Focus On

Feds launch Action Committee on court operations during COVID-19 pandemic

Friday, May 08, 2020 @ 3:51 PM | By John Chunn

Richard Wagner, chief justice of Canada and chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, and David Lametti, minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced that they have established an Action Committee on court operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Action Committee held its first meeting on May 8 by teleconference.

According to the government’s press release, Canada’s courts have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, giving priority to the most urgent cases and adapting electronic and remote methods to deliver justice to Canadians. Nonetheless, court operations have been significantly curtailed in response to physical distancing and other public health and safety requirements. The Action Committee will provide national leadership to support the work of provincial and territorial governments, individual courts and court administrators in progressively restoring the full operation of Canada’s courts while ensuring the safety of court users and staff.

The Action Committee will consider health and safety information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada’s First Ministers and other public health authorities in light of the unique context of courts. The Action Committee’s collaborative work includes senior-level participation by federal and provincial governments and the judiciary, and focuses on developing court-specific health and safety guidelines that can be adapted to the needs of individual courts and communities.

“Access to justice is not just a fundamental right; it is a basic human need,” said Wagner. “It is crucial to our democracy and rule of law. I am immensely proud of the actions courts across Canada are taking in this spirit, even as COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we work. Through the Action Committee, we will build on the progress we have made to ensure we fulfil our duty to deliver justice to all Canadians, even in times of crisis. These lessons will serve us well long into the future.”

“I look forward to this opportunity for the judiciary and governments to work together to offer leadership as our nation’s courts begin to contemplate a return to regular operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This collaboration and shared sense of purpose at the national level will equip individual chief justices and courts administration officials with guidance and support as court operations adapt to the COVID-19 context and support Canada's recovery,” said Lametti.