Nova Scotia courts to continue mask mandate

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (November 15, 2022, 10:24 AM EST) -- Nova Scotia’s courts will continue to require that people wear masks while in courthouses.

As part of a Nov. 14 notice from the Executive Office of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, those entering courthouses were told that “given the unique position of the Courts, masks will continue to be mandatory in public areas of Nova Scotia courthouses until further notice.”

This includes lawyers, the public and members of the media.

Visitors are expected to bring their own masks. Still, there will be masks on hand at building entrances, the notice states.  

“Unlike other public spaces in society, such as restaurants, retail stores and government offices, individuals who attend court are often compelled to do so. Further to that, court proceedings, particularly criminal matters involving individuals in custody, often involve vulnerable segments of the population. As such, it is important to continue to provide a safe place for court matters to proceed.”

A courts spokesperson noted that provincial public health officials continue to encourage residents to mask up to help reduce any further spread of COVID-19. They confirmed that mandatory masking in public areas of courthouses has been in place since July 2020.

Masking while inside courtrooms, however, remains up to judges, states the notice.  

“The Nova Scotia Courts started lifting some COVID-19 restrictions in courthouses in June. However, judges still retain discretion on what happens in their courtroom and may require additional preventative measures based on the circumstances of the matter before them.”

For the seven-day period ending Nov. 7, Nova Scotia was reporting 35 new COVID-related admissions to hospital, 671 positive PCR tests and zero new deaths. (That same information page reported 15 “new” deaths from previous reporting periods.)

The decision by Nova Scotia’s courts to extend a mask mandate comes as hospitals across Canada continue to grapple with an overload of hospitalizations. As of mid-October, Nova Scotia was also struggling with its own spike in hospital admissions, particularly when it came to seniors.

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