While the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, litigators and litigants alike can breath a small sigh of relief in light of the recent Order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act on March 17, 2020.
The Order suspends for the duration of the emergency any limitation periods established under any statute, regulation, rule, by-law, or order of the Government of Ontario, retroactive to Monday March 16, 2020.
The Order also suspends for the duration of the emergency the timeline for any procedural step in any proceeding in Ontario as established by any statute, regulation, rule, by-law, or order of the Government of Ontario, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal, or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding, retroactive to Monday March 16, 2020.
The Order is subject to renewal as required.
The Government of Ontario declared a State of Emergency on March 17, 2020.
Section 7.0.2(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act states that during a declared emergency, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make orders that the Lieutenant Governor in Council believes are necessary and essential in the circumstances to prevent, reduce or mitigate serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property, if in the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor in Council it is reasonable to believe that (a) the harm or damage will be alleviated by an order; and (b) making an order is a reasonable alternative to other measures that might be taken to address the emergency.
This extraordinary measure by the Lieutenant Governor in Council provides important clarity for litigators and litigants who have been concerned with the growing uncertainty created by the global pandemic and the resultant impact on pending litigation and tribunal proceedings.
These developments follow the suspension of regular operations of courts in Ontario. This includes, but is not limited to, the suspension of all civil matters, subject to limited specified exceptions, as per the direction of the Honourable Chief Justice Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. In the Superior Court of Justice in London Ontario, the Honourable Justice Grace has signed an Endorsement affecting all civil matters with return dates from March 17, 2020 through May 29, 2020, adjourning motions, special appointments, and civil pre-trials and trials to motion and assignment court dates in June 2020.
For updated information regarding court operations, please refer to Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, Superior Court of Justice, Ontario Court of Justice, Court of Appeal for Ontario, and Tribunals Ontario.