Court closures and the exceptions

Effective March 19, 2020, revised April 16, 2020, by the order (the “Closure Order”) of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, all regular court operations are suspended and all matters scheduled to be heard are automatically adjourned. However, the Closure Order indicates that courts, at their discretion, may hear essential and urgent matters. Essential and urgent matters within civil litigation include:

  • matters related to public health and safety and COVID-19, including:
    • orders under the Quarantine Act; and
    • orders under the Public Health Act.
  • matters where there is a prima facie urgency, including:
    • refusal of treatment and end of life matters, including applications under the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act;
    • detention of individuals, including under the Mental Health Act and the Adult Guardianship Act;
    • emergency adult guardianship and committeeship orders, including under the Adult Guardianship Act and Patients Property Act;
    • housing evictions, including interim stays of orders of possession under the Residential Tenancy Act;
    • civil restraining orders;
    • preservation orders;
    • urgent injunction applications; and
    • urgent orders in the nature of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus and prohibition.

As noted the court’s decision to hear a matter is discretionary. This means that if your matter is not enumerated above, a court may still consider it to be urgent. Unfortunately, there have been no published decisions in regards to urgency within civil litigation at the time of this posting. For examples of urgency within family law, please review our COVID-19 Family posting, or for a personal assessment of your situation, please contact one of the lawyers at Hawthorne Piggott and Company.


Aside from the essential and urgent matters discussed above, as of April 20, 2020, parties who had matters scheduled between March 19, 2020 and May 29, 2020 may now, at the discretion of the court, schedule a telephone conference hearing if their matters meet the following criteria:

  • the matter is limited to one disputed issue, or (if the matter involves more than one issue) the parties have reached consent on some or all of the issues;
  • the disputed issue is suitable for determination by telephone and is estimated to take less than one hour; and
  • the disputed issue can be addressed on the basis of a single affidavit filed per party, no longer than 10 pages.

Limitation Periods

In a large part due to the closure of the courts, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General of British Columbia declared on April 8, 2020 that, effective April 15, 2020, all mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods would be suspended under the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2 (the “Limitation Order”). The Limitation Order replaced the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order that came into effect on March 26, 2020 and added the exclusions as discussed in our COVID-19 Construction post. The Limitation Order will be in effect until the date on which the last extension of the declaration of a state of emergency, made March 18, 2020 under section 9(1) of the Emergency Program Act, expires or is cancelled. As such, any timelines or time periods in ongoing civil matters (with the exception of those mentioned in our COVID-19 Construction post) are suspended until the provincial state of emergency is removed.


It should be also noted that on April 2, 2020, by order of the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, those persons who operate or provide essential services are protected from liability for damages relating, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19, if those operating or providing those services are doing so in accordance with all applicable emergency and public health guidance.