Notice to the Public and the Profession – Court Operations in the East Region as of March 1, 2021

This notice replaces the Regional Notice issued in May of 2020
There are also provincial and local notices which may be applicable
Please Read Carefully

Purpose of this Notice

The purpose of this notice is to provide guidance for counsel and litigants involved in court proceedings in the East Region during the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency. It replaces the earlier notice issued in May of 2020 and should be read in conjunction with the province wide notices issued by the Chief Justice and posted on the Ontario Courts website found here. [i]

The East Region of the Superior Court includes ten judicial districts serviced by courts in Ottawa, Kingston, Napanee, Belleville, Picton, Brockville, Cornwall, L’Orignal, Perth and Pembroke. Each of these centres is significantly different in terms of size, court facilities, judicial complement and current COVID status.

There may be local protocols, requirements, or restrictions in each of these centres. These will be communicated to the local county bar association from time to time and may be obtained from the local trial co-ordinator. This Regional Notice does not repeal or replace local notices put in place since May of 2020.

Context

The daily operation of the justice system takes place against a changing background of COVID-19 infection rates, virus mutation, public health advice, provincial and local restrictions, and other factors.

Over the past year restrictions have been imposed, relaxed and re-imposed. During the first part of 2021, the Region was subject to the province wide lockdown. It is important that the justice system continue to function, but also that the court does so prudently and in accordance with public health advice. For the duration of the pandemic, all reasonable efforts will be made to avoid in-person, in-court appearances.

Court staff, judiciary, counsel and other justice system participants will frequently be working remotely and experiencing additional pressures resulting from the use of new technology as well as the pressures of dealing with the pandemic. Every effort should be made to ensure communication with the court and electronic documents are focused, concise, clear and well organized.

Every participant in the justice system is expected to do his or her part to ensure the system can continue to operate while also respecting the need for public and personal safety. Patience, flexibility, and co-operation will be essential.

Full compliance with COVID-19 restrictions in force in courthouses and court rooms is expected and required by all justice participants at all times.

Court operations in the City of Ottawa

The Ottawa court is the largest judicial centre in the Region. Specific notices in relation to Criminal, Family and Civil proceedings in the City of Ottawa will be posted on the Ontario Courts website and may also be found on the County of Carleton Law Association website here. [ii]

Some matters such as Bankruptcy and Insolvency, Divisional Court or matters before the masters are only dealt with in Ottawa.

Operation of the Courts under COVID Restrictions – General Information

To enable the justice system to function despite various states of lockdown and public health restrictions, the court has taken the following steps:

  • In-court appearances are limited to those which are deemed absolutely necessary and which can reasonably be conducted in compliance with public health restrictions.
  • Systems have been put in place for electronic filing of documents and all court documents are to be filed electronically unless it is impractical or unreasonable to do so.
  • The court has acquired videoconferencing capacity (Zoom lines). Hearings will take place by videoconference, teleconference, or in writing unless personal attendance in a court room is deemed to be absolutely necessary.
  • Court rooms and judges have been supplied with technology to facilitate virtual and hybrid hearings.
  • Formal gowning requirements for counsel have been relaxed. Parties participating in virtual hearings must still observe appropriate court room decorum.
  • Parties and counsel are expected to exchange, file and present documents in electronic form unless otherwise directed.
  • The court may require counsel to make use of a cloud-based document sharing platform and will shortly be implementing “Caselines”. Counsel will be required to have familiarity with Caselines and to use it as directed. General information about Caselines can be viewed here. [iii]

In-Person Hearings

Personal attendance for in-person court hearings is subject to safeguards and restrictions depending on the nature of the proceeding, the extent of COVID transmission in the community and current public health restrictions.

Where in-person attendance is deemed to be appropriate, counsel and litigants should expect the following:

  • A COVID-19 screening tool must be completed by anyone entering any courthouse in Ontario. Anyone who does not complete the screening or who fails the screening will be denied entry. The screening tool is available here.
  • Masks, hand sanitizer and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available for all justice system participants and must be used as directed.
  • Court rooms have been equipped with plexiglass barriers, restrictions on capacity, social distancing signage and other protocols in accordance with public health advice.
  • Jury trials have been adjourned unless the current state of COVID transmission in the community and public health advice permits indoor gatherings.
  • In courthouses with adequate space, court rooms, jury rooms and public spaces have been modified to permit jury trials while respecting social distancing. Jurors and prospective jurors will be supplied with PPE and instructions on how to use it.
  • In some cases, trials may be moved to another courthouse in the region if that is the only way that the trial can proceed due to the availability of facilities and the status of COVID lockdowns in the community.

The Open Court Principle

Courts in Ontario operate under the Open Court Principle which provides that except in particular types of proceedings where legislation or the common law permits exclusion of the public, court hearings are open. The need to implement virtual hearings creates some challenges for the right of public access.

