COVID-19 Update: Canadian Federal Courts Extend Temporary Measures Until Mid-May

April 6, 2020

This post was originally published March 23, 2020 and was updated on April 6, 2020

The Federal Courts in Canada have announced that the temporary measures as a result of COVID-19, including adjournment of all non-urgent hearings and suspension of certain timelines in ongoing proceedings, have been extended for an addition four weeks until May 15.  However, the Courts have expanded matters that can be heard in writing or remotely.    

Adjournment of Hearings

Subject to the exceptions below, all hearings up to and including May 15, 2020 before the Federal Court (“FC”) and the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) have been adjourned. 

The FC will continue to hear urgent or exceptional matters (the Court will determine what constitutes “urgent” and “exceptional” on a case-by-case basis).  In addition, the FC will also hear:

  • case management hearings provided that (i) the case is urgent, (ii) the case is subject to a fixed trial/hearing date, (iii) the case is subject to a statutory deadline, or (iv) all parties consent to the matter advancing during the suspension period; and
  • matters requested to be heard on the consent of all parties.

These matters will be heard in writing or remotely (namely by telephone or video conference).

The FCA will also continue to hear urgent matters, which will proceed by way of telephone conference.  In addition, cognizant of the need to allow matters to proceed where possible, parties whose proceeding was ready to be heard on March 13, 2020, may on consent request to have the matter heard remotely, which will be accommodated by the Court where the circumstances permit. Parties may also opt to have the matter disposed of on the basis of written materials filed with the Court. 

Both the FC and the FCA are prepared to make arrangements for members of the public, including media, to attend matters that are being heard remotely.

Suspension of Timelines

Federal Court

The FC has extended the suspension of timelines until May 15, 2020.  As a result, for the period of March 16, 2020 to May 15, 2020, subject to the caveats discussed above and below, the running of all timelines established pursuant to the following instruments is suspended:

  • Orders and Directions of the Court made prior to March 16, 2020;
  • the Federal Courts Rules;
  • the Federal Courts Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection Rules;
  • subsection 18.1(2) of the Federal Courts Act;
  • subsection 72(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and
  • subsection 22.1(2) of the Citizenship Act.

The FC has made it clear that the intent of the suspension period is that a party will pick up from where things stood before March 16, 2020 as if the intervening period never existed.  For example, if a deadline is set to expire on a specific date after the suspension period, it is extended by the duration of the suspension period.  However, the suspension period does not apply to timelines set out in any Orders or Directions issued on or after March 16, 2020 since, in issuing such Orders or Directions, the Court was mindful of the COVID-19 crisis.

However, the FC has further stated that deadlines for commencing actions, appeals or applications under 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.

Parties will be able to request an extension of time for deadlines set out in other applicable statutes if they are unable to meet the filing deadlines in light of current circumstances. However, the FC has stated that the parties should refrain from doing so until after the Suspension Period.  

Federal Court of Appeal

Similarly, the FCA has extended the suspension period to May 15, 2020.  As such, 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 May 15, 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.  

Other Measures

The FC has also implemented other addition measures to facilitate matters during the suspension period, including:

  • the waiver of certain filing fees;
  • deemed consent to service of documents electronically; and
  • deemed acceptance by the Court of affidavits commissioned remotely (subject to the discretion of the Court)

Copies of the COVID-19 notices issued by each Court can be located at the links below:

DISCLAIMER: This publication is intended to convey general information about legal issues and developments as of the indicated date. It does not constitute legal advice and must not be treated or relied on as such. Please read our full disclaimer at www.stikeman.com/legal-notice.

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