Since courts have restricted their in-person operations to protect the health and safety of the public and officers of the court, alternative measures have been implemented to allow certain matters to continue virtually.
Both the provincial and federal courts have encouraged the use of teleconference and video conference, including with alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation.
Mediations can take the form of an online dispute resolution process, where mediations take place via online mechanisms, such as the Internet or some other form of technology which occurs through virtual communication without the physical presence of the parties. However, virtual mediation has its own benefits and pitfalls, including the following:
- It can cut down on the costs associated with mediation, including room-booking, travel, and accommodation.
- It allows parties to participate who otherwise are unable to attend the mediation in-person, due to a disability or other personal reasons.
- It is appropriate for sensitive matters where parties are not comfortable being in the same vicinity as the other party.
- The parties would be required to possess adequate technology and be aware of how to navigate same for virtual mediation to take place.
- Personal information disclosed during an online mediation may be vulnerable to cybercrime and the misuse of that personal information.
- As there is no physical appearance by the parties, the process may appear more impersonal, and as a result, might make it more difficult for the parties to properly express their interests.
Virtual proceedings similarly requires no physical presence but allows for the same judicial process to take place as it normally would in a courtroom.The proceedings are limited to online access, videoconferencing and teleconferencing. Virtual court proceedings also have their benefits and pitfalls, which include the following:
- Witnesses can testify at trial via videoconference without being physically present, which may alleviate the stress involved with testifying in person.
- Media reports will be provided to members of the public who are unable to attend court as a result of the closures, thus members of the public will still be able to access hearings from their home.
- The costs typically associated with a trial may be cut down significantly, and any accommodation costs that the system would incur are mostly eliminated, as the parties may now participate from their home.
- Parties that are located far from a courthouse may face hurdles such as travelling costs and delays when the parties or the witness have to appear in person for a proceedings, whereas attending a hearing virtually will save time and costs associated with being present physically.
- Even though courts will provide the public with media reports notifying of the hearing time, reading or hearing a summary of the case facts and testimonies loses what may be observed in-person.
- Reports may not cover every case.
- There may also be privacy concerns as personal information because easily accessible to anyone for any reason.
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