Members of the public or the media who wish to observe or listen to a virtual hearing will generally be entitled to do so. Daily court lists are posted on the court website: here. [iv]

A request for information or to view or listen to a hearing should be directed to the appropriate court at one of the email addresses listed on the web site: here. [v]

Filing of Documents

As noted above, all documents for use in court proceedings are to be filed electronically unless it is impractical or unreasonable. Court counters are open for limited hours each day to accept paper-based filing.

All documents are expected to be focused and concise and they may be subject to page limits imposed by the rules, provincial or local directives or by a presiding judicial official.

Filing via the Portal

The government of Ontario has created online portals for filing electronic documents in civil, family, and small claims proceedings. The appropriate portal should be used for filing except in circumstances where filing by e-mail is permitted and necessary.

Justice Services Online is accessed through the Ontario Government “ONe Key” screen here. [vi] More information is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s web site for civil filing [vii], family filing [viii] and small claims filing [ix].

Use of E-mail

In circumstances where filing through the portal is not available, filing of documents by e-mail is permitted.

In general, email may be used for filing the following:

  • Filing of documents in criminal matters.
  • Filing of documents when the filing deadline is less than 5 business days away or for events that are less than 5 days in the future.
  • Filing documents which cannot be accepted on the portal.
  • Filing of confirmation forms.

Court filing fees cannot be collected when filing by email and those fees will have to be paid separately. All parties filing documents by e-mail undertake to pay those fees when requested or when regular court operations resume.

E-mail should also be used in emergencies and to request dates for hearings. For these purposes, generic email addresses have been created in each court location.

It is critical that parties use the correct email address and use these addresses only for the designated purpose. Requests for urgent hearings should be sent to the trial co-ordinator. Requests for dates for regular hearings should be sent to the appropriate scheduling office.

Emails must be clearly identified by using a Reference Line with the court file number, short title of the proceedings, type of case and the nature of the request. Examples follow:

“Re: 19-CV-00096 -Smith v. Jones-civil-request for urgent motion”
“Re: 19-FL-00096.-Smith v. Jones-family filing responding affidavit for March 4”
“Re: No file no-Smith v. R-criminal- application for habeas corpus”

Please note that the “re: line” on an email is distinct from the file naming protocol for documents which is referred to below.

Naming of electronic documents

When documents are submitted to the court in electronic format, the document name must indicate the following information:

  1. Document type (including the form number in family cases),
  2. Type of party submitting the document,
  3. Name of the party submitting the document (including initials if the name is not unique to the case), and
  4. Date on which the document was created or signed, in the format DD-MMM-YYYY (e.g. 12-JAN-2021).

Below are sample document names:

Expert Report – Defendant – Loblaws Inc. – 13-MAR-2021
Financial Statement Form 13.1 – Respondent – A. Wong – 21-NOV-2021
11b Application – Defence – Nathanson – 12-JAN-2021

Document names shall not include firm-specific naming conventions, abbreviations, or file numbers.  Court form numbers are only to be included in the names of documents submitted in family cases.

Uploading of Documents

As noted above, in addition to filing documents for the purpose of the court file, counsel may be required to upload working copies of documents for use at a hearing to a document sharing platform accessible by the participants in the hearing, the presiding judicial officer and the court staff.

This is the electronic version of documents that would previously have been handed up to the bench in a physical court room. Specific direction will be provided as to which events require documents to be uploaded and what platform must be used.

Counsel can anticipate that Caselines will eventually be required for most types of proceedings. There is a province wide notice with respect to the use of Caselines in family and civil matters here [x] and there is a region-specific notice with respect to the use of Caselines in criminal matters here [xi]. These notices are posted on the Ontario Courts website and will also be posted on the County of Carleton Law Association website.

Urgent Matters

Urgent matters are matters which require immediate access to the court and for which it is impractical to follow the standard procedures. Generally, a matter is urgent if a court order is necessary to preserve life, liberty or property and time is of the essence. Requests for urgency are to be made by e-mail.

The email shall succinctly describe the relief requested and why the matter is urgent and shall attach a draft of the proposed Notice of Motion or other originating document but not all of the materials for the hearing itself.

The request for urgency will be reviewed by a triage judge and if accepted, the court will provide further direction.

All requests for urgent hearings are to be directed to the Trial Coordinator (or other designated office in the case of Ottawa) at the appropriate court centre, using the email addresses specified below.

