COVID-19 led to the suspension of limitation periods in many Canadian provinces. Below you will find the details on how the pandemic impacted limitation periods in each province.
Updated January 2022
Suspension of Limitation Periods During COVID-19 in Alberta
In Alberta, limitations were suspended from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020, pursuant to Ministerial Order No 27/2020. The time limits and limitations described in the Alberta Limitations Act, Court of Queen’s Bench Act, Court of Appeal Act, Arbitration Act, Judgment Interest Act and Provincial Court Act are all listed in Appendix A of the Order and, therefore, were subject to suspended limitation periods.
Since Appendix A includes the Limitations Act, the standard two-year limitation period for commencing most civil actions was suspended between March 17, 2020 until June 1, 2020.
The Ministerial Order also states the following:
“3. For clarity, the limitation period or period of time resumes running on June 1, 2020 and the temporary suspension period shall not be counted.”
Therefore, the standard two-year limitation period between when the claim arose or was discovered and when the claim must be commenced resumed running on June 1, 2020 and the 76 days in the suspension period does not count towards the limitation.
However, the Ministerial Order further provides this caveat:
“2. Any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding is suspended subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020.”
Please note that any causes of action or limitation that arose or began after June 1, 2020, is not subject to any extension.
Unlike in some other provinces, this 76-day suspension period was applicable to all time periods required by the Court, and not just the limitation for commencing a claim. As such, limitations such as the one-year limitation for service after filing a claim, were also subject to this extension.
Lastly, please note that in Alberta, the province’s Insurance Act was not included in the Ministerial Order as that legislation falls outside the Alberta Minister of Justice’s jurisdiction pursuant to the Public Health Act. Any limitation under the Insurance Act continued to run and no suspensions of the limitations thereunder had ever been ordered. As such, an action or proceeding against an insurer under a general insurance contract still had to be commenced within the 2-year periods described in section 526 of the Insurance Act, for example, and the suspension period did not apply to this limitation.
Suspension of Limitation Periods During COVID-19 in British Columbia
In British Columbia, mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods in enactments or laws for commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal in the Supreme Court of British Columbia were suspended pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 8 and the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, B.C. Reg. 199/2020.
Limitation periods for commencing a new civil or family action or appeal were first suspended on March 26, 2020. On December 21, 2020, the government of British Columbia announced the temporary suspension of limitation periods will end on March 25, 2021.
Because the suspension lasted one full year, a limitation period that was previously set to expire, for example, on April 8, 2020, should now expire on April 8, 2021. A limitation period that would have began running during the suspension period (between March 26, 2020 and March 25, 2021) will begin to run on March 25, 2021.
Limitation period scenarios for BC claims – Scenario #1
If the limitation period expired before the suspension.
Effect?: No effect. The limitation remains expired.
- A motor vehicle accident occurred on February 26, 2018.
- The limitation period would normally expire on February 26, 2020.
- The limitation period expired on February 26, 2020 if no action was commenced as the suspension of limitation periods has no application.
Limitation period scenarios for BC claims – Scenario #2
If the limitation period would normally have expired between March 26, 2020 and March 25, 2021.
Effect?: Add 1 year to the expiry year of the limitation period. (You have the same amount of time remaining after the suspension of limitation periods as you did before).
- A motor vehicle accident occurred on April 27, 2018.
- The limitation period would normally expire on April 27, 2020 but for the suspension.
- The limitation period now expires on April 27, 2021.*
Limitation period scenarios for BC claims – Scenario #3
If the cause of action arose before March 26, 2020 and would normally expire after March 26, 2021.
Effect: Add 1 year to the expiry year of the limitation period. (You have the same amount of time remaining after the suspension of limitation periods as you did before.)
- A motor vehicle accident occurred on June 1, 2019.
- The limitation period would normally expire on June 1, 2021 but for the suspension of the limitation period.
- The limitation period now expires on June 1, 2022.
Limitation period scenarios for BC claims – Scenario #4
If the cause of action arose after the suspension of limitation periods but before March 25, 2021.
Effect: The limitation period expires March 26, 2023. (A limitation period that began to run during the suspension starts to run when the suspension is lifted.)
