1. GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO
Mandatory Closure of Non-Essential Businesses on March 24th 11:59pm: Lawyers are considered essential. See full list here.
Ontario Limitation Periods and Procedural Time Periods Suspended: The Ministry of the Attorney General has advised that an Order in Council has been made under s. 7.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act suspending limitation periods and procedural time periods. The suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020. The Order in Council can be viewed here (PDF).
Suspension of Residential Evictions: See Court Order here.
Updates from Legal Aid Ontario can be found here.
2. GUIDANCE FROM THE COURTS and REGULATORS
Each court has issued its own notice or direction regarding procedures to be implemented in the face of this pandemic, see below.
Also an E-Hearings Task Force has been established with co-operation from the Law Society of Ontario, the Federation of Law Societies of Ontario, Ontario Bar Association and The Advocates' Society to expand virtual access to the courts. See more information in this notice from the Advocates' Society.
The Ontario Court of Justice’s notice provides that unless you have an urgent criminal or urgent family court appearance between March 20 and May 29, 2020 do not attend court. Further information on scheduling matters and “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning” can be found on the OCJ’s website.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has issued several important notices to the profession, litigants, and witnesses, which can be found on the OSCJ’s website. All civil, family and criminal matters scheduled to be heard on or after March 17, 2020 are adjourned. The court will currently remain open for urgent matters as described in its notice. However, as of April 6, 2020, the court will expand the matters that can be heard remotely beyond just urgent matters.
For criminal matters, for any accused person who has a matter scheduled for any type of appearance in the Superior Court of Justice between March 17, 2020 and June 2, 2020, that matter is adjourned, unless directed otherwise by the Court. More information on criminal matters can be found here.
Small Claims Court hearings have also been suspended until further notice. You may continue to file claims online.
The Commercial List has also provided a notice of changes to its current services, provided by the Commercial List Users Committee. A similar notice has been provided regarding the Estates List as well.
Good new for E-Filing: Here is the expanded list of documents you can now file on-line.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario has suspended all non-urgent appeals from March 17 until April 3, 2020. Urgent appeals will be heard based on either written materials or will be heard remotely. Parties on non-urgent appeals can request that their appeal be heard in writing. For more information on what the Court considers “urgent” see its Notice to The Profession and the Public. Plus, all materials can now be e-mailed as the counter service is now closed.
The Federal Court has produced a Practice Direction and an Updated Practice Direction and Order re COVID-19, with FAQs. All Federal Court hearings previously scheduled between March 17 and April 17 have been adjourned sine die. This includes hearings that were scheduled to proceed by way of telephone conference. For exceptions, see the detailed Practice Directions.
The Supreme Court of Canada has closed the building to visitors but currently the Court remains open for case-related matters. To assist parties in filing their documents within the required deadline, documents may be filed by email. For more information see the SCC’s COVID-19 notice. Deadlines imposed by the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada have also been suspended. More details here.
The Canadian Securities Administrators is providing temporary blanket relief for market participants from certain regulatory filings, as a result of COVID-19, as announced by the Ontario Securities Commission.
For information on the status of tribunals (Consent and Capacity Board, Landlord and Tenant Board etc.) see this handy list from the Ontario Bar Association.
3. GUIDANCE FROM THE LAW SOCIETY OF ONTARIO
The LSO has provided regular updates on its website under: COVID-19 Response. Of note, until further notice, the LSO is allowing lawyers and paralegals to verify the identity of their client via video conference. This will be in compliance with By-Law 7.1. Further, commissioning of affidavits may also be completed via video conference. See the LSO website for more details.
Also, for any lawyer or paralegal who has not paid their 2020 annual fee yet, the late payment fee will not be applied before April 6, 2020. The filing deadline for lawyers and paralegals to file their 2019 Annual Report is still March 31, 2020, however, you may file during the 60-day default period (ending May 30) without penalty.
4. GUIDANCE FROM LAW AND BAR ASSOCIATIONS
Several associations and organizations have also prepared helpful guidance and tips to assist lawyers during this time:
Ontario Bar Association: COVID-19 Action Plan and Tips for Lawyer Wellness.
Canadian Bar Association: Statement on COVID-19
The Advocates Society: COVID-19 Update
Toronto Lawyers Association: TLA Response to COVID-19
LawPro: Response to COVID-19
Federation of Law Societies of Ontario: Special Edition Real Estate Lawyers Update and Weekly Update (April 1, 2020).
Criminal Lawyers Association: COVID-19 Blog Articles
Ontario Family Lawyers: Public Facebook Group - To share ideas and concerns.
Also, we remain open to assist lawyers and law firms with your overflow legal work. We are pros at remote working and there has been no interruption in our services. Please reach out to let us know how we can assist you.
Stay healthy and safe everyone! Check back here often as we will be updating this post regularly. This is current as of March 30, 2020 at 8:00am.