February 19, 2021
COVID-19 UPDATE: Limitation Period Extensions – February 19, 2021
COVID-19 UPDATE: Limitation Period Extensions
By Amelia Staunton, Justin Brunette, & Jorgan Tennant
During the first several weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, provincial governments across Canada took action to extend, or generally suspend, the running of limitation periods in their respective provinces. These suspensions were generally put in place during the first few weeks of March 2020. Since then, provinces have lifted their respective limitation period suspensions, or are in the process of doing so. Importantly, however, these limitation period suspensions have been lifted at different times across Canada. In this regard, we provide an update below for Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The Ontario government declared a state of emergency on March 17, 2020 pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act. Under this Act (and subsequently under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020), the government introduced a series of orders, including the Limitation Periods Order. This Order retroactively suspended limitation periods to March 16, 2020. The suspension expired on September 11, 2020 and resumed on September 14, 2020.
In Alberta, Ministerial Order 27/2020 suspended the limitation periods in specific acts, including the Limitations Act and Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, between March 17, 2020 and June 1, 2020. The total suspension lasted two months and two weeks.
The Ministerial Order further provided that any period of time within which a step must be taken in any proceeding, or an intended proceeding, is suspended for the same period of time, discretion of the court, tribunal, or other decision-maker as the case may be.
British Columbia is the last Canadian province to lift its suspension of limitation periods in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The suspension began on March 26, 2020 and will be lifted on March 25, 2021. The effect of the suspension is that the year that the suspension was in place does not count when calculating the end date of a limitation period.
This means that any limitation period that would have ended during the suspension has been extended by a full year. For example:
A slip and fall occurred July 1, 2018. The limitation period originally would have ended on July 1, 2020, but now ends on July 1, 2021.
Similarly, if a cause of action arose during the suspension period, its limitation period would be calculated as if it arose on March 26, 2021. For example:
A slip and fall occurred on December 1, 2020. Normally, the limitation period would expire on December 1, 2022; but now the limitation period begins to run on March 26, 2021, meaning it would expire on March 26, 2023.
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