Update April 8, 2021: Updated message re COVID-19 from Chief Justice Maisonneuve
The Ontario Court of Justice provides essential justice services to the public and remains open during these difficult times. Following the government’s April 7, 2021 declaration of a state of emergency and issuance of a stay-at-home order, the Court again stresses the importance of limiting in-person attendance at courthouses. The Court is committed to facilitating the conduct of proceedings by remote technology (video or phone) wherever possible and urges all judicial officials, parties and counsel to use remote proceedings unless an in-person appearance is required to ensure meaningful access to justice.
If you are unsure whether your case is being held by video or telephone or in person, please contact your lawyer or, if you do not have a lawyer, contact the courthouse where your case is being heard.
For more information, see Message re COVID-19 (Updated April 8, 2021)
The Ontario Court of Justice has issued a number of practice directions and notices as it has revised its operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notices issued between March and May 2020 were consolidated into a single notice: see COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice. The Court has issued a number of notices and updates since the consolidated notice was last updated on June 1, 2020. An updated consolidated notice will be posted shortly.
The following page summarizes the Court’s current policies and directives regarding criminal court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Trials and Preliminary Inquiries
- Case Management Courts (including set date courts and remand courts)
- Case Management Appearances by Accused Persons who are in Custody
- Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody
- Virtual Case Management Courts for Accused Persons who are out of Custody
- Enhanced Designation of Counsel
- Previous Directives Adjourning Case Management Court Appearances between March 16, 2020 and November 27, 2020
- Guilty Plea Proceedings
- Bail Proceedings
- Judicial Pre-Trials
- Serving and Filing Court Documents
- General Notices and Resources
Trials and Preliminary Inquiries
Resumption of Trials and Preliminary Inquiries
The Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for courts administration and courthouse facilities, has established an incremental plan to prepare courthouses and courtrooms to facilitate the return to court operations across Ontario. The first phase of the plan was implemented Monday July 6, 2020, with criminal trials and preliminary inquiries resuming in a limited number of courthouses and courtrooms; additional courthouses resumed hearing trials and preliminary hearings throughout the summer and fall of 2020. The following courthouses have resumed hearing in-person criminal trials and preliminary inquiries:
|Ontario Court of Justice Courthouses where Criminal Trials and Preliminary Inquiries have Resumed|
|Central East||Barrie, Bracebridge, Bradford, Coburg, Lindsay, Newmarket, Oshawa (Durham), Peterborough|
|Central West||Brampton, Brantford, Burlington, Cayuga, Hamilton, Milton, Orangeville, St Catharines, Simcoe, Welland|
|East||Alexandria, Belleville (Quinte), Brockville, Cornwall, Kingston, L’Orignal, Ottawa, Pembroke, Napanee, Perth, Picton|
|Northeast||Cochrane, Elliot Lake, Haileybury, Kirkland Lake, North Bay, Parry Sound, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Timmins|
|Northwest||Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay|
|Toronto||311 Jarvis St, College Park (444 Yonge St), Old City Hall (60 Queen St W), Toronto North (1000 Finch Ave W), Toronto East (1911 Eglinton Ave E), Toronto West (2201 Finch Ave W)|
|West||Chatham, Goderich, Guelph, Kitchener (Waterloo Region), London, Owen Sound, St Thomas (Elgin County), Sarnia, Stratford, Walkerton, Windsor|
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court encourages judiciary, counsel and parties to conduct trials and preliminary inquiries, which would otherwise be conducted in person, using remote technology wherever possible. If you are an accused person and are unsure whether you should attend for a trial or preliminary inquiry by video or telephone or in person, please contact your lawyer or, if you do not have a lawyer, contact the courthouse where your case is being heard using the contact information on this website. If you are a witness and are unsure whether you should attend court by video or telephone or in person, please contact the person listed on the subpoena or on the correspondence you received with your subpoena. If there is no contact information on your subpoena, contact the courthouse where your case is being heard.
The Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of the Attorney General, is responsible for all facility retrofitting and all health and safety measures required to ensure the safe resumption of court operations including the reopening of all satellite courts for in-person appearances. The Ontario Court of Justice has responsibility for the scheduling of all court matters in those courthouses and will do so when the Ministry advises that it safe to resume operations.
As part of the return to operations plan, the Ministry is implementing health and safety measures in each courthouse. More information about the precautionary health and safety measures implemented by the Ministry at courthouses is available on the following website: COVID-19: Reopening courtrooms.
COVID-19 Trial Readiness Courts
Unless otherwise directed by the Regional Senior Judge and until further notice, all cases currently scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry will be spoken to approximately one week before the scheduled hearing date before a judge presiding in a special COVID-19 Trial Readiness Court. The purposes of the Trial Readiness Courts are:
- to confirm that trials or preliminary inquiries are ready to proceed on their hearing date; and
- to assign cases into courtrooms that are open and operating.
For details about Trial Readiness Courts, the schedule for Trial Readiness Courts in each court location. please see:
Scheduling Trials and Preliminary Inquiries
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court established a new procedure for setting trial dates remotely, using a combination of an online form and a trial scheduling conference with the Trial Coordinator’s office. The Court also established a priority order and timeline for the setting of trial and preliminary inquiry dates. For details, please see:
- Notice to the Profession and the Public re Criminal Case Management Appearances and Setting Trial and Preliminary Inquiry Dates (Published July 2, 2020)
- Notice to the Profession and the Public: Update regarding the Scheduling of Criminal Trials and Preliminary Inquiries (August 12, 2020)
In cases where there is an election as to mode of trial, if an accused person has not made their election, the defence may file a written Notice of Election, which can be signed electronically and filed with the Court by attaching it with the Trial / Preliminary Inquiry Scheduling Form.
