

A strong emphasis on personal hygiene for all British Columbians, including hand washing, physical distancing and staying at home when a person is sick, will be crucial for the success of every phase of the plan.

“Today, we’ve unveiled our plan for a slow and safe restart. We need to be vigilant, to make sure we keep flattening the curve of transmission,” said Horgan. “There is much more to do. But we will get through this pandemic to better days by working together and keeping each other safe.”

The B.C. provincial court has also issued a guide on remote proceedings. All court proceedings will be held remotely by audioconference or videoconference until further notice, unless otherwise ordered by a judge. Although the court proceeding is taking place remotely and judges, parties, lawyers, and court staff may attend by audioconference or videoconference, it remains a formal setting.

In addition, booking for applications by written submissions at the B.C. Supreme Court are being done online. The online booking form is now available here.