In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Courts have issued statements on the temporary procedures they will follow to balance health and safety with the need to remain accessible to Canadians. The Federal Court (FC) and the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) had earlier issued statements on March 13, 2020, which are superseded by this week’s updates.
On March 17, 2020, the FC announced it has suspended all General Sittings and hearings scheduled between now and April 17, 2020 (the Suspension Period) sine die. On March 20, 2020, the FC issued an update containing an FAQ, as well as a statement that the Court intends to issue an amended Practice Direction and Order in the coming days, to address issues that have been identified.
The Suspension Period is subject to two exceptions: (1) urgent matters and (2) matters that need to proceed as previously scheduled for exceptional reasons, which will be determined by the FC on a case-by-case basis. Any such matters will be heard by teleconference.
For the hearings that have been adjourned, the Parties are required to provide their mutual dates of non-availability between May 1 and May 15, 2020 to reschedule.
The running of all timelines under Orders and Directions of the Court made prior to March 18, 2020, as well as under the Federal Courts Rules, subsection 18.1(2) of the Federal Courts Act, and paragraph 72(2)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, is also being suspended for the Suspension Period. If parties are unable to meet other filing deadlines during the Suspension Period, they may request an extension of time in light of the current circumstances.
Discussions between the bench and bar result in our understanding as follows. Cases under the Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) Regulations (PM(NOC) Regulations) will be included in the Suspension Period for the timelines that follow commencement of the proceedings, and are not otherwise mandated by the PM(NOC) Regulations. In other words, while all steps following the commencement of a PM(NOC) action will be pushed back, we understand that these matters will still need to be completed within the 24-month stay, which will add pressure on the parties and the FC. However, specific guidance should be sought on each matter.
The FC encourages parties to use the E-filing portal or email to submit documents, subject to certain restrictions. Parties filing documents electronically during the Suspension Period will be exempted from the requirement to file paper copies. A modified process for filing paper copies during the Suspension Period is provided.
Federal Court of Appeal
On March 16, 2020, the FCA issued a notice that it is adjourning all hearings scheduled between March 16, 2020 and April 17, 2020, with the exception of urgent matters that will be heard by teleconference.
Until April 13, 2020, the FCA will exceptionally accept electronic filing of court documents by email, subject to certain restrictions. Parties proceeding this way will be exempted from filing paper copies.
All filing deadlines continue to apply. Parties may request an extension of time if they are unable to meet the deadlines in light of the circumstances. However the parties are asked to do so once the FCA operations return to normal after April 17, 2020.
The Federal Courts will continue to monitor the situation and will continue to update the public with regards to their operations.
Please consult with counsel on each matter to obtain more information applicable to your case.
Thank you to Caroline Henrie and Christopher A. Guerreiro for their help in drafting this article.