The COVID-19 pandemic was hugely disruptive for the BC Court system. Many proceedings went online initially, with access slowly returning over time alongside enhanced safety measures, screening and mask wearing.
As British Columbia continues to move into the next phase of living alongside COVID-19, BC Courts have once more made changes to how they’re operating. Let’s take a look at what these changes mean in practice.
BC Provincial Court
BC’s Provincial Court is a high-volume court that received 156,241 cases in 2020/21. These cases are booked months in advance, meaning changes that are made now, will likely not be reflected fully until the summer of 2022. That being said, effective April 11, 2022, the BC Provincial Court is rescinding their COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols. This will impact in-person court attendance in the following ways:
- No health screening of anyone entering a courthouse
- No capacity limits in courthouses or courtrooms
- No physical distancing requirements
- No requirement to wear a face covering, although they remain recommended
- Wearing a face mask in court is a personal choice now unless the presiding judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace directs otherwise
- Plexiglass barriers and the provision of hand sanitizers and facemasks will continue
BC Supreme Court
Like the BC Provincial Court, our Supreme Court has also extensively updated their COVID-19 restrictions. Commencing April 11th, 2022, members of the media and public may now attend any proceeding in-person at a courthouse. Attendees can expect the following other changes:
- Sheriffs will no longer conduct health screening for those entering a courthouse
- Wearing a face mask is now optional for public areas of the courthouse
- Within the courtroom, wearing of face masks is subject to the direction of the presiding judge, master or registrar
- A supply of face masks will be available in all courthouses and courtrooms
- Capacity limits within courthouses and courtrooms have been lifted
- Parties, counsel, witnesses and other participants may not bring their own water into the courtroom. Water will be supplied
- Except in the case of criminal jury selections and criminal jury trials, physical distancing requirements have been lifted
BC Appeals Court
Like the two courts above, the BC Appeals Court has largely dropped all COVID-19 restrictions as of April 11th, 2022. If a party wishes to appear remotely by video conference, they must file a Request to Appear Remotely at least 10 business days before their appeal hearing takes place.
Here to Help
At Westside Family Law, our team is working diligently to represent the interests of our clients in family law cases. If you need any information about BC Courts, or you need representation in a family law matter, contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.