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New remote witnessing rules to help Manitobans deal with legal services during pandemic: province

Cameron Friesen. THE CANADIAN PRESS / John Woods

Manitoba’s justice minister says new regulations for remote witnessing and commissioning will help a number of legal services go through smoothly despite pandemic restrictions.

Cameron Friesen announced Wednesday that the regulations are now in effect. Until spring of last year, most legal documents needed an in-person witness, but COVID-19 threw a wrench into the works and created a number of challenges.

Friesen said there were temporary orders put in place under the Emergency Measures Act, but a more permanent solution was needed.

“Remote or virtual witnessing and commissioning distancing options contribute to justice system modernization initiatives and enhance access to justice for people who might otherwise face barriers,” said Friesen.

“These regulations set out the processes to carry out specific legal services safely and in compliance with the current public health measures.”

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The new regulations allow for videoconferencing as an alternative to in-person witnessing with certain legal documents, including commissioning and witnessing under the Manitoba Evidence Act, Powers of Attorney Act, Wills Act, Homesteads Act, Real Property Act and the Health Care Directives Act.

Friesen said the new rules could also improve access to justice for people who might be unable to travel to other communities for the purpose of signing or executing certain legal documents.

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