Alberta: Limitations Act applies to Appointments to Tax (plus a short limitations history lesson from the Court of Appeal)

The Court of Appeal has held that a claim brought in 2009 to review legal accounts from the late 1980s is barred by the expiry of the limitation period.

That’s not surprising.

What is noteworthy about the decision in Samson Cree Nation v. O’Reilly & Associes is the Court of Appeal’s confirmation that an Appointment to Tax is within the section 1(a) definition of “claim”. Taxing a legal account is subject to the Limitations Act.

The decision is also helpful for its succinct discussion of the history and intent of the Limitations Act:

[164]      For about four centuries, times to sue were a patchwork quilt. There were well over a dozen different time limits, found in a very large number of pieces of legislation. Which period applied usually depended upon the nature of the legal claim asserted, and so there was much litigation merely to characterize legally various suits, as that could dramatically affect the limitation period applicable.

[165]      The Alberta Law Reform Institute studied the topic thoroughly, and recommended dramatic reductions in the number of pieces of legislation, dramatic reductions in the number of limitation periods, adopting a general limitation period only two years long, removing the legal analysis of the type of claim, and giving limitation periods substantive effect, not merely procedural effect. Then the Alberta government studied the matter further for some years. Ultimately the Legislature repealed most of the old legislation and enacted the Limitations Act instead. It fully incorporated the Institute’s big recommendations just listed.

[166]      The scope of the Limitations Act is broad: generally it bars and extinguishes claims brought too late. It applies to more than claims brought by statement of claim: it covers all requests for a “remedial order”.

[167]      A number of times the Alberta Court of Appeal has recognized the policy and scope of the Act, and interpreted it broadly. So has the Supreme Court of Canada. They have held that the Act covers court proceedings beyond mere suits by statement of claim. In particular, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta held that the Limitations Act covers all causes of action by its wide wording: see Yugraneft Corporation v Rexx Management Corporation, 2010 SCC 19 (CanLII), 2010 SCC 19, [2010] 1 SCR 649, 401 NR 341, 482 AR 1 (paras 36-41); Sharma v 643454 Alberta, 2006 ABQB 119 (CanLII), 2006 ABQB 119, 392 AR 353 (para 34).

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