By an Emergency Order dated March 20, the Ontario government suspended the running of most provincial limitation periods and procedural time periods retroactively to March 16 due to the COVID-19 emergency. This Emergency Order was revoked on September 14, 2020.
The government had previously lifted the suspension for Construction Act, Planning Act and support arrears enforcement matters—see below for more details.
The provincial suspension of procedural deadlines under the Emergency Order was subject to the direction of courts, tribunals and other decision-makers responsible for proceedings. Courts and tribunals have been regularly updating the profession and the public regarding deadlines and significant changes in processes (such as new e-filing protocols). Lawyers should not assume that court or tribunal procedures were suspended, and should review court and tribunal notices for guidance. Procedural deadlines that were suspended resume September 14, 2020.
Previously lifted limitation period suspensions
Construction Act matters: Limitation periods were suspended from March 16, 2020 to April 16, 2020. These limitation periods began running again on April 16th, with the same time to meet deadlines as there had been on March 16, 2020. To learn more, see our practice resource Construction Law: Resumption of Limitations Periods and Practice Management Tips.
For many Planning Act matters: The government suspended all procedural time periods from March 16 to June 22, 2020. Regulation 278/20 ended the suspension of time on June 22 and provides for the new time limits. Review the regulation to confirm any impacts on your clients’ matters.
Drivers’ licence suspensions under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act: On June 5, 2020, the government amended O. Reg. 73/20 so driver’s licence suspensions under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act can resume to enforce payment of child or spousal support.
Federal limitation periods
As previously reported, federal limitation periods and certain other time limits related to proceedings were suspended for a period of six months starting on March 13, 2020 and ending on September 13, 2020 inclusive.
Note, however, that while limitation periods set out in federal legislation have been suspended by the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19), this Act does not extend to time limits under the Federal Courts Rules or under orders made by the court. This follows from the September 3, 2020 Federal Court of Appeal decision in Reference re Section 6 of the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) (CA) 2020 FCA 137, which directed that the Federal Courts Rules, Practice Directions, judgments, orders and directions remain in full force and effect. For additional information about the time limits set out in the Rules and in earlier court orders, consult the Federal Court of Appeal’s Notice dated September 1, 2020 and the Federal Court’s Practice Direction dated September 8, 2020. Continue to monitor for federal updates.
Contractual deadlines or “limitation periods” remain in place
Note that some contracts impose deadlines for commencing an action (such as in many insurance policies). These contractual deadlines were not suspended by legislation. Tips to meet limitation periods and other deadlines
Review your files to determine the adjusted limitation deadlines: Limitation periods start running again as of September 14, with the same time to meet deadlines as there had been on March 16, 2020. Recall that not all limitation periods are 2 years. See practicePRO’s Limitations and Notice Periods resource to help you meet key deadlines.
Update deadlines in your tickler systems: Calendaring and tickler errors cause many LAWPRO claims so take the time to ensure that the adjusted deadlines are properly entered into your tickler systems.
Be extra careful with matters that have upcoming limitation or procedural deadlines: Consider issuing a claim or taking other necessary steps as soon as possible. Remember that courts continue to operate with modified or limited procedures so waiting until the last minute may leave you unable to meet a deadline. E-filing options are more widely available, so you may be able to file claims or other documents electronically without going to a courthouse.
Update your client on the status of their matter and the impacts of the pandemic: When advising clients, discuss the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and whether it may impact their legal needs or legal strategy. For potential and ongoing claims, advise them of the impact of the suspension and recommencement of limitation periods and the continuing need to meet court and procedural deadlines.
Review and promptly revise timelines where circumstances change: Make sure that all key deadlines and limitation periods are being addressed. Where set deadlines or schedules are no longer viable due to the COVID-19 emergency, promptly work to seek an extension. Work reasonably with your client and counsel to ensure that deadlines and schedules are revised as necessary.
Check procedural deadlines and continue to consult court and tribunal websites for further COVID-19 notices and updates: During the COVID-19 emergency period, many courts and tribunals introduced major changes to their processes. Some of these changes, such as e-filing and the use of CaseLines in the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice are permanent changes. Continue to monitor court and tribunal notices and other updates in order to be aware of further changes.