Frequently Asked Questions
This is a challenging and uncertain time and many of you have questions concerning your court matters. We hope to answer some of these questions below. This document should be read along with all of the Notices and Orders listed on the Alberta Court’s Website issued since March 12, 2020. If there is any inconsistency between the information in this document and the information in the Notices and Orders, the Notices and Orders in force will govern. Most of the information below can be found on the Court’s website here. You may also follow us on Twitter @QB_Alberta for real time updates.
The public health situation is ever changing and we will attempt to update these FAQ’s on a regular basis. These FAQ’s are divided into a Question about the Court’s ability to hear matters by way of technology, Questions related to Family law including the new Family Docket Court, Questions related to Civil matters, Questions related to individuals who may have committed an offence, a Question about Jury Selection, and a Question about the Court’s resumption of normal operations.
Hearings by way of video conferencing or other technology
Q: Why can my matter not be heard on the telephone, videoconferencing or other apps like Zoom, Face Time and Skype?
A: Justices are already hearing urgent matters by way of telephone and videoconferencing. With the recent launch of the Family Docket Court , family matters are now being triaged by Justices through video court appearance on a platform called WebEx. Please see the Court Notice issued on May 13, 2020 which outlines the new Family Court Docket.
It is also important to note that it may not be appropriate to hear all matters by way of video conferencing or phone. Legislation may require that a hearing or trial take place in person. We also need to ensure that the technology has an appropriate level of security; that a proper and reliable court record is generated where a record is required; and staff involvement is minimal so that public health is protected.
Please consult the Court’s website for updates. You can also follow our Twitter feed @QB_Alberta for real time information.
Questions about Family matters and the new Family Law Docket Court
Q: I have a family matter that needs to be heard. How can I get this matter into Court?
A: On May 13, 2020 the Court established the Family Docket Court in Calgary and Edmonton. All family matters for which parties seek some sort of relief now must move through the Family Docket Court.The Family Docket Court is designed to triage family matters in order to provide relief to families while lessening conflict, and reducing harm to children. Matters must be reviewed by a triage Justice in the Family Docket Court before any hearing dates are set down. To reduce conflict for children, it is not necessary for an action to be started or an application to be filed before a party can access Family Docket Court.
A party or parent who needs the Court to review issues related to parenting, child support and even property must fill out the Notice to Attend Family Docket Court. This form must then be filed, preferably by email, and served on the other party by way of email, text or other social media at least 5 days prior to the court date.
The Court will then review the matter with the parties in attendance by way of video conferencing and will direct the parties to a process which can assist the family. The Court will explore the possibility of an agreement, failing which the parties may be referred to a dispute resolution process before scheduling a formal court process, including chambers.
Please consult the Court’s website here for further instructions as to how to access the Family Court Docket and to check availability for dates.
Q: I had a domestic special in Calgary (or Edmonton) scheduled to be heard during April, 2020 when all family hearings were adjourned. How do I book this matter back before the Court?
A: The matter must be triaged through the Family Docket Court. The Applicant must fill out the Notice to Attend Family Docket Court in order to have the matter addressed in some manner, or rescheduled.
Q: I had a family matter that was previously scheduled to be heard in June, 2020. Do I need to appear for this hearing?
A: As set out in the recent Master Order #4 dated May 13, 2020, under News and Announcements on the Court’s website, your June hearing is automatically adjourned unless you receive notice otherwise from the Court. For any rescheduling the matter must proceed through Family Docket Court.
Q: I have a domestic special in Calgary (or Edmonton) scheduled to be heard in July, 2020. Will this hearing proceed and when are the filing deadlines?
A: Under Master Order #4 all Family Special Justice Chambers applications that were scheduled prior to March 16, 2020 to be heard after June 29, 2020 will proceed as scheduled. Where filing deadlines fell between the period of March 16, 2020 to June 1, 2020 Civil Practice Note 2 will apply.
Under Civil Practice Note 2, the deadlines are:
- Applicant’s materials must be filed and served at or before 4 pm on the third Friday before the week in which the assigned hearing date falls;
- Respondent’s materials must be filed and served at or before 4 pm the second Friday before the week in which the assigned hearing date falls.
Q: My family matter is considered urgent according to Amended Master Order #3 Appendix D as it involves potential harm to a child. Do I apply through the emergency application process or through the Family Docket Court?
A: For Edmonton and Calgary matters, go through Family Docket Court. For all other regions, apply through the emergency application process. If the matter urgently requires intervention due to imminent harm the police should be called.
Q: My matter is currently in family case management and my matter is urgent, should I contact the Case Management Justice directly or fill out an Emergency Application form?
