Importance of the Press

On March 26, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan further limited the businesses that can continue to operate in the province as a result of COVID-19.  Among the “critical services” that are to be maintained are local and national media.

Journalists across our province are continuing to provide up-to-date and important information to citizens. They continue to attend press conferences, ask our leaders important questions, try to digest and disseminate important health-related information and disabuse individuals of potentially dangerous misinformation.

Having reliable and professional information broadcast to a wide audience (through newspapers, television and social media) is incredibly important for our public officials to provide updates on this crisis. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, and Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, have, through the media, imparted daily updates on the medical risks and transmission of the virus. Our political leaders have warned residents through daily press briefings on the importance of social distancing to attempt to flatten the curve.

In addition to providing important health information, the media has provided messages of hope and resilience. Media organizations have covered:

  1. The outpouring of support for marginalized youth in Saskatoon: https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/the-helpers-in-saskatoon-an-outpouring-of-support-for-youth/
  2. Families working out together at home while practicing social distancing: https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/more-saskatoon-families-working-out-together-at-home-during-isolation-physical-distancing-1.4870362 and
  3. Veterinarians assisting pets from outside of their clinics: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-curbside-veterinary-medicine-animal-health-covid-19-1.5511951.

In recent years, the media has been vilified in some corners.  However, it is at times like these, that the importance of the press is highlighted.  We see journalists, every day, digesting quickly changing information, trying to weed out “fake news” and doing so at potential personal peril as they attend briefings and track down stories.  The media has proven itself to be a “critical service” to the public.

For more information, please contact:

 

Sean M. Sinclair

306.933.1367

Email: s.sinclair

Government legislative authority to direct measures during COVID-19

Saskatchewan has declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic. The province’s legislative authority to declare this state of emergency can be found under The Emergency Planning Act (the “Act”). Measures taken by the provincial government under the Act can include the introduction of an emergency plan, the control or prohibition of travel within the province and acquiring a resident’s property which is deemed necessary to prevent, combat or alleviate the effects of the emergency (with compensation). A provincial declaration of emergency and any subsequent orders will take precedence over municipal declarations and orders.

The Government of Saskatchewan has introduced amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act (“SEA”) and multiple Public Health Orders to combat COVID-19. First, the government has made sick leave under the SEA available to all employees, regardless of how long they have been employed. The government also introduced a new “public health emergency leave”, where employees may go on unpaid leave for the duration the public health orders relating to COVID-19 are in effect. Second, the Minister of Health and Chief Medical Health Officer have the authority to introduce Public Health Orders, pursuant to s. 38 and s. 45(2) of The Public Heath Act, 1994, to combat the transmission of COVID-19. As of March 30, 2020, some examples of such measures include the suspension of all schools and educational institutions and the prohibition of all public gatherings larger than 10 people (with some exceptions in settings where employees/patrons can maintain two-meter distances between one another). All non-essential businesses have been ordered to close and mandatory 14-day self-isolation has been introduced for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have come in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or someone who has travelled internationally. Visitation to care homes and hospitals have been restricted to family or individuals visiting for compassionate reasons. If a Saskatchewan resident or corporation contravenes one of the orders made pursuant to the Act, the provincial government has the power to fine that individual or business $2,000 or $10,000, respectively (see s. 16 of the Act). A full list of the Public Health Orders can be found at: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/public-health-measures.

Federally, the Government of Canada has legislative power under the Quarantine Act and Emergencies Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the Quarantine Act is to protect the public health by taking comprehensive measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases. The Quarantine Act grants the power to direct and control international travellers or others at entry or departure points of the country who might have an infectious disease. As of March 26, 2020, the federal government declared mandatory 14-day isolation for any traveller returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act. Fines and jail time will be utilized for those who break the rules.

The Emergencies Act, previously known as the War Measures Act, grants the Government of Canada power to declare four types of emergencies: public welfare, public order, international and war emergencies. Section 8 of the Emergencies Act outlines the exceptional powers granted to the federal government in a public welfare emergency, which the COVID-19 pandemic would classify as. Such powers can include the prohibition of travel to, from or within the country, the evacuation of people, the requisition, use or disposition of a citizen’s property and the establishment of emergency shelters or hospitals. As of March 30, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not declared a public welfare emergency but has indicated that is it not off the table.

