Ontario courts to gradually resume in-person proceedings

TORONTO – The province is planning to resume in-person proceedings at courts across the province on July 6.

However, it is unclear if that plan will proceed, as the Ontario Crown Attorneys Association is seeking an injunction to delay the province’s plan.

According to a June 30 article by the CBC, the association alleges the province has not taken every precaution to protect courthouse workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, officials with the province say the gradual reopening of courtrooms will include strict health and safety protocols to protect staff and those attending court.

“We have worked with justice partners throughout the COVID-19 outbreak to keep people safe and maintain the administration of justice,” stated Attorney General Doug Downey in a June 30 press release.

“We are now taking a careful and staged approach to expanding the operations of provincial courts and implementing strict public health measures so that in-person matters can be heard safely.

Officials say 149 courtrooms in 44 locations – both Superior and Ontario Courts of Justice – will reopen next week.

Additional courtrooms will open by September, with the remaining opening by Nov. 1.

Provincial officials say the following safety measures will be in place at courthouses that are reopening:

  • plexiglass barriers are being installed in courtrooms, interview rooms, intake offices and at public counters;
  • everyone who visits a courthouse will be required to wear a face covering and will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

The Superior Court moved to remote appearances on March 17, while the provincial court followed suit on March 27.

“As our province begins to recover from this outbreak, we are determined to ensure justice services are responsive, accessible and resilient, while we protect the health and well-being of everyone who enters a courtroom in this province,” said Downey.

“Together with partners, we will continue to move services online and establish new, innovative ways of delivering justice remotely.”