Ottawa Urgent Matters – civil, criminal or family (except masters and bankruptcy) OttawaSCJ.TC.Office@ontario.ca
Ottawa Urgent Master’s Matters – to Masters’ Office MastersOfficeOttawa@ontario.ca
Ottawa Urgent Bankruptcy – to Bankruptcy Office Ottawa.SCJBankruptcy@ontario.ca
Belleville & Picton Urgent Matters (Counties of Hastings & Prince Edward) PSRHastingsPEC@ontario.ca
Brockville Urgent Matters (United Counties of Leeds & Grenville) SCJBrockvilleTC@ontario.ca
Cornwall Urgent Matters (United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry) CornwallSCJTrialCoordination@ontario.ca
Kingston Urgent Matters (County of Frontenac) Kingston.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
L’Orignal Urgent Matters (United Counties of Prescott & Russell) LorignalTrialCoordination@ontario.ca
Napanee Urgent Matters (County of Lennox & Addington) Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Pembroke Urgent Matters (County of Renfrew) PembrokeSCJTrialScheduling@ontario.ca
Perth Urgent Matters (County of Lanark) Perth.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca

If the matter is found to be urgent by the triage judge, the materials for the hearing are to be filed with the specific court offices as laid out under the sections dealing with Criminal, Civil and Family matters.

Criminal Proceedings

Parties to criminal proceedings should proceed virtually whenever it is appropriate. Almost all scheduling events, most motions and applications and some judge alone trials have taken place by videoconference.

Personal appearances may be necessary where the trial or appearance cannot be done virtually, and an adjournment is not appropriate. In particular, it may be necessary for the accused to be brought to court if he or she is in custody and the institution has insufficient video or internet capacity.

Hybrid hearings may involve the accused being present in the court room, but witnesses or other justice system participants participating by videoconference. In some instances where the number of participants may exceed the capacity of the court room as determined by public health experts, trials may have to utilize more than one court room.

All documents for use in any criminal proceeding are to be filed electronically by email directed to the following email addresses:

Ottawa Matters Ottawa.Criminal@ontario.ca
Belleville & Picton Matters (Counties of Hastings & Prince Edward) Belleville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Brockville Matters (United Counties of Leeds & Grenville) Brockville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Cornwall Matters (United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry) Cornwall.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Kingston Matters (County of Frontenac) Kingston.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
L’Orignal Matters (United Counties of Prescott & Russell) Lorignal.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Napanee Matters (County of Lennox & Addington) Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Pembroke Matters (County of Renfrew) PembrokeSCJTrialScheduling@ontario.ca
Perth Matters (County of Lanark) Perth.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca

Family Law and Child Protection Proceedings

The court is hearing a full range of family and child protection proceedings including case conferences, motions, settlement conferences and trials. Almost all of these matters are currently taking place in virtual court rooms by videoconference. Please note that briefs for conferences are expected to be focused and concise and to comply with any page limit restrictions.

Family court documents shall be electronically filed and/or issued by using the portals for Family Court Documents Online. The portal is authorized to accept the electronic filing of most documents in a family law or child protection cases, along with any necessary filing fees.

New applications and motions to change can also be filed through this portal, along with requests for fee waivers.

The Court will only accept family filings by e-mail for the following:

  • For matters that have been accepted as urgent.
  • Documents that must be filed for a court date that is less than 5 business days away.
  • Documents that must be filed for a deadline that is less than 5 business days away.
  • Where alternate filing requirements are required due to an accessibility request.
  • Filing of confirmation forms – note that fax is no longer to be used. These are also the email addresses for requesting dates in non-urgent matters.
  • In the above circumstances, documents are to be filed by email at the following email addresses.
Ottawa Family Law Matters (City of Ottawa) OttawaFamilyCourt@ontario.ca
Ottawa Matters (City of Ottawa) – Child Protection Matters OttawaCYFSA@ontario.ca
Belleville & Picton Matters (Counties of Hastings & Prince Edward) Belleville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Brockville Matters (United Counties of Leeds & Grenville) Brockville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Cornwall Matters (United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry) FamilyCourt.cornwall@ontario.ca
Kingston Matters (County of Frontenac) KingstonFamilyCourt@ontario.ca
L’Orignal Matters (United Counties of Prescott & Russell) Lorignal.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Napanee Matters (County of Lennox & Addington) Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Pembroke Matters (County of Renfrew) Pembroke.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Perth Matters (County of Lanark) Perth.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca

Civil Proceedings

Civil court documents shall be electronically filed and/or issued by using the Civil Filing Portals in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Court will only accept civil filings by e-mail for the following:

