Notice to the Profession – Updated Expansion Protocol for Court Operations in the Superior Court of Justice – Northwest Region – During the COVID-19 Pandemic (May 13, 2020)

This Expansion Protocol for the Northwest Region replaces the prior Expansion Protocol dated April 2, 2020. You may view this Expansion Protocol as well as the province-wide information as well as orders and directions of Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz on the Ontario Courts website: www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/

Having considered the various resource and technological constraints to hearing matters during the suspension of court operations, as of May 19, 2020 the Northwest Region will expand matters and hearings to deal with the types of proceedings as set out in this Notice. This Notice sets out the protocols that must be followed in order to receive approval for proceedings in Criminal, Family and Civil proceedings in the Northwest Region. Please review these carefully and submit only the information requested.

This Notice to the Profession consolidates the ones dated March 15 and April 2, 2020.

It is important that lawyers, litigants and other justice system participants act in good faith and cooperate with each other and with the court to ensure that electronic hearings are focused and fair and can be completed in a timely fashion.  In addition to the directives established at the provincial, regional and local level, the presiding judicial officer may give further direction.

To ensure access to justice during the suspension of our regular operations, the SCJ adopted a series of measures so that urgent matters are able to be dealt with electronically. The SCJ has recently also established e-mail addresses for each SCJ judicial centre in the Northwest Region.

Local Administrative Judges

In order to streamline the expansion of services and to assist with coordination of hearings, I have appointed the following judges as my Local Administrative Judges as follows:

Justice Fregeau will continue as the LAJ for Kenora and Fort Frances;

Justice Newton has been assigned the LAJ for criminal proceedings in Thunder Bay;

Justice Fitzpatrick has been assigned the LAJ for civil proceedings in Thunder Bay;

Justice Nieckarz has been assigned the LAJ for family proceedings in Thunder Bay; and

Justice Pierce has been assigned the LAJ for estates proceedings in Thunder Bay.

Trial Coordinators

As of Monday, May 11, 2020, Stacey Bragnalo was appointed a full-time trial coordinator for Thunder Bay on a temporary contract. This means she will be the primary contact for scheduling hearings in Thunder Bay. Please do not email her directly unless invited to do so. The emails you must use for seeking hearing dates are set out in this Notice.

Also, effective Monday, May 11, 2020, Leah Vander Park has been appointed as my full-time assistant on a temporary contract.

Congratulations to both Stacey and Leah. These changes in our office should assist with managing the SCJ during this COVID period.

Criminal Matters

In addition to urgent hearings that were defined as:

  1. Bail issues (detention reviews and initial hearings on s. 469 offences) for those in custody;
  2. Urgent bail issues for those on release (health or COVID-19 related);
  3. Joint submission guilty pleas for those in custody who are at a time-served position;
  4. In-custody pre-trial conferences;
  5. Extending stays of bail pending appeal orders for Summary Conviction Appeals that have a sunset clause before May 1, 2020; and
  6. Habeas corpus

The SJC in the Northwest Region will also conduct the following criminal proceedings:

  1. Joint submission guilty pleas for those in custody who will receive a penitentiary sentence and therefore be able to move from the provincial jail system to the federal system;
  2. Out-of-custody pre-trial conferences;
  3. Extending stays of bail pending appeal orders that have a sunset clause before June 1, 2020;
  4. Summary Conviction Appeals that were adjourned in March, April, May or June may proceed via video hearing. At the request of the parties, a new date will be scheduled;
  5. Case and trial managed matters that were adjourned may be scheduled for continuation of case or trial management; and
  6. Certain pre-trial motions or applications, if approved by the LAJ or the pre-trial judge, provide they are completed via video hearing and if the accused is in custody, with the accused attending either via video if it is available or via telephone conference. Time-limits and page limits of documents may be imposed.

To request a hearing/pre-trial in criminal proceedings, you should set out the basis for the request in an email as follows:

  1. the relief/hearing requested;
  2. confirming that the matter can be dealt with by way of an audio or video conference hearing.

Requests for urgent hearings will be referred to a judge who will determine whether and how to proceed. Counsel requesting the hearing will be advised by return email if the matter will proceed. All other requests will be assessed by the appropriate trial coordinator.

The request should be forwarded to the applicable email address as follows:

Thunder Bay ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora Kenora.scj@ontario.ca
Fort Frances FortFrances.SCJ@ontario.ca

The application materials from either party are limited to 10MB unless the judge grants an order permitting the materials to be sent on multiple email batches.

The parties undertake to file all hard copy materials upon resumption of normal court operations.

Until we have more certainty about when we will resume usual operation, the Northwest Region will not be setting criminal trial dates.

