Because of COVID-19, most Provincial Court proceedings are being handled virtually. A virtual proceeding means your hearing or case conference matter may be conducted by:
- a phone call from the court
- a conference call through Telus
- an audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams
See the Provincial Court of BC Guide to Virtual Proceedings for more information about court proceedings during the pandemic.
The following tips will help if you have to attend a virtual court proceeding.
How to prepare for your virtual court proceeding
- Be on time and available for the entire morning or afternoon court session. Other matters might be on the list.
- 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 2:00 pm, you should be available until 5:00 pm.
- Find a private space where you won’t be disturbed during the conference. If your hearing is by videoconference, use a space with a neutral background.
- Give yourself lots of time to calmly prepare before the conference begins.
- Think about what you want to say 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.
- Make sure all your papers are handy and you have a pen or pencil to make notes during the conference.
- Have water handy, but not too close in case it spills on your papers. Don’t eat or drink (except water) during the proceeding.
Prepare for an audioconference proceeding
- Download Microsoft Teams in advance, and try to get comfortable using it.
- 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.
- You might have to call into a teleconference. Make sure you find out from the court registry if that will happen.
- If the court phones you, the courtroom phone number is never displayed. The clerk will not leave a message with the courtroom number for you to call back. They will try to phone you a couple of times. If you don’t answer, the court may make a decision in your absence.
Prepare for a videoconference proceeding
- Download Microsoft Teams in advance, and try to get comfortable using it. Get familiar with your microphone, webcam, and speakers. Practise looking at the camera.
- If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s charged or plugged in.
- You must dress appropriately. Click the Provincial Court’s FAQ for more information on how to dress for court.
- Be prepared to join the videoconference at least 15 minutes before the proceeding starts. You can remain seated when talking to the judge and when the proceeding starts and ends. You don’t have to bow at any time during the proceeding.
If you have a lawyer
If you have a lawyer for the hearing, you might want to arrange to be together at the recommended physical distance for COVID-19 (two metres apart); for example, in a boardroom if that’s possible.
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 are appearing in court and on the record. You should conduct yourself accordingly.
You should address (speak to) the judge rather than the opposing party or lawyer. You address a Provincial Court judge as Your Honour.
At the start of the conference, the judge should explain how your matter will proceed. If they don’t explain, you should ask so you know how much time you have for your submission. If the judge has set a time limit on the conference, make sure you’re able to fit in the most important parts of your submission or evidence during the time you’re given.
At an audioconference or videoconference
- Make sure the judge is aware of everyone listening to the conference. Identify all persons who are present or can overhear the court proceeding. If your hearing is about a parenting matter, your children shouldn’t be present to hear the application.
- 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 object, respond, or comment, respectfully interrupt when 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.
- If you can’t clearly hear the proceeding, or if the clerk’s typing makes it hard for you to hear, tell the judge.
- Avoid using a computer to take notes, as your typing can also make it hard for people to hear. Shuffling paper also affects audio transmission quality.
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, so say your name first when you start to speak, and speak slowly and clearly.
At a videoconference
- Type your first and last names when prompted for a screen name. All participants see your name.
- Look at the camera, not the person you’re speaking to. Use the mute button when you’re not speaking.
- If the image and/or sound is interrupted, ask whether other participants can still hear you. If they can, continue speaking.
- The image reappears when bandwidth returns to normal. If problems continue, participants may have to turn off their video. If the session ends unexpectedly, try reconnecting.
- If the court needs to break (stand down) during the proceeding, the videoconference stays on. Turn off your microphone and webcam to protect your privacy. But don’t leave the videoconference.
All court proceedings are on the record. That means a clerk is present to record a virtual conference and make notes of decisions (the same as in-person court proceedings).
Just like with in-person proceedings, you're not permitted to record virtual proceedings.
How the judge might swear an unsworn affidavit by phone
The judge might have you affirm (not swear) the contents of the affidavit over the phone. The judge reviews the affidavit, asks you if you wrote it, and asks you to swear it’s true.