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Courts in P.E.I., Nunavut make changes due to virus spread

Friday, January 07, 2022 @ 2:07 PM | By Terry Davidson

Last Updated: Friday, January 07, 2022 @ 3:39 PM


In response to climbing cases of COVID-19 and the omicron variant, two Prince Edward Island courts are cutting in-person proceedings and leaning heavily on remote hearings.

Like many courts have been doing across the country, P.E.I.’s Supreme Court and Appeal Court stated in a Jan. 5 joint notice that they “are reducing the number of in-person proceedings.”

“Most matters will proceed virtually or by teleconference, or will be adjourned,” states Court of Appeal Chief Justice Michele Murphy and Supreme Court Chief Justice Tracy Clements. “The Courts are reaching out to the parties directly in relation to scheduled matters.”

On Jan. 5, P.E.I. announced the discovery of 222 new cases of COVID-19 — reportedly a record number for the province. The next day, on Jan. 6, the number of new cases was slightly less, at 204. On Jan. 7, P.E.I. reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 for that day. As of then, there were 1,550 active cases in the province, which has seen 2,463 since the start of the pandemic.

It was Dec. 14 that P.E.I. announced three new cases of the virus, plus discovered its first case of the omicron variant, prompting the province to enact several new temporary health measures.

Way to the north, Nunavut has seen rising cases of the virus in various parts of the territory. On Jan. 6, its government reported that it had 244 positive cases of COVID-19 in a dozen of its communities, and that data suggests the omicron variant has become prevalent.  

Nunavut’s Court of Justice recently announced that it “has suspended regular operations, effective immediately, due to the ongoing public health crisis” in the territory.

“The suspension of regular operations has resulted in the immediate cancellation of all docketed criminal court sittings in Iqaluit, special criminal sittings in communities outside of Iqaluit, and circuit sittings Territory wide through to February 7, 2022,” states the Nunavut Court of Justice.

The suspension of operations between Jan. 5 and Feb. 7 means a number of proceedings will be adjourned, including all circuit court matters “in the impacted communities.”

Municipal court matters will be adjourned until Feb. 9, and those docketed in the Justice of the Peace Court will be on hold until Feb. 10.

Out-of-custody criminal matters in the capital of Iqaluit will be adjourned until Feb. 7, while those in-custody will be shelved until Feb. 8. Trials that were scheduled to be heard in the justice of the peace court have been adjourned until Feb. 11.

Courts throughout Canada have been making such moves throughout the week, with many focusing on steering away from in-person appearances and toward the widely used practice of using virtual hearings.

In Alberta, a province recently rocked by record numbers of new cases, the provincial court has adjourned all non-urgent out of custody criminal trials, preliminary inquiries and other hearings requiring witness evidence between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21.

Other matters, including docket applications and pretrials, will be done virtually; the same goes for docket appearances scheduled at circuit court locations.

The province’s Queen’s Bench court adjourned all in-person criminal trials, as well as civil, commercial, surrogate and family matters.

Similar moves have been made by British Columbia’s provincial court.

Nova Scotia’s provincial court has suspended most in-person proceedings between Jan. 4 and 14 and will operate using Microsoft Teams or by phone. However, trials for those in custody will be heard in person; this applies to youth justice, night court and Wellness Court matters.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily, please contact Terry Davidson at t.davidson@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5899.