Frequently Asked Questions

This is a challenging and uncertain time and many of you have questions concerning your court matters. We hope to answer some of these questions below.

This information document should be read along with all of the Notices and Orders listed on the Alberta Court’s Website issued since March 12, 2020. If there is any inconsistency between the information in this document and the information in the Notices and Orders, the Notices and Orders in force will govern. Most of the information below can be found on the Court’s website here.

You may also follow us on Twitter @QB_Alberta for real time updates.

The public health situation is ever changing and we will attempt to update these FAQ’s on a regular basis. These FAQ’s are divided into a question about how matters are currently being heard and filing procedures, questions related to family law including the new Family Docket Court, questions related to civil matters, questions related to individuals who may have committed an offence, and a question about jury selection.

Court Hearings and Filing Procedures

 

Q: Is the Court now returning to pre-pandemic operations?

A: The Court has resumed hearing most matters, with jury trials set to begin in September, 2020 However, given the ongoing pandemic, the Court is still mainly hearing matters by way of the Webex platform. Preventative measures will remain in place at the Court until we are confident that the health risks to those working in and appearing before the Courts are significantly reduced.

Q: I want to appear before the Justice in person to make sure the Justice understands my case. Is this now possible? 

A: Webex continues to be the default mode of hearing for all matters except trials, and jury selection. In person testimony in the courtroom may also be allowed by the Justice in certain circumstances, for example, where in person testimony is needed to adequately assess credibility, physical distancing can be maintained and court resources are available.

Q: Is there still a procedure in place for a Justice to hear urgent matters?

A: Prior to July 10, 2020 the Court had implemented the Emergency/Urgent Hearing Request process, but it has now been suspended. The Court will continue to hear urgent matters using the processes in place outlined on our website and as referenced more specifically in this FAQ.

For example, if your application is for a restraining order and is being brought in circumstances where it is not safe to tell the other party about the application, then you may proceed to apply for the restraining order in morning chambers. A person may also, under the Protection Against Family Violence Act, apply for an Emergency Protection Order in Provincial Court which will later be reviewed in a timely manner by a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Justices may also triage and hear potentially urgent family matters through the Family Docket Court process as set out below in Edmonton and Calgary. If a date in Family Docket Court is not available on an urgent basis, or the urgent matter is to be heard in regions outside of Calgary or Edmonton you may contact the Clerk’s office for assistance.  See the Contact page for contact information

If the matter urgently requires intervention due to imminent harm the police should be called.

Q How are materials being filed? Can I file by way of email if I am representing myself?

A: The Court is encouraging email filing by lawyers. Please review the following announcements for regarding email filing procedures:

New Email Filing Procedure
Guidelines for Documents Filed by Email or Digital Upload

Non-lawyers must, at this time, still file their documents in person at the courthouse. The Court is currently looking at ways for self-represented parties to file their materials by way of e-mail. Please continue to consult the website for further information about filing procedures.

Given the pandemic and related issues, the Court has experienced some staff shortages and consequently there may be a delay in receiving notification from the Court that the application and materials have been accepted for filing. Staff shortages are currently being filled and we hope this lag time will be rectified in the near future. In the meantime, please ensure your unfiled copies are served on the other side at the time you submit your documents and then again when you receive your filed materials.


Family Matters and the new Family Docket Court

 

Q: I have a family matter that needs to be heard. How can I get this matter into Court?

A: All family matters in Edmonton and Calgary for which parties seek some sort of relief now must move through the Family Docket Court by way of Webex: See the related announcements below:

Launch of Family Docket Court
Family Docket Court - New Start Time

The Family Docket Court is designed to triage family matters into processes that best serve the needs of families and children. Matters must be reviewed by a triage Justice in the Family Docket Court before any hearing dates are set down. However, it is not necessary nor preferable for an action to be started or an application to be filed before a party can access Family Docket Court.

A party or parent who needs the Court to review issues related to parenting, child support and even property must fill out the Notice to Attend Family Docket Court. This form must then be filed, preferably by email, and served on the other party by way of email, text or other social media at least 5 days prior to the court date.

