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Scheduling and Conducting of Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances (Published August 20, 2020; last updated November 18, 2020)

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This Notice outlines how virtual criminal case management appearances will be conducted.

The Ontario Court of Justice is implementing virtual criminal case management courts, in which criminal case management appearances will be conducted by videoconference or audioconference.  On Monday August 10, 2020, a virtual criminal case management court pilot was launched in Ottawa and Kitchener. Province-wide implementation began on August 24, 2020 and will be completed in early January 2021.

Further information about criminal proceedings in the Ontario Court of Justice, including the definition of “case management appearances”, is available in the COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice.

Please continue to check the Ontario Court of Justice website for updates.

Note:  The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in large dockets.  In addition, it will likely take all participants some time to adapt to the new procedures and technology involved in conducting these appearances using remote technology.  The Court encourages and appreciates the cooperation and patience of all participants, particularly at the beginning of this initiative.  The Court will revise and refine the procedures for these virtual case management courts, as appropriate, based on feedback and as court operations continue to evolve in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1)    Implementation of Criminal Case Management Courts

Set out below is a list of court locations that have implemented virtual criminal case management courts or whose implementation dates have been confirmed:

Court location(s) Date
Kitchener, Ottawa August 10, 2020
Cayuga, Goderich, Guelph, L’Orignal, Orangeville, Pembroke, Stratford, Simcoe, St. Thomas, Windsor, Woodstock August 24, 2020
Oshawa, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Toronto East (1911 Eglinton) August 31, 2020
Barrie, Brantford, Brockville, Chatham, Cornwall, Lindsay, London, Milton, Niagara (St. Catharines / Welland / Fort Erie), North Bay, Parry Sound, Perth, Peterborough, Sarnia, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Toronto North (1000 Finch), Toronto West (2201 Finch) September 8, 2020
311 Jarvis (Toronto), Belleville, Bracebridge, Brampton, Cobourg, Cochrane, College Park (Toronto), Dryden, Fort Frances, Gore Bay, Haileybury, Hamilton, Kenora, Kingston, Napanee, Newmarket, Old City Hall (Toronto), Orillia, Owen Sound, Walkerton September 21, 2020
Exeter, Leamington, Walpole Island First Nation October 26 2020
Blind River, Elliot Lake, Hearst, Hornepayne, Huntsville, Kapuskasing, Kirkland Lake, Minden, Smooth Rock Falls November 2, 2020
Bradford, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout November 9, 2020
Atikokan, Collingwood, Bearskin Lake, Big Trout Lake, Cat Lake, Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Ignace, Kasabonika Lake, Keewaywin, Kingfisher, Lac Seul, Pickle Lake / Mishkeegogamang, Muskrat Dam, North Spirit Lake, Pikangikum, Poplar Hill, Rainy River, Sachigo Lake, Sandy Lake, Wapekeka, Weagamow, Wunnumin Lake November 16, 2020
Alexandria, Attiwapiskat, Chapleau, Fort Albany, Gogama, Kashechewn, Midland, Moosonee, Morrisburg, Peawanuck, Picton, Sundridge, Wikwemikong November 23, 2020
Armstrong, Fort Hope (Eabametoong), Geraldton, Landsdowne House (Neskantaga), Longlac, Manitouwadge, Marathon, Nipigon, Ogoki Post, Renfrew, Schreiber, Summer Beaver (Nibinamik), Webequie November 30, 2020
Bancroft, Killaloe, Wawa December 7, 2020
Espanola December 14, 2020
Brighton, Mattawa, Sturgeon Falls January 4, 2021
Sharbot Lake January 26, 2021

Case management appearances include a “first appearance” and matters scheduled “to be spoken to” or to “set a date”. They do not include trials, preliminary hearings, guilty pleas or sentencings.  A description of the case management court(s) at each court location is set out in the schedules setting out courthouse-specific scheduling and connection information.

2)    Remote Appearances Using Zoom

As of the implementation date noted in the chart above, counsel and accused persons who are out of custody will be able to attend for criminal case management appearances by audioconference (telephone) or videoconference using Zoom.

Criminal case management appearances will be conducted using Zoom, which allows participants to join by videoconference or audioconference (telephone).

