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COVID-19 Prompts Government to Pause Limitation Periods and Procedural Deadlines in Ontario

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COVID-19 Prompts Government to Pause Limitation Periods and Procedural Deadlines in Ontario 

As we have chronicled in past Blogs, Ontario civil actions – including those relating to Family Law – are subject to “drop-dead” dates within which an action or other proceeding must be brought..

These are known as “limitation periods”, and as they pertain to Family Law they can arise in various contexts, under assorted of legislation. For example,

  • An unjust enrichment claim between former romantic partners must be brought within two years, under the provincial Limitations Act, 2002.
  • A court application by a former spouse for an equalization of Net Family Property must be brought within two years after the date of the divorce, or else six years after the separation date if there is no reasonable prospect that the spouses will reconcile, pursuant to the provisions of the Ontario Family Law Act.
  • Legal claims that arise in relation to real estate are subject to a 10-year limitation period under the Real Property Limitations Act.

If the person who wants to bring the legal claims takes no steps to do so within the limitation period, and allows the deadline to lapse, he or she is out of luck:  The action is considered to be “statute barred” and generally cannot be revived.

However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has issued an Order in Council, authorized under the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which suspends the operation of all limitation periods and procedural deadlines.  This blanket suspension affects all time-limits regardless of which provincial statute or regulation establishes them, and currently has no end-date stipulated.

To be precise, Order in Council 518/2020 provides that any limitation period under a statute, rule, by-law or Ontario government order is “suspended for the duration of the emergency”, as are time periods within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario.

In both scenarios the suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020.  The full text of the Order in Council can be viewed here (PDF).

For the full text of the authorizing legislation, see:

Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9  https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e09

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com