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New jury selection and jury trials suspended as Ontario COVID-19 cases soar

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 @ 2:08 PM | By John Schofield

Last Updated: Thursday, November 12, 2020 @ 9:03 AM


The chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court has cancelled an earlier plan to resume new jury selection and new in-person jury trials in Toronto and Brampton effective Nov. 16 as the number of new COVID-19 cases in those regions rises precipitously.

The Nov. 10 notice to the profession and the public comes in the wake of additional restrictions imposed by medical officers of health in Toronto and Peel Region. Peel Region is now in the Red – Control category of the Ontario government’s COVID-19 response framework, and Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended the same for Toronto in a Nov. 10 news release.

On de Villa’s orders, Toronto will go beyond red zone restrictions starting Nov. 14 at 12:01 a.m. with the continued closure of indoor dining at restaurants, indoor group fitness and sports activities, movie theatres and gaming establishments. The restrictions, which were set to be relaxed Nov. 14, will be in effect for 28 days. Restaurants are still allowed to provide takeout food and patio dining, with tables limited to four people and spaced two metres apart.

In Peel Region, medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh has also introduced restrictions over and above the red zone guidelines, including a total ban on wedding receptions and other social gatherings. According to a Nov. 7 news release, indoor dining is allowed, but tables may only seat people from the same household.

The rules are enforceable under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Reopening Ontario Act.

Provincial health officials reported 1,426 new cases on Nov. 11, setting another one-day record and up from 987 one week ago. Fifteen more deaths were reported, including seven residents of long-term care homes. The provincial total included 468 new infections in Peel Region, 384 in Toronto and 180 in York Region. 

Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz

Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz said new jury selection and new jury trials are also suspended in Milton and Orangeville because they were using the Pearson Centre in Brampton for jury selection.

Current jury trials are permitted to proceed, subject to the decision of the trial judge.

The suspension is in place until at least Nov. 30, and an update will be provided by Nov. 25, said the chief justice’s notice.

“I have encouraged all judicial officers, when exercising their authority, to be flexible and to respect the various reasons why an individual may not be comfortable attending a courthouse in person,” said Chief Justice Morawetz. “The feasibility of a virtual hearing or alternate arrangements is to be explored, when requested.

“We must continue to do what we can,” he added, “to move matters forward while supporting public health efforts to stabilize the situation.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove a reference to the 2018 Yonge Street van attack trial, which is by judge alone. 

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact John Schofield at john.schofield@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5891.