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Ontario Courts – Closures & COVID-19

Are the Court’s closed during the Covid-19 pandemic?  Not necessarily.

The Ontario Courts of Justice for Provincial Offences were closed across the Province beginning March 17, 2020 and have been closed to the public since.  Various Municipalities began to open their doors to the public for the “window wickets” in order to file tickets and/or pay fines.  There were a few more functions they would permit, though it was limited and variant across the Province.  After changes were made to the legislation, various Courts that were equipped with Electronic means could proceed with Electronic Resolutions, to resolve their tickets.  It is only applicable to Part 1 Proceedings (the tickets that have the fine on the bottom) and was all conducted over the phone.  Those processes, depending upon the location of the Court began electronic proceedings in June of 2020.  It was a whole new meaning to a three-way phone conversation and for those technically advanced courts, it was a four-way conversation.

Part 3 Proceedings

In September of 2020, Part 3 matters (those tickets with dates and locations on the bottom) were able to proceed by Electronic means.  Part 3 electronic appearances are very limited as to what can occur.  You only have the option of adjourning your matter or pleading guilty.  The Courts that had prior electronic means, began these proceedings in late August and early September.  The remainder of the Courts have been “playing catch up” to update their systems to accommodate electronic means.  One wonders, what have they been doing since March???  As those Courts slowly adapted to accommodate electronic means, many people across the province had to appear at various courts as the ticket indicated.  Of more concern, certain people received letters from the Court, indicating their matters would be proceeding by electronic means with specified dates and times.  (This is controversial and will be discussed below)

Limitation Periods Extensions until February 26, 2021

Those of you that received tickets from March 17 to today, have had your limitations periods all suspended.  Under an Order pursuant to section 85, The Chief Justice of Ontario has constantly and repeatedly extended all the time sensitive sections of the Provincial Offences Act to the latest date of February 26, 2021.  That means you have more than the 15 days indicated on the back of the ticket to file the ticket by selecting one of the options with the Court.  There are multiple other extensions for various situations, which are automatically deferred to February 26, 2021 as well.

In-Court Appearances and Proceedings

As for the Part 3’s, and in-court appearances and/or proceedings, they have all been cancelled until at least January 22, 2021, the Chief Justice of Ontario further goes on to indicate that all Courts will be able to proceed electronically by January 25, 2021.  Who would have thought that setting-up phone lines would take almost a year, particularly in the Country where telecommunications were invented?  That is why many of you see dates in the next year to appear for allegedly committing an offence in August of 2020.  These dates are tentative, as well, and will further be extended if Covid-19 numbers (or the vaccinations) don’t slow the spread.

Electronic Meetings

In some jurisdictions, some of you are fortunate enough to be able to proceed by electronic means!  This means you will have to either phone the court or via webcam (Zoom, etc) to address your matter.  As the Province rolls out the full electronic platform across all the jurisdictions in the province, you all should have your chance after January 25, 2021 to do so.  Many have received letters from the Court regarding their ticket, indicating the time/date and a phone number/weblink to follow.  

Part 1 Offences

For Part 1 offences, these are permitted and legislated, including the recent change to eliminate the distance requirement for these proceedings.  Therefore, you should follow the instructions listed or else you will be convicted in your absence.  Be wary, as postal issues are resulting in persons not receiving their Notice of Electronic Meeting, until after the hearing date.  That is a Postal issue and not a Court issue, which will result in further actions to be taken by you to have your day in Court. 

Part 3 Offences

As for the letters regarding Part 3 matters, the contention is that there is nothing legislated to allow for this type of notification/notice.  The legislation allows for the Lieutenant-Governor to enact Regulations to do so, though the Ontario Government has not done so to date.  As well, certain courts have included a little paragraph that advises of warrants, if you fail to attend.  These are extremely contentious, and you should seek legal advice from a licensed legal service provider, if you are uncertain how you wish to proceed.

Electronic Meetings Procedures

Hence, Covid-19 has not closed the Courts, though it has hampered and slowed them even more than they were prior to the pandemic.  Slowly and surely, they are re-opening, with modern technical advancements (even though the phone has been around for over a century) and will be able to accommodate the numerous violations that occur on Ontario streets, as soon as possible.

