Work Camps Remain Open despite Pandemic
In British Columbia and Alberta, work has continued on major resource extraction projects, such as oil and gas pipelines and hydroelectric dams. British Columbia has also announced that tree planting will continue this season. This has lead to concerns from Indigenous groups about the spread of the virus into their communities, the safety of Elders, and potential overwhelm of the medical system in rural areas of the province, which are not equipped to handle large numbers of patients. In response, some communities like the Haida Nation and Blueberry River First Nations have closed themselves to visitors.
Some have questioned whether industrial construction should be deemed an essential service. The Province of Ontario, for example, has scaled back its industrial construction activities to “critical” work and the production of items related directly to combatting the pandemic. Meanwhile, proponents in British Columbia, such as Trans Mountain and BC Hydro, insist that their workplaces are safe and that they are following the proper protocols when it comes to social distancing and self-isolation at worksites. Recently, however, individuals returning to British Columbia from the area of Alberta where the Kearl Lake oilsands facility is located were cautioned to self-isolate after twelve confirmed COVID-19 cases were linked to that facility.
British Columbia has announced that thousands of tree planters will be screened for COVID-19 before the head to remote communities to begin work. Further, all industrial camps are required to follow guidance issued by the Office of the Provincial Health Officer. These guidelines can be found here.
Voicing opposition to the continued operation of work camps, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs has called on British Columbia to industrial limit workers to “skeleton maintenance crews” in order to protect the health of the workers, their families, area communities and the workers’ home communities. The UBCIC’s April 21 press release can be found here.
Access to Critical Health Care
Recognizing the unique challenges in accessing health care that face residents of Indigenous communities and rural British Columbia, Premier John Horgan has announced a new framework to help ensure access to critical health care during the pandemic. The framework is a collaboration between the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and Provincial Health Services Authority.
The framework outlines actions that can be taken to improve heath care services and respond to the pandemic, including:
- improved medical transportation options to larger centres, including flight and ambulance;
- housing options for people looking to self-isolate near their families while remaining in their home communities;
- new and faster COVID-19 testing technology;
- culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities;
- access to Virtual Doctor of the Day, a program that connects First Nations members and their families in remote communities to a doctor or nurse practitioner using videoconferencing;
- options for accommodation near larger centres with more medical services; and
- increased mental-health supports in communities.
Local leadership will be empowered to determine how these actions will be rolled out in their specific communities.
The Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser, says of the framework:
“Indigenous communities have been harder hit in past pandemics and are vulnerable to COVID-19. Elders in particular, as critical knowledge keepers and holders of language, culture and teachings, must be protected. Having plans and supports tailored to the unique circumstances and challenges in remote Indigenous communities will support these communities in caring for their residents.”
Charlene Belleau, chairperson of the First Nations Health Council supports the new framework, stating:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. First Nations’, especially our remote and isolated First Nations, access to culturally appropriate quality care for our most vulnerable is critical. New resources on expanded COVID-19 testing, options for isolation and medical transportation ensure that no one is left behind. Our made-in-B.C. First Nations health governance structure is grounded in the wisdom of our Leaders who are determined to address the health inequities within First Nations communities. We honour the collaboration with our B.C. provincial partners that has made this new framework possible.”
There are the following updates from the Federal Court:
- An extension of the previously announced Suspension Period until May 15, 2020. During the Suspension Period all hearing are adjourned indefinitely. Urgent or exceptional matters will still be heard.
- Recommencement of case management hearings by telephone and videoconference, for matters being specially managed by a Case Management Judge. Judges will continue to hear case management conferences provided that the case is urgent; the case is subject to a deadline set out by statute; the case is subject to a fixed trial or hearing date; or all parties consent to the matter advancing during the suspension period.
There are the following updates from the Alberta courts:
- All civil and family matters scheduled for hearing from March 16, 2020 to May 31, 2020 are adjourned indefinitely, unless otherwise directed by the Court.
- All filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court are suspended until May 31, 2020, with the exception of those Rules applicable to the commencement of proceedings, including originating applications.
- The Court will hear only emergency and urgent matters, unless otherwise directed by the Court in future Notices to the Profession and Public and Announcements. The Court has the discretion to hear matters other than those listed, and to decline to hear a matter listed.
For more details, click here.
Effective April 20, 2020, in an effort to expand the civil and family matters that can be dealt with at this time, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has established procedures to allow parties to schedule a COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearing for matters that are not urgent or essential and that were scheduled for hearing during the Suspension Period. At each Telephone Conference Hearing, parties will be limited to addressing one disputed issue or to bringing forward issues on which they have consent. An affidavit filed for a Telephone Conference Hearing must not exceed 10 pages, inclusive of exhibits. More details can be found here.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal has opened up their operations to include all appeals. The court reports that beginning May 4, it will hear all appeals, including those that are not urgent, using videoconferencing. Chambers applications will also be heard, either by teleconference or in writing. More details can be found here.
There are no court updates for Ontario this week.
The Court of Queen’s Bench has the following updates:
- All jury trials will be postponed to Fall 2020;
- The court is still accepting and considering non-urgent consent orders;
- Appearance day applications and case conferences will proceed by telephone;
- Commencing June 1, 2020, pre-trial conferences will resume;
- Commencing June 1, 2020, the Court’s restrictions respecting hearing only urgent and emergency chambers applications will be lifted and will be conducted by telephone.
The Court of Appeal has the following update:
- Effective March 23, 2020, all matters before a panelof three judges (appeals or applications) will be heard either by teleconference, or by videoconference if videoconferencing is available. If a party believes an in-person oral hearing is necessary, he or she shall explain the reasons for so believing in a letter or email to the Registrar. The Chief Justice or his designate will then make a ruling on how and when the matter will proceed.
- The parties may consent to having an appeal or application decided on the basis of written materials only.
- The parties may consent to adjourn an appeal or application The Registrar must be advised as far in advance of the scheduled hearing date as possible if there is to be a consent adjournment.
- Limitation periods are still in effect.
Manitoba’s COVID-19 court updates can be found here.
The New Brunswick courts have issued a COVID-19 notice which can be found here.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador updates can be found here.
Information from the Court of Appeal can be found here.
COVID-19 updates from the courts of Nova Scotia can be found here.
Prince Edward Island
The most recent COVID-19 notice from the Prince Edward Island courts can be found here.
Information regarding the courts of Quebec can be found here.
COVID-19 updates from the courts of the Northwest Territories can be found here.
COVID-19 updates from the Nunavut courts can be found here.
COVID-19 updates from the Yukon courts can be found here.