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Ontario Superior Court urges deferral of proceedings due to stay-at-home order

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 @ 4:04 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice has announced that, effective immediately, it will defer as many matters as possible due to the current, provincewide stay-at-home order.

The deferral decision includes virtual hearings and is intended to reduce the number of court staff, counsel or parties required to leave their homes to participate in court proceedings, the court said in an April 20 notice to the profession and public.

Until at least May 7, according to the notice, the court will focus on hearing the most serious child protection matters, urgent family matters, critical criminal matters and urgent commercial or economic matters that involve employment or economic impacts.

“Subject to the discretion of the trial judge, matters that are in-progress can continue,” said the notice. “The positions of the parties and staff should be strongly considered, and alternate arrangements should be made for those who do not wish to attend in-person.

“The Court is seeking the co-operation of counsel to defer as much as possible,” it added.

The Superior Court announced last month that, subject to public health advice, jury trials are not expected to resume until June 7 at the earliest in the Central West, Central East, Central South and East regions and July 5 at the earliest in the Toronto, Northwest, Northeast and Southwest regions.

The Ontario Court of Justice has urged all judicial officials, parties and counsel to use remote proceedings “unless an in-person appearance is required to ensure meaningful access to justice.”

The Ontario Court of Appeal has not conducted in-person appeals or motions since Nov. 16, 2020, and has not indicated when in-person proceedings will resume.

On April 21, Ontario reported 4,212 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 virus-related deaths. The rolling, seven-day average of new cases rose to 4,326, up from 4,319 on April 20. In a hopeful sign, the province’s COVID-19 test positivity rate fell to 7.9 per cent, its lowest level in five days.

Government house leader Paul Calandra told reporters at Queen’s Park that Ontario will announce provincial enhancements to the federal paid sick days program later this week.

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