As many organizations in BC, the court system is also reopening using new safety guidelines and procedures. This blog post gives you a short guide to how the Provincial and Supreme Courts of BC are currently operating. This information will be helpful to any members of the public who are starting or continuing an action in the courts.
If you need any help decoding legal terms while looking at the court pages or on the reference desk, check out our new Guide to legal terminology, available with out other reference tools on our website.
Provincial Court of BC
Court documents: Provincial court registries are open for in-person filings and are also accepting new filings. However, remote filing is encouraged to reduce the amount of people visiting the courthouse in person. Remote filing can be done by mail, email, or fax to certain court registries. A list of Court Locations is available online.
Following physical distancing guidelines, it can be more difficult to get affidavits signed and witnessed. The Provincial Court has released a Notice concerning Affidavits for Use in Court Proceedings with guidance on how to proceed. The Chief Justice has also advised Provincial Court registries that in order to reduce the amount of people attending registries to swear affidavits that most materials need not be sworn or affirmed (i.e. confirming it is the truth) during COVID-19, according to the Provincial Court’s Resumption of Court Operations notice.
Hearings: The Provincial Court of BC is proceeding with scheduled hearings, either remotely (via phone or video conference) or in-person at the courthouse. Criminal, family, small claims (Provincial civil court), and youth court trials and hearings scheduled after July 3 will remain on the trial list on the date scheduled. On that date, self-represented litigants and/or counsel should be at the courthouse for 9:00AM to advise if they are ready to proceed that day. Family and small claims case conferences will proceed via phone or video conferencing on the scheduled date.
The Provincial Court is using Microsoft Teams for video conferencing and has released a Guide to Remote Proceedings to help guide court users.
For urgent Family applications, such as for a protection order, the process remains the same as prior to COVID-19: https://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/types-of-cases/family-matters/without-notice-orders
Other helpful notices include:
- COVID-19: Resumption of Court Operations (also discussing filing documents and affidavits)
- Fax Filing Registries – Family and Small Claims (lists which registries are accepting fax filing of court documents)
For more information, see the Provincial Court’s website for their COVID-19 response.
Supreme Court of BC
Court documents: Supreme Court registries are open for in-person filing of court documents. However, remote methods of filing are still encouraged. Parties can file their documents through Court Services Online, fax, or by mail.
The Court has also released guidance about getting an affidavit sworn and filed for court matters. The Notice Affidavits for Use in Civil or Family Proceedings provides guidance about having affidavits sworn remotely and the Notice Filing of Affidavits of Service or Delivery provides guidance around submitting Affidavits of Service (in which a person confirms they have given document to a person).
Hearings: All civil or family trials scheduled to begin on or after June 8 have resumed and using physical distancing protocols. Judicial Case Conferences, Trial Management Conferences, some registrar hearings, and chambers applications estimated to take two hours or less are all taking place over the phone or video conferencing.
The Supreme Court created a Notice to help those attending Remote Video Conference Hearings. Some other notices you may find helpful are:
- Expansion of Court Operations – In-person Registry Services (Appendix A includes a list of registry accepting faxed court documents)
- In Court Measures During the Pandemic
For more information, see the Supreme Court of BC’s Current COVID-19 Notices.
We are still working remotely at CLBC, offering reference services over the phone and through our email. If you need in the moment reference help or to refer a patron, we can be contacted Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30.
Also check out these upcoming free webinars from CLBC!
- Indigenous Rights in BC and Indian Act Amendments - July 31 at 12:30, featuring students from the UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic.
- Race Issues and the BC Legal System - August 13 at 12:30, featuring former Chief Justice of Canada Beverly McLachlin, Judge Wolf of the BC Provincial Court, Judge St. Pierre of the BC Provincial Court, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
- Indigenous Human Rights - August 18 at 12:30, featuring Christopher Heslinga, supervising lawyer of the UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic and Law Students’ Legal Advice Program.