Some Provincial Court family proceedings (conferences and pre-trial applications) take place virtually instead of in person. That means your proceeding might be:
- a phone call from the court,
- an audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams (MS Teams), or
- a hybrid proceeding (where some people participate remotely by phone or MS teams, while other attend in person).
The court registry will provide you with the information you need to connect to your court appearance. Make sure the court has your current email and mailing address. If you know that you'll be receiving an invitation to attend a proceeding, check your inbox and spam folder to make sure you receive the email from the court.
Before attending the court appearance, you must read:
- Remote Attendance in the Provincial Court (NP 21)
- Guide for Appearing in the Provincial Court Using Microsoft Teams
- Policy on Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms
- Access to Court Proceedings
If you're not clear about what to do, call the registry. If you miss your conference or pre-trial application because of a technical reason, you'll still have to obey orders made in your absence.
How to prepare for your remote court proceeding and remote attendance
- 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 2:00 pm, you should be available until 5:00 pm.
- Find a quiet and private space, with a neutral background, 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 MS Teams, on the phone, or you might have to call into a teleconference.
- If you’ll be using Teams, download MS 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 keep a charger nearby. Set your phone to receive calls from unknown callers and 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.
Prepare for a videoconference proceeding
- Videoconferences are done on MS Teams. Download Teams in advance, and try to get comfortable using it in the location you plan to use during the hearing. Get familiar with your microphone, webcam, and speakers. Practise looking at the camera. There are free tutorials to watch on YouTube, made by MS Teams.
- You should use your camera unless there's a technical issue or other reason. If you can’t use your camera, let the court know at the beginning of the proceedings. You may turn off your camera when you aren't speaking, unless the judge or justice asks you to keep it on.
- If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s fully charged or plugged in. If you're using a smartphone, flip your phone horizontally to enable landscape mode so your full headshot displays.
- 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're confused about the technology, you're not alone; it's new for everyone. While the court can't provide technical support, you can email the Canadian Bar Association of BC (CBABC) at firstname.lastname@example.org for help with preparing for a MS Teams hearing. See also this CBABC video about MS Teams and Virtual Hearings in the Provincial Court of BC.
If you have a lawyer
If you have a lawyer, you might want to arrange to be in the same place for the conference; 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 remote 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 to the other person or their lawyer. Call a Provincial Court judge "Your Honour."
At the start of the proceeding, 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 proceeding, 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 swear or 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 should be out of earshot.
- 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 proceeding
- 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 proceeding
- 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.