- A motor vehicle accident occurred on October 28, 2020.
- The limitation period would normally expire on October 28, 2022.
- The limitation period now starts to run on March 26, 2021. (The suspension is lifted at the end of the day on March 25, 2021)**
- The limitation period therefore expires on March 26, 2023.**
Note: As of February 3, 2021, the discretionary power provided to entities that have statutory power to waive, suspend or extend a limitation period will continue until 90-days after the state of emergency is lifted (see sections 1 and 3 of Item 7 of Schedule 2 to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act). That discretionary power is not intended to extend to courts.
* For greater clarity, April 27, 2021 is the last day to file the Notice of Civil Claim.
** March 25 & 26, 2023 is a weekend. Please refer to the Interpretation Act to determine what impact, if any, this has on the expiry of the limitation period.
Manitoba did not remove any limitation periods during COVID. However, in September 2022, the limitation periods will completely change when a new Act passes. The change will bring Manitoba in line with the other provinces. Click to read about the changes.
Suspension of Limitation Periods in New Brunswick during the Covid-19 Pandemic
On March 19, 2020, the Province of New Brunswick declared a State of Emergency as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and issued a Mandatory Order related to same.
On May 8, 2020, the Mandatory Order was revised to provide for a suspension of limitation periods, retroactive to March 19, 2020, as reflected in the following provisions:
- On the recommendation of the Attorney General, retroactive to March 19, 2020, the operation of the provisions of any act, regulation, rule, municipal by-law or ministerial order that establish limitation periods for commencing any proceeding before a court, administrative tribunal or other decision-maker is hereby suspended.
- On the recommendation of the Attorney General, retroactive to March 19, 2020, the operation of the provisions of any act, regulation, rule, municipal by-law or ministerial order that establish limitation periods for taking steps in any proceeding before a court, administrative tribunal or other decision-maker is hereby suspended. [Emphasis added]
As evident from the provisions highlighted above, this suspension pertained not only to limitation/time periods for commencing any proceeding, but also to limitation/time periods for taking steps in any proceeding. Most notably, this included, but was not limited to, any limitation periods provided by the Limitation of Actions Act, SNB 2009, c L-8.5, Insurance Act, RSNB 1973, c I-12, and/or the New Brunswick Rules of Court.
The above-noted provisions of the New Brunswick Mandatory Order were subsequently amended to clarify that the suspensions did not affect the normal operation of municipal or local governance or of community planning activities.
The Mandatory Order was subsequently amended again, on June 19, 2020, to provide for the resumption of the limitation periods, as follows:
- Subject to paragraphs 23 and 24, on the recommendation of the Attorney General, paragraphs 19 and 20 [akin to paragraphs 24 and 25 above] cease to have effect on September 19, 2020. A limitation period for commencing a proceeding or a time period for taking steps in a proceeding resumes running on September 19, 2020, and the period from March 19, 2020, to September 18, 2020, shall not be counted in calculating the limitation period or time period. [Emphasis added]
It should also be noted that the Mandatory Order addressed separately the resumption of limitation periods and time periods under the Mechanics’ Lien Act [resumed running on July 31, 2020], and under Parts III and IV of the Family Services Act and of the regulations made under those Parts [resumed running on December 19, 2020].
In light of section 22 above, the limitation/time period for commencing an action or taking steps in a proceeding [with the exception of the Mechanics’ Lien Act and Parts III and IV of the Family Services Act, as noted above], was effectively ‘paused’ as of March 19, 2020, until September 18, 2020, i.e. a period of approximately 6 months or 183 days or 26 weeks. The clock for any such limitation period resumed running again as of September 19, 2020.
This suspension of limitation/time periods does not affect limitation/time periods, which expired before the suspension, i.e. before March 19, 2020. Similarly, the suspension does not affect limitation periods, which began to run after the suspension had ended, i.e. after September 18, 2020.
However, it is important to recognize that the suspension has and/or will continue to affect limitation/time periods in various circumstances. For example:
- Limitation/time periods, which expired during the suspension period.
- Limitation/time periods, which began before the suspension period, and would have expired after the suspension period.
