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Hinton courthouse operating on a reduced scale

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Access to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Appeal has been limited to essential services only due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of provincial courthouses and courtrooms that are operational have been limited, but Hinton is considered a base court location and is operating on a  reduced scale.

All jury trials between March 16 and May 31 have been suspended in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench (QB), though jury trials that started before March 16 are proceeding. 

Hearings in QB are limited to emergency and urgent matters only in which serious consequences to persons or harm to property could arise if the hearing does not proceed, or if there is any risk of loss of jurisdiction or expiration of an existing protection or restraining order.

Alberta courts will only be dealing with urgent criminal matters, involving someone detained and in-custody, urgent family matters, or child protection matters.

Other family, civil, criminal court or provincial offences and traffic court appearances have not been held since March 17. 

Public members are not allowed into courthouses across Alberta unless they are required for court matters. The Provincial Court of Alberta website urges the public not to come into a courthouse if they have been advised to self-isolate by public health officials, a doctor or the Alberta Health Services website; or if self-isolating as a result of travel or contact with individuals with COVID-19. 

Non urgent cases or anyone not in custody with a criminal court appearance in the Alberta Provincial Court between March 17 and May 22 will be rescheduled and posted online. Cases will be scheduled for 10 weeks from the original scheduled date or the next available court date after that.

In-custody matters such as bail hearings, sentencings with a priority given to those facing a time served situation, preliminary inquiries and trials, and youth criminal sentence reviews will still continue.

Provincial Court civil matters, including trials, chambers list applications and pretrial conferences scheduled to be heard prior to May 22 are adjourned indefinitely, while matters to be heard after May 22 remain as scheduled. 

Non-urgent family matters scheduled between March 16 and May 22 are also adjourned for ten weeks from the scheduled court date or to the next closest court date after that.

Any cases that deal with statutory limitations or deadlines, risk of violence or immediate harm, risk of removal of a child, apprehension orders, initial custody hearings, first appearance after apprehension, and mandatory reviews or show causes under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act, Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, Mandatory Drug Testing and Disclosure Act, and Mental Health Act, as well as warrants, and emergency protection orders will continue.

Family pre-trial conferences and child protection case management meetings will be conducted by telephone unless adjourned, and child protection hearing where the parties have consented to a return, supervision order, temporary guardianship order or permanent guardianship order will also be dealt with.

All Traffic Courts in Alberta were closed on March 17.

Those with an appearance, trial, or application during that closure can contact the court handling the matter by phone, email, or fax.

Traffic matters still have to be dealt with and fines need to be paid before the scheduled appearance, otherwise the court can still convict that person and issue an arrest warrant. Filing deadlines in Alberta’s court of appeal have not changed and requests for extensions, fiats and other administrative directions will be considered.