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COVID-19: Litigation Update

Limitations periods and other procedural deadlines have been suspended in Ontario

The Order:

In response to the COVID-19 international pandemic, on March 20, 2020, the Ontario Government made an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, suspending all limitation periods and procedural deadlines until the state of emergency in Ontario is lifted. The suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020 (the “Order”).

What this means:

Any time-prescribed periods established by any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario stopped running as of March 16, 2020, including:

  1. any limitation period; and,
  2. any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding, including any intended proceeding, shall, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding, be suspended.


In Ontario, the Limitations Act, 2002  prescribes a two-year limitation period for the commencement of an action from the date the loss was discovered. Therefore, if a party suffered a loss of profits due to the actions of another on March 18, 2018, they have until March 17, 2020 to commence an action in court. However, as a result of the Order, the “deadline” of March 17, 2020 has now been suspended until the state of emergency is lifted. Once the state of emergency is lifted, the two-year limitation deadline will resume.


  • The Order only applies to any “statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario” and therefore does not apply to “private” deadlines agreed upon by parties or lawyers;
  • The Order only applies to limitation periods and procedural deadlines in Ontario, and is not Canada-wide.
  • The “court, tribunal or other decision maker” is given discretion with respect to procedural deadlines and it remains unclear how this discretion will be exercised, if at all.

This update may have you wondering how your court case or business is affected by the Order. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to give us a shout. Our home offices are up and running, and we’d be happy to answer any questions.

Sarah Petersen

Sarah is a Lawyer at Spark LLP. Sarah found her way back to private practice after a two-year stint as General Counsel for a protective services company.

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