Case Management Courts (including set date courts and remand courts)
Case Management Appearances by Accused Persons who are in Custody
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal case management appearances for accused persons who are in custody have been conducted by remote appearance (audioconference or videoconference).
Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody
The Court has issued a Practice Direction that permits accused persons who are in custody to waive their right to appear personally before the Court and to request to have their case adjourned in their absence, by instructing defence counsel to complete and file a Waiver and Request for Adjournment/Remand in Accused Person’s Absence form on their behalf. For details, please see:
- Practice Direction re: Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody (August 12, 2020)
The Ontario Court of Justice has implemented virtual criminal case management courts in all court locations across Ontario.
Virtual case management courts allow accused persons who are not in custody to appear for their case management date by videoconference or by audioconference (telephone).
For more information about virtual case management courts, see Scheduling and Conducting of Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances.
For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.
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. Click on a court location to see the scheduling and connection information specific to that location.
Enhanced Designation of Counsel
The Court encourages accused persons with legal representation to consider filing an Enhanced Designation of Counsel. 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. Please see:
- Practice Direction Authorizing Alternate Form of Appearance where an Enhanced Designation of Counsel has been Filed (Issued August 6, 2020; updated November 16, 2020 (preamble added))
Note: On February 1, 2021, a pilot project will launch in Ottawa. In the pilot, accused persons whose counsel have filed an Enhanced Designation of Counsel may have their matters adjourned to the next court date without the matter being addressed in court. For more information, see Out of Court Adjournment of Matters where an Enhanced Designation of Counsel has been Filed – Pilot Project in Ottawa
Previous Directives Adjourning Case Management Court Appearances between March 16, 2020 and November 27, 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal case management appearances for out-of-custody accused persons between March 16, 2020 and November 27, 2020 were adjourned, in the accused person’s absence, to another date. For details, and to find out what date matters were adjourned to, please see: Criminal Case Adjournment Dates – Out-of-Custody Accused
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. For more information, see Notice to the Profession and the Public re Criminal Case Management Appearances on or after November 30, 2020.
The Court has implemented virtual criminal case management courts, which allow counsel and accused persons to attend for criminal case management appearances by videoconference or audioconference (telephone), in all court locations across Ontario. See Virtual Case Management Courts for Accused Persons who are out of Custody.
Guilty Plea Proceedings
The Court continues to hear guilty pleas by accused persons who are in custody and who are out-of-custody.
Priority will be given to guilty pleas involving accused persons who are in custody and to urgent guilty pleas by persons who are out of custody, for example, where there is a deadline for eligibility for a particular program or where an accused is on particularly onerous bail conditions.
For further details, please see:
- COVID-19: Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice, s. 7
For connection information for regularly-scheduled plea courts in a number of Ontario Court of Justice locations, please see:
Bail Hearings Protocol
To ensure that bail proceedings are dealt with effectively, the Court has established a protocol governing the conduct of bail hearings. Please see:
- Bail Hearings Protocol (May 11, 2020)
Applications to Vary Release Orders and Police Undertakings
The Ontario Court of Justice has established procedures to allow individuals to apply to vary their release conditions by electronic means rather than attending at the courthouse. The new procedures govern consent variations of release conditions for individuals who have been released either by the Court (s. 515 of the Criminal Code) or by the police (s. 498, 499 or 503 of the Criminal Code). Please see:
- Consent Variations Procedures for Release Orders and Police Undertakings (May 11, 2020)
The Ontario Court of Justice continues to offer judicial pre-trials (JPTs) to address resolution options (including withdrawals or guilty pleas), accurate time estimates, and procedural and evidentiary issues that promote the proper use of trial time.
In addition to the existing range of cases that are subject to JPTs, as specified in the Court’s Judicial Criminal Pre-Trial Best Practices, JPTs are mandatory in the following criminal cases, unless a Regional Senior Judge directs otherwise:
- cases that were scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry that was, or will be, adjourned due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- cases that are scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry up to October 30, 2020.
Please see s. 6 of Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice for details about mandatory JPTs.
Serving and Filing Court Documents
For information about serving and filing court documents, please see s. 5 of the Notice to Counsel and the Public re: Criminal Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice (May 11, 2020, updated May 22, 2020, and June 1, 2020) and the Notice to the Legal Profession and the Public regarding the process of electronically submitting documents at the Ontario Court of Justice (updated November 19, 2020).
General Notices and Resources
Remote Hearing Guides
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Court of Justice is holding some court proceedings by using the Zoom platform or the JVN (Justice Video Network) WebRTC platform, or by audioconference (telephone).
To help to ensure that hearings involving the use of video or telephone communications run effectively, the Court has published Guidelines for Conducting Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice. The Guidelines provide best practices for these types of hearings.
For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.
Notice to the Public and the Media
Resources for Self-Represented Accused Persons
The following document provides general information to self-represented accused persons who have criminal cases in the Ontario Court of Justice during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Information for Self-Represented Accused Persons with Criminal Cases in the Ontario Court of Justice (August 19, 2020)
Not sure about your next court date in a criminal case?
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, please contact your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, please see contact the courthouse to ask for assistance.