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Update on Newfoundland and Labrador variation of limitation periods and statutory timelines during COVID-19 pandemic

Joe Thorne

In our update on April 2, 2020, Newfoundland and Labrador passes law to allow variation periods and statutory timelines during COVID-19 pandemic, we reported on Newfoundland and Labrador’s passage of the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act (the “Act”).1

Since our last update, there have been several procedural variations enacted, but few substantive variations. However, that has changed in the past week.

On April 24, 2020, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council made an order under the Act2 extending:

  • Most of the limitation periods in the Limitations Act;3
  • Statutory deadlines in the Human Rights Act, 2010;4 and
  • Statutory deadlines in the Family Law Act.5

These variations will have a significant impact on litigants with claims in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Limitations Act

The Limitations Act establishes, in general, time limitations for beginning a claim in the courts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Limitation periods are crucial dates because in almost all cases, if a claim is not filed on our before the period expires, the right to start the claim is extinguished. Expired limitation periods are a tremendous risk for both litigants and their lawyers.

A limitation period begins to run from the date that the loss or damage was suffered, or when the person bringing the claim ought to have known that loss or damage was suffered.

Depending on the nature of the claim, the limitation period for a claim may be 2 years, 6 years, 10 years, or 30 years. The majority of claims in this province are subject to a 2 year or 6 year limitation period.

The recent order made under the Act accommodates the impact of COVID-19 on normal personal and business operations by extending virtually all limitation periods6 under the Limitations Act by 6 months.

In particular, the order states that claims with a limitation period that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020, may now be commenced on or before September 14, 2020.

Given the serious consequences of missing a limitation period, litigants should carefully review this order against the timing of any claim or potential claim.

Human Rights Act, 2010

The Lieutenant-Governor’s order extends:

  • The 12-month limitation period to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission;
    • Any such right that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020, may now be exercised on or before September 14, 2020;
  • The 30-day deadline to file a judicial review application from a total or partial dismissal of a complaint;
    • Any such right that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020 may be exercised within 120 days from the date of service of the notice of dismissal;
  • The 30-day deadline to file an appeal and an application for leave to appeal a decision of a board of inquiry;
    • For appeals as of right, any such right that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020 may be exercised within 120 days from the date of service of the order of the board of inquiry;
    • For applications for leave to appeal, any such right that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020 may be exercised within 120 days from the date of service of the order of the board of inquiry.

Family Law Act

The Lieutenant-Governor’s order extends:

  • The 1 year, 2 year, or 6 year deadline for an application for division of matrimonial assets;
    • Any such right that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020 may be exercised on or before September 14, 2020;
  • The 2 year deadline for an application for spousal support;
    • Any such right that would otherwise expire after March 14, 2020 and before September 14, 2020 may be exercised on or before September 14, 2020.

Other deadline variances

On April 24, 2020, the Minister of Justice made an order extending the time to apply to set aside an award made by an arbitrator under section 14(2) of the Arbitration Act.7 The 60-day deadline to make an application to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has been extended to 6 months, where the award is received after April 24, 2020 but before October 24, 2020.

An update will follow with any further developments.


1 SNL 2020, c T-4.02.
2 https://www.gov.nl.ca/snl/files/NLG20200424.pdf.
3 SNL 1995, c L-16.1.
4 SNL 2010, c H-13.1.
5 RSNL 1990, c F-2.
6 Including those limitation periods in sections 5, 6, 7, 9, 14(3), and 22.
7 RSNL 1990, c A-14.

This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above, please contact a member of our Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution Group.

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