NOTICE TO CLIENTS/APPLICANTS/PUBLIC/STAKEHOLDERS
The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission has put in place measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to protect the health of Nova Scotians working in and visiting Legal Aid Offices across the Province. Please review the information below regarding Legal Aid Offices. Also included below is general information as well as information received regarding courts and correctional facilities.
- On March 15, 2020 the Premier directed that anyone who has travelled outside of Canada must self-isolate for a period of 14 days upon their return to Nova Scotia.
- The Premier also suggested that any public servants that can work from home should have plans in place for their work.
- For information on COVID-19 and tips for reducing the spread of this virus and other respiratory illnesses, please visit novascotia.ca/coronavirus/
Nova Scotia Legal Aid
- These safety measures are being made with the guidance of public health officials and the Province and will be reassessed regularly to ensure plans are in place to limit the spread of the virus.
- We ask that you be patient when contacting Legal Aid and to expect delays in having your call or email returned. As a result of the changes in service due to the virus, there will be a large increase in the volume of calls and emails which staff must handle.
- Considering the communications from the Premier, where possible Nova Scotia Legal Aid employees will be working from home, but all offices will remain open and responsive, and court appearances will be covered.
- Appointments with Legal Aid will be held by telephone or video if possible. For those clients without easy access to a phone, considerations will be made.
- Anyone with virus symptoms, or who have travelled outside of Canada, should not visit a Legal Aid Office and should contact the office by telephone. Contact information for Legal Aid Offices across the Province can be found here: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/legal-aid-offices/
- If you wish to apply for legal aid, you can complete an application online from our website at: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/online-application/. With an expected increase in the volume of online applications, please be patient in waiting to hear from Legal Aid regarding your application.
- Some court matters will be done by telephone or video. In most cases clients will not be required to appear in Court, as lawyers can appear on your behalf. If you are a Legal Aid client and have an upcoming court matter, contact your lawyer regarding your court date if you have not already heard from them. Court directives are expected to continue to evolve so please watch Twitter or go to The Courts of Nova Scotia website at https://www.courts.ns.ca/ for current information, and contact your lawyer to determine next steps.
- Telephone Duty Counsel will continue to be available for individuals arrested or detained by police. Individuals who are in custody and wish to access this service should advise the detaining officer.
- All outreach into communities by Legal Aid staff will be suspended until further notice. Please contact the nearest office if you need assistance.
- Please visit our website at https://www.nslegalaid.ca/ for information regarding our services.
- Nova Scotia Legal Aid employees will not be attending committee and other meetings in person.
- Lawyers who are representing clients on Certificate will be notified by their local Legal Aid Offices regarding practices being put in place regarding Certificates and payment of accounts.
- Please visit The Courts of Nova Scotia website at https://www.courts.ns.ca/ for current information.
- Counsel or members of the public who have travelled internationally within the last two weeks, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, should not visit a courthouse.
- Individuals who are due in court who have travelled recently or are experiencing symptoms should contact their lawyer or the Court to seek instructions from the presiding judge in their case.
- General and Special Time Chambers matters in the Supreme Court (including the Family Division) will be conducted by telephone, unless cross-examination of a witness is required. The Supreme Court is also considering what other matters may be dealt with via alternative arrangements, such as video- and tele-conferencing. Safe distancing will be practised in cases that go ahead in person.
- All upcoming jury trials in the Supreme Court be postponed for a period of 60 days. This applies to all jury trials that have not yet commenced in court. The situation will be re-evaluated after the 60-day period.
- Members of the public who have received a jury summons requiring them to come to court for jury duty within the next 60 days, and who are not presently sitting on a case, are officially released from that summons.
- Jurors presently participating in a jury trial, are required to report to court as usual. Anyone exhibiting signs of fever, cough or flu-like symptoms should contact the Court immediately to seek further instructions from the judge presiding over their case.
- All civil weddings at courthouses are cancelled. Individuals looking to get married outside a courthouse can find a list of Justices of the Peace who perform wedding ceremonies on the Department of Justice website at https://novascotia.ca/just/Court_Services/peace.asp
- Communal water jugs and disposable cups will no longer be provided in the courtrooms. Instead, counsel and their clients will be allowed to bring their own individual water bottles, which they must take with them or dispose of at the end of the proceedings.
- Please visit Correctional Services on the Department of Justice’s website at https://novascotia.ca/just/Corrections/ for current information.
- Nova Scotia’s correctional facilities will be closed to all visitors until further notice, effective immediately.
- Lawyers who need to speak with their clients, who are in custody in correctional facilities, should contact the facility after noon on Monday, March 16, to arrange alternative methods of communication.
- During this time, inmates will be able to make extra phone calls.
- These public health safety measures apply to the Nova Scotia Youth Centre in Waterville, and the Province’s 4 adult correctional facilities: (1) Cape Breton Correctional Facility in Sydney; (2) Central Nova Correctional Facility in Dartmouth; (3) Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Priestville, Pictou Co.; and, (4) Southwest Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Yarmouth.