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October 20, 2020

Chief Justice Crampton Discusses the Federal Court’s Adaptations to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Joanna Berry - Bellissimo Law Group PC

The University of Ottawa’s (uOttawa) Public Law Centre recently hosted a special virtual event with the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada, the Honourable Chief Justice Paul Crampton, addressing how the Federal Court is coping with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation offered a unique view of the Federal Court’s procedural adaptations to protect health and safety, while also maintaining access to justice. It also reviewed how the Court’s substantive findings in some immigration matters are accounting for the pandemic.

The Federal Court is the Canadian court with jurisdiction to review decisions made in citizenship, immigration and refugee protection cases. Although the Court hears and decides cases that represent various areas of law, a significant portion of the Court’s time is dedicated to the adjudication of immigration and refugee protection matters.

In the spring of 2020, the Court temporarily suspended most hearings and filing deadlines in response to the first wave of the pandemic. The Court then pursued significant procedural changes to expand its e-filing system and its capacity to conduct remote hearings. The filing suspension period concluded in the early summer of 2020, and the Court began to conduct hearings via tele-conference and video-conference. These transitions have been effective in allowing the Court to resolve most of its backlog of cases from the suspension period, while also addressing new matters.

Professor Jamie Liew of uOttawa’s Public Law Centre asked the Chief Justice whether the Court had anything to communicate regarding its operations in the coming weeks, during the second wave of the pandemic. The Chief Justice confirmed that the Court will continue to pursue flexible procedures that capitalize on the technological platforms that enable counsel and parties to move their matters forward, while also working remotely. He noted that virtual hearings have become “the new normal,” and the substantial majority of hearings scheduled for the fall 2020 will be conducted virtually.

A recording of this presentation is publicly available on the uOttawa Faculty of Law’s YouTube channel, and can be accessed through this link.

The Federal Court’s notices and practice directions responding to the COVID-19 pandemic can be accessed through this link.