After all your tickets have been filed and you have checked with the Courts regarding any dates (see previous Covid blogs) that you may or may not have missed, you should begin to attend via phone or via Zoom.  Electronic means is the latest development in the Courts to accommodate for the Covid closures that have been implemented.  Those electronic means have been divided into phone and via webcam on the Zoom platform.

Summons

26 (1) A summons issued under section 22 or 24 shall,

(a) be directed to the defendant;

(b) set out briefly the offence in respect of which the defendant is charged; and

(c) require the defendant to attend court at a time and place stated therein and to attend thereafter as required by the court in order to be dealt with according to law.  R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33, s. 26 (1).

Service

(2) A summons shall be served by a provincial offences officer,

(a) by delivering it personally to the person to whom it is directed or, if that person cannot conveniently be found, by leaving it for the person at the person’s last known or usual place of residence with an individual who appears to be at least sixteen years of age and resident at the same address; or

(b) in any other manner permitted by the regulations. 2020, c. 18, Sched. 18, s. 26 (1).

Service outside Ontario

(3) Despite subsection (2), where the person to whom a summons is directed does not reside in Ontario, 

the summons shall be deemed to have been duly served seven days after it has been sent by registered mail to the person’s last known or usual place of abode.  R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33, s. 26 (3).

Service on corporation

(4) Service of a summons on a corporation may be effected,

(a) in the case of a municipal corporation by,

(i) delivering the summons personally to the mayor, warden, reeve or other chief officer of the corporation or to the clerk of the corporation, or

(ii) mailing the summons by registered mail to the municipal corporation at an address held out by it to be its address;

(b) in the case of any corporation, other than a municipal corporation, incorporated or continued by or under an Act by,

(i) delivering the summons personally to the manager, secretary or other executive officer of the corporation or person apparently in charge of a branch office of the corporation, or

(ii) mailing the summons by registered mail to the corporation at an address held out by it to be its address;

(c) in the case of corporation not incorporated or continued by or under an Act by,

(i) a method provided under clause (b),

(ii) delivering the summons personally to the corporation’s resident agent or agent for service or to any other representative of the corporation in Ontario, or

(iii) mailing the summons by registered mail to a person referred to in subclause (ii) or to an address outside Ontario, including outside Canada, held out by the corporation to be its address.  2009, c. 33, Sched. 4, s. 1 (34).

Date of mailed service

(4.1) A summons served by registered mail under subsection (4) is deemed to have been duly served 

seven days after the day of mailing.  2009, c. 33, Sched. 4, s. 1 (34).

Substitutional service

(5) A justice, upon motion and upon being satisfied that service cannot be made effectively on a 

corporation in accordance with subsection (4), may by order authorize another method of service that has a reasonable likelihood of coming to the attention of the corporation.  R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33, s. 26 (5).

Proof of service

(6) Service of a summons may be proved by statement under oath or affirmation, written or oral, of the 

person who made the service.  R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33, s. 26 (6).

Regulations

(7) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations specifying how a summons may be served 

on a person for the purposes of clause (2) (b), and setting out when such service is deemed to have been effected. 2020, c. 18, Sched. 18, s. 26 (2).

Section Amendments with date in force (d/m/y)

Proposed Changes to the Service of Summons

The link here will direct you to the proposed changes that the Government wishes to implement for Services of Summons.  The only question is, who actually benefits from this proposed change???   

Is it a change to modernize Service or it is a change of convenience?  Hopefully they will maintain the necessary requisites that are suggested, if the amendment is passed, for these are serious charges and even more serious penalties that can arise, if the person fails to attend or isn’t properly served to be notified to attend!  Until these changes are made, there is and only remains service as described above in Section 26 subsection 2!  If you are not served that way there are other legal actions you can pursue which could produce invaluable results.  Contact a Licensed Paralegal to assist you!

Those of you have received notices to attend in the mail have a choice to either attend or not.  The information contained on that notice should have the same information as stated above: notably the contact number, the ID number and passcode (if applicable) if you choose to attend, its just like attending in court.  If you choose not to, don’t worry your matter will be adjourned to another date.  They might issue a Bench Summons for you to attend or even a Bench Warrant (section 54 of the POA).  However, a Bench Summons or Warrant currently requires in-Court appearances.

