COVID-19 brought unprecedented changes to the work milieu. Electronic forms of communication in place of in-person interactions is becoming the “new normal” not only in our social lives, but also in our workplaces. The legal industry is no exception. More lawyers are working remotely and many important legal functions are being conducted through tele- and video conferencing.
The Supreme Court of Canada made history by holding its first virtual hearing on June 9, 2020 in Owners, Strata Plan LMS 3905 v. Crystal Square Parking Corporation. The hearing, which took place over Zoom, was live-streamed and made available to the public through the Supreme Court’s website. Since Owners, Supreme Court has continued to hold virtual hearings.
The Federal Court also made history by conducting its first virtual trial over a two-and-a-half week span in May and June in Rovi Guides Inc. v. Videotron Ltd., T-921-17. What started as a traditional in-person trial in mid-March resumed in May after it was adjourned due to the pandemic. The Court ordered that the trial would resume over Zoom and the Trial Judge, Justice Lafrenière gave a detailed protocol on the manner in which the trial would be conducted virtually. Justice Lafrenière ordered that the Zoom platform is not to be used for recording video or other images of the proceeding, that the documents in the trial shall be managed and exchanged using an online database, and that counsel shall take reasonable steps to ensure that they have suitable technology such as Internet and audio-visual connections.
Justice Lafrenière further ordered while the witness is giving evidence, they should always keep their camera and microphone on unless the judge instructs otherwise and that the camera should be positioned so that the trial participants can clearly see the witness, particularly their whole face and their hands if possible. Justice Lafrenière additionally ordered that in the event that there is a loss of an internet connection to such a degree that an “essential individual” is no longer able to meaningfully participate in the trial, the trial shall be adjourned until all “essential individuals” have a sufficient Internet connection to be able to meaningfully participate in the trial.
License and Appeal Tribunal (LAT)
In response to the current pandemic, the LAT is rescheduling all in-person hearings to a future date. The LAT is continuing to have hearings and case conferences by teleconference or in writing. The Tribunal announced that it expects to have video hearing capabilities sometime in the future.
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