In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the British Columbia Supreme Court (the "Court") has suspended regular operations at all of its locations from March 19th, 2020 to May 29th, 2020 (the "Suspension Period").1 In an effort to balance the seriousness of the situation with the principles of open courts and timely access to justice, the Court continues to hear certain "urgent and essential" matters, hold telephone conference hearings for limited matters and decide some limited matters by written submissions.
Urgent and essential matters
The Court will allow the hearing of some urgent and essential matters during the Suspension Period. The following list of corporate and insolvency matters can be considered as potentially falling in those categories:2
- Shareholder disputes or oppressive conduct that may require some immediate relief under the Canada Business Corporations Act ("CBCA") or British Columbia's Business Corporations Act ("BCA");
- An application for an interim and/or final order for an arrangement under the CBCA or BCA;
- The appointment of a liquidator, receive, interim receiver or receiver-manager under the CBCA, BCA, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act ("BIA") or the Law and Equity Act;
- An application for a bankruptcy order under the BIA;
- An application for an initial order under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act ("CCAA") or the extension of a stay of proceedings under the CCAA;
- An application for relief specific to restructuring procedures in a context of proceedings under the BIA or CCAA, such as authorization of a sale of assets, interim financing, claims process orders, adjudication of claims, meeting orders and sanction orders; and
- A time-sensitive application in a foreclosure proceeding, such as approval of a sale.
The Court has discretion to hear urgent and essential corporate and insolvency matters other than those listed above, and to decline to hear ones falling within the above matters. Each is decided on a case by case basis by making a preliminary on-line application to the Court.
Non-urgent and non-essential matters scheduled during suspension period
Telephone Conference Hearings
The Court has established procedures to enable parties to schedule a Telephone Conference Hearing ("TCH") for matters that are not urgent or essential and that were scheduled for hearing during the Suspension Period.3 However, TCHs are limited to the following circumstances:
- Parties must have had the matter scheduled for hearing during the Suspension Period;
- Parties will be limited to addressing one disputed issue or to bringing forward issues on which they have consent;
- Each TCH will be limited to one hour in length; and
- The issue(s) must be suitable for determination by telephone and on the basis of one affidavit per party no longer than 10 pages each.
A party may have an application heard by way of written submissions in lieu of a TCH if:4
- The matter is limited to one disputed issue; and
- The issue can be addressed on the basis of one affidavit filed per party, and no more than 10 pages in length, inclusive of exhibits.
1 March 18, 2020, "Supreme Court of British Columbia - Closure of Courthouses and Suspension of all Regular Court Operations"; and April 16, 2020, "Supreme Court of British Columbia Notice - Suspension of all Regular Court Operations - Civil and Family Matters (Revised April 16, 2020)".
2 April 2, 2020, "Supreme Court of British Columbia Notice - Suspension of all Regular Court Operations - Insolvency Matters".
3 April 24, 2020, "COVID-19 Notice No. 13 - Supreme Court of British Columbia Notice - Expansion of Civil and Family Matters – Telephone Conference Hearings (Revised)".
4 April 27, 2020, "COVID-19 Notice No. 14 - Supreme Court of British Columbia Notice - Expansion of Civil and Family Matters - Applications by Written Submissions".
Originally published 6 May, 2020
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