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‘Current health crisis’ suspends most Territorial Court proceedings


Many operations of the NWT Territorial Court will be suspended until after May 26 due to the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Yellowknife.

The suspension and associated measures “will be revisited regularly and adjusted as required as the current health crisis evolves,” stated Chief Judge Robert Gorin in a notice posted this week.

“While these changes will result in disruption and some delay, it is necessary to be proactive under the circumstances.”

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All Territorial Court criminal matters in Yellowknife – preliminary inquiries, trials, sentencings and hearings – involving adults not in custody and scheduled before May 27 are adjourned for six weeks.

Accused in custody will still appear via video link when their matters are scheduled.

Sentencings will proceed by video link on the date scheduled, but in all cases at 9:30am. 

All lawyers in all matters are to appear by telephone. The general public will not be permitted to attend court proceedings until further notice. Members of the media will still be allowed, in limited numbers, and must follow public health regulations.

There are also delays and cancellations for Youth Justice Court, Wellness Court and DVTO Court. The only civil or family matters that will proceed – remotely, by phone – will be applications to confirm child apprehensions or “other matters determined by the court to of a truly urgent nature,” stated Gorin.

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All proceedings outside Yellowknife – criminal, civil and family – scheduled before May 27 are cancelled and will be rescheduled.

As of noon Wednesday, there were no changes posted for NWT Supreme Court. The Covid-19 directive for that court was last updated on March 15.

The restrictions for Territorial Court are similar to those imposed almost one year ago, when the first wave of the pandemic prompted widespread lockdowns across the city and territory. Since the courts reopened last summer, precautions such as screenings, masking, plexiglass partitions and socially distanced seating have been in place.

In July, the Territorial Court started using two large conference halls at Yellowknife’s Explorer Hotel as it moved to address a growing backlog of cases. The large room allowed social distancing for the weekly docket, or scheduling, court on Tuesdays.

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