Canadian Federal Courts Respond to COVID-19

March 23, 2020

The Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal have announced temporary measures to address difficulties being encountered as a result of COVID-19, including adjournment of all non-urgent hearings and suspension of certain timelines in ongoing proceedings.  

Adjournment of Hearings

Except as discussed below, all hearings up to and including April 17, 2020 before the Federal Court (“FC”) and the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) have been adjourned. 

The FC will continue to hear urgent matters and matters that need to proceed as previously scheduled for exceptional reasons. The Court will determine what constitutes “urgent” and “exceptional” on a case-by-case basis.  These matters will be heard by telephone conference, unless the Court determines that an in-person hearing is required.

The FCA will also continue to hear urgent matters, which will proceed by way of telephone conference. 

Suspension of Timelines

Federal Court

The FC has advised that the timelines under the following will be suspended for the period of March 16, 2020 to April 17, 2020:

  • Orders and Directions of the Court;
  • the Federal Courts Rules;
  • subsection 18.1(2) of the Federal Courts Act; and
  • certain proceedings before the Federal Court, the scope of which is subject to further guidance from the Court.

Other statutory filing deadlines in the FC continue to apply. However, the Court has noted that parties will be able to request an extension of time to these deadlines if they are unable to meet the filing deadlines in light of current circumstances (but that parties should refrain from making an extension request until after the suspension period).

Federal Court of Appeal

Similarly, the FCA has announced that for the purposes of the calculating time under the Federal Courts Rules or under any direction or court order, the period March 16, 2020 to April 17, 2020 inclusive shall not be included in the calculation of time (in other words, time will not run during the suspension period). 

The deadlines for commencing appeals or applications before the FCA under sections 27 and 28 of the Federal Courts Act and other statutes continue to apply and cannot be extended or varied unless permitted under the terms of and in the manner prescribed by those statutes.  That said, the FCA has noted that for deadlines under the Federal Courts Act, if circumstances prevent timely filing, parties may seek an extension of the deadlines after they expire and judges seized of these requests will have to take into account the Court’s notice and the suspension period in exercising their discretion.  

Copies of the notices issued by each court this past week can be located at the links below:

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