Most Provincial Court proceedings (hearings and case conferences) now happen virtually instead of in person. That means your hearing or case conference might be:
- a phone call from the court
- a conference call
- an audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams
Make sure the court has your current email and mailing address. They’ll need it to send you important information about your hearing or case conference.
See the Provincial Court of BC Guide to Virtual Proceedings for more information about court proceedings during the pandemic.
The following tips will help you prepare if you have to attend a virtual court proceeding.
How to prepare for your virtual court proceeding
- Be on time. Make sure you're available for the entire morning or afternoon court session. Other people's conferences might be heard before yours.
- If your matter is on the list for 9:30 am, you should be available until 12:30 pm.
- If your matter is on the list for 2 pm, you should be available until 5 pm.
- Find a private space where you won’t be disturbed during your conference.
- Give yourself lots of time to calmly prepare before the conference begins.
- Think about what you want to say and write it down so you can explain clearly why your matter is urgent or why you need the order you’re asking for. Make notes before the conference so you don't forget what you want to say.
- Get all your papers ready in case you need to check them. Have a pen or pencil and plenty of paper or a notebook handy so you can make notes during the conference.
- Things move fast during a video or teleconference, so speak up. If you have something to say, don’t be shy! Say, “I have something to say.” Say this as many times as you need to. The judge won't know you have something to say unless you tell them.
- Keep a glass of water handy, but not too close in case it spills on your papers. Don’t eat or drink anything else during the conference.
Prepare for an audioconference proceeding
- Your audio conference might be on Teams or on the phone. Call the court registry and ask them.
- You might have to call into a teleconference. Make sure you find out from the court registry if that will happen.
- If you’ll be using Teams, download Microsoft Teams in advance and try to get comfortable using it. Microsoft has free tutorials about using Teams on YouTube.
- If possible, use a land line instead of a cell phone or cordless phone to avoid static. If you use a land line, turn your cell phone to silent mode during the call.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged and set to receive calls from unknown callers. Turn off call waiting. Make sure you know how to use your mute button. Don’t use speaker phone.
- If the court phones you, the courtroom phone number is never displayed. The clerk will not leave a message with a phone number for you to call back. They’ll try to phone you a couple of times. If you don’t answer, the court might make a decision without hearing what you have to say.
- If you're confused about the technology, you're not alone! It's new for everyone. Call the registry or an advocate if you need help.
Prepare for a videoconference proceeding
- Videoconferences are done on Microsoft Teams. Download Teams in advance, and try to get comfortable using it. Get familiar with your microphone, webcam, and speakers. Practise looking at the camera. There are free tutorials to watch on YouTube, made by Microsoft Teams.
- If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s fully charged or plugged in.
- Dress neatly (at least from the waist up!).
- Be prepared to join the videoconference at least 15 minutes before it starts. You can stay sitting down when you talk to the judge and when the videoconference starts and ends. You don’t have to bow at any time.
If you have a lawyer
If you have a lawyer, you might want to arrange to be in the same place for the conference if you can do so safely (2 metres apart) — for example, in a boardroom.
If you and your lawyer are on land lines for the hearing, ask your lawyer if you can message them privately from your cell phone during the hearing.
What happens at a virtual court proceeding
While an audioconference or videoconference proceeding can feel quite casual, you’re appearing in court. It's important to be respectful.
Speak to the judge, not the other person or their lawyer. Call a Provincial Court judge "Your Honour."
At the start of the conference, the judge should explain what will happen. If they don’t explain, ask so you know how much time you have. If the judge has set a time limit on the conference, make sure you can fit in the most important parts of what you want to say in the time you’re given.
If you have an unsworn affidavit, the judge will read it, ask you if you wrote it, and ask you to affirm it’s true.
At an audioconference or videoconference
- Make sure the judge is aware of everyone listening to the conference. Identify everybody who's present or who can overhear. If your hearing is about a parenting matter, your children shouldn’t listen.
- Pause after each point you want to make in case someone has a question, and to allow others to speak. Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking.
- If you want to respond or comment, respectfully interrupt when it’s appropriate so the judge knows you have something to say. On a videoconference, raise your hand to signal you want to speak.
- If you need a minute to find an answer or check a document, let everyone know so the judge doesn’t think you’re having technical problems. Say, “I just need a minute to think about my answer.”
- If you can’t clearly hear something, or if the clerk’s typing makes it hard for you to hear, tell the judge.
- If the court needs to break during the proceeding, the audioconference or videoconference stays on. Don’t leave the conference. But you can turn off your microphone and webcam to protect your privacy if you like.
At an audioconference
- When you answer the call from the court, say your first and last name.
- It can be hard to know who’s speaking during an audioconference. Say your name first when you start to speak, and speak slowly and clearly.
At a videoconference
- Type your first and last names when you’re asked for a screen name. Everyone at the conference can see your name.
- If the image or sound is interrupted, ask the other participants if they can still hear you. If they can, continue speaking.
- If problems with the image or sound continue, participants might have to turn off their video. If the session ends unexpectedly, try reconnecting.
All court proceedings are "on the record". That means a clerk will record your conference and make notes of decisions (the same as in-person court proceedings).
Just like with in-person proceedings, you're not allowed to record virtual proceedings.