Limitations periods and procedural deadlines in Ontario have been suspended since March 16, 2020 pursuant to Ontario Regulation 73/20 (the “Suspension Order”) made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, RSO 1990, c E.9 (the “Act”). The Suspension Order was amended on April 9, 2020 by Ontario Regulation 137/20 and on May 1, 2020 by Ontario Regulation 194/20 to deal with the application of the Suspension Order to three specific circumstances, including most notably a carve out for the Construction Act, RSO 1990, c C.30 and the regulations made under it effective from and after April 16, 2020.1 The Suspension Order is subject to limitations in its duration and scope, as discussed in our earlier posts which are listed at this link.
With respect to duration, the Suspension Order will continue in effect until June 2, 2020. By its terms, the period of suspension under the Suspension Order is tied to the “duration of the emergency,” which the Ontario legislature extended to June 2, 2020 by a motion carried on May 12, 2020.2 Please note that the duration of the Suspension Order is distinct from that of various “emergency orders” made under section 7.0.2(4) of the Act, the duration of which was most recently extended to May 19, 2020.
With respect to scope, the Suspension Order applies to limitation periods and other procedural deadlines that are established by Ontario statutes, regulations, rules, by-laws and orders of the Government of Ontario. The suspension of limitation periods appears to be absolute. By contrast, the suspension of procedural deadlines, is subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal, or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding. In this regard, certain Ontario courts have published guidance on the exercise of the court’s discretion dealing with procedural deadlines, as referenced in our previous blog post on the Suspension Order. While there has been discussion and debate among the bar as to the applicability of the Suspension Order, we are aware of only one court decision in which the issue arose but remained undecided.3 Tribunals have been more active in dealing with the application of the Suspension Order or exercising their discretion under the Suspension Order with respect to procedural deadlines.
1 In addition to the carve out for the Construction Act, Ontario Regulation 137/20 also amended the Suspension Order to provide a carve out for the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, RSO 1990, c N.2 and the regulations made under it effective from and after April 9, 2020. Ontario Regulation 194/20 later amended the Suspension Order to clarify that the suspension of procedural deadlines in section 2 of the Suspension Order applies to by-laws made by the boards of hospitals under the Public Hospitals Act, RSO 1990, c P.40 that relate to the hospital’s credentialing process.
2 The initial duration and extensions of the Suspension Order are summarized in the chart below:
|Initial Duration||First Extension||Second Extension||Third Extension|
|Period||March 16, 2020 – March 31, 2020||April 1, 2020 – April 14, 2020
|April 15, 2020 – May 12, 2020
|May 13, 2020 – June 2, 2020
|Manner of Extension||N/A||Order in Council||Government motion||Government motion|
3 Saine v Niagara Escarpment Commission, 2020 ONSC 2151.