What to Expect in Alberta Courts: Current COVID Landscape

In March of 2020, the full force of the global pandemic resulted in restricted access to all Canadian courthouses. With the shift to working remotely, lawyers began communicating with clients via email and video chat, and court proceedings were moved to Webex.[1] Reduced capacity was maintained in Alberta courtrooms into the spring of 2022. However, with recent provincial amendments to pandemic restrictions, the courts will soon be shifting their approach.

 Effective July 4th, masking and social distancing restrictions were lifted in courtrooms and secure workplaces within Alberta courthouses.[2] Judicial dispute resolution matters, single judge matters, and appeal conferences will continue to be held virtually[3]. However, the courts have announced their plan to return in-person in the fall. On September 6, 2022, civil chambers, bar admissions, EPO reviews, family court appeals, family law chambers, family law specials, judicial dispute resolution, summary disposition/sentencing, and other matters will return to in-person. Many court procedures will be held in a hybrid model, and some will remain in a remote delivery format.[4]

Hybrid matters include masters appeals, judicial reviews, case management, adult guardianship and trustee applications, masters appeals, masters chambers, masters specials, provincial court appeals, summary conviction appeals, and urgent matters chambers. Remote proceedings will remain limited to bail estreatments, bankruptcy, child support lists, civil pre-trial conferences, civil rule 4.10 case conferences, commercial list, criminal appearance court, criminal bail, criminal pre-trial conferences, emergency protection order reviews, EPO Reviews with viva voce triage, estate case conferences, family docket court, and interjurisdictional support orders.

For more information on the upcoming changes to court procedure, visit the Alberta Courts website here. Further changes to Alberta court procedure and process can also be followed on the LESA blog here.

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In case you have not yet heard, LESA is excited to host Rules of Court 2022: Year in Review presented by Melissa N. Burkett (Alberta Justice and Solicitor General) and Kelly Osaka (Dentons Canada LLP) this fall. Over the last year, courts and counsel have continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while balancing the return to in-person proceedings. Changing circumstances have led to creative interpretations of the Rules of Court. Join us for a year-in-review to discuss interesting points of civil procedure.

Topics will include:

  • Dismissal for delay
  • Summary judgment post-Hannam
  • Limitation periods
  • Record disclosure obligations remote questioning
  • Costs

Click here for webinar details and to register.

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[1] “Covid-19 Pandemic Operations” online: Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta [https://www.albertacourts.ca/qb/court-operations-schedules/pandemic-operations].

[2] “Notice to the Profession and Public From Alberta Courts” (June 30 2022) online: Provincial Court of Alberta [https://albertacourts.ca/docs/default-source/pc/masking-and-social-distancing-in-courthouses.pdf?sfvrsn=a75c9783_6].

[3] “Notice to Profession and Public – Update: Restricted Access to Courtrooms” online: Court of Queen’s Bench Alberta (17 May 2022) [https://albertacourts.ca/qb/resources/announcements/notice-to-profession-and-public—update-restricted-access-to-courtrooms].

[4] supra note 5.

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