In both of the above scenarios, the suspension period should be added to the end of the ‘usual’ limitation/time period, in order to calculate the extended period afforded by the Mandatory Order suspension. In the latter scenario, the limitation/time period would be extended by the entire suspension period, i.e. approximately 6 months; in the former scenario, the limitation/time period would only be extended by a portion of the suspension period, depending on when the ‘usual’ limitation period would have expired.
- Limitation/time periods, which began during the suspension period.
In such a case, the period from when the limitation/time period began to run, to the end of the suspension period, should be added to the end of the ‘usual’ limitation/time period, in order to calculate the extended period afforded by the Mandatory Order suspension.
In light of the above, the suspension of limitation/time periods will continue to have implications until at least September 19, 2022, and even later for limitation/time periods under Parts III and IV of the Family Services Act.
This suspension is therefore an important consideration in any and all claims occurring during, before and even after the relevant period.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Charlton with Cox & Palmer in Fredericton.
In Nova Scotia, limitation periods were never suspended. The courts did issue a directive suspending all filing deadlines between March 19, 2020 and June 5, 2020.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Suspension of Limitation Periods During COVID-19 in Ontario
Limitation periods in Ontario are governed by the Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24. Generally, a claimant has two years from when the claim arose, or was discovered, to bring a legal action for damages.
O. Reg 73/20 had the effect of suspending limitation periods from March 16, 2020 to September 13, 2020, for a total of 183 days. Accordingly, a limitation period that began running before March 16, 2020 can be extended by 183 days. In McAuley v Canada Post Corporation, 2012 ONSC 4528, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that O. Reg. 73/20 extended all running limitation periods by 183 days. Therefore, all limitation periods which were subject to the regulation, including those that began in between March 16, 2020 and September 13, 2020, were extended by 183 days.
A cause of action that arose, or was discovered, on or after September 14, 2020 will still be subject to the standard two year limitation period and is not subject to any extension.
It is unclear whether limitation periods agreed to in a contract of insurance or a commercial contract are subject to this 183-day extension. However, please note that this may not be the case. There is no case law that has arisen that is determinative of the issue. Where a plaintiff has filed a claim outside of a limitation period specified in the contract, an argument should still be made that the plaintiff is barred from advancing their claim.
Please also note that in Ontario, the Order suspending the limitation periods did not apply to timelines prescribed by the Rules of Civil Procedure. For example, a plaintiff still only had six months for service of a Statement of Claim.
Prince Edward Island
Suspension of Limitation Periods During COVID-19 in Quebec
In Quebec, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, limitation periods in civil matters were temporarily suspended between March 15, 2020, and September 1, 2020, pursuant to Ministerial Orders No 2020-4251 dated March 15, 2020, and 2020-4303 dated August 31, 2020, i.e., a duration of 170 days.
The suspension concerns:
- Extinctive limitation periods in civil matters;
- Deadlines for forfeiture in civil matters;
- Civil procedure deadlines, except for cases deemed urgent by the Courts.
It should be noted that there is an exception in matters concerning repossessing of a dwelling or eviction of a tenant or occupant of a dwelling, as Ministerial Order no 2020-4282 ordered the resumption of deadlines from July 6, 2020, i.e., a duration of only 113 days.
Pursuant to Ministerial Order 2020-009, certain deadlines provided for the Code of Penal procedure were also suspended. They were also lifted as of September 1, 2020, i.e., a duration of 162 days.
Unlike in some other provinces, Quebec has not set a date from which the period of suspension would no longer apply. As a result, in Quebec, any civil cause of action that arose before September 1, 2020, benefits from the suspension.
In addition, in order to facilitate the transition in the cases already brought to court, Ministerial Order No 2020-4303 orders the addition of 45 days. Thus, in cases where the Originating Application was filed before September 1, 2020, the time limit for filing a Case Protocol, the time limits provided for in existing Case Protocols and the time limit for setting down for trial and judgment were all extended by an extra 45 days from September 1, 2020. These additional 45 days do not apply in the event that a Court has decided otherwise. Consequently, is a deadline has been set in a judgment, it must be respected without the additional 45 days.
Limitation periods were not suspended in Saskatchewan due to COVID-19.