On March 20, 2020, the Ontario government made an order under section 7.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to suspend limitation periods and procedural time periods. The suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020.  

The suspension is a response to the recent declaration of emergency in Ontario due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which caused the courts and administrative tribunals to close their doors. All hearings will be rescheduled and timelines for all types of proceedings are suspended for the duration of the emergency, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-makers responsible for the proceeding. 

What Does This Mean for our Case?

What does this mean if you’re currently involved in a proceeding? It means that if your opposing party fails to follow the timelines, there will be no consequence. This will inevitably cause significant delays in many cases. If both parties are willing to move the matter forward, courts and tribunals are making efforts to hear matters virtually, over the phone or in writing. 

Parties may decide to use the recent order to their advantage by further stalling matters – in other cases, the financial backlash from the pandemic may incite parties to settle more quickly and put an end to their proceeding. 

While we know litigation can be a most effective tool in certain situations, we anticipate the current court and tribunal status may motivate parties to figure out a resolution outside the formal process. We have been approached by various mediators experienced with online dispute resolution and hope the current environment will finally push such innovative approaches forward as a legitimate option, arming parties with tech and convenience to solve their dispute. 

Status of Courts and Workplace Tribunals

Ontario Superior Court of Justice 

  • All regular operations are suspended until further notice.
  • All civil matters scheduled to be heard after March 17, 2020, are adjourned, including telephone and videoconference appearances, unless the presiding judicial officer directs otherwise.
  • Urgent matters will be heard during the suspension, which includes matters relating to public health and safety and Covid-19, as well as urgent civil motions and applications and outstanding warrants.

Small Claims Court

  • All matters are suspended until further notice, including trials and settlement conferences, and including telephone and video conference hearings.
  • Limited urgent matters will be heard, including matters relating to outstanding issued warrants.

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”)

  • All in-person hearings have been postponed, to be rescheduled to a later date.
  • The HRTO will consider alternative hearing options (such as written and telephone hearings) where feasible, in order to try and minimize disruption to hearings.

Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”)

  • All in-person mediations and hearings scheduled between now and  April 14, 2020, are cancelled. The OLRB will continue to assess the need for the cancellation of hearings scheduled after April 13th.
  • Mediations will be held by teleconference or by email
  • Previously scheduled hearings may be held over the phone or in writing.

Canada Industrial Relations Board (“CIRB”)

  • All in-person hearings and meetings scheduled between now and May 31, 2020, will not be held as planned. 
  • The CIRB will contact parties on a case-by-case basis about alternative methods to conduct hearings.

Ontario Court of Appeal

  • All scheduled appeals are cancelled until April 3, 2020. 
  • Urgent appeals will be heard based on written materials or remotely.
  • Non-urgent scheduled appeals until April 3, 2020, will be heard in writing.

If you have any questions about these recent changes, get in touch to book a consult.