Family Matters

The provisions with respect to family set out in the Notices to the Profession, dated March 15, 2020 and April 2, 2020 along with any new amendments have been incorporated into the provisions below. Please note that once a proceeding is scheduled, a Confirmation Form is not required.

Counsel and the parties must undertake to file all materials and any fee payable upon resumption of normal court operations.

Urgent Matters Protocol:

In order to continue to deal with urgent family matters in a timely fashion, (as described in the March 15, 2020 Notice to the Profession) requests for hearings of urgent matters should be sent via correspondence of fewer than 2 pages to the following email addresses:

Thunder Bay ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca

Kenora           Kenora.scj@ontario.ca

Fort Frances FortFrances.SCJ@ontario.ca

Please include the following information in that correspondence:

  1. the relief requested;
  2. the reason why the matter is urgent;
  3. a draft order(s);
  4.  confirmation that the matter can be dealt with by way of a conference hearing, if approved.

Urgent matters shall include but not be limited to:

  1. requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent (e.g. a restraining order, other restrictions on contact between the parties or a party and a child, or exclusive possession of the home);
  2. urgent issues that must be determined relating to the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions, issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child, failure to comply with existing court orders and parenting plans; an
  3. issues regarding the financial stability of the family unit, including for example support or the need for a non-depletion order.

Non- Urgent Family Matters Protocol:

In addition to family matters that are determined to be urgent, the SCJ in the Northwest Region will begin dealing with the following matters in order to increase access to justice during COVID operations, subject to the terms set out below. Please follow these directions for submitting materials and payment of the prescribed fee. Non-urgent Family Matters shall be sent to one of the following email addresses:

Thunder Bay CSD.ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca

Kenora courts.kenora@ontario.ca

Fort Frances Courts.FortFrances@jus.gov.on.ca

14B Motions. To be filed (together with an affidavit of service or consent) by e-mail as shown below. Consent motions will be dealt with in writing. Motions that are not on consent will be dealt with in writing or at the discretion of the presiding judge by video or teleconference.

Procedural motions and motions for disclosure. The presiding judge will give direction as to whether the motion will be heard based on the written material filed or by video or teleconference.

Other motions. A party requesting a contested motion shall provide a notice of motion and a short focused (no more than two pages) summary of the purpose of the motion, the issues and the reason it should proceed. The request shall be filed by e-mail and sent to the Family Local Administrative Judge. If the judge determines the motion should proceed, further direction will be given.

Case Conferences and Settlement Conferences:

I have directed the trial coordination staff in the Northwest Region attempt the rescheduling of those settlement and case conferences that were adjourned or cancelled after March 16, 2020. Alternatively, any party may request that an adjourned or cancelled conference be rescheduled.

Parties may also request case conferences or settlement conferences for matters that had not yet been scheduled.

A request for a conference shall be made by e-mail to the email address set out below. Priority will be given to conferences that were cancelled or adjourned in March, April, May or June.

The e-mail should briefly describe the issues to be discussed or the issues that appear capable of resolution at a settlement conference.

If the conference is granted, it will proceed by video or teleconference.

Case conference briefs are to be focused and are not to exceed six pages. Settlement conference briefs are not to exceed six pages unless permitted by the presiding judge.

Completion of matters that were underway but were adjourned: If a trial or other hearing was underway and was adjourned, then at the discretion of the presiding judge and assuming adequate arrangements can be made to complete the matter remotely, the judge may complete the trial or the hearing. Submissions may be made in writing, by videoconference or by teleconference.

Uncontested Divorces: To the extent that all necessary steps have already been taken or may be taken, parties may request that these matters proceed. Uncontested Divorces will be received through the Ministry of the Attorney General online portal. Further information may be found at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-divorce-application-online. Parties should also consult Rule 36 (6.1 – 6.3) of the Family Law Rules.

Please note the following:

  1. No inquiries shall be accepted in person at a courthouse with respect to the application for, or completed of, an uncontested divorce.
  2. Divorces will not be given priority in this period of suspension of regular court operations. Divorces will be processed by Court Services and a judge only as time permits.
  3. It is not currently known whether Central Divorce Registry certificates are being processed and if so, how long it will take the Court to receive it. As Rule 36(4) of the Family Law Rules prohibits the issuing of a divorce order until this document is received by the Court, please note that this may result is significant delays in the processing of your request for a Divorce Order.

New Answers and Applications:

  1. New Applications and Motions to Change may be now be filed with the Court using the email set out at the beginning of this section, subject to the direction below:

A hard copy and the appropriate filing fee shall be sent by regular mail to the court office the same day as the email is sent and no later than the following day. The Court Support staff will issue the Application/Motion to Change and send an email to the Applicant confirming receipt of the Application/Motion to Change, with the Court File Number and date of issuance.

