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GENERAL PRINCIPLES - Practice directions

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 @ 7:40 AM  


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Direction regarding the meaning and application of s. 6 of the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) enacted by An Act Respecting Further COVID-19 Measures. The direction was necessary as the Attorney General’s position that s. 6 suspended retroactively all time limits established by or under an Act of Parliament during the March 13-September 13 period and that orders and directives issued by the courts, including the Federal Court, concerning time limits or setting deadlines for procedural steps were ousted by s. 6 contradicted the premise on which the Court had been managing ongoing matters since the beginning of the pandemic and created intolerable uncertainty.

HELD: The Court directed that the Attorney General’s position concerning the interpretation and effect of s. 6, in so far as it extended to the time limits under the Rules and orders made thereunder, was incorrect in law and should not be followed. The time limits under all Court orders and directions still stood and had not been ousted by s. 6. The Rules that set time limits still stood and had not been ousted by section 6. Section 6 did not affect the Practice Directions made by this Court or actions taken by the Registry under those Practice Directions. Section 6 did effectively amend the statutory time periods in federal legislation for starting proceedings in this Court. Parliament’s purpose was not to interfere with the Federal Courts Rules passed under the explicit, special and separate procedure in s. 46 of the Federal Courts Act or to invalidate and alter the time limits set in all judgments, orders, directions, Practice Directions and Registry actions such as lifting the suspensions of time and allowing certain proceedings to progress under earlier Practice Directions. Construing s. 6 as allowing Parliament to unilaterally interfere with the management and governance of ongoing proceedings would invade a core judicial function. Section 6 should be given a meaning that was respectful of judicial independence and obeyed constitutional imperatives. Section 6 did not provide for a specific ouster, amendment or invalidation of court orders or orders in council that had already been made.

Section 6 of Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) (CA), [2020] F.C.J. No. 893, Federal Court of Appeal, M. Noël C.J., September 3, 2020. Digest No. TLD-October122020002