Crowns urge federal courts to impose restrictions adopted in Ontario amid COVID-19

Ontario courts will hold virtual proceedings where possible, suspend jury trials until May 3

Crowns urge federal courts to impose restrictions adopted in Ontario amid COVID-19

The Association of Justice Counsel has called on all federal courts to opt for virtual proceedings in lieu of in-person proceedings, unless it is absolutely necessary to meet in person, in light of the continuing COVID-19 public health crisis.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the association has consistently pushed for the adoption of remote working arrangements and virtual court proceedings as much as possible. Alongside other associations representing the judicial officers and employees of courthouses in Ontario, the Association of Justice Counsel co-signed a letter recommending that the Ontario government suspend all in-person court proceedings save for exceptional situations.

The association said in its announcement dated Jan. 15 that Lise Maisonneuve, chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, and Geoffrey Morawetz, chief justice of the Superior Court of Justice, confirmed that court proceedings should move forward via virtual means, except if it is absolutely necessary to deal with the matter in person. Ontario will also refrain from holding jury trials until May 3. The association called on federal courts to follow Ontario’s example.

The association, which is the bargaining agent for federal Crown counsel, also encouraged its members to adhere to the orders and guidelines set by governments and public health officials.

“The AJC continues to put your health, safety and well-being at the core of all that we do, especially now that we are in the midst of a worsening second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the association said in its announcement.

In a COVID-19-related update issued last December, the association strongly recommended that courtrooms and offices impose a compulsory requirement to wear masks. The association urged its membership, comprising around 2,600 lawyers who serve various roles in federal agencies, tribunals and courts across Canada, to stay vigilant and to follow office safety measures so that they can help in limiting the spread of COVID or the risk of exposure.

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