The Court will then review the matter with the parties in attendance by way of Webex or telephone and will direct the parties to a process which can assist the family. The Court will also explore the possibility of an agreement, failing which the parties may be referred to a dispute resolution process, including chambers, before scheduling a formal court process.

The parties will not be allowed to argue their substantive applications in Family Docket Court; rather the parties should think about the most appropriate process for their particular issues. Possible processes include a referral to an Early Intervention Case Conference, morning Family Chambers or to Resolution Counsel. An Early Intervention Case Conference involves meeting with a Justice for one hour in an effort to try and mediate the dispute. Resolution Counsel can, if certain financial preconditions are met, meet with the parties on a one-time basis to assist in resolving, narrowing and clarifying the issues and, if necessary, assist with a litigation plan.

Please consult the Court’s website here for further instructions as to how to access the Family Docket Court and to check availability for dates.

Q: I had a domestic special in Calgary (or Edmonton) scheduled to be heard during when all family hearings were adjourned. How do I book this matter back before the Court?

A: The matter must be triaged through the Family Docket Court. The Applicant must fill out the Notice to Attend Family Docket Court in order to have the matter addressed in some manner, or rescheduled.

Q: My matter is currently in family case management, should I contact the Case Management Justice or their judicial assistant directly?

A: Unless your matter has already been redirected to another process through Family Docket Court, please contact the Judicial Assistant of the Justice who is currently case managing your matter. The Justice will then, either after hearing from the parties or directly, recommend another process that may better address the issues that need to be resolved. This may include a recommendation for an Early Intervention Case Conference, Judicial Dispute Resolution or continued case management. Case management of family matters is currently only being continued in certain circumstances.

Q I was directed to appear at a domestic family special after attending Family Docket Court and I have a lot of material to file.  How should I file these materials?

A: The parties should review Practice Note 2 to ensure their materials meet the requirements and deadlines for filing. The Justice in Family Docket Court may, however, vary these filing deadlines as they see fit. All relevant prior Orders and filed affidavits in support of a domestic special should be included and if the materials are filed by way of email, the materials must be bookmarked so that the Justice can easily access the materials electronically.

Please review the following announcements for regarding email filing procedures:

New Email Filing Procedure
Guidelines for Documents Filed by Email or Digital Upload

Q: What is a desk application and can I submit my family application by a desk application process?

A: A desk application is a written request to the Court (with no in person hearing) for particular relief. There are 3 kinds of family desk applications available since May 8, 2020 – Notice to Disclose (Desk Application), Simple Desk Application, and Desk Applications with Written Argument (only where all parties are represented by lawyers). See the Notices to Profession and Public on the Court’s website for further instructions about these desk application processes here.

Once the procedure has been followed for a particular desk application and all appropriate documents filed, the clerk will forward the application to a Justice to review. Again, materials supporting desk applications should be bookmarked electronically and all supporting materials, including prior Orders, should be easily accessible for the Justice. Desk applications are being reviewed by Justices during the pandemic and are not limited to urgent matters.


Civil Matters

 

Q: I had a Civil Special Justice Chambers matter which was to be heard in June, 2020 (or would like to schedule a new special). How do I schedule this Special Chambers matter?

A: Since June 19, 2020 the Court has resumed the scheduling of half day Civil, Masters and Family Special Chambers applications province wide, via Webex video and audio in Edmonton and Calgary. See the announcement here.

The scheduling of these applications is reserved for parties who are unable to use the electronic with notice desk processes (i.e. due to lack of consent by Counsel, for example) as announced by the Court here:

Civil Justice Chambers With Notice Desk Applications:

With Notice Desk Applications - Civil Justice Chambers 
Family and Civil Regular Chambers  

Masters With Notice Desk Applications:

With Notice Desk Applications - Masters
Scheduling - Masters 

Q: What other matters can be considered by the Court for “desk” review?