A: No, do not contact the Case Management Justice. You must complete the Notice to Attend Family Docket Court form or, if you do not have access to email, telephone the same telephone number indicated for obtaining assistance in filling out the form. The matter must proceed through Family Docket Court before any hearing is scheduled and it may not be able to be scheduled before the Case Management Justice.
Q: Can I submit my family application by a desk application process?
A: There are 3 kinds of family desk applications available since May 8, 2020 – Notice to Disclose (Desk Application), Simple Desk Application, and Desk Applications with Written Argument (only where all parties are represented by lawyers). See the Notices to Profession and Public on the Court’s website for further instructions about these desk application processes.
Once the procedure has been followed for a particular desk application and all appropriate documents filed, the clerk will forward the application to a Justice to review.
Desk applications are being reviewed by Justices during the pandemic and are not limited to urgent matters. Accordingly, the parties should not fill out an emergency form under the website when requesting “desk” relief.
Questions about Civil Matters (other than Family Matters)
Q: I understand that the Court is only hearing emergency or urgent civil matters. When is a matter considered an emergency or urgent?
A: Matters are generally considered an emergency or urgent when serious consequences to persons or immediate harm to property may arise if the hearing does not proceed. On the Court’s website, in a Notice dated April 23, 2020 there is a link to Amended Master Order #3. Attached to this Amended Master Order #3, as Appendix D, is a list of matters which will likely be considered an emergency or urgent. This list is not exhaustive and there may be other matters which the Court decides are an emergency or of an urgent nature. The Court also has discretion to decline to hear a listed matter.
Q: I believe my civil matter is urgent, how do I request that the Court hear my matter?
A: If you believe your matter is urgent, you must fill out an online form to apply for an emergency/urgent hearing, which form is available on the Court’s website. If you do not have access to email, please consult Amended Master Order #3 dated April 23, 2020 at paragraph 15 and call the designated phone number for your particular area. A clerk will then assist you in filling out the form.
Once the form has been completed and submitted, a triage Justice will review your application to determine if the matter is urgent. You will then be advised whether or not the Justice has approved your matter for hearing. Filing deadlines for your material and the Respondent’s material will be provided in the Order that allows your matter to be heard.
Q: I had a Civil Special Justice Chambers matter which was to be heard in June, 2020. Will this go ahead?
A: Under Master Order #4 all Civil Special Justice Chambers and Special Masters Chambers Applications that were scheduled to be heard between June 1, 2020 to June 26, 2020 are adjourned until further notice, unless otherwise directed by the Court.
When court restrictions are eased or lifted, the Court will advise, through the Court’s website of the procedure that should be followed by the parties to reschedule a civil matter. New civil matters are not currently being scheduled while the Court schedules matters that were cancelled due to Covid-19. The Court needs flexibility to schedule urgent matters until the Courts can resumes normal operations.
Matters which were scheduled prior to March 16, 2020 to be heard on or after June 29, 2020 will proceed as scheduled.
Q: Are Masters of the Queen’s Bench (who also sit as Registrars in Bankruptcy) hearing emergency or urgent matters?
A: Yes, the Masters are hearing emergency or urgent matters such as preservation orders, extensions, renewals and service orders. The procedure to have a Master hear an emergency matter is also initiated through the form available on the Court’s website as described above. It is important to know that Masters do not have jurisdiction, for example, with respect to injunctions, appeals, applications requiring a judge’s order to be varied, settlements where the Plaintiff is a minor, or matrimonial matters.
Q: My matter has been approved for an emergency or urgent hearing; however, I want to cancel the hearing either because I am now ill, or my matter has resolved. How do I advise the Court?
A: If you are ill you should not come to a courthouse, but you must notify the Respondent and the Court. You are instructed to email the Court at the address listed in the March 26, 2020 Notice “Requests to the Court for Emergency/Urgent Hearings in all Criminal, Family, Commercial and Civil Matters”. If your matter has resolved, you must seek the consent of the Respondent and again advise the Court by email. If you cannot email you must telephone the Court at the numbers provided.
Q: What is a desk application? Can I submit my matter through a desk application?
A: A desk application is a written request to the Court (with no in person hearing) for particular relief. Desk applications can only be requested for certain matters which the Court has already determined may be granted through a “desk” review. These applications require that particular documents be filed. Desk applications are commonly filed for uncontested divorces, guardianship and trusteeship matters, and estate and surrogate matters.
Masters in Chambers can also review and grant desk applications in many circumstances. These include matters that do not require notice under the Alberta Rules of Court, any matter that is not formally opposed, or matters where the other side has consented. Masters can also do most routine bankruptcy matters, discharge applications after a Conditional Order, or taxation of Trustee's accounts by way of desk applications. The procedure to have a Master review a desk application is to submit an application and, at a minimum, a draft Order and an Affidavit.
