Focus On

Newfoundland court passing on vaccine requirement for judges

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 @ 8:09 AM | By Terry Davidson


The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador is not requiring its judges or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but urging them to get their shots all the same.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Raymond Whalen confirmed in an e-mail statement to The Lawyer’s Daily that the province’s superior trial court is currently not having “judges, court staff members, or members of the public … provide confirmation of vaccination to enter the Supreme Court’s courthouses or courtrooms, unless a judge presiding in a particular matter has made an order to this effect.”

“The Court’s position and policies are subject to change as the public health situation evolves,” states Chief Justice Whalen.

As it stands, those Canadian courts that have revealed vaccine policies are taking varied approaches as to shape and scope.

The emerging policies come as some provinces continue to face a COVID-19 fourth wave based on a highly transmissible delta variant that is preying mostly on the unvaccinated.

All three levels of British Columbia’s courts are not requiring judges to be vaccinated, nor are they disclosing the vaccination status of judges. Still, the courts have stressed that this could change, depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves in that province.  

“Given the very effective safety measures in place at all courthouses, the B.C. courts do not require members of the public, litigants, counsel, courthouse staff or judicial officers to disclose their vaccination status before entering courthouses,” said B.C.’s provincial, supreme and appeal courts in a Sept. 9 statement.  

Nearly 300 judges make up B.C.’s three levels of court.

Interestingly, these courts have decided to not to disclose to the public how many of their judges actually are vaccinated. This stands in contrast with the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Court, which have both revealed all their judges have been vaccinated.

But in early September, the chief justice for the Federal Court of Appeal was maintaining it would be inappropriate to disclose “whether it has any personal views or institutional policies on this issue, one way or the other” given the issue of vaccine mandates will likely end up before the court.  

As of Sept. 13, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, the nation’s largest superior trial court, said the public can “expect” that judges hearing cases in person “will be fully vaccinated.” Around that time, Ontario’s Court of Justice and Court of Appeal were still working out their policies.  

It is believed Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench was the first court in Canada to implement a mandatory vaccination policy, which bars judges and judicial assistants from entering courtrooms and chambers if they are not fully vaccinated.  

As of Sept. 10, 41 of the court’s 42 judges had been fully vaccinated, according to its chief justice. The one unvaccinated judge would get their second shot in the “immediate future,” said Chief Justice Glenn Joyal at the time, adding that all judicial assistants had received their full set of shots.

The Lawyer’s Daily is asking the chief justices and chief judges of Canada’s courts what policies — if any — they have when it comes to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for judges and court staff.

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.