Proceeding with a Charter case by Statement of Claim
If you are proceeding with a Statement of Claim, you would follow all the standard rules for pursuing a civil action (the Alberta Rules of Court are located here).
The following paragraphs give a basic overview of the civil claim process. Matters can get significantly more complicated than what is outlined below. More information and forms for civil actions are located on the Alberta Courts website (here). In addition, ACLRC has compiled a list of online resources to help you pursue your action (here).
Exchange of Pleadings
After serving your Statement of Claim on all the parties, you must wait for the defendants to file their Statements of Defence. If served in Alberta, the Defendant has 20 days after service of the Statement of Claim to file their Statement of Defence and provide you with a copy. The Defendant has 1 month to file a Statement of Defence if service is effected outside Alberta but within Canada (Rule 3.31(3)).
Exchange of Information (Document Exchange and Questioning)
The next step in a civil lawsuit is document exchange. To start this process, the Plaintiff must serve an Affidavit of Records on all the opposing parties. An Affidavit of Records is a sworn list of all the documents that are material and relevant to your action that are or have been under your control. Sometimes Affidavits of Records contain thousands of documents, and sometimes a person has no relevant documents to list. In addition, you do not list documents in your possession that are privileged (i.e. communications between you and your lawyer, documents prepared with a dominant purpose of litigation, or communications about settling your dispute) in your Affidavit of Records.
You have three months after receiving a Statement of Defence to prepare and serve the other parties with your Affidavit of Records (form located here). Once the Defendants receive your Affidavit of Records, they have two months to prepare and serve their own Affidavit of Records on you (using the same form above).
After the Affidavits of Record are exchanged, the action moves on to Questioning. In a civil action, each party has the right to question all opposing parties (under oath) while a court reporter records exactly what is being said. All parties must either swear or affirm that they are telling the truth during questioning. Each side is entitled to ask (and have answered) questions that are relevant and material (and not privileged) to the action. Questioning is ordinarily given orally and in-person.
Once Questioning is completed, there is a period where outstanding Undertakings are fulfilled. During questioning, the person being questioned often:
- does not know the answer to a relevant question, or
- fails to provide a relevant and material document that isn’t subject to privilege.
If either of the above situations occurs, the person being questioned must undertake to inform themselves so they can answer, or provide the documents, within a reasonable time period. This collection of outstanding documents or answers to questions is known as undertakings.
Judicial Dispute Resolution
Judicial Dispute Resolution (commonly referred to as JDR) is a confidential dispute resolution process that parties enter before moving to trial. At present, JDR is a voluntary process, but the Rules intend for it to be mandatory so this is subject to change.
JDR attempts to settle a dispute by giving the parties an opportunity to put their best foot forward before a judge. While each JDR proceeds a little bit differently, typically the judge will read written submissions from the parties and give his or her opinion on the case. Judges can take different roles in a JDR, but often they will meet with all parties together, and then conference with each side individually. The judge will often point out the strengths and weaknesses of a case, and try to get the parties to a point where they can settle without trial. While the goal of JDR is settlement, any settlement is completely voluntary. If a case does not settle at JDR, the JDR judge cannot be the trial judge.
After all document and information exchange is completed (and if JDR is foregone or unsuccessful) the claim will move on to trial. Only a small percentage of cases ever actually go to trial, and it often takes longer than you might expect to get your case before a judge.
If the claim does go to trial, you will have to present your case in accordance with the Rules of Court (here).
The University of Windsor and the National Self-Represented Litigants Project have published a helpful document of tips and advice to assist in preparing for trial if you are self-represented (found here). If you have more questions about going to trial, you can find the contact information for trial coordinators for the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench here.