When in December 2019 Dr Li Wenliang alerted his colleagues of a virus he thought looked like the other coronaviruses (e.g. Sars) it is unlikely that even he would have predicted the circumstances that the world has found itself in today. Sadly, the doctor passed away early last month after he contracted the disease, while treating patients in Wuhan, China. We have now come to call the novel Coronavirus Disease, “COVID-19”. On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (“WHO”) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. Two weeks later, with the number of confirmed cases and deaths from the disease increasing in various parts of the world, governments and their agencies and the public are now using technology to engage in business operations while maintaining responsible social distancing.
The government of Canada has provided the public with resources to help combat COVID-19 at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
As of March 23, 2020, 6:00 p.m. EDT the official confirmed number of COVID-19 in Canada was 1,646, after 107,147 people having been tested. We know that we must do our part to reduce the likelihood that our healthcare system becomes overwhelmed with too many new cases all at once. As such there have been several areas of legal practice that has changed or been delayed until further notice. The province of Ontario has made certain declarations of which our clients should therefore be aware.
All family trials previously scheduled between Friday March 20, 2020 and Friday May 29, 2020 are suspended, subject to a judge seized with a continuing matter ordering otherwise.
All non-urgent matters, including trials, are adjourned for 8-12 weeks. Details of the new schedules would be provided at a later date.
All onsite family mediation and information services are being suspended until further notice. Where possible these services may be offered remotely, including online or by phone.
Canada is currently denying boarding to most foreign nationals, on flights to Canada coming from all countries. Only Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, or their immediate family members, who show none of the symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to board, and all travellers will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry into Canada.
Travel across the Canada–US border Canada is temporarily restricted for all non-essential travel across, including by Canadian citizens, permanent residents wishing to return to Canada.
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (“IRB”) front offices are closed until further notice. All in-person hearings and mediations, except detention reviews are postponed until after May 3, 2020.
The processing times for all applications to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) may experience disruptions caused by the COVID-19.
Given that the Succession Law Reform Act which governs how a Will has to be executed in order to be valid requires that the testator and witnesses be “in the presence of” each other, while signing the document, we will not be having any virtual estate planning appointments. This requirement has been held to mean that all parties are in the same room at the time of signing. We are not in a position to witness the signatures virtually.
We are however able to set up remote video consultations with potential Estate Planning clients.
Our lawyers would be in touch with our clients that have matters scheduled during this relevant period. Client meetings with our lawyers remain available via telephone and other online tools.
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