Since March 16, 2020, regular court operations in Ontario have been suspended due to COVID-19. In-person and virtual court attendances have generally been limited to urgent matters. Limitation periods and litigation deadlines have been suspended. This suspension has significantly impacted litigants’ ability to take procedural steps before the courts.
On Tuesday, June 30, 2020 in was announced that Ontario courts will carefully start to resume some in-person proceedings on Monday, July 6, 2020. Courts will reopen gradually, using a staged approach, and strict health and safety protocols will be implemented to protect the public and staff from COVID-19.
In this first stage, 149 courtrooms will reopen in 44 locations. The plan is to open additional courtrooms by September and all courtrooms by November 1, 2020.
Several measures will be implemented, including:
- Plexiglass barriers will be installed in courtrooms, interview rooms, intake offices and public counters to help maintain physical distancing.
- All persons attending at a courthouse will be required to wear a mask and will be screened for symptoms.
- High-touch areas, like doorknobs and light switches, will be cleaned several times each day.
- Hand sanitizer dispensers will be installed in many new places throughout the building.
- Public access to courtrooms may be restricted because of health and safety concerns. Where public access is restricted, the court will make efforts to provide remote viewing options.
In order to get the message out to persons who will be attending a courthouse while the health and safety measures remain in place, the government has created a dedicated web page here: COVID 19: Reopening courts.
With respect to filing court materials, court users are still being encouraged to file documents through online services or email, where possible.
It is important to note that the government has extended the suspension of limitation periods up to and including September 11, 2020, which is the maximum period allowed under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.