Amendment to the Provincial Offences Act

The amendment to the Provincial Offences Act can be found in section 83.1, as copied below, which permits the courts to proceed by way of electronic means.  You should note that Electronic Proceeding “may occur” and only if made “available by the court office.”  It is yet to be determined if the court must provide you with electronic means to be able to attend.  A very contentious issue.  As for now, those that are unable to attend/appear via electronic means are adjourned for months, until the Covid crisis is over and we resume in person appearances. 

83.1 (1) In this section,

“electronic method” means video conference, audio conference, telephone conference or other method determined by the regulations. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Same

(2) Subject to this section, in any proceeding under this Act or any step in a proceeding under this Act, any person, including a defendant, a prosecutor, a witness, an interpreter, a justice or the clerk of the court, may participate by an electronic method made available by the court office. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Excepted proceedings, circumstances

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply with respect to proceedings or steps in a proceeding, or in circumstances, that are specified by the regulations. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Requirement to appear in person

(4) A justice may order a person to appear in person if the justice is satisfied that the interests of justice require it or it is necessary for a fair trial. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Same

(5) In making a determination under subsection (4), the justice shall consider any factors set out in the regulations. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Direction re method

(6) A justice may, subject to subsection (7), by order specify which of available electronic methods must or may be used. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Limitation re methods

(7) The electronic method that may be used in a proceeding or step in a proceeding is subject to any limitations specified by the regulations as to which electronic methods may be used in the proceeding or step. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Duties of the clerk

(8) If an offence notice indicates that the option of a meeting under section 5.1 is available, the clerk of the court at the court office indicated in the offence notice shall ensure that the court office has the means available to allow a defendant or prosecutor to attend by electronic method. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Oaths

(9) If evidence is given under oath by electronic method, the oath may be administered by the same electronic method. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Interpretation

(10) A provision of this Act, the regulations or the rules of court that presumes that participation would be in person shall not be read as limiting the application of this section, and shall be read in a manner consistent with this section. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Territorial jurisdiction

(11) A hearing in a proceeding by electronic method under this section is deemed to meet the requirements of subsections 29 (1) and (2) regardless of where a justice is physically located during the hearing. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Application in appeals

(12) This section applies, with necessary modifications, with respect to appeals under Part VII, and, for the purpose, references in this section to a court and to a justice shall be read as including reference to a court and to a judge respectively, as those terms are defined for the purposes of that Part. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Transition

(13) This section applies with respect to a proceeding whether it was commenced before, on or after the day section 11 of Schedule 18 to the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 came into force. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Regulations

(14) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations,

(a) respecting anything that, in this section, may or must be done by regulation;

(b) requiring the payment of fees for using electronic methods, fixing the amounts of the fees, and specifying circumstances in which and conditions under which a justice or another person designated in the regulations may waive the payment of a fee. 2020, c. 18, Schedule 18, s. 11.

Covid has resulted in multiple changes to the way things are conducted in the Province, including the Courts.  Some of the changes were temporary measures to ensure that things could still proceed, even at a snails pace.  It’s very likely that these changes, and the ones yet to be legislated, will inevitably change the way Provincial Offences are conducted in the Province.  Some might be an everlasting change and others for a limited Covid time only.  As always if the process is more than you wish to handle, please contact a Licensed Paralegal to assist you.

Court Procedures in April 2021

The Province of Ontario has entered another Lockdown for a month as of April 1st, 2021.  Tragically it was not an April Fool’s Joke/Prank.  However, the Courts have now somewhat evolved, for better or worse, to relieving the backlog from closure since March 17, 2020.  Various Courts have re-opened with Electronic Methods and Accessibility.  This means, you can now receive a Court Date which can be conducted over the phone or via Zoom (online webcam program).  The phone option was only an Early Resolution Option if you lived 75 km away from the responding Court (the court location on the back of the ticket).  However, due to Covid, the Province has amended the Provincial Offences Act to allow anyone to conduct an electronic meeting/court date regardless of distance and/or location.  Further amendments will allow defendants to file their notice of intent to appear via electronic means or online filing systems.  Speaking of online filing, the Province already has one available for various Court jurisdictions across the Province.

