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Alberta Suspends the Running of Limitations Periods and Procedural Timelines

Alberta Suspends the Running of Limitations Periods and Procedural Timelines
April 3, 2020

Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General recently issued Ministerial Order 27/2020 (Order), which suspends the operation of limitations periods and procedural rules in Alberta. The Order was issued pursuant to the Public Health Act, citing the concern that “social distancing requirements severely restrict the ability of individual Albertans to take steps to preserve their rights”.

KEY PROVISIONS

The Order contains three key provisions:

  1. The suspension of limitations periods contained in the list of legislation appended to the Order. This list includes the Limitations Act, such that the standard two-year limitation period for most civil actions is temporarily suspended.

  2. The suspension of “any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding”. Unlike the suspension of limitations periods, however, the suspension of procedural timelines is “subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal, or other decision-maker”.

  3. The provision that the suspensions operate from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020. Extensions to that time period are also contemplated.

Both the suspension of limitations periods and the suspension of procedural timelines operate as extensions, such that “the temporary suspension period shall not be counted”.

COURTS’ DIRECTION

The interplay between the Order and existing guidance from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Court of Appeal of Alberta with respect to procedural timelines is not yet clear. The procedural extension in the Order, which is subject to the discretion of the courts, is inconsistent with those extensions previously provided for by the Alberta courts.

Master Order #2 Relating to the Court’s Response to the COVID-19 Virus issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta on March 20, 2020 and amended on March 25, 2020, for instance, suspends most filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court until only May 1, 2020.

Similarly, the Notice to Public and Profession & Public Regarding Courts’ Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic, which was issued by the Court of Appeal of Alberta on March 23, 2020 (Notice to Profession), only extends deadlines for appeals not yet set down for hearing if those deadlines fall on or before May 4, 2020. The Notice to Profession does not extend deadlines for appeals that have been set down for hearing and have not been adjourned. The Notice to Profession further clarifies that filing deadlines for commencement documents and applications continue to apply.

We expect that further guidance will be issued to address these inconsistencies. In the meantime, please consult with your usual Blakes contact to discuss the Order and how best to navigate these outstanding inconsistencies.

For further information, please contact:

David Tupper                                        403-260-9722
Tom Wagner                                         403-260-9734

or any other member of our Litigation & Dispute Resolution group.

Please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre to learn more about how COVID-19 may impact your business.