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Clarity from the Federal Department of Justice in the form of the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19)

Aug 12, 2020

Canadian parliament buildingsOn July 27, 2020, the Federal Department of Justice enacted the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) to temporarily suspend or extend certain time limits for civil legal proceedings governed by federal legislation or time limits set out in federal legislation. Potential claimants and litigants should review these limitation periods for potential claims to evaluate how they plan to respond.

While many provinces have enacted legislation suspending limitation periods and procedural timelines for provincial courts to address circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) provides guidance on certain time limits imposed by federal legislation.

Suspensions of Time Limits with respect to Proceedings in Federal Courts

The Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) suspends the following time limits for six months, from March 13, 2020 to September 13, 2020:

  1. Any limitation or prescription period for commencing a proceeding before a federal court;
  2. Any time limit in relation to something that is done in a proceeding before a federal court; and
  3. Any time limit within which an application for leave to commence a proceeding or to do something in relation to a proceeding is to be made to a federal court.

The Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) allows federal courts to vary the suspension of a time limit or limitation period as long as March 13, 2020 is the start date of the suspension and the suspension is less than six months. It also allows the courts to set the penalties (Orders) for failing to meet a suspended time limit.

Suspensions of Time Limits in Specific Federal Statutes

Further, the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) also grants federal Ministers the discretion to make Orders to suspend or extend certain time limits for specific federal legislation, including but not limited to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, and the Income Tax Act. A full list of applicable federal statutes and regulations can be found here.

The total suspension or extension of time limits made by federal Ministers must not exceed six months and must end on December 31, 2020. Further, an Order may have a retroactive effect but may not apply before March 13, 2020.

Assess How You May Be Affected by these Suspensions

With September 13, 2020, just around the corner, potential claimants and litigants should take a hard look at the status of limitation periods for potential claims or time limits imposed by federal legislation and evaluate how to act effectively in the context of the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19).

Contractual limitation periods continue to run and have not been suspended or affected by the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) or Ontario legislation.

For more information or guidance on any issues regarding the suspension of time limits or limitation periods under federal legislation, please contact anyone in our Litigation Group or the author of this post, litigator Samantha Schreiber at sschreiber@mindengross.com

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