The Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 held its second virtual meeting by teleconference on Friday, May 22.
The focus of this second meeting was to confirm the Action Committee’s approach and priorities in offering national guidance to chief justices, judges and courts administration officials as decision are taken around the gradual resumption of court operations across Canada. As part of that process, the Action Committee has approved and released the Committee’s terms of reference, core principles and perspectives to be considered for court operations in response to COVID-19 and initial orienting principles on safe and accessible courts. This work was undertaken collaboratively, with input from judicial, government, and public health and workplace safety representatives.
The Action Committee also identified its key priorities going forward, agreeing that the challenges of jury trials and hearings in small court rooms, circuit and remote courts could be areas of immediate focus for forthcoming national guidance.
The Action Committee was established by the Chief Justice of Canada and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to provide national leadership to support the work of provincial and territorial governments, individual courts, and court administrators in progressively restoring the full operation of Canada’s courts while ensuring the safety of court users and staff. Its work will combine input from senior federal and provincial officials in the judiciary, public health and justice with up-to-date information from public health authorities across Canada, with a focus on the unique context of the courts.
“As we all continue to navigate this period of uncertainty, I am proud that the Action Committee is providing guidance regarding court operations in a manner that is respectful of both fundamental judicial principles and health and safety imperatives. One of the most important things we must keep in mind is that the success of our justice system, and indeed the rule of law, depends on public confidence and trust. This means that we cannot simply view our response to COVID-19 as temporary measures to bridge us back to “normal” – they must be seen as opening the door to imagining a new normal.”
The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C.
Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson, Canadian Judicial Council
“The timely, quick and safe restoration of court operations as we emerge from the pandemic is essential to Canadians, and to our social and economic recovery. The challenges on the ground are significant and the Action Committee looks forward to offering support and guidance to local decision-makers.
While the Action committee’s national-level guidance will help us navigate our new reality, my hope is that it will also serve as an opportunity to promote reform and renewal in the justice system.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
The Action Committee is co-chaired by Chief Justice Wagner and Minister Lametti, and includes the following members:
- Hon. Geoffrey Morawetz, Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
- Hon. Mary Moreau, Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
- Hon. Terry Matchett, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta and Past Chair of the Canadian Council of Chief Judges
- Hon. David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia
- Nathalie G. Drouin, Ad. E., Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada
- Tina Namiesniowski, President of the Public Health Agency of Canada
- Renée Thériault, Executive Legal Officer, Supreme Court of Canada (member ex officio)
Guidelines prepared by the Action Committee will help support appropriate provincial and judicial decision-makers with the best available information that can be adapted to the individual circumstances of their courts.
The Action Committee’s work will respect the responsibility of provinces and territories for the administration of justice in their jurisdictions and uphold the principle of judicial administrative independence, while advancing Canadians’ common interest in an accessible and safe justice system.