Courts in Alberta, like courts across Canada, are grappling with the daily changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While most courts in Alberta remain open for now, they have significantly reduced operating hours, issued various extensions on filing deadlines, and adjourned most matters until well into May.
Each level of court is issuing separate announcements related to the operation of their facilities (which may also vary geographically). Below is a breakdown of the current state of filing deadlines at each level of court in Alberta, current to March 25, 2020. We will update this post as more announcements are issued.
Court of Queen’s Bench
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has issued several emergency orders over the last few weeks in response to COVID-19. The latest order was pronounced on March 20, 2020.
The terms of the Order applicable to Civil and Family filing deadlines state:
- All filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court, including Rule 13.41(4) are suspended until May 1, 2020, with the exception of those Rules applicable to the commencement of proceedings, including originating applications.
Notably, the Order is silent on dates under the Alberta Rules of Court that do not apply to “filings”, for example dates for exchange of Affidavit of Records. This suggests the deadlines in the Rules that do not contemplate a filing with the court continue to apply.
The Court of Queen’s Bench announced on March 23, 2020, that it will now accept filings by e-mail if there is an existing fax-filing account with the court.
Court of Appeal
According to a Notice to Public and Profession dated March 23, 2020, only specific procedural time limits are extended at the Court of Appeal. The Notice sets out the following:
- Effective March 25, 2020, unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or judge, where an appeal (fast track, standard or criminal appeal) has not yet been set for hearing, and the deadline to order or commence preparation of the appeal record and transcripts or for the filing of appeal records, transcripts, factums, extracts of key evidence and books of authorities falls on or prior to May 4, 2020, the deadline is extended by 2 months. Otherwise, all time limits remain in effect and must be respected.
- Where an appeal has been set for hearing and has not been adjourned, the deadlines to order or commence preparation of the appeal record and transcripts or for the filing of appeal records, transcripts, factums, extracts of key evidence and books of authorities also remain in effect and must be respected.
- Filing deadlines for commencement documents (e.g., Notices of Appeal, Applications for Permission to Appeal) are not suspended and continue to apply.
- Filing deadlines for applications continue to apply.
The Provincial Court announced on March 23, 2020, that it will only file time sensitive documents. These include:
- Civil Claims where the limitation period/date is about to expire;
- Applications and Affidavits for extending time for service of a Civil Claim that will soon expire;
- Dispute Notes and other time sensitive pleadings;
- Notices of Appeal; and
- Applications that are of an emergent nature (such as setting aside a judgment where collection proceedings have commenced, or Landlord/Tenant matters where safety is an issue).
From the announcement, it appears none of the filing deadlines under the Provincial Civil Procedure Rules are suspended, and parties should continue to file documents according to the deadlines. If a document is being filed close to a deadline or limitation period, it may be worthwhile to send a note along with the document explaining why it is time sensitive.
As of March 25, 2020, no level of court in Alberta has extended the time for filing documents coming up on a limitation period. While this may change in the future, parties should continue to adhere to all deadlines, unless they have been specifically extended by the applicable level of court.
In the event a deadline has been suspended, all parties shoulder monitor the suspension period, which is subject to change as the courts announce further measures in response to COVID-19.
We continue to closely monitor the progressing COVID-19 situation and will provide updates as they are available.