COVID-19’s Impact on Ontario’s Court and Tribunal Servicesachkarlaw-admin
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Ontario’s Court and Tribunal Services. The Ministry of the Attorney General has announced that an Order in Council (“Order”) has been made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act suspending any legislatively mandated limitations periods and procedural deadlines for all courts and tribunals. The limitation and procedural deadlines suspension, which is retroactive to March 16, 2020, has left many individuals wondering what this means for their current matters, or for matters they were intending to litigate in the near future.
Impact on Court and Tribunal Proceedings
The Ontario Government’s Order has suspended the basic two-year (2) limitation period and other specific deadlines to bring a claim under the Limitations Act, as well as all procedural deadlines found under regulation, by-laws, orders, or rules such as the Rules of Civil Procedure—unless a decision-maker has ordered otherwise. This effectively means that as of March 16, 2020, the deadline clocks are paused, providing litigants with additional time to prepare their matters. This is especially useful for limitation periods which were close to expiring.
The impact of the Order’s suspension applies equally to tribunal services. The clock for all legally established tribunal limitation periods and deadlines has also been frozen as of March 16, 2020. One example is the one (1) year limitation period prescribed under the Ontario Human Rights Code to bring an application before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario—such a limitation period is currently frozen until further notice.
The Order suggests mutually agreed upon deadlines between parties as well as any deadline not mandated by any statutory provision, regulation, by-law, or order are not covered. For those, confirmation and extension requests are in order.
Additional Measures by Courts and Tribunals
There are several other measures courts and tribunals have initiated to keep people safe during this ongoing pandemic. Toronto Based Courts will no longer be responding to calls or emails, while Toronto-based Tribunals will only be responding to emails.
Toronto-based tribunals have cancelled all in-person meetings and hearings between March 16 and April 3, 2020 to be rescheduled in the future. Tribunal teleconference meetings and hearings will continue to proceed as normal.
Furthermore, on March 15, 2020, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice suspended all operations except for urgent health and safety, civil, family, and criminal matters. All Small Claims Court sittings have also been suspended until further notice including video and teleconference sittings. This includes but is not limited to: trials, settlement conferences, assessment hearings, and motions.
While only urgent matters will proceed, the Civil Claims Online service has been expanded to assist with court filings. However, service will still be limited for non-urgent matters.
What this Means for You
The most important thing to keep in mind during the COVID-19 pandemic is not to panic—courts and tribunals have set out that this period is exceptional and certain deadlines will not apply for this frozen time. However, plaintiffs, applications, and complainants must be mindful as to the type of deadline they may have to ensure such a deadline falls under the recent Order.
For matters with suspended deadlines, individuals can prepare and ensure their matter is finalized without the pressure of issuing and serving their claim, application, or complaint until there is an official notice that it is safe to do so. An important factor to also note is that as some business are currently closed, service may be more difficult at this time.
If you are an employer or an employee with an upcoming deadline or who would like more information on the current status of Ontario’s Court and Tribunal Services, our team of experienced legal professional at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-(800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal advice, and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call 1-(800)771-7882, or email [email protected].