ARTICLE ● Courts working on policies on judges’ COVID jabs; Ont. C.A. staying with virtual hearings for now ● THE LAWYER'S DAILY Sep 8, 2021
Courts working on policies on judges’ COVID jabs; Ont. C.A. staying with virtual hearings for now
Wednesday, September 08, 2021 @ 2:18 PM | By Cristin Schmitz
The Ontario Court of Appeal and the Ontario Court of Justice, Canada’s largest trial court, are both working on COVID-19 vaccination policies for their judges.
“A policy regarding vaccination for the judiciary is being developed, but has not been finalized,” Jacob Bakan, special counsel to the Office of Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy, explained in an e-mailed response to The Lawyer’s Daily which asked what one of Canada’s most influential appellate courts is doing to ensure COVID-19 vaccinations of its members and court staff.
Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy
Bakan said the Court of Appeal is presently considering a possible return to in-person hearings in mid-October but, in the meantime, continues with only virtual hearings.
“In formulating our plans and policies regarding a return to in-person hearings, we will continue to be guided by public health advice, as we have been throughout the pandemic,” he said.
When it comes to courthouse staff, Bakan noted that workers are members of Ontario’s public service and, as such, “will be required to be fully vaccinated or undertake regular testing.”
The Appeal Court is also discussing with Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General about what policies apply to other people who attend at the courthouse, he said.
Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve
As for Canada’s busiest trial court with 383 members (including part-time judges) — the Ontario Court of Justice led by Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve, is also “considering vaccination requirements for the judiciary,” said court spokesperson, Dahlia Saibil, in an e-mailed statement.
Asked to elaborate, the provincial court replied “at this time, we do not have any further information to provide to you regarding vaccination requirements for the judiciary.”
The provincial court referred questions about vaccination for court staff to Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, given that its staff are members of Ontario’s public service. “The rules governing courthouse safety are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Attorney General,” the court said.
The Lawyer’s Daily is asking the chief justices and chief judges of all the courts in Canada what policies, if any, they have with respect to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for the judges of their courts and court staff.