The Government of Ontario has announced changes to The Rules of Civil Procedure, which will take effect 1 January 2021. The main purpose of the changes, passed as O. Reg 689/20, is to provide for electronic alternatives to existing paper-based processes.

Videoconference: Hearings, mandatory mediations, examinations for discovery, and other steps requiring attendance may now be heard in person, by teleconference, or by videoconference under R1.08. The rule does not apply to case conferences, which are presumptively heard by teleconference.

A party objecting to the proposed method of hearing may do so by filing Form 1A by the earlier of (a) 10 days after service of the document proposing the hearing/step and (b) 7 days prior to the hearing/step. The objection is heard by telephone conference, with an open ended list of factors for the Court to consider in reaching a determination.

Electronic Signatures and Documents: Rule 4.01 is amended to provide electronic documents standards and to permit electronic signatures. These provisions apply to documents and filings of parties and also documents that must be signed by the Court under Rule 4.05, so e.g. Orders may now be issued and entered electronically.

Electronic Communications Authorized: Rule 16 has been amended to remove the requirement for a party’s consent prior to service of documents by email. Rules 14 and 59 are amended to permit any communication that the Court is authorized to make to be made by email, and to clarify procedure around the electronic endorsement of orders.

Hello Caselines: The system for filing and accepting electronic documents is called “Caselines”, and its use is mandatory under the Rules. Orders and Facta may be submitted in PDF or Word formats, while any other document must be in PDF format unless Excel format is appropriate. Compendia should include electronic bookmarks, while Facta and Compendia should include hyperlinked references to authorities. File names must note the document type, the party filing, and the date of filing in DD-MM-YYYY format.

Farewell Fax Machine: Provisions in the rules referring to fax, or to fax and email, are amended to refer to email only.

Remote Commissioning of Affidavits: The provisions requiring affidavits to be “sworn in the presence of a commissioner” are amended to provide for affidavits to be “sworn in accordance with the Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act, effectively importing by reference the July 2020 amendments to that act, which set out regulations for the commissioning of affidavits other than in person.