The Good & The Bad of Ontario’s Covid19 Court System

“The Courts are Open and they never closed” is what I heard the Chief Justice of Ontario tell me on a webinar in April.  Technically that’s true, but the technicalities only get you so far.

Small Claims Court in Ontario is being completely ignored.  Despite the Toronto Small Claims Court using telephone conference for “trial management” over the past year, somehow the idea of expanding those telephone conferences to sue them for settlement conferences is not being put into play.    Why are claims $35,000.00 and under being completely ignored?

In Superior Court ($35,000 and above) we are able to move matters forward by video, writing and telephone conferences.  To be clear “move matters forward” only works in defended matters if the other side agrees.  Also, many matters are on hold because of the Ontario Provincial Order suspending Limitation Periods.

During the “shut down” I have enjoyed bringing motions in writing and receiving the signed Order back within three hours of emailing it to the Court.  Our Clients are saving a lot of money in legal fees, not paying for travelling time and the time to wait around in Court Rooms – I am loving that.

However, I am not enjoying the Sheriff’s Offices holding onto garnishment funds “because of Covid”.  Really?  You cannot put a single person in a room to cut cheques?  Come on now.  The money is going into the Sheriff’s bank account just fine: let’s get it out !

So, now we continue to wait and we’re grateful for any expansion of hearings that is allowed.  While we wait, we also prepare for the inevitable onslaught of litigation matters that will have to be dealt with “at the same time”.   Add to that the Tribunals in Ontario which are closed and will have onslaughts as well and this is going to be “interesting” when things reopen.

Interesting is never good.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD

Principal Lawyer