THE ADVOCATE 669
VOL. 78 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2020
WHY TELECONFERENCE TECHNOLOGY, NOT VIDEOCONFERENCES? ARE
TELECONFERENCES APPROPRIATE FOR PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING
Under the strong leadership and clear direction of its chair Diana Juricevic,
who did yeoman’s work (yeowoman’s work, actually), the Board saw, in this
crisis situation, an opportunity to engage in creative, divergent thinking.
Ms. Juricevic decided to use TELUS teleconference technology to conduct
oral hearings and trained her dedicated team of decision makers and
administrative personnel in how to use it.
Available videoconference technology, such as Zoom, was deemed inappropriate
for Board hearings because of confidentiality concerns, given the
highly personal nature of applicants’ medical records and other evidence
associated with mental disorder issues.
The Board has authority to conduct hearings by electronic means. Pursuant
to s. 34 of the Administrative Tribunals Act,5 a tribunal may hold any
combination of written, electronic and oral hearings. Rule 19 of the Board’s
Rules of Practice and Procedure6 states that the Board may decide to conduct
all or part of a hearing by way of electronic means to facilitate the just and
timely resolution of the application. Under Rule 19(3), a party can object to
electronic hearings by filing an objection and explaining how such a hearing
would cause significant prejudice. If the Board determines it would be
unfair to proceed by way of electronic hearing, it will arrange for an in-
person hearing at the “next reasonably practicable opportunity”. It is obvious
that the COVID-19 health crisis would make such a “next” opportunity
an indefinite prospect, likely far off in the future. Applicants eager to be discharged
from detention would likely consent to electronic participation,
and hospital or community clinic case presenters might also appreciate the
prompt responsiveness of teleconference hearings.
It is, frankly, both a weird and wonderful experience to “host”, as a Board
panel chair, a hearing via teleconference involving up to ten (or even more)
participants. Imagine this typical case: two physicians presenting the hospital’s
case, each using separate phone lines; the applicant phoning from a
hospital line; a witness on behalf of the applicant on the same hospital line;
the applicant’s advocate phoning from his home office; an observer
(trainee) from the advocate’s office (who is participating with both parties’
consent) phoning from her home; an interpreter (who speaks the applicant’s
language, Mandarin) phoning from his office; and three Board panel
members, all phoning from their separate home office lines.
Keep in mind that in this example, only the applicant, the witness and
one physician, when present in the same hospital room together, could see