COVID-19: Is the Justice System Shutting Down?

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COVID-19 is having a major impact on the courts. Here’s what you need to know if you’re involved in any court proceedings.

Criminal cases: should you show up?

It depends on which court and why. For example, municipal courts are telling defendants to attend scheduled court dates. If you are represented by a lawyer, they could go in your place.

Most criminal cases have been postponed, which will affect everyone involved: defendants, victims and witnesses. However, a defendant being held in custody will still have a bail hearing within the legal time limit.

Most hearings for tickets and fines have also been postponed.

You can contact your lawyer to find out more.

Civil cases: will your trial be postponed?

It’s very possible that your civil trial will be postponed. Settlement conferences could also be postponed.

Quebec courts will only hear urgent cases, such as family law cases or requests for forced medical treatment. This measure will be in effect until further notice. The courts will try to use telephone and video conferencing as much as possible.  

Click on these links to find out more about what is considered urgent in Superior Court, the Court of Quebec, the Régie du logement (rental board), the Tribunal administratif du Québec (Quebec administrative tribunal) or the Tribunal administratif du Travail (administrative labour tribunal). Some info may be available in French only.

Some courts have specific rules. You can visit their websites to learn more, or contact your lawyer. For example, the Court of Appeal is continuing to hear many of its cases, while the Social Security Tribunal (employment insurance) and the Immigration and Refugee Board are limiting some of their activities.

Should you show up for jury duty?

No. There will be no jury selection until further notice.

Time limits for filing a lawsuit have changed

There are certain deadlines for filing a lawsuit. Losing your right to file a lawsuit, because your deadline has passed, is known as prescription.

Since March 15, 2020, deadlines to file a lawsuit have been suspended until the public health emergency is over. This means that the days following March 15 are not included in calculating the deadline for filing a lawsuit.

Are hearings still open to the public?

The courts and hearing rooms are now closed to the public. Only people involved in the case (lawyers, the parties, the accused, witnesses, court staff) are allowed to be there.  

For more information

The Ministère de la justice (Department of Justice) recommends contacting your lawyer or calling the Department’s customer service centre at 1-866-536-5140.