Ontario: Court of Appeal limits the impact of knowledge of a debtor’s assets on the limitation of foreign judgment proceedings

Endean v. St. Joseph’s General Hospital considers the impact