  1. First court dates may not be automatically available and shall be held on a “date to be fixed by the court”.
  2. The Court will also accept filing of Answers and new family law Applications or Motions to Change by email to the email address set out at the beginning of this section.

General:

  1. Mechanisms are in place by the court to record certain hearings, as required. Counsel and parties may not record a proceeding for their own purposes unless otherwise authorized by a judge, pursuant to section 136(3) of the Courts of Justice Act.
  2. All litigants, whether represented by counsel or not, are expected to comply with the process set out in this Notice.
  3. If a litigant needs help or legal advice, they may wish to contact the Law Society of Ontario’s emergency family law referral line at:

Toll-free: 1-800-268-7568
General: 1-416-947-3310

This service will provide ½ hour of free legal advice, including referrals to other services.

  1. Duty counsel through Legal Aid Ontario is available to provide summary legal advice for family law matters. As of March 27, 2020, they are waiving the financial eligibility requirements for some services. Duty counsel may be reached at:

Toll free: 1-800-668-8258.

Civil Matters

Please note that once a proceeding is scheduled, the requIRement to file a confirmation is waived until further notice

Urgent Matters

In order to continue to deal with urgent civil matters in a timely fashion, (as described in the March 15, 2020 Notice to the Profession) requests for hearings of urgent matters should be sent via correspondence of fewer than 2 pages to the following email addresses:

Thunder Bay ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora Kenora.scj@ontario.ca
Fort Frances FortFrances.SCJ@ontario.ca

Requests for urgent hearings shall set out:

  1. the relief requested;
  2. the reason(s) why the matter is urgent;
  3. a draft order(s);
  4. confirming that the matter can be dealt with by way of a conference hearing, if approved.

Additional Matters

Non- Urgent Civil Matters Protocol:

In addition to urgent civil matters the SCJ in the Northwest Region will now consider requests for certain other proceedings as follows: please note these email addresses are different than the email addresses for urgent civil hearings. If you send your request to the wrong email address, you might not receive a hearing:

Rule 7 and Consent Motions:

All Rule 7 and consent motions in civil law matters, may be delivered electronically to:

Thunder Bay CSD.ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora courts.kenora@ontario.ca
Fort Frances Courts.FortFrances@jus.gov.on.ca

The electronic materials must include the motion materials, (for consent motions) consent by all parties, email addresses for all parties and a draft order(s).

The electronic materials from each party are limited to 10MB. Judges will NOT have access to court record files. As a result, parties must include electronic copies of all court filed documents which are relevant to the matter.  If the parties have previously filed a “basket motion” they must advise of this and undertake to withdraw the “basket motion”.

The assigned judge will review the materials and, if appropriate, issue an order as requested or amended.

In the event the judge has issues with the materials or the proposed order, the judge will provide the parties with an endorsement regarding the deficiencies or reasons for denial of the order.

The parties must undertake to file all materials and any fee payable upon resumption of normal court operations.

Motions in Writing:

Where all the parties agree that the motion can proceed based on written materials only without a conference hearing, the parties may deliver the motion materials electronically to:

Thunder Bay Courthouse CSD.ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora Courthouse courts.kenora@ontario.ca
Fort Frances Courthouse Courts.FortFrances@jus.gov.on.ca

The electronic motion materials must include the motion materials from both parties, facta, draft orders, email addresses of all parties and written confirmation by all parties to proceeding with the motion by written submissions only.

The electronic materials from each party are limited to 10MB. Judges will NOT have access to court record files. As a result, parties must include electronic copies of all court filed documents which are relevant to the matter.

The assigned judge will consider the materials and in due course, issue an endorsement/order on the matter.  The judge may reserve on the issue of costs and give directions for written submissions on costs.

The parties must undertake to file all materials and any fee payable upon resumption of normal court operations.

Other motions and Applications

A party may request that a contested motion or application be scheduled. It is not necessary that the matter be “urgent” but the party requesting the hearing must demonstrate that the hearing of the motion will significantly advance the case. The request shall be made via in a brief focused e-mail of no more than two pages attaching the proposed notice of motion.

The request for a hearing of a contested motion shall be sent electronically to the SCJ trial coordination office:

Thunder Bay ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora Kenora.scj@ontario.ca
Fort Frances FortFrances.SCJ@ontario.ca

The request must be served on the opposing party and will then be directed to a triage judge assigned by the RSJ.

If leave is given to proceed with the motion, further direction will be given. The motion will proceed by teleconference or video conference or a hybrid process in the discretion of the presiding judge.

