July 15, 2020

Important Update: Federal Courts and Immigration and Refugee Board Reopenings

Posted by Athena Portokalidis - Bellissimo Law Group PC

With Canada now in the midst of re-opening, there are a number of important updates we wish to share with you to keep you informed. Resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court had previously suspended operations and filing deadlines beginning on 17 March 2020. The Federal Court of Appeal has indicated that the suspension period will continue to apply and is extended indefinitely for all files with the Court. Beginning 22 June 2020, the Federal Court of Appeal began selecting certain files for which the suspension period would end the following Monday. Every week, the Federal Court of Appeal will post the “Selected Files List” to indicate which files will be proceeding the following Monday.

The Federal Court suspension period has expired in all provinces including Ontario.  In Ontario the full reopening is set for 29 June 2020, with a two-week grace period to file documents which expired on 13 July 2020. As such all pleadings and matters are moving forward.  To allow for parties to adjust to the Federal Court resuming operations, no hearings are set to be held until 27 July 2020.

Federal Court operations now appear to be resuming in full capacity, though until further notice prudently the Court will schedule all applications for judicial review to be heard by video conference or teleconference and parties are encouraged to move proceedings forward electronically (requests may be made to hold a hearing in person, though this will be weighed against health and safety considerations and availability of court staff and officers, which may also result in delays in re-scheduling).

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is preparing to begin holding in-person hearings later this summer. As a result, the IRB has resumed certain business functions in their offices. In the Toronto office specifically, mail operations and partial registry functions have resumed as of 22 June 2020 and 29 June 2020 respectively. Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) and Refugee Protection Division (RPD) hearings are planned to restart in person in Toronto during the week of 3 August 2020. In light of this, the IAD and RPD will begin re-scheduling hearings shortly. The Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) has extended its suspension period until 18 August 2020, with time limits for filing a notice of appeal or perfecting an appeal to be reinstated starting on 19 August 2020. While RAD reception desks will not be open for in-person deliveries, mailroom operations have resumed at reduced capacity in Vancouver and Toronto as of 15 June 2020 and 22 June 2020 respectively, and the RAD allows many alternatives for document submission. The RAD is also temporarily waiving the requirement for signatures on documents being submitted in support of an application, and some documents will not require signature for now. All hearings at the RAD will continue to be postponed until further notice.

The Immigration Division (ID) intends to resume in person hearings beginning on 14 September 2020, though remains committed to using teleconference as the primary means of conducting detention reviews and detained admissibility hearings. As previously noted by the IRB, for any proceedings that were previously scheduled but cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRB will provide at least 30 days notice before rescheduling. The IRB is set to issue health and safety guidance for individuals who are required to attend in-person hearings soon, which is to be posted online as well as sent directly to individuals who are set to appear before the IRB.  We will continue to advocate for the safety of our staff and clients for video hearings and electronic proceedings.