The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, and the Honorable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, have established an Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19. The Action Committee held its first meeting today by teleconference.
The courts are a pillar of Canada’s democracy, an essential service to Canadians, and a critical support to economic activity. Canada’s courts have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, giving priority to the most urgent cases and adapting electronic and remote methods to deliver justice to Canadians. Nonetheless, court operations have been significantly curtailed in response to physical distancing and other public health and safety requirements. The Action Committee will 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.
The Action Committee will consider health and safety information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada’s First Ministers, and other public health authorities in light of the unique context of courts. The Action Committee’s collaborative work includes senior-level participation by federal and provincial governments and the judiciary, and focuses on developing court-specific health and safety guidelines that can be adapted to the needs of individual courts and communities.
As Canadians and their communities emerge from the present crisis and adapt to new realities introduced by COVID-19, the courts will be crucial to a broader national recovery. By providing provincial, territorial, and judicial decision-makers with the best possible health and safety information, the Action Committee will support them in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of court users, while advancing Canadians’ common interest in a safe and accessible justice system.
“Access to justice is not just a fundamental right; it is a basic human need. It is crucial to our democracy and rule of law. I am immensely proud of the actions courts across Canada are taking in this spirit, even as COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we work. Through the Action Committee, we will build on the progress we have made to ensure we fulfill our duty to deliver justice to all Canadians, even in times of crisis. These lessons will serve us well long into the future.”
The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C.
Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson, Canadian Judicial Council
“I look forward to this opportunity for the judiciary and governments to work together to offer leadership as our nation’s courts begin to contemplate a return to regular operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This collaboration and shared sense of purpose at the national level will equip individual chief justices and courts administration officials with guidance and support as court operations adapt to the Covid-19 context and support Canada’s recovery.”
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.