Digital Brain
digital brain
digital brain

COVID-19: Ontario Suspends Limitation Periods and Procedural Deadlines

March 22, 2020 Litigation Bulletin 3 minutes read

With courts across Ontario suspending regular operations in the wake of COVID-19, the Ontario Government has now made an order suspending limitation periods and procedural deadlines in Ontario proceedings (the “Order”). The suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020 and will last for the duration of Ontario’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

The Order was made on March 20, 2020 under subsection 7.1(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act[1] (the “Act”). Subsection 7.1(2) empowers the Lieutenant Governor in Council, under certain conditions, to temporarily suspend the operation of a provision of a statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario.

Terms of the Order

The Order temporarily suspends the operation of any provision of a statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any:

  1. limitation period; or
  2. period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding.

The Order does not provide any discretion with respect to the limitation period suspension. However, the suspension of procedural deadlines is subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker. Despite this discretion, procedural deadlines should be considered suspended, unless directed otherwise.

Retroactive Suspension

The terms of the Order apply retroactively to March 16, 2020. This means that any limitation period or procedural period of time stopped running on March 16, 2020. The suspension will last for the duration of the state of emergency, which was declared under the Act on March 17, 2020 and is ongoing.

Examples in Practice

This Order brings respite to parties with claims that are approaching the expiry of a statutory limitation period during the COVID-19 emergency. For instance, the Order suspends the running of the two-year basic limitation period to commence a claim as prescribed in the Ontario Limitations Act, 2002.[2] Even for claims that are not approaching the limitation period expiration, parties should be aware of the impact of this suspension when calculating the applicable limitation period.

Parties are also temporarily relieved from complying with procedural deadlines as stipulated in legislation such as the Rules of Civil Procedure (the “Rules”),[3] unless ordered otherwise. For instance, if a party was served with a claim on March 10, 2020, the twenty-day period for delivery of the statement of defence stopped running on March 16, 2020. Another example includes suspending the period of time for the parties to agree on a discovery plan, which must be done within sixty days after the close of pleadings.

It is noteworthy that from the plain reading of the Order, it does not seem to suspend periods of time agreed to between the parties. The application of the Order is limited to suspending the operation of a provision of a statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario that establishes a period of time to take a step. For example, if parties agreed to produce affidavits of documents within thirty days from the date of the discovery plan, this Order will likely not suspend the running of those thirty days as that period of time is not established under the Rules.

Like with limitation period, parties should closely monitor the duration of this suspension and its impact on the calculation of procedural deadlines.

We are closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation and will continue to provide updates when available.

by Guneev Bhinder and W. Brad Hanna

[1] RSO 1990, c E.9.
[2] SO 2002, c 24, Sch B, s 4.
[3] RRO 1990, Reg 194.

A Cautionary Note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2020

Related Publications (5 Posts)

Featured Insight

Alberta Recognizes Privacy Tort of Public Disclosure of Private Facts

The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench recognized the tort of public disclosure of private facts for the first time; In deciding the recognize the tort...

Read More
Sep 27, 2021
Featured Insight

Real Estate Litigation: Summer Highlights

Even in the summer months, the legal news does not let up. Here are some recent decisions and legislative developments as we head into the 2021 fall season.

Read More
Sep 21, 2021
Featured Insight

McMillan’s Employment and Labour Webinar

Join McMillan's annual Employment and Labour Seminar on Tuesday, October 5th as we address significant legal developments and provide practical advice on responding to employee issues.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Featured Insight

Supreme Court of Canada Confirms: CCAA Super-Priority Charges Rank Ahead of CRA’s Deemed Trusts

Canada v. Canada North Group Inc. provided much needed clarity regarding the order of priority for unremitted source deductions in restructuring proceedings.

Read More
Sep 17, 2021
Featured Insight

McMillan’s ESG Strategy Sessions

The COVID-19 pandemic and increased concerns over environmental and social issues, such as climate change and systemic racism, have prompted conversations throughout global capital markets.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021