Guide to Videoconferencing Proceedings and Microsoft Teams
Last Updated: August 11, 2020
Tribunals Ontario is holding videoconferencing proceedings using Microsoft Teams where feasible and procedurally appropriate.
On This Page
- Who Can Participate in a Videoconference
- How to Prepare for a Videoconference
- Joining the Videoconference
Who Can Participate in a Videoconference
In the case of an open proceeding, the public may observe via teleconference provided by the tribunal.
In addition to the tribunal adjudicator facilitating the proceeding and any staff attending, only the following people are authorized to attend a closed proceeding:
- Parties such as applicants and respondents;
- Invited participants such as the parties’ counsel or paralegal, representative, witness,interpreter, and any other person permitted at the discretion of the tribunal; and
- Staff and adjudicators of Tribunals Ontario who may observe for training purposes.
How to Prepare for a Videoconference
The tribunal will provide a Microsoft Teams link and you must ensure that you have access to all related documents and tools before the proceeding. Contact the tribunal if you do not have the necessary applications and tools.
Parties are responsible for providing the link to their witnesses (if applicable) and informing them that they have to join Microsoft Teams at the time directed by the tribunal to give their evidence.
You may use a smartphone for the videoconference at the discretion of the adjudicator. The use of a smartphone is discouraged due to potential disruptions (incoming calls and messages) and the risk of running out of battery.
You will need a device equipped with a webcam and microphone and access to a reliable internet connection with adequate bandwidth. The device should always be plugged in to ensure the battery does not run low.
Tips for participating:
- It may be helpful to use a hard-wired internet connection through an ethernet cable as opposed to Wi-Fi for the device.
- To preserve sound quality, you are encouraged to wear headphones with a microphone attachment.
- It is encouraged that you test your mic and speaker/headphones to ensure that your voice is picked up and sounds can be heard.
- Be familiar with how to mute and unmute your mic.
- Become familiar with the features of Microsoft Teams and all support documentation. Make sure to review the Microsoft Teams User Guide section.
- Find a space with minimal background noise, as private as possible and with an appropriate background, where possible.
- Turn off telephone ringers, email alerts and anything else that could cause a distraction.
- Faces must be clearly visible during the virtual proceeding for all parties and witnesses. To the extent possible, the webcam should be positioned at face level, relatively close without back light. You may need to adjust your webcam settings and test your video to ensure that your face is clearly visible in the room, that you plan to be in during the proceeding.
- You should wear appropriate clothing for the proceeding.
Joining the Videoconference
You should join Microsoft Teams 10 minutes before the scheduled start time to allow enough time to login. If you have any difficulty joining, you should refer to the Microsoft Teams User Guide and/or contact the tribunal.
Once all parties and their witnesses have joined the proceeding on Microsoft Teams, you will be placed in the lobby/waiting room and the adjudicator will allow everyone to enter the virtual meeting room.
What is expected of parties and participants?
The same formal etiquette and protocol of in-person proceedings are expected in a videoconference. This means:
- At the start of the proceeding, you will identify any other persons present at your location. Depending on the circumstances, the tribunal may require those other persons to leave the room during the proceeding.
- You are not permitted to record the proceeding, unless given prior authorization by the Tribunal in accordance with the Rules of Procedure.
- During the proceeding, you must keep your video function on. The mic functions should be off unless you are:
- Making an argument or submission;
- Questioning a witness; or
- Giving testimony.
- You have an ongoing obligation to alert the tribunal if you are joined by anyone else during the proceeding.
- You are also expected to be courteous to everyone during the hearing and minimize talking over another. Due to technology use, there may be a lag between when something is being said and when it may be heard by others.
Rules for witnesses
To protect the integrity of the proceeding, rules for witnesses include:
- Witnesses are not permitted to testify with others present, without the prior approval of the tribunal.
- Witnesses should have all documents before them that are required when giving their testimony.
- Witnesses cannot be assisted by others during their testimony.
- Witnesses must inform the tribunal if anyone else is present in their location during their testimony. The tribunal may direct the witnesses to be alone when giving testimony.
Best practices for parties to submit documents
- Parties should file an electronic joint book of documents in a searchable and bookmarked PDF format. Parties should discuss whether the authenticity of the documents is admitted, or if there are exceptions, in advance of the proceeding.
- Hyperlinks for authorities referenced should be used, referencing citations available in www.canlii.org, and where not available to LexisNexis Quicklaw or websites of Canadian Courts.
- Whenever appropriate, a condensed brief containing only the documents and excerpts from transcripts and authorities to which you will refer during oral arguments may be filed with the tribunal.
- Confidentiality of documents should be discussed by parties and brought up to the tribunal prior to the proceeding.
- You should use the PDF tab number, page number and document name when referencing any submission/document.
- If appropriate, a separate collection of documents to be used for the examination or cross-examination of witnesses should be filed with the tribunal.
- You are expected to provide an electronic copy of any document they wish to have entered as an exhibit to all other parties and the tribunal.
- During a proceeding, screen sharing of documents can be done at the discretion of the adjudicator. The functionality is available via the Share feature as outlined in the Microsoft Teams User Guide.
How to make an objection?
- If you wish to make an objection, you should use the Raise your hand feature as outlined in the Microsoft Teams User Guide, turn the mic on and indicate that you wish to make an objection. Wait for the tribunal adjudicator to ask you for your objection and, if necessary, to explain your objection.
- If necessary, during an objection, the tribunal may exclude a witness from the proceeding. The witness will be directed by the tribunal to leave the videoconference and then contacted to re-join the Microsoft Teams meeting after the objection is dealt with by the tribunal.
Best practices for public proceedings
Public proceeding schedule will be posted on the respective website in advance of the proceeding. Members of the public who wish to observe a public proceeding conducted on Microsoft Teams will be able to do so via a teleconference. To do so, members of the public may need to reach out to the respective tribunal to obtain instructions.
Observers of a proceeding will be expected to cooperate with the instructions of the tribunal while on the call:
- You will be asked to state your name and the purpose for attending the proceeding;
- You should remain silent and mute the microphone throughout the proceeding;
- You should be prepared to remain on the call for the duration of the proceeding as the adjudicator has the right to “lock” a teleconference after the start of the proceeding to minimize disruption. If a teleconference is locked after the proceeding starts and you leave the teleconference, you may not be able to rejoin.
At the discretion of the tribunal, the public may observe the proceeding via Teams. The hosting tribunal is responsible for providing the Teams link and access instructions to the public. The technical limitation of Teams to be able to host a maximum of 300 participants at any given proceeding will be considered when providing public access to proceedings.
Whenever appropriate, interpreters will be engaged in a proceeding. The tribunal will follow usual procedures for engaging an interpreter and will provide the interpreter with instructions on joining a proceeding via Microsoft Teams. The interpreter will be expected to provide interpretation services as needed throughout the proceeding.
As best practice, the tribunal may provide guidelines to interpreters on providing the most efficient service. Participants who require interpretation should become familiar with the How to pin a participant function as outlined in the Microsoft Teams User Guide.
If you are disconnected from the videoconference and cannot immediately reconnect, you must contact the tribunal. If you cannot rejoin, the proceeding will be temporarily adjourned. The tribunal will convene a conference call to determine the next steps. In some cases, the adjudicator may adjourn the proceeding if they determine it cannot proceed fairly.