Following announcements regarding the suspension of regular operations of Ontario courts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Government has made an order (the “Order”) suspending limitation periods and procedural deadlines in Ontario proceedings.

On March 20, 2020, the Ontario Government filed the Order under subsection 7.1(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which grants the Lieutenant Governor in Council the power to temporarily suspend the operation of a provision of a statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario under certain conditions, including if the order would “facilitate providing assistance to victims of the emergency or would otherwise help victims or other persons to deal with the emergency and its aftermath.” ¹

According to the Order, any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario that establishes a limitation period OR establishes any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding, shall be suspended though the latter is subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal, or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding.

The suspension shall last for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020. This means that any limitation period or procedural delay stopped running on March 16, 2020.

The basic limitation period to commence a claim as prescribed in the Ontario Limitations Act, 2002 is two years, and so parties that are reaching this time limitation will find temporary relief in knowing that such provision is currently suspended. Those parties whose claims are not approaching the time limitation should keep in mind that once this emergency period ends, calculations regarding applicable limitation periods will have to take the suspension into account. This includes procedural deadlines calculations as well.

It is interesting to note that prior to the 2002 SARS outbreak in Canada, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, 2002 did not include emergencies relating to disease or health risks. There is comfort in knowing that legislative authorities are able to apply lessons learned from past emergency situations today.

HazloLaw – Business Lawyers will continue to provide updates when available.

¹ Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, section 7.1(3)(3).