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Courts must be accessible in time of crisis, says P.E.I.'s chief justice

P.E.I. Court. -123RF Stock Photos
P.E.I. Court. -123RF Stock Photos - Contributed

P.E.I.’s chief justice wants the public to know the courts are still open, but it might not be in the way people are used to.

In an interview with The Guardian, Chief Justice David Jenkins said P.E.I.’s courts are adhering to the chief public health office’s directives because of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain).

“The courts will always remain accessible even where there’s a crisis, which this is,” he said.

As the province continues to deal with measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, P.E.I.’s courts have taken steps to limit potential exposure while still maintaining public access.

The P.E.I. Court of Appeal and the P.E.I. Supreme Court have posted a notice on their website detailing some of the measures in place to protect staff and members of the public.

Those measures include adjourning most court proceedings and suspending all in-person court appearances.

The courts will still hear urgent matters using technology such as video or telephone calls, if necessary.

How to contact the courts:

  • P.E.I. Court of Appeal – 902-368-6024
  • Supreme Court of P.E.I. – 902-368-6023
  • Charlottetown provincial court – 902-368-6693
  • Summerside provincial court – 902-888-8187

Court filings are still accepted and further directions can be found at or by calling the registrar at 902-368-6669.

The provincial court has restricted access to only those people who are necessary for proceedings, including lawyers, witnesses, the accused, support workers and members of the media.

Priority is being given to urgent matters that involve an accused person who is in custody.

All other matters are being adjourned by telephone or video conference as required and people who are not represented by a lawyer are being told not to go to the courthouse to arrange a new date. 

Instead, they are being advised to call the courthouse in Charlottetown or Summerside in advance of their scheduled court appearance.

For the court of appeal and the supreme court, Jenkins said there is a sign at the front of the courthouse explaining that they remain open but only for urgent matters and filing court documents.

“The amount of contact is really down to a trickle because very little is being filed and … all in-person attendances are being cancelled,” he said.

Jenkins also noted there has not been an emergency yet that they had to respond to.

He said the judges are also still working on decisions from cases they already heard before the public safety measures were implemented.

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