Draft Federal Legislative Proposals Regarding Time Limits and Other Periods due to COVID-19

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Further to our article of March 27, 2020, Ontario Regulation 73/20 made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, RSO 1990, c E.9 does not apply to suspend deadlines or limitation periods under federal law. The Government of Canada has recently sought to retroactively fill that gap.

On May 19, 2020, the Government of Canada published draft legislative proposals which would temporarily suspend or extend certain time limits set out in federal legislation where the COVID-19 pandemic may make compliance difficult or impossible. The proposed statute would extend limitation periods in civil proceedings before the courts along with regulatory time limits.

According to an explanatory note released by the Government of Canada, the proposed Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) 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 proposed statute would impact regulatory time limits and deadlines found in many federal statutes, including the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c B-3, the Canada Business Corporations Act, RSC, 1985, c C-44, and the Canada Labour Code, RSC 1985, c L-2.

A news release published by the Department of Justice Canada on May 19, 2020 states that the draft legislative proposals will be available online for 10 days (i.e., until May 29, 2020) and interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide any comments they may have.