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COVID-19: Effects on Canadian civil procedures, limitation periods

Thursday, April 23, 2020 @ 2:42 PM | By Pamela D. Pengelley and Charles Batrouny

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Pamela D. Pengelley
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Charles Batrouny
The emergency measures that have been taken across the provinces to address the COVID-19 crisis have significantly impacted our court systems. Here is how recent developments may affect your civil matters (current to April 20):

Limitation periods

Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have suspended limitation periods commencing March 15, 15 and 26, respectively, until the emergency period is over. Alberta has suspended from March 17 to June 1, when time resumes running, and the temporary suspension shall not be counted.

Procedural directives 

Procedural directives are in a state of flux and continually being updated. Some provinces/territories have suspended procedural deadlines, while others have relaxed them by varying degrees, subject to the discretion of their courts. Most regions are asking parties to only file essential and urgent documents. Generally, the courts of every province and territory in Canada have taken steps in facilitating the e-filing of documents, and certain regions have permitted the swearing of affidavits by videoconferencing as an alternative means of commissioning.

Given the impact of the state of emergency on our court systems, there will be obstacles and delays to investigating, filing and serving new claims and other court documents. Provincial/territorial approaches to procedural deadlines are as follows:

  • Alberta: Suspended until June 1, subject to the discretion of the court.

  • British Columbia: Usual time frames for filing trial briefs and trial certificates are suspended. The court has implemented e-filing using court cervices online and now provides for affidavits to be sworn by videoconferencing.

  • Manitoba: Not suspended, but counsel and parties are requested to file only essential court documents (i.e., to toll an applicable limitation date or required for an upcoming court hearing).

  • New Brunswick: Not suspended and e-filing is available.

  • Newfoundland: Filing deadlines have been suspended for all non-urgent matters. The court will grant extensions of time for filing when normal operations resume. This does not apply to filing deadlines or periods set out in other legislation. E-filing is allowed.

  • Northwest Territories: Not suspended.

  • Nova Scotia: Suspended until further notice. Documents may be filed electronically. Affidavits may be sworn by videoconference. Personal service by e-mail is now permitted.

  • Nunavut: Not suspended, but court will be flexible. Where procedural rules or court orders require the delivery of documents and such delivery is not possible, parties can expect the court to grant extensions of time once normal operations resume.

  • Ontario: Suspended, subject to court discretion. Directives have been issued for commissioning affidavits by videoconference.

  • P.E.I.: Only urgent and emergency hearings and document filing can occur. Affidavits can be “insufficiently sworn,” with an undertaking for proper swearing once the emergency has ended.

  • Quebec: Suspended, other than for emergency/urgent matters.

  • Saskatchewan: Not suspended. Documents to be filed should be placed in an envelope and delivered either to a drop box located in the hallway or on the local registrar counter.

  • Yukon: Not suspended. E-filing is now accepted.

Suspension of civil hearings except for urgent matters

Most civil courts have suspended regular operations until further notice. Most courts will hear only essential and urgent matters and have provided guidance on matters currently set for hearings. Court offices must be contacted for specifics.

  • Alberta: All non-urgent civil and family matters scheduled for hearing before May 22 are adjourned sine die, unless otherwise directed by the court. Counsel may submit signed master and justice consent orders for processing through e-mail.

  • British Columbia: All civil matters scheduled for hearing before May 29 are adjourned, unless the court otherwise directs. Courts have discretion to allow matters to proceed by teleconference or in writing, with consent of all parties.

  • Manitoba: All non-emergency civil matters are adjourned sine die. Civil pretrial and case management conferences may proceed for new and ongoing matters by teleconference.

  • New Brunswick: All non-essential or non-urgent matters are being adjourned until further notice. Certain matters may proceed via telephone conference call as directed by the judge responsible for motions days. Matters that may be considered in chambers will continue.

  • Newfoundland: All civil matters scheduled to be heard after March 18 are adjourned, without parties having to attend court. Only matters deemed necessary and appropriate to be heard on an urgent basis will be heard.

  • Northwest Territories: All matters will proceed by phone, unless directed otherwise.

  • Nova Scotia: Non-urgent civil matters are not proceeding, subject to court discretion.

  • Nunavut: Non-special chambers civil appearances will be held via phone. Every civil appearance, where required, will occur via phone. All special chambers civil appearances have been adjourned sine die.

  • Ontario: Generally, consent motions in writing may be submitted to courts across Ontario. In Toronto, select pretrial conferences, Rule 7 applications, Rule 7 motions and other applications and motions in writing that are proceeding on consent of all parties, will be heard. Outside of Toronto, in most regions, opposed motions in writing may also be submitted, and certain other non-urgent matters may be heard. Court websites and notices to the profession should be consulted for additional information.

  • P.E.I.: All in-person court appearances, other than urgent or emergency matters, are suspended until further notice.

  • Quebec: All hearings have been suspended except urgent and emergency matters.

  • Saskatchewan: Urgent matters are to proceed by phone or videoconferencing. All other civil matters are adjourned and must be rescheduled.

  • Yukon: Hearing dates have been suspended. Urgent matters will proceed by phone.

Pamela D. Pengelley serves as the office managing partner for Cozen O’Connor’s Toronto office. She focuses her practice on commercial litigation including subrogation and recovery actions, energy claims and insurance coverage. She is also the editor of Cozen O'Connor's Canadian Subrogation and Recovery Alerts, a contributor for Cozen O'Connor's Subrogation & Recovery Blog and a member of the firm’s coronavirus task force. Charles Batrouny is a Cozen O’Connor associate at the firm’s Toronto office. He focuses his practice on subrogation and recovery for large commercial property losses.

Photo credit / Tanya St ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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