Brett Maerz published in Saskatchewan Advocate

Brett Maerz was published in the March edition of the Saskatchewan Advocate with her article “Summary Judgments, Personal Guarantees and the Court’s Attitude” that provides an overview of how Canadian Courts have treated summary judgment applications relating to personal guarantees.

The Saskatchewan Advocate is a quarterly publication of the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association. Its purpose is to canvas new jurisprudence and trends in the law and provides practice tips and topics. The publication draws authors not only from Saskatchewan lawyers but from the bench, the medical profession, accountants, engineers, law professors and others.

Witnessing of Legal Documents

If you have ever been involved with a legal matter such as a transaction involving real property, the granting of a power of attorney, or execution of a Will, you may be aware that certain legal documents require the personal attendance of a lawyer to witness its execution. The COVID-19 pandemic presents obvious challenges for lawyers and clients to comply with the legal requirement to have a lawyer physically meet with his/her client to witness the signing of a document.

On March 26, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan enacted emergency regulations to enable lawyers to execute and witness certain documents by video conferencing (i.e. through applications such as Skype, Facetime, or Zoom) to allow lawyers to assist clients while maintaining social distancing so as not to put clients, staff or lawyers at risk. These emergency regulations apply to real estate transaction documents that must be filed with the Land Titles Registry, Powers of Attorney, and affidavits and other sworn documents. While certain strict procedural steps must be followed,  our lawyers are committed and remain available to help you in getting important documents signed and witnessed to ensure they will be legally valid in accordance with the emergency provisions that have been put in force by the government.

These emergency regulations do not apply to the signing of Wills and Health Care Directives. Please contact us for further information and advice respecting getting properly executed estate planning documents in place. Our office is committed to finding practical solutions to ensuring Wills and other estate planning documents can be witnessed in a safe manner. To this end, Robertson Stromberg has commenced several initiatives relating to workplace hygiene, monitoring lawyers’ and employees’ health, and following all Health Canada, CDC, and SaskHealth recommendations to maintain the safety of its clients who are required to meet with our lawyers.

Suspension of Non-Essential Operations of the Court of Queen’s Bench

The Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench announced today that the court is suspending all non-essential operations. As a result, most court applications, pre-trial conferences and trials scheduled before May 31, 2020 in the Court of Queen’s Bench are postponed without a firm date when they will be heard.

The new directive will be posted to the Court of Queen’s Bench website at https://sasklawcourts.ca/index.php/home/resources/covid-court-update.

What Does this Mean for your Court Case?

Unless your matter is urgent or an emergency, your case will not be proceeding until the Court re-commences its normal operations. The court directive provides examples of what constitutes an emergency or urgent matter, but they include:

Civil Cases

  1. Applications dealing with public health and safety;
  2. Preservation orders;
  3. Injunctions where there is significant urgency;
  4. Other cases where a judge has made a determination that the matter is urgent and can proceed.

Family Law

  1. Cases involving the safety of a child or parent, including applications for restraining orders;
  2. Wrongful retention or removal of a child;
  3. Dire financial need.

These are non-exhaustive and there is a different set of rules for child protection and criminal matters set out in the directive.

Realistically, this means that virtually all hearings are cancelled for the next few months. There is still the ability though to apply to the court in emergent situations to apply to return a child or to get an injunction/preservation order to ensure that assets are not dissipated while we wait for the court to lift these restrictions.

Pre-trial conferences and trials are going to be delayed significantly by virtue of this directive. Scheduling will re-commence in or around May, 2020, but there will be a backlog of cases caused by this interruption.

Conclusion

Everyone will have to be patient until this public health emergency is controlled. The Court is doing its part to protect the safety of judges, members of the public and lawyers. Importantly though, the Court has made arrangements to be available should there be an emergency situation.

Please reach out to a member of our team if you have any questions about this new court directive or whether your case is an “urgency or emergency” case that can still proceed.

Month: March 2020