With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, many corporations and individuals are taking precautions to protect their employees, themselves, and are engaging in the practice of social distancing in accordance with the direction of health care and government officials. The courts across the country are no exception. In Saskatchewan, multiple directives have come down for various levels of courts, thereby restricting the access and services offered until further notice.
Despite these restrictions, limitation periods in Saskatchewan continue to be in effect. Ontario and Quebec have passed legislation suspending limitation periods during this time; however, Saskatchewan has not and our Court of Queen’s Bench continues to be open in a limited capacity in order to address such matters. We recommend consulting with counsel to ensure that a limitation period on your claim does not lapse during the time when services are interrupted because of COVID-19.
Civil Court Restrictions Across Saskatchewan
As COVID-19 court restrictions is an evolving situation, this post will be updated as new directives are handed down by the courts. As of March 30, 2020, the following services and restrictions are in place for the civil courts in Saskatchewan:
Provincial Court Civil Division (Small Claims Court)
All Small Claims trials and case management conferences scheduled between now and May 31, 2020 have been adjourned and the parties will be contacted by the local registrar relevant to the proceeding to reschedule their matter.
Documents can be filed by mail or by placing them in the drop box in the lobby of the courthouse marked for this purpose. Contact information must be included, as a clerk will review your documents and contact you to advise of next steps or revisions.
Queen’s Bench (Civil)
Only urgent and emergency matters will be heard in Chambers. The Court has provided the following list of what it considers an “urgent and emergency matter”:
1) Matters related to public health and safety and the COVID-19 pandemic, such as:
- Applications by the Chief Medical Officer for quarantine orders or other orders in relations to COVID-19;
- Applications to restrain the contravention of, or ensure the enforcement of, orders made pursuant to The Public Health Act, 1994, or similar legislation;
- Appeals pursuant to The Public Health Act, 1994, or similar legislation;
- Urgent requests for injunctions related to COVID-19; and
- Urgent requests for judicial review of decisions related to COVID-19.
2) Preservation orders, such as those pursuant to s. 5 of The Enforcement of Money Judgments Act.
3) Injunctions, where there is a prima facie urgency.
4) Orders pursuant to The Adult Guardianship and Co-decision-making Act, where there is an immediate risk of harm to an individual or their property.
5) Residential tenancy appeals where a writ of possession has been ordered.
6) Foreclosure actions in which confirmation of judicial sale is sought.
7) Any other matter the Court deems necessary to hear on an urgent basis with prior permission of the Court. These matters will be strictly limited.
The Court may refuse to hear any matter that they do not consider to fall into the above categories. In order to have a matter considered under category 7, an application must be filed for the Court to make a determination. All service requirements remain in effect. If the Court determines the matter is considered to be urgent and must be heard, the Local Registrar will advise the parties of the date and time. The hearing of the matter may be by way of written submissions, or telephone or video conference.
Regular civil Chambers days will be maintained; however, they are reserved for only matters that fall into the prescribed categories of an urgent and emergency matter or have been determined by the Court to be as such. All Chambers appearances will be done by phone.
The Court has adjourned all non-emergent matters scheduled after March 19, 2020 sine die, meaning they are adjourned until one of the parties requests it to be put back on the docket. Counsel and/or self-represented litigants may contact their relevant local registrar to make arrangements for rescheduling their matters once the Court resumes normal operations.
Trials and Pre-Trial Conferences
Similarly, all civil trials that have not yet commenced but were scheduled prior to May 31, 2020 are adjourned sine die. These will be rescheduled upon the Court resuming normal operations.
All trials that are currently in process are also adjourned, but rescheduling will be determined in consultation with the trial judge and local registrar.
All pre-trial conferences have been cancelled and must be rescheduled with the local registrar once the Court resumes normal operations. If a pre-trial conference has already commenced and a judge has been seized with the matter, re-scheduling will be done in consultations with both the judge and local registrar.
Applications Without Notice
Any application without notice, which is permitted under legislation, may be filed with the office of the local registrar in accordance with the filing procedure below.
Local Registrar Services and Filing
In-person access to local registrar offices has been significantly restricted. The following procedures have been implemented to continue offer services to the best of their ability:
- Guidance from the local registrar regarding Court procedures or Court schedules can only happen over the phone. Individuals cannot attend in person for this purpose.
- Documents to be filed are to be delivered to the drop box located in the hallway (if available) or on the counter of the local registrar (if permitted). The envelope should clearly set out the contact information – including phone number – of the party filing the documents. This allows the local registrar to contact the filing party if amendments are required. All documents will be date stamped and issued on the delivery date unless the documents require amendments or are insufficient.
- Documents that are required to be returned will be available for pick up the next day. Pick up locations will be marked at each court house.
- Lawyers with a deposit account with the Court may file documents by email, where appropriate. McDougall Gauley has a deposit account at many judicial centres in the province.
Court of Appeal (Civil)
Anyone who enters the Court of Appeal must be in accordance with all government mandated COVIC-19 protocols (ie. mandatory self-isolation after returning from travel).
Appeals and Applications to the Court
Effective March 23, 2020, all matters before a panel of three judges must be heard by phone or videoconference. If a party believes their matter should be heard in-person, they will need to write to the Registrar by email or letter to request this, including an explanation as to why telephone or videoconference would not suffice. The Chief Justice or his designate will determine how the matter is to proceed.
Parties may consent to submitting written materials only and forgoing oral arguments or adjourning the matter sine die. If parties consent to adjourning the matter until the Court is back up to normal operations, the Registrar must be advised as far in advance of the scheduled hearing as possible.
Chambers matters heard by a single judge will be moved to telephone or videoconference only. Like above, if a party believes their matter should be heard in person, they will need to write to the Registrar by email or letter to explain why. The Chambers judge will make the decision on how the matter is to proceed.
Parties may consent to having Chambers applications decided based upon written materials only. Parties may also consent adjourn the application sine die and bring it forward once the Court resumes normal operations. If parties decide to adjourn the matter by consent, the Registrar is to be advised of this as far in advance as possible of the Chambers date.
Limitation Periods and Filing Deadlines
Limitation periods prescribed by statute remain. Notices of appeal and applications for leave to appeal must be filed within the expected timelines.
If a party is unable to meet a filing deadline that is not prescribed by statute (ie. filing factums, appeal books, etc.) because of COVID-19 related issues, they may write to the Registrar by email or letter in advance of the deadline to request an extension.
The Registry Office and Mechanics of Filing
The Registry office is closed to the public, however, staff will continue to assist self-represented litigants and lawyers by phone and by email.
Documents can be delivered to the Registry office via the online filing system “eCourt”, regular mail, email, or fax. Documents sent through eCourt will receive an automatic notification when the document is approved or rejected for filing. For documents sent any other way, Registry staff will notify the filing party by telephone or email if the documents are not approved. There is a drop box available for parties who are unable to use any of the other means for sending documents to the Court. Registry staff will notify the filing party by telephone or email if the document is not approved for filing.
For further information about accessing our Courts during this interruption in services, or if you have any questions, please contract either:
1) Justine Shenher, Associate (Saskatoon)
2) Holli Kuski Bassett, Partner (Regina)
3) Clayton Barry, Partner (Saskatoon)
4) Any other member of our Civil Litigation Group Practice Team
Please note that our offices are still running during this time. Many lawyers and staff are working remotely, but will do what is necessary to meet your needs and are prepared to assist you.
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