A Zoom account is not required to participate in Zoom hearings. You can download Zoom at https://zoom.us/ free of charge. User tutorials for Zoom are available at: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206618765-Zoom-Video-Tutorials

Except as set out within this notice, criminal case management appearances will be conducted by remote appearance (audioconference or videoconference) only.  Attendance in criminal case management courtrooms will be restricted to the judicial official and essential court staff, unless a judicial official directs otherwise.

The Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for courts administration and courthouse facilities, is implementing an incremental plan to prepare courthouses and courtrooms to facilitate the safe return of in-person court appearances across Ontario.  The plan is expected to be completed at all base court locations by the end of December 2020.  The number of people who may be present in the courthouse and in the courtroom remains restricted in order to comply with health and safety precautions and maintain safe physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  For these reasons, many court locations are currently not able to accommodate in-person criminal case management appearances even though they have resumed hearing other proceedings, such as trials and preliminary inquiries, in person.

If you have a case management criminal court appearance, you should attend by videoconference or telephone. Do not attend in person unless you have confirmed that your court location is able to accommodate an in-person criminal case management appearance.

The number of court locations in which in-person criminal case management appearances can be accommodated will expand as the Ministry of the Attorney General implements health and safety measures in additional courthouses and courtrooms.  Please continue to check the Ontario Court of Justice website for updates.

If you do not have access to a personal telephone or a computer, you can use a payphone to call Zoom’s toll-free 1-855 number (listed on the Scheduling and Connection Information notice for your court location) to join the court proceeding for free.  In addition, some courthouses and local service agencies have resources and/or procedures to help people who don’t have their own telephone or computer attend court by video or phone.  If you are unable to attend a criminal case management appearance by video or telephone, please contact the courthouse to find out what alternatives to an in-person appearance may be available in your area.

3)    Appearances by Counsel

Counsel are strongly encouraged to attend case management court appearances by videoconference.

The Court expects that counsel will notify their clients that criminal case management appearances have resumed and that the client is required to attend by videoconference or audioconference, unless counsel is appearing on their behalf.

Because of the nature of remote appearances and because of the high volume of matters in case management courts, there will be limited, if any, opportunity for private discussion between and among participants during a virtual case management court appearance.  It is therefore essential that Crown and defence counsel speak with their client (where applicable), and with one another, in advance of the case management appearance.

4)    Appearances by Accused Persons

Accused persons are encouraged to attend case management court appearances by videoconference. However, accused persons who cannot attend by videoconference may attend by audioconference (telephone).

Self-represented accused persons are encouraged to contact Legal Aid Ontario before the day of their criminal case management appearance. Legal Aid Ontario has provided the following information for self-represented accused persons:

Please contact Legal Aid Ontario well in advance of your court appearance. If you would like general legal advice, or if you want to apply for legal aid, call the central Legal Aid Ontario number at 1-800-668-8258. If you want to speak to a local Duty Counsel, and are eligible, Duty Counsel may provide you with legal advice and assistance for your court appearance. At this time local Duty Counsel cannot guarantee same day assistance; it is therefore strongly recommended that you contact Legal Aid Ontario and/or Duty Counsel well in advance of your court date.

Contact information for local Duty Counsel offices is set out in the schedules setting out courthouse-specific scheduling and connection information.

a.    Appearances on or before November 27, 2020

As an interim measure while virtual case management courts were being implemented, the court directed that, if an accused person did not attend for their criminal case management appearance, their matter would be adjourned to a date five (5) weeks from the scheduled appearance date, with a “bench warrant with discretion” returnable on the next date.  The presiding judicial official could adjourn a matter to a different date where satisfied that it is in the interest of justice to do so.

This directive will not longer be in effect after November 27, 2020.

b.    Appearances on or after November 30, 2020

The interim directive issued by the Court directing that criminal case management matters will be adjourned for five weeks, with a discretionary bench warrant, if the accused person does not appear, will end as of Friday November 27, 2020.  As of Monday November 30, 2020, accused persons are required to attend for their scheduled appearance in criminal case management court – either by having counsel appear on their behalf or by appearing by telephone or video.

If you do not attend a scheduled criminal case management appearance on or after Monday November 30, 2020, the Court may (i) issue a bench summons requiring you to attend court on a specified date or, (ii) issue a warrant for your arrest, if the presiding judicial officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that it is necessary in the public interest to do so.

