Federal extension of limitation periods
The federal government is proposing the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19). It provides that the following time limits are, if established by or under an Act of Parliament, suspended for the period that starts on March 13, 2020 and that ends on September 13, 2020 or on any earlier day fixed by order of the Governor in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. A schedule is attached to the bill setting out which Acts or Regulations are being affected:
(a) any limitation or prescription period for commencing a proceeding before a court;
(b) any time limit in relation to something that is to be done in a proceeding before a court; and
(c) any time limit within which an application for leave to commence a proceeding or to do something in relation to a proceeding is to be made to a court.
The draft legislative proposals would suspend certain time limits and enable federal ministers to extend or suspend other time limits included in federal legislation to:
- ensure that Canadians and Canadian businesses are able to meet regulatory time limits and deadlines found in federal legislation, such as some key deadlines found in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and in regulations made under the Canada Labour Code, during these exceptional times; and
- protect Canadians’ rights and access to justice in the context of civil legal proceedings before the courts, by ensuring that individuals are not prevented from asserting their rights for having missed a time limit or deadline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislative proposals would:
- suspend, as of March 13, 2020 and until September 13, 2020 or an earlier date set by the Governor in Council, certain time limits concerning proceedings, other than proceedings concerning offences, before the courts;
- allow courts to vary the suspension within certain limits and take measures regarding the effects of a failure to meet a suspended time limit;
- allow the Governor in Council to lift such suspensions in certain circumstances;
- allow ministers, in respect of specified legislation, to suspend or extend time limits and extend other periods for no more than six months, and to give such suspensions or extensions retroactive effect to March 13, 2020; and
- allow ministers in the case described in the previous point to give specified persons, bodies or tribunals some flexibility in applying these suspensions or extensions.
The proposals would require that orders, along with a statement explaining the reason for their making, be published on a Government of Canada website no later than five days after they are made, for a period of at least six months, followed by publication in the Canada Gazette.
The draft legislative proposals will be available online for 10 days. Interested stakeholders are welcome to share their comments.
Practice Management Tip: Consider potential impacts of suspended limitation periods
When advising clients, consider the potential impacts of actual or potential suspension of limitation periods. In Ontario, certain limitation periods and procedural deadlines that are established by Ontario statutes, regulations, rules and by-laws are suspended.
Continue to monitor the situation. We will provide updates with respect to this proposed federal legislation.