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. The Emergency Order will be revoked on September 14, 2020.

While the government has already lifted the suspension for some types of matters (Construction Act matters, Planning Act matters and support arrears enforcement—see below for more details), Ontario limitation periods will resume on September 14, 2020. Limitation periods will start to run again on September 14, with the same time to meet deadlines as there had been on March 16, 2020.

Previously lifted limitation period suspensions

While the lifting of the suspension for the majority of Ontario’s limitation periods will occur on September 14, the government has previously lifted the suspension of several types of limitation periods including:

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. For a preliminary calculation, you can consult our Planning Act Emergency Period Suspension Calculator.

– 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.

Procedural deadlines were not all suspended, but those that were resume September 14, 2020

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.

Federal limitation periods

As previously reported, federal limitation periods and certain other time limits related to civil proceedings were suspended for a maximum period of six months starting on March 13, 2020 and ending on September 13, 2020 inclusive, unless any earlier day is fixed by order of the Governor in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. Check for possible updates for federal matters.

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

  1. Review your files to consider the new limitation periods: Consider how the lifting of the suspension impacts the limitation periods for your matters. Recall that not all limitation periods are 2 years. See practicePRO’s Limitations and Notice Periods resource to help you meet key deadlines.
  2. Update deadlines in your tickler systems: Review how the lifting of the suspension will impact pending deadlines and ensure that new deadlines are entered into your tickler systems.
  3. For matters with 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

If you think you may have made an error, let us know immediately

If you think you may have made an error, notify LAWPRO immediately. You can do so online here. Providing early notice of a claim or existing circumstance in which a claim may arise gives us the best chance to help put things right. Late notice often allows small problems to become big ones, and can jeopardize coverage. Don’t try to take steps on your own to try to repair a potential claim. Let us know immediately, and we will help you determine how to move forward.