Update from the Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19

News release

November 6, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Justice Canada

Since the beginning of the pandemic, protecting Indigenous and other groups and individuals facing barriers to access to justice has been a priority. Restoring and improving the justice system for northern, remote, and Indigenous communities is therefore a pressing concern for all actors in the system.

Following presentations from experts on how the pandemic has affected court operations in northern, remote, and Indigenous communities, the Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 has published a document on the safe restoration of court operations in these communities.

The Action Committee identified some of the common challenges and concerns for these communities, suggesting ideas for change, as well as key principles that should be reflected in any future response.

The Action Committee is also of the view that any action taken to respond to the pandemic must be consistent with advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation of transformative change.

In addition, the Action Committee published a new Tip Sheet on Courtroom Symptom Appearance and Related Situations. This document outlines emergency measures that may be required to ensure the safety of persons present in a courtroom if COVID-19 symptoms appear, despite the implementation and strict enforcement of controls at the entrance to the courts.

Since its establishment in May, the Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 has continued to meet and develop national-level guidance documents as court operations across Canada gradually resume.


Access to high-quality, impartial and independent justice remains a legitimate objective for all Canadian citizens.  However, for Indigenous communities and those in northern and remote regions, achieving this goal depends, of course, on having additional resources, but also – and above all – on the commitment of all involved to reconciliation while respecting the various roles of the country's democratic institutions.”

The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C.
Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson, Canadian Judicial Council

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into stark focus the challenges facing the courts in northern, remote and Indigenous communities. These guidance documents are an important milestone. Coupled with the important work of the Action Committee, they will help us meet our goal of greater access to justice. All Canadians must have the confidence that the justice system is there to protect them. This is particularly true for those already facing barriers to access to justice, including Indigenous peoples.

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick facts

  • The Action Committee is co-chaired by Chief Justice Richard Wagner and Minister David Lametti, and includes the following members:

    • Hon. Geoffrey Morawetz, Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
    • Hon. Mary Moreau, Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
    • Hon. Lise Maisonneuve, Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice
    • Hon. David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia
    • Nathalie G. Drouin, Ad. E., Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada
    • Iain Stewart, President of the Public Health Agency of Canada
    • Renée Thériault, Executive Legal Officer, Supreme Court of Canada (member ex officio)
  • The Action Committee is mandated to ensure that Canada’s chief justices, provincial and territorial ministers of justice, heads of court administration, and other officials responsible for the administration of justice are supported by the best available public health information, practices, and resources as they work to adapt and restore court operations in response to COVID-19

  • The Action Committee develops national guidance, facilitates information-sharing and communication across jurisdictions, identifies common needs and solutions, and promotes a nationally harmonious approach to restoring Canadian court operations that places the health, safety, and the best interests of Canadians at the forefront.

  • The Action Committee’s work respects the responsibility of provinces and territories for the administration of justice in their jurisdictions and upholds the principle of judicial administrative independence, while advancing Canadians’ common interest in an accessible and safe justice system.

Associated links


For more information, media may contact:

Rachel Rappaport
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice 

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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