Paying your ticket and filing for early resolution

This website allows you to do a few things with respect to the ticket(s) that you have received.  You can look up the ticket, you can pay the ticket, and you can file the ticket for early resolution.  Please note, not all jurisdictions in Ontario will be on the Website or allow you to file on the website.  If you don’t find your ticket on the site, it is recommended that you contact the court to enquire if they provide alternative means of filing, or electronic means of filing.  

Limitation Period Extensions in April 2021

The Order by the Chief Justice of Ontario extending Limitation periods is NO longer in effect.  Which means that the 15 days to file the ticket, the 15 days to file a re-opening (after becoming aware of the conviction), the limitations for defaulted fines, etc are as prescribed by the Provincial Offences Act and will be enforced.  Therefore, please ensure you address your ticket, convictions and fines as soon as possible or the Courts will convict you and could suspend your license for non-payment.  You might be delayed in your daily routine thanks to Covid, though that is no longer applicable to the Courts in delaying how they will address your ticket(s)!!!!  

Court Date Notifications

Once you filed your ticket, you can expect a notice regarding the date to be sent to you via mail.  If you have not received one in at least 4-6 weeks, contact the Court to ensure you’re not convicted!!!  There is a current proposed amendment to the Provincial Offences Act, which could change the way people are notified to attend Court, especially for Part 3 Summons, which we’ll discuss in the next Blog!  The notice that you receive will provide you with either a phone number (or numbers) to call, specifying what date and time you should call, the Caller ID and Password(s).  It might also have a Zoom link, with similar information (time/date/id/pw/etc).  The current phone and zoom appearances are limited to what can occur.  The Provincial Offences Courts that have chosen to proceed by Phone/Zoom will only allow for Adjournments and Pleas of Guilt.  Trials have yet to be conducted via Zoom (not a phone option), though announcements have been made by certain municipalities they will be commencing Zoom Trials.  

In summary, all extensions of expiration have ended, except for Appeals.  So, follow the links and ensure that you have filed your Ticket with one of the options on the back.  Alternatively, ensure that you attend the Court Appearance date as indicated.  If you don’t know how to attend (phone/zoom/person) contact the Provincial Offences Court listed on the Summons or go to their website.  Just because Covid is delaying all else, make sure it doesn’t Delay you.  You won’t like the results!  Though if you wish to have things taken care of for you, retain a Paralegal.  We are always there to help!

Renewals Process during Covid-19

As you likely recall, all renewal of License Plates (validation), Driver’s Licenses, Health Cards, etc were suspended last year in March of 2020.  The suspension of renewals remained in effect and were further extended on March 10, 2021 according to the following CityNews Report.

Online Renewals

As indicated, you do not have to renew your validation sticker, your driver’s license, health card, etc until further notice.  HOWEVER, you can renew them online to avoid any further complications down the road.  The article specifically states, that if you haven’t renewed your plate, license, etc since 2019, you will have to pay the 2020 fee, in addition to the 2021 fee.  Therefore, to avoid a “double whammy” the next time you actually enter a Service Ontario site, you should do the online renewal.  That way you can get the latest colour coded yearly sticker, refresh your photo, and variety of other options.

Many of the Service Ontario Services are now listed and indicated as “online”.  You can retrieve your driving abstract and order plates.  If you’re looking at purchasing a vehicle, the vehicle records can be ordered too.  This is all the Provinces effort to prevent the spread of Covid and ensure the safety of its staff.  Plus, who would rather go see a disgruntled government employee at a kiosk, when you have the luxury and leisure of doing it, all by yourself, on the computer!

Suspended or Waived Requirements

In ensuring the safety of Ontario’s elderly, the Province has even waived the vision test, education session and other necessary evaluations that are required by legislation, for driver’s that are over the age of 80.  When you get to that milestone, you are required to undergo evaluations every 2 years, to ensure you are still “up to par” with demands of driving in Ontario.  