A: Desk applications can be requested where the Court has already determined the relief may be granted through a “desk” review. These applications require that particular documents be filed. Desk applications are commonly filed for uncontested divorces, guardianship and trusteeship matters, and estate and surrogate matters.

Masters in Chambers can also review and grant desk applications in many circumstances. These include matters that do not require notice under the Alberta Rules of Court, any matter that is not formally opposed, or matters where the other side has consented. Masters can also do most routine bankruptcy matters, discharge applications after a Conditional Order, or taxation of Trustee's accounts by way of desk applications. The procedure to have a Master review a desk application is to submit an application and, at a minimum, a draft Order and an Affidavit. See the announcement here.

Once the procedure has been followed for a particular desk application and all appropriate documents filed, the clerk will forward them to a Justice or Master to review.

Desk applications are being reviewed by Justices and Masters during the pandemic and are not limited to more urgent matters.

Q: How can I get my Consent Order reviewed and signed by a Justice or Master?

A: All Consent Orders are being reviewed and are not limited to urgent matters. Your document will be reviewed by the Clerk’s office, forwarded to the Master or Justice for electronic signing, and emailed back to you from the Clerk’s office. Please ensure all relevant supporting materials including prior affidavits and consent orders referenced in the Order are included when you file your materials. A Justice or Master may not be able to grant the Consent Order if this material is not included.

Please review the following announcements for regarding email filing procedures:

New Email Filing Procedure
Guidelines for Documents Filed by Email or Digital Upload

Please submit your request only once.

Q: I want to appeal a Provincial Court decision or a Master’s Order, how do I file my materials?

A: Lawyers can file the appeal and supporting materials through e-mail as directed on the Court’s website. See the guidelines here. At this time, non lawyers must file their appeal and materials in person.

Q: There is a limitation period that applies to my legal proceedings.  Do I need to file my Statement of Claim?

A: It is best that you consult a lawyer to determine whether or not, and within what time frame, you must file your Statement of Claim. Whether or not a limitation period relevant to your case is suspended may be dependent on a number of factors. The Alberta Government has passed a Ministerial Order allowing the suspension of limitation periods in certain matters from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020. The Ministerial Order can be found here

In addition, Bill C-20 which received Royal Assent on July 27, 2020 enacted the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19). The latter legislation addresses time limits with respect to civil litigation proceedings and time limits included in federal legislation. It provides for a retroactive suspension in some cases. For general information and to review the legislation see:

Government of Canada’s response to COVID-19
Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) (S.C. 2020, c. 11, s. 11)


Individuals Accused of Having Committed a Criminal Offence

 

Q: How are criminal matters being scheduled and rescheduled? 

A: The Court of Queen’s Bench has continued Criminal Appearance Court (“CAC”) province-wide throughout the pandemic via Webex with regular CAC dates listed in the Court Calendar and those added in the Master Orders. Trials are currently being scheduled and heard in the fall term.

Q: I am in custody, do I have to appear in person for my detention review or arraignment?

A: No. Arrangements can be made to appear by way of CCTV or if not available, by audioconference.


Jury Selection

 

Q: I have received a summons directing me to attend at the courthouse for jury selection, what should I do?

A: Criminal jury selections and jury trials will resume, effective September 8, 2020. All criminal jury trials currently scheduled for the fall 2020 term are therefore expected to proceed.

Currently, most courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms within existing court facilities – including the Edmonton Law Courts and the Calgary Courts Centre – are not designed to ensure adequate physical distancing for all parties. Therefore, to ensure the safety of everyone involved, jury selections and jury trials will for the most part be held offsite. Approximately 12 locations across Alberta may host jury trials in halls, hotels and community centres.

Jury summonses have already been issued for the first offsite jury selections in Calgary and Edmonton. Offsite jury selections in other Judicial Centres will follow shortly thereafter. All jury summonses will be accompanied by a “Juror Summons and COVID-19 Information” pamphlet providing additional information about the precautions that are being implemented to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

For more information on off-site locations and other details please see the announcement here and consult the Court's website for further updates.