The Frustration with Small Claims Court During the Pandemic

It has become incredibly frustrating to see the lawyers at our firm moving their matters forward in Superior Court while I sit on dozens of files waiting for something to happen in Small Claims Court.

I filed a Motion for Subservice in early January, 2021.  Having not received any confirmation from the Court for almost two months, I attempted to contact the Court multiple times, only to be left on hold for up to 1.5 hours.  When I finally got through to a Court Clerk, I was shocked to be told that the Court Clerks in each jurisdiction do not handle the requests – all emailed requests (like my Motion) are dealt with by Toronto and Ottawa Trial Scheduling.  I was simply told to email the Small Claims Court Motion email I originally sent my Motion to.

When I sent that email in late March, I received a response within two days that my Motion was heard, and they provided the Endorsement Record.  I had until April 1, 2021 to serve my Plaintiff’s Claim by mail.  I had less than 10 days at this point.  My Motion that was filed in early January was read by the Deputy Judge in the first week of February.  Had I not emailed the Court, we would not have received that Endorsement and we would be back to where we were originally: unable to serve the Defendant.

Up until April 12, 2021 all requests for Motions, Assessments and Settlement Conferences were sent to specific emails provided by the Ministry of Attorney General.  Then we sit and wait for a response.

After April 12, 2021 the Court Clerks are supposed to reach out to the parties to schedule dates.

So, what happens to those requests for Motions, Assessments and Settlement Conferences previously sent to those specific emails?  Your guess is as good as mine because those email addresses are no longer being monitored.

My frustration is how easily the Superior Court has adapted to online and virtual hearings, while the Small Claims Court remains so far behind.

All requests for Superior Court had the ability to be filed electronically through a portal, something that Small Claims Court was not afforded.  It seems that the Small Claims Court has been ignored during the pandemic.  Small Claims Court online filing was very limited to issuing claims and noting parties in default and requesting Assessments.

We have at least a dozen files where we have been waiting for months for an Assessment Hearings to obtain judgment without a word from the Court and we have no way to finding out the status because we cannot send emails and contacting Toronto or Ottawa by phone is next to impossible.

These delays in the Small Claims Court process may result in countless parties not being able to enforce their judgments.  There is no reasonable explanation as to why Superior Court has been able to proceed while Small Claims Court has floundered almost halting to a complete stop.

Judgments obtained much later than usual because of the lack of support to the Small Claims Court may result in hundreds if not thousands of judgments being rendered worthless due to businesses ceasing operations due to the pandemic, not to mention the money spent by parties trying to get judgment only to discover had they obtained judgment sooner, they may have been successful at enforcement.

The Small Claims Court is very important branch of the Court system in Ontario and has been practically ignored during the pandemic leaving many people frustrated with the end of that frustration nowhere in sight.

Murray Brown, Licensed Paralegal