COVID-19 Court Recovery Operations
Last updated: December 1, 2020
On this page:
- Court operations update
- Courthouse safety measures
- Expectations for those attending courthouses
- Public access and media
- More information
The November 24, 2020 order by the Solicitor General Emergency Program Act made it mandatory for face coverings/masks to be worn in all indoor public spaces and common areas – including courthouses.
Since the onset of COVID-19, BC’s Provincial Health Officer has spoken about the importance of physical distancing, regular hand washing and hand and respiratory etiquette to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces and communities.
Those who attend courthouses in British Columbia are required to wear a face mask or face covering, including in entrances, lobbies, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. Face masks are required in courtrooms unless the presiding judge, justice, master or registrar directs otherwise.
All courthouses in British Columbia are supported by comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety plans. All staff and court users are to wear a face covering or mask while in a courthouse, especially where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Masks are available at courthouse entrances.
The requirement to wear a face covering or mask does not apply:
- to a child who is less than twelve years of age,
- to a person who is unable to wear a face mask or face covering because of (i) a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or (ii) a physical, cognitive or mental impairment,
- to a person who is unable to put on or remove a face mask or face covering without the assistance of another person, or
- if the face mask or face covering is removed temporarily for the purpose of identifying the person wearing it.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and exposure control plans were developed that follow the guidance of the Public Health Officer, WorkSafeBC and Public Service Agency.
These safety measures include:
- Enhanced inspection, cleaning and disinfecting of all public spaces. All touchpoints are disinfected after use, including public seating areas, witness stands and desks
- Installation of plexiglass barriers
- Hand wash stations and hand sanitizers
- Increased signage to promote physical distancing
- Some courtrooms have been reconfigured to accommodate physical distancing
- Masks are required in entrances, lobbies, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairs, restrooms and elevators. Masks are also required in courtrooms unless directed otherwise
- Information and health screening by Sheriffs for people attending the courthouse. Those entering a courthouse are subject to a pre-screening process that includes answering specific questions regarding health and travel
- Restricting or delaying access to the courthouse at the discretion of the Sheriffs or at the direction of a judge based on health and safety considerations and maximum building occupancy
- To reduce the need to physically attend the courthouse, the court registry accepts filings through Court Services Online, mail, email or fax. Court users are encouraged to use those options wherever possible
All persons should enter a courthouse via the door that is the court’s street address or as directed by sheriffs -- Find a courthouse address.
Those entering will be subject to a verbal health screening process.
Access to the courthouse may be delayed or restricted at the discretion of the sheriff and/or direction of the judge based on health and safety considerations and maximum building occupancy.
Court attendees are to maintain two metres of physical distance during the screening process.
Food and beverages are still not permitted in the courtroom. Counsel, parties, witnesses and interpreters may bring water in clear bottles up to one litre.
Witnesses will be affirmed by default.
- If an oath is desired, the witness must bring in their own Holy Book, other religious book or sacred object to court.
- The witness will take the article with them when leaving court.
Courtrooms may be re-configured to accommodate physical distancing and may involve different seating arrangements. Please abide by the new courtroom configurations and follow the directions of the judge and/or sheriff, as acoustics and sight lines are a critical consideration for courtroom proceedings.
All efforts will be made to provide public access to the courthouse and court proceedings.
Depending on the number of people who want to access a courthouse or courtroom, entry may be restricted or delayed so as to ensure Public Health guidelines can be met. In-person attendance is subject to compliance with the Public Health Orders and specific judicial direction as it pertains to courthouses and courtrooms.
All people attending courthouses in British Columbia are asked to be familiar with all health and safety protocols and to cooperate in following them in order to protect everyone in courthouses in this province.
Go to the Court house factsheets to see the many safety measures that are in place to protect the public at the Abbotsford and Surrey Courthouses.
Check the BC Centre for Disease Control website for information about symptoms, facial masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and other timely topics.
Consult the websites of the relevant court for updated directions and notices.