Ontario Regulation 340/94 section 16 stipulates:  The Minister may require that,

  1. any holder of a Class G or M driver’s licence who has reached the age of 80 complete successfully the applicable examinations prescribed in section 15 every two years and demonstrate every two years that he or she continues to meet the qualifications prescribed in section 14;

Section 14 and 15 are as follows:

  1. (1) An applicant for or a holder of a driver’s licence must not,

(a)  suffer from any mental, emotional, nervous or physical condition or disability likely to significantly interfere with his or her ability to drive a motor vehicle of the applicable class safely; or

(b)  be addicted to the use of alcohol or a drug to an extent likely to significantly interfere with his or her ability to drive a motor vehicle safely.  O. Reg. 453/10, s. 1.

(2) In determining whether an applicant for or a holder of a driver’s licence of any class meets the qualifications described in subsection (1), the Minister,

(a)  may take into consideration the relevant medical standards for applicants or holders of that class of driver’s licence set out in the CCMTA Medical Standards for Drivers; and

(b)  may require the applicant or holder to provide evidence satisfactory to the Minister that he or she is able to drive a motor vehicle of the applicable class safely, including,

(i)  any reports of examinations under section 15, and

(ii)  any additional medical information.  O. Reg. 453/10, s. 1.

(3) Despite clause (2) (a) and unless otherwise provided in this Regulation, if there is a difference between a medical standard set out in the CCMTA Medical Standards for Drivers and a medical standard set out in this Regulation, the Minister shall take into consideration the standard set out in this Regulation instead of the standard set out in the CCMTA Medical Standards for Drivers.  O. Reg. 453/10, s. 1.

(4) In this section, the CCMTA Medical Standards for Drivers means the document entitled CCMTA Medical Standards for Drivers, published by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and dated March 2017, as it may be amended from time to time, that is available on the Internet through the website of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.  O. Reg. 453/10, s. 1; O. Reg. 38/18, s. 2

  1. (1) An examination of an applicant for or a holder of any class of driver’s licence, including a driver’s licence with or without any endorsement, condition or waiver, or an examination in relation to any endorsement, condition or waiver may include,

(a)  an examination of the person’s knowledge of the Act and the regulations under it;

(b)  a demonstration of the person’s ability to drive safely a motor vehicle of a class authorized to be driven by the class of licence applied for or held;

(c)  a demonstration of the person’s ability to operate safely a motor vehicle of a class authorized to be driven by the class of licence applied for and that is equipped with air brakes, or a combination of such a motor vehicle and towed vehicles;

(d)  an examination of a person’s knowledge of air brakes, their functions and safe operation for the class of licence applied for or held; and

(e)  medical and physical examinations, tests and procedures to determine the person’s fitness to drive or to determine whether the person meets the qualifications prescribed by section 14, 17, 18, 21.1 or 21.2.  O. Reg. 340/94, s. 15 (1); O. Reg. 490/98, s. 1; O. Reg. 83/05, s. 8 (1, 2); O. Reg. 42/12, s. 2.

(1.1) It is a condition of a driver’s licence that the holder submit to the examinations required under subsection (1) at such times as the Minister may require.  O. Reg. 83/05, s. 8 (3).

(2) An examination under subsection (1) may include the applicable level 2 exit test in the case of a person fully licensed to operate a Class G or M motor vehicle or in the case of an applicant for a Class G or M driver’s licence or a driving instructor’s licence.  O. Reg. 340/94, s. 15 (2).

(3) The applicable level 2 exit test may be taken in a Class G motor vehicle, including one equipped with air brakes, in the case of any person fully licensed to operate a Class G vehicle.  O. Reg. 340/94, s. 15 (3); O. Reg. 205/10, s. 8.

(4) If an examination referred to in this section includes a demonstration of the person’s ability to drive safely a motor vehicle, the applicant shall be deemed to be fully licensed in that class of vehicle for the purpose of the examination.  O. Reg. 340/94, s. 15 (4)

However, thanks to Covid, all these requirements have been waived/suspended until the pandemic ends, which has caused a bit of concern.  However, since they are the most vulnerable portion of the population, it’s likely they will avoid venturing outside (in cars) at any chance they have.

In all, Covid-19 has delayed almost everything in the Province, it has delayed the Court, it has delayed registration and licensing and even delayed driving tests for those waiting to retrieve their license or move up the graduated licensing program.  Hence, hold tight and hope for the end to be near.  Hopefully we all can do these things, like we normally did soon.  

Posted under COVID-19

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