BC Supreme Court Operations During COVID-19

In an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia made the decision in March to suspend the hearing of all non-urgent and non-essential matters.

While this may certainly be frustrating for parties who have already faced long and anxious waits for their court dates, the Court has since taken encouraging steps to expand operations. In addition to urgent and essential matters, the Court has announced that effective April 20, 2020, it will also hear certain matters by telephone. If your civil or family matter (regardless of urgency) was initially scheduled for hearing between March 19 and May 29, 2020, you can now apply for a Telephone Conference Hearing (“TCH”). If you take advantage of this option, it will keep your matter moving forward and reduce the likelihood of it being caught in the backlog of cases when the Court resumes normal operations.

While it is up to the Court to ultimately decide whether your matter is suitable for a TCH, in order to be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • your matter must be limited to one disputed issue, or, if there is more than one issue, the parties must have reached consent on some of the issues;
  • the hearing should take less than an hour; and
  • any affidavit must be no longer than 10 pages.

What constitutes an urgent or essential hearing?

Family Law

Generally speaking, a family matter is considered urgent or essential when there is a risk to the health or well-being of a child or to the safety of a child or parent. This includes situations in which:    

  • a child or parent is at risk of violence or immediate harm;
  • there is a risk a child may be removed from the jurisdiction;
  • there are concerns about essential medical decisions; or
  • there are issues regarding parenting time/contact/communication with a child that cannot be reasonably delayed.      

Civil Law (General)

The Court has released a comprehensive list of what constitutes essential and urgent civil matters, including:

  • matters related to public health and safety and Covid-19 (such as orders under the Quarantine Act or the Public Health Act);
  • refusal of treatment and end of life matters;
  • detention under the Mental Health Act and Adult Guardianship Act;
  • emergency adult guardianship and committeeship matters;
  • housing eviction, including interim stays of orders of possession under the Residential Tenancy Act; civil restraining orders;
  • preservation orders;time-sensitive injunction applications; and
  • certain applications in which the Supreme Court is asked to review a lower court or administrative body’s decision or order a lower court or government body to act in a certain way.

Civil Law (Bankruptcy and Insolvency)

The following matters are presumptively considered urgent:

  • shareholder disputes or oppressive conduct that require immediate relief under the Canadian Business Corporations Act (“CBCA”) and the Business Corporations Act (“BCA”);
  • applications for interim and/or final orders for arrangements under the CBCA and BCA;
  • appointments of liquidators, receivers, interim receivers or receiver-managers under the CBCA, BCA, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (“BIA”), and Law and Equity Act of BC;
  • applications for bankruptcy under the BIA;
  •  applications for an initial order or extension of a stay of proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”);
  • applications for relief specific to restructuring procedures in proceedings under the BIA or CCAA (examples include authorization of a sale of assets, interim financing, claims process orders, adjudication of claims, meeting orders, and sanction orders); and
  • applications for relief specific to restructuring procedures in proceedings under the BIA or CCAA (examples include authorization of a sale of assets, interim financing, claims process orders, adjudication of claims, meeting orders, and sanction orders); and
  • time-sensitive applications in foreclosure proceedings (such as an approval of a sale).

The court may decline to hear any matter listed above and also has the discretion to hear any matter not listed.

The Court will also continue to process certain desk order applications, including:

  • approval of proposals;
  • taxation of costs and trustees’ remuneration; and
  • reappointment of trustees.

Criminal Law

Essential or urgent criminal matters include:

  • bail and bail review hearings;
  • scheduling and detention review hearings under s. 525 of the Criminal Code;
  • applications to review whether imprisonment is justified or other applications by those in custody that require prompt attention; and
  • applications under Part VI of the Criminal Code, applications for search or arrest warrants, and any related applications that should be promptly addressed.

If you believe your criminal matter is essential or urgent, but it is not listed here, you may submit a request to be heard.

What should I do, my matter is not urgent or essential and does not meet the criteria for a TCH?

If your matter is not eligible for a TCH and it is not urgent or essential, then it will remain adjourned until further notice. The adjournment applies to all trials, conferences, chambers applications, and any other scheduled hearings.

Even though the Supreme Court currently offers limited services, it does not mean all work on your file needs to stop. If you would like to start a new claim, it is possible to file the paperwork to begin litigation.

If you have questions about whether your matter is urgent, essential, or eligible for a TCH or if you would like more information about how to move ahead with your matter during this suspension, please contact North Shore Law as we are open and available to help you at this time.

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