Note: It is not necessary for the accused person or counsel to attend in court for the appearance immediately following the filing of an Enhanced Designation of Counsel.  Where an Enhanced Designation of Counsel has been filed pursuant to the Practice Direction Authorizing Alternate Form of Appearance, the accused person’s matter will be adjourned to the appropriate date, without the accused or counsel personally appearing in court, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Practice Direction.

5)    Scheduling and Connection Information

Each case management court has its own unique video link and its own unique telephone number / passcode combination that is needed to connect to the court.  This information is set out in courthouse-specific schedules available on the Ontario Court of Justice website.

To facilitate more orderly proceedings and to limit the number of people waiting on the line to have their matters addressed, many case management court lists have been subdivided into tiers.  Counsel and accused persons are encouraged to connect to the case management courtroom at the time specified for their tier.  However, the Court recognizes that, as a result of the automatic adjournment of matters and other scheduling changes, counsel may have conflicting court obligations which will prevent counsel from being able to attend during the allotted time.

The scheduling and connection information for criminal case management courts may change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as court operations continue to expand.  Please continue to check the Ontario Court of Justice website for updates.

6)    Accused persons who are in custody

Criminal case management appearances for accused persons who are in custody will continue to be conducted by remote appearance (audioconference or videoconference), in accordance with the procedures in place since March 2020.

7)    Enhanced Designations of Counsel

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to limit the number of people who are required to attend court, the Court has issued a Practice Direction Authorizing Alternate Form of Appearance where an Enhanced Designation of Counsel has been Filed.

Accused persons who are represented by counsel and who have filed an Enhanced Designation of Counsel may have their matters adjourned, without the accused personally appearing, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Practice Direction and in accordance with rule 4.5 of the Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice.

8)    Additional Resources

The Court has published resources to assist participants and help ensure that remote hearings, including virtual case management court appearances, run effectively.

For a review of best practices for remote hearings, see Guidelines for Conducting Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.

For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.

For additional information to assist self-represented accused persons, please see Information for Self-Represented Accused Persons with Criminal Cases in the Ontario Court of Justice.

Not sure about your next court date in a criminal case? Criminal cases for out of custody accused persons (including trials, preliminary inquiries, case management appearances, first appearances, set dates and remands) that were adjourned due to COVID-19 were put over to a standard date specified in a court notice.

If you remember the date of your last criminal court appearance you can look up your next court date. See Criminal Case Adjournment Dates – Out-of-Custody Accused.

To see a list of cases that are scheduled for that day or the next day at a particular courthouse, go to the Daily Court Lists website:  http://www.ontariocourtdates.ca/.

If you are unsure about the date of your next court appearance, whether you are required to attend court on that date, or whether you should be attending in person or by remote technology (videoconference or audioconference), please contact your lawyer.  If you do not have a lawyer, please contact the courthouse and ask for assistance.

Courthouse-specific Scheduling and Connection Information

The chart below includes all Virtual Criminal Case Management Court locations implemented on or before December 14, 2020.  Additional locations will be added before their Virtual Criminal Case Management Courts are implemented.

Alexandria Atikokan Attawapiskat Bancroft
Barrie Belleville Blind River Bracebridge
Brampton Bradford Brantford Brighton
Brockville Cayuga Chapleau Chatham
Cobourg Cochrane Collingwood Cornwall
Dryden Dryden Satellite Elliot Lake Espanola
Exeter Fort Albany Fort Erie Fort Frances
Goderich Gogama Gore Bay Guelph
Haileybury Hamilton Hearst Hornepayne
Huntsville Kapuskasing Kashechewan Kenora
Kenora Satellite Killaloe Kingston Kirkland Lake
Kitchener Leamington Lindsay London
Mattawa Midland Milton Minden
Moosonee Morrisburg Napanee Newmarket
North Bay Orangeville L’Orignal Orillia
Oshawa Ottawa Owen Sound Parry Sound
Peawanuck Pembroke Perth Peterborough
Picton Rainy River Red Lake Renfrew
St. Catharines St. Thomas Sarnia Sault Ste Marie
Sharbot Lake Simcoe Sioux Lookout Smooth Rock Falls
Stratford Sturgeon Falls Sudbury Sundridge
Thunder Bay Thunder Bay Satellites Timmins Toronto (311 Jarvis)
Toronto (College Park) Toronto East (1911 Eglinton) Toronto (Old City Hall) Toronto North (1000 Finch)
Toronto West (2201 Finch) Walkerton Walpole Island First Nation Wawa
Welland Wikwemikong Windsor Woodstock