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Ontario Courts take the unprecedented measure of suspending Limitation Periods
In light of COVID-19 and court closures, Ontario courts have taken the unprecedented measure of suspending all limitation periods and procedural time lines, effective Monday, March 16, 2020.
The Order was made on March 20, 2020 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (the “Act”). It states:
Now Therefore, an Order is made pursuant to subsection 7.1 (2) of the Act, the terms of which Order are the following:
1. Any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any limitation period shall be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020.
2. Any provision of statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding, shall, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding, be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020.
In practice, this means that any limitation period or procedural timelines in any Ontario action or intended action effectively stopped tolling on March 16, 2020. The Order leaves the duration of this suspension open and implies that it will be subject to review as the COVID-19 situation develops.
It is unclear at this time whether all limitation periods and procedural timelines will begin to run normally upon the suspension being lifted or if they will be extended. For example, if the period of suspension is March 16, 2020 to May 16, 2020, it is unknown whether all limitation periods and procedural steps which would have otherwise expired during that period will become due on May 16, 2020 or if they will be extended an additional two months. We anticipate that more guidance will be coming from the courts in this respect.