Motion materials shall be filed electronically and shall be limited to 20 (20) pages or fewer in length, including facta if ordered; however, parties may include hyperlinks in the motion materials to exhibits, case law, and any other pertinent documents.

If leave is granted, the parties shall send their motion materials to the Court Services Division, subject to the limitations set out above to:

Thunder Bay Courthouse CSD.ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora Courthouse courts.kenora@ontario.ca
Fort Frances Courthouse Courts.FortFrances@jus.gov.on.ca

Pre-Trial Conferences:

The SCJ in the Northwest Region will now start hearing pre-trial conferences provided the following criteria are followed:

Pre-trial conferences may be requested and will proceed by videoconference or teleconference. Priority will be given to conferences that were scheduled in March, April, May or June and have been adjourned.

Pre-trial conferences will be subject to the following requirements:

  1. The parties must provide a teleconference or video conference line if directed to do so by the court. Alternatively, the parties must be prepared to connect to a conference facility provided by the court. In either case, all participants must be in a suitable location and suitably equipped with stable video or audio connections.
  2. Parties or Counsel must comply with Rule 53.03 and otherwise be ready to explore settlement. The case must be pre-trial ready.
  3.  All parties and their counsel must participate in the conference and have full authority to negotiate.
  4. Pre-trial briefs will be filed electronically and shall be limited to ten (10) pages or fewer in length (no trial management sections are to be included); and
  5. Provide hyperlinks in the pre-trial conference brief to expert reports, case law, and any other pertinent documents.

The request for a pre-trial conference date must be sent electronically to the SCJ trial coordination office:

Thunder Bay ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora Kenora.scj@ontario.ca
Fort Frances FortFrances.SCJ@ontario.ca

Once the pre-trial conference date is scheduled, the parties shall send their pre-trial conference materials to the Court Services Division, subject to the limitations set out above to:

Thunder Bay CSD.ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
Kenora courts.kenora@ontario.ca
Fort Frances Courts.FortFrances@jus.gov.on.ca

The parties must undertake to file all materials and any fee payable upon resumption of normal court operations.

DIVISIONAL COURT AND SMALL CLAIMS COURT

Please note that operations of the Divisional Court and the Small Claims Court which are branches of this court are also suspended and are not covered by this notice. Notices regarding those branches of the court may be found on the court web site a follows:

http://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/suspension-small-claims-ops/
http://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notice-to-the-profession-div/

FINAL ADVICE

When sending your request for a hearing, please clearly identify the case name, type of proceeding and the nature of your request in the Subject line of your email. This will provide assistance to the court staff in ensuring your request is processed as quickly as possible. Examples follow:

“R. v. Paul Smith (CR-file no.) – Application for Habeas Corpus”
“Paul Smith v. Ann Smith (FS-file no.) – Application for Restraining Order”
“Paul Smith v. 1234 Ontario Ltd. (CV-file no.) – Request for Urgent Motion”

Sincerely,

Bonnie R. Warkentin,
Regional Senior Justice
Northwest Region


SUMMARY AND PRESCRIBED E-MAIL CONTENT

All requests for Urgent matters and dates for Family Case/Settlement Conferences should direct those inquiries to the Judicial generic e-mail address at:

Thunder Bay       ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca

Kenora                 Kenora.scj@ontario.ca

Fort Frances        Courts.FortFrances@jus.gov.on.ca

For filing of all material/documents for all matters that have been approved, please see below protocol.

  1. Determine if your motion, application or request meets the requirements established in the abovementioned notices and updates posted to the website of the Superior Court of Justice.
  2. Documents and requests with respect to filing of documents shall be sent by email to the appropriate courthouse.
Northwest Dryden N/A
Kenora courts.kenora@ontario.ca
Fort Frances FortFrances.SCJ@ontario.ca
Red Lake N/A
Sioux Lookout N/A
Thunder Bay CSD.ThunderBay.SCJ@ontario.ca
  1. In order to ensure your request is received and processed by the appropriate court office, the subject line should include the following information:
  • LEVEL OF COURT (SCJ)
  • TYPE OF MATTER (Criminal, Family, Civil, Civil Enforcement, Small Claims, Estates)
  • FILE NUMBER
  • TYPE OF DOCUMENT (e.g., Motion, Conference Brief, Other Request)

SCJ, Criminal, CR-20-0024-BR, Application

  1. The body of the email should include the following information if applicable:
  1. court file number (if it is an existing file)
  2. short title of proceeding
  3. list of documents attached (note: attachments cannot exceed 35 MB)
  4. type of request
  5. name, role (i.e. lawyer, representative, party, etc.,) and contact information of person submitting the request (email and phone number)