  • For matters that have been accepted as urgent.
  • Documents that must be filed for a court date that is less than 5 business days away.
  • Documents that must be filed for a deadline that is less than 5 business days away.
  • Where alternate filing requirements are required due to an accessibility request. Except as otherwise specified, these are also the email addresses for obtaining dates for non-urgent matters.
  • In the above circumstances, documents may be filed electronically at the following email addresses.
Ottawa Matters – motions before judges or masters, applications, all other matters before judges Ottawa.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Ottawa – for pre-trial dates, dates before masters (other than motions), construction lien matters, insolvency matters See additional Ottawa contact information set out below
Belleville & Picton Matters (Counties of Hastings & Prince Edward) Belleville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Brockville Matters (United Counties of Leeds & Grenville) Brockville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Cornwall Matters (United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry) Civilscc.cornwall@ontario.ca
Kingston Matters (County of Frontenac) Kingston.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
L’Orignal Matters (United Counties of Prescott & Russell) Lorignal.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Napanee Matters (County of Lennox & Addington) Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Pembroke Matters (County of Renfrew) Pembroke.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Perth Matters (County of Lanark) Perth.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca

Confirmation forms for civil motions and applications must be filed by e-mail and not by fax to the following email addresses:

Ottawa Matters Ottawa.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Belleville & Picton Matters (Counties of Hastings & Prince Edward) Belleville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Brockville Matters (United Counties of Leeds & Grenville) Brockville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Cornwall Matters (United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry) Cornwall.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Kingston Matters (County of Frontenac) Kingston.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
L’Orignal Matters (United Counties of Prescott & Russell) Lorignal.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Napanee Matters (County of Lennox & Addington) Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Pembroke Matters (County of Renfrew) Pembroke.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
Perth Matters (County of Lanark) Perth.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca

Additional Contact Information for Ottawa Courts:

Ottawa Matters

Local Directives
See Ottawa-Specific Notices section: County of Carleton Law Association Web Page[xii]
Non-Urgent Matters
Criminal – Requests for JPT, guilty pleas, bail reviews, other dates – to Trial Coordination OttawaSCJ.TC.Office@ontario.ca
CivilAll rquests for pre-trials, case conferences with masters – To Case Management Coordinator MastersOfficeOttawa@ontario.ca
Construction liens – There is a procedure for electronic filing of lien motions – To Case Management Coordinator
Civil Requests for motion dates, motions in writing that cannot be filed on the portal, Rule 7 approvals – To Virtual Civil Counter Ottawa.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
Family – Motions dates, 14B motions, requests for case conferences, new filings – To Virtual Family Counter OttawaFamilyCourt@ontario.ca
Family – Requests for Settlement Conferences – trial coordination OttawaSCJ.TC.Office@ontario.ca
Bankruptcy – to obtain dates from Bankruptcy Office Ottawa.SCJBankruptcy@ontario.ca

Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court plaintiff’s claims and most other Small Claims Court documents can now be filed online [xiii] through the Small Claims Court E-Filing Service and Small Claims Court Submissions Online portals. [xiv]

Please see the Small Claims Court online filing web page [xv] for a list of the documents that can be filed and other helpful information. Note that documents filed online must be in searchable PDF format and are subject to a size limitation (10 MB)

The Small Claims Court is conducting a range of hearings remotely. These include urgent hearings, settlement conferences, assessment of damages hearings, and motions to set aside defaults. Small Claims trials are expected to resume shortly. For more information see the Consolidated notice on the Ontario Courts website here [xvi].

Divisional Court

The Divisional Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice primarily concerned with statutory appeals from administrative tribunals in the province including Landlord Tenant appeals. The Divisional Court also hears certain types of appeals from judges, masters and deputy judges.   This notice does not deal with the sittings of the Divisional Court.

For information about filing Divisional Court documents electronically and other current information, please see Divisional Court Notice to the Profession. [xvii]

March 1, 2021
Hon. Mr. Justice C. MacLeod
Regional Senior Justice, East Region


LIST OF HYPERLINKS IN THIS DOCUMENT

[i] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/

[ii] https://www.ccla-abcc.ca/news/493699/Consolidated-Court–Legal-Organization-Closures-and-Procedures-During-COVID-19.htm

[iii] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/

[iv] http://www.ontariocourtdates.ca/

[v] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/files/CSD-emails-SCJcourthouse-location.pdf

[vi] https://www.justiceservices.jus.gov.on.ca/MyAccount/screens/OneKey/login.xhtml?lang=EN

[vii] https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-civil-claim-online

[viii] https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-family-court-documents-online

[ix] https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-court-documents-online?_ga=2.233105694.1622817682.1613753383-32379618.1594060085

[x] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/supplementary-notice-september-2-2020/

[xi] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/notice-east/caselines-criminal-matters/

[xii] https://www.ccla-abcc.ca/news/493699/Consolidated-Court–Legal-Organization-Closures-and-Procedures-During-COVID-19.htm

[xiii] https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online

[xiv] https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online

[xv] https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-court-documents-online

[xvi] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/suspension-small-claims-ops/

[xvii] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/div-ct-feb2021/