Once the procedure has been followed for a particular desk application and all appropriate documents filed, the clerk will forward them to a Justice or Master to review.
Desk applications are being reviewed by Justices and Masters during the pandemic and are not limited to urgent matters. Accordingly, the parties should not fill out an emergency form under the website when requesting “desk” relief.
Q: How can I get my Consent Order reviewed and signed by a Justice or Master?
A: Consent Orders are being reviewed and are not limited to urgent matters. The Court will review and, if appropriate, sign Consent Orders. Please review the Notice on the Court’s website issued on March 30, 2020 titled “Processing of Master & Justices Consent Orders by email”. Your document should be sent to the email indicated in the Notice and will be reviewed by the Clerk’s office, forwarded to the Master or Justice for electronic signing, and emailed back to you from the Clerk’s office. You do not need to use the emergency form on the website to submit a Consent Order.
Please submit your request only once.
Q: I want to appeal a Provincial Court decision or a Master’s Order, how do I file my materials?
A: Lawyers can file the appeal through e-mail as directed on the Court’s website. The Court is also currently looking at ways for self-represented parties to file their materials by way of e-mail. Please continue to consult the website for further information. The deadline for filing the appeal may also be suspended, allowing you to file your appeal at a later date as described in the next question.
Q: I have a limitation period that falls before June 26, 2020. Do I need to file my Statement of Claim?
A: It is best if you consult a lawyer to determine whether or not you should file your Statement of Claim. The Alberta Government has passed a Ministerial Order allowing the suspension of limitation periods in certain matters from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020. The Ministerial Order can be found here.
Questions Related to Individuals Accused of Having Committed a Criminal Offence
Q: I was supposed to have a trial/appear in criminal court in May (or June, 2020.) When is my next court date?
A: If you are not in custody, all criminal matters coming for hearing from March 16, 2020 to June 1, 2020 unless otherwise specified by a Justice in an individual court proceeding, are adjourned to the locations and dates set out in Appendices A, B and C to Amended Master Order #3 dated April 23, 2020.
If you are not in custody, all criminal matters coming for hearing from June 1, 2020 to June 26, 2020 unless otherwise specified by a Justice in an individual court proceeding, are adjourned to the locations and dates set out in Appendix A to Master Order #4.
Amended Master Order #3 and Master Order #4 can be found under News and Announcements under Notices on the Court’s website in French and in English and contains more details about criminal matters.
If you are represented by a lawyer, you should also confirm with your lawyer whether or not you need to appear.
Q: A designation of counsel (Form CC2) has been filed. When does counsel have to appear?
A: If the matter has not been pre-booked by counsel, counsel is required to attend at the location and on the date as set out in Appendices A, B and C to Amended Master Order #3, or as applicable, Appendix A to Master Order #4. If the matter is proceeding by way of direct indictment counsel may pre-book the hearing, but will still have to appear at the location and on the date set out in the Appendices of Amended Master Order #3, or as applicable, Master Order #4, to confirm the hearing date. Where the matter is not proceeding by direct indictment, and the matter has been pre-booked by counsel, no appearance at the location and date set out in the Appendices is required.
Q: I am in custody, do I have to appear in person for my detention review or arraignment?
A: No. Arrangements can be made to appear by way of CCTV or if not available, by audioconference.
Q: What is considered of highest priority or urgent matters in the area of criminal law?
A: As set out in Appendix D to Amended Master Order #3 (April 23 2020), matters which are considered urgent are Detention and Bail Review Orders, Wiretap, Production and Related Orders and Fresh Arrest Warrants. Other matters that do not rise to the level of first priority, but which may need to be addressed in a timely way include, but are not limited to:
-arraignments for in-custody accused and Jordan-threatened cases; and
-criminal proceedings where there is a real risk to the fair and proper adjudication of the matter due to the passage of time and where there is consent to proceed by videoconference or audioconference.
Q: I have received a summons directing me to attend at the courthouse for jury selection, what should I do?
A: Jury trials have been cancelled until September 8, 2020. If you are a member of the public and have received a direction to appear for jury duty for a trial scheduled before September 8, 2020 please do not attend at the courthouse.
Q: When will the Court resume normal operations?
A: We hope as soon as possible. However, we are relying on the advice of public health officials as to when it may be safe to do so. These preventative measures will remain in place until we are confident that the health risks to those working in and appearing before the Courts is significantly reduced.
We ask that you continue to access our Court’s website and Twitter feed for further information as the situation evolves.
Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation.