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Ontario small claims court now accepting some non-urgent matters

Wednesday, June 03, 2020 @ 3:10 PM | By John Schofield


As of June 2, Ontario’s small claims court is scheduling remote settlement conferences in some non-urgent matters.

According to a notice from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice signed by Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz, non-urgent matters will only be scheduled for remote settlement conferences if all parties to the action agree to proceed remotely, each defendant has filed a defence or was noted in default in the matter prior to March 16, and all parties agree to rely solely on the pleadings as filed and served.

“The court will consider any request that meets the three above criteria, even if no settlement conference had been previously scheduled in the case,” the notice states.

It is expected that most conferences will take place by videoconferencing, according to the notice. A limited number may be held by telephone conferencing. A device with a camera and a microphone, plus access to an Internet connection, will be required for participation by videoconferencing.

To arrange a settlement conference, one party must submit the request form available on the Superior Court of Justice website to smallclaims.settlementconferences@ontario.ca. No matter which party or representative completes the form, all parties must agree to the method of hearing indicated on the form, the court notice indicates. The form must be signed by all parties or their representatives in order to be considered.

The small claims court will continue to hear urgent motions and urgent garnishment hearings during the COVID-19 emergency period. All urgent hearings will also be heard by telephone or videoconference.

Urgent cases may include cases in which a judgment debtor has an outstanding warrant for arrest issued in relation to a small claims court proceeding or time-sensitive cases that would result in immediate and serious financial hardship if there were no hearing.

Urgent hearings can be arranged by completing the request form available on the Superior Court of Justice website. Forms should be e-mailed to urgentsmallclaims@ontario.ca.

Those needing legal advice to prepare a request for an urgent hearing may seek assistance through Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline (1-855-255-7256).

Where a judge authorizes a party to e-mail materials to the court for an urgent hearing and it is not possible to e-mail a sworn affidavit, the notice states that unsworn affidavits will be accepted on the condition that a sworn affidavit is provided prior to the hearing or the person is available at the hearing to swear or affirm of the affidavit.

The Ministry of the Attorney General advises that although courthouses will remain open, effective May 4, counter service at all small claims court locations is suspended and filings will no longer be accepted in person. Where parties and representatives deliver materials by e-mail, the notice adds, they undertake to file the same materials in paper format and pay the requisite filing fee at the court counter when regular court operations resume.