Suspension of Limitation Periods and Court Deadlines During the Pandemic
The Minister of Justice and Solicitor General has issued a Ministerial Order (MO) to suspend limitation periods and any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding subject to the discretion of the Court, tribunal, or decision-maker. The MO was made retroactive to March 17, 2020 and continues until June 1, 2020. Please note that the Provincial Offences Procedure Act was excluded from the suspension.
The MO contains two distinct parts. First, the MO suspends limitation periods in the listed enactments from March 17 to June 1. There is no discretion with these limitation periods – they are frozen.
Second, the MO suspends any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding. These suspensions are subject to the discretion of the Court, tribunal, or decision-maker from March 17, 2020 until June 1, 2020.
Other provinces are taking steps to suspend limitations periods. If you practice in other jurisdictions, please ensure you are aware of these enactments.
The Alberta Rules of Court are captured by the MO as they are regulations made under the Judicature Act.
The MO has the following effect on the Alberta Rules of Court:
- Where a provision or rule creates a mandatory time limit that the Court has no discretion to extend, then the limitation period is suspended under the first provision in the MO from March 17, 2020 to June 1 2020; and
- Where a provision or rule gives the Court discretion to vary the time periods in the rules, the second provision of the MO acts to suspend the time periods in those rules from March 17, 2020 to June 1, 2020, subject to the discretion of the Court.
Rule 13.5(2) allows the Court to exercise its discretion to stay, extend, or shorten a time limit in the rules unless a rule provides otherwise. However, there are a number of rules to which Rule 13.5 does not apply. There is no discretion in the Court to vary the time limit set out in those rules, so the mandatory time limits apply. These rules include the following:
- Rule 3.15(2) – time limit for filing and serving an originating application for judicial review;
- Rule 3.26(1) – time for service of a statement of claim;
- Rule 3.27(2) – extension of time for service of a statement of claim;
- Rule 4.33(2) – dismissal for long delay; and
- Rule 9.46(1) – time period for convention judgment debtor to apply to set aside an order.
The rules noted above are suspended under the first provision of the MO. In other words these are true mandatory limitation periods and are frozen until June 1, 2020.
For example, Rule 4.33(2), dismissal for long delay, requires the Court to dismiss an action on application if 3 or more years have passed without a significant advance in the action. Rule 4.33 is a mandatory rule that cannot be varied by the Court but may only be affected by government action. This falls within the suspension of limitation periods. The MO suspends Rule 4.33 until June 1, 2020.
In most instances, the rules give the Court discretion to vary the time periods in the rules (see Rule 13.5; see also Rule 1.6 which allows the Court to make changes to the rules; note the Court also has inherent jurisdiction to control its own processes). The time periods in these rules are suspended by the second provision of the order but are subject to the discretion of the Court. The Court has issued its own directives on which steps must be continued and how matters will proceed. For further information, review the Alberta Courts website.
The MO does not apply to deadlines in court orders as they are not regulations captured by the MO.