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Chief Justice Martel Popescul, Court of Queen's Bench for Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan court drops most COVID-19 restrictions

Wednesday, September 08, 2021 @ 4:26 PM | By Terry Davidson

Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench has lifted most of its COVID-19 health restrictions but is not completely abandoning the increased use of technology adopted during the pandemic.  

As of Sept. 7, the court resumed most of its pre-pandemic operations in accordance with the province lifting its public health restrictions in July.

 Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul

Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul

“The Court continues to be mindful of its obligation to continue to hear and process matters that come before the Court, while simultaneously respecting the need to adhere to recommendations and protocols designed to keep everyone safe,” said Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul in a notice. “The Court continues to monitor the circumstances and recognizes that as the situation evolves further changes may be required.”

On July 11, Saskatchewan’s government announced that all “restrictions related to the public health order were removed as of that date” as part of the province’s “Re-Opening Roadmap.”

It was back in March 2020 the Queen’s Bench court, like others across the country, put in place a number of directives and restrictions to operations in response to the onset of the health crisis.  

Now, all chambers proceedings and pretrial conferences will be in person — save for child protection matters.

Still, Chief Justice Popescul’s notice stresses that counsel and litigants are being “encouraged to continue to make use of technology where appropriate.”

“Lessons learned over the past 18 months can continue to benefit the Court, counsel and the parties,” it states, noting WebEx is available for use in courtrooms and conference rooms.

“Where counsel or a party to a proceeding believes that the proceeding or a portion of the proceeding can be conducted by video conference without jeopardizing the integrity of the proceeding, they are encouraged to request that the conference, hearing, witness appearance or trial be conducted by video conference.”

Those wanting to appear remotely must make their request either at a pretrial or through the local registrar. The presiding judge will then decide whether to grant the request.

But Chief Justice Popescul made it clear that lawyers, participating parties and members of the public may still be required to wear masks in a courtroom if the presiding judge deems it necessary. The province’s Court Services Division will determine any requirements when it comes to the wearing of masks in other areas of the courthouse.

Still, some restrictions will remain. Civil and criminal jury trials will continue to be held in venues other than a courthouse “to ensure sufficient space in maintaining appropriate physical distancing for those participating in the trial process, including those persons who respond to a jury summons and those chosen to serve as a juror.”

As well, child protection chambers matters will continue to be done via telephone.

The notice stresses that people attending the courthouse must take “responsibility for their health and safety, and the health and safety of others with whom they may have contact.”

As of Sept. 7, 77 per cent of Saskatchewan residents age 12 and up had received their first dose of vaccine, and 69 per cent were fully vaccinated.

A total of 1,490,413 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given out in the province, according to the government.

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