Friday, March 18, 2022

Does judicial independence empower Courts to conduct their proceedings in a way that puts the health and safety of justice participants at risk?  Further, is the health and safety of judicial participants (including lawyers who appear in court) protected by section 7 of the Charter? 

These questions are at the heart of the case the Association of Justice Counsel (AJC) has brought before the Federal Court which is scheduled for a full-day hearing on March 28th, starting 9:30am.   

Representing 2,600 federal lawyers and prosecutors, the AJC has a responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of our members is protected. As such, we filed suit in Federal Court against the Attorney General of Canada and the federal Courts Administration Services. 

While many courts and tribunals across Canada have taken public health and safety very seriously during this COVID-19 pandemic, troubling reports of inconsistent approaches by some courts and judicial officers have been reported. These incidents have often been accompanied by pronouncements that judicial independence or authority to control the court’s process are justifications for not conforming with reasonable COVID-19 public health and safety protocols.   Lives have been put at risk. 

In the AJC’s view, neither judicial independence nor the court’s jurisdiction over its own process provide the authority to endanger the health and safety of AJC members or other justice participants or to put them at risk. Since COVID-19 is unlikely to be the last pandemic, epidemic or public health emergency that Canada will face, it is important to obtain court guidance on the proper scope of judicial power where the health and safety of judicial participants is at risk.  This is important public interest litigation, not only for our members but also for the public and the administration of justice in general.  

For AJC members who want to observe the hearing, the instructions on how to do so are on this website: https://www.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/court-files-and-decisions/hearing-lists.

Alternatively, members can write to hearings-audiences@fct-cf.ca  and request to attend as an observer.  Please include the date (March 28th, 2022) of the hearing and the court file number (T-1030-21) in that message.  

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented world-wide public health emergency.  As of today, over 3.3 million people in Canada have been infected and over 37,000 have died from the virus.  Worldwide, over 450 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and 6 million have died.  The Core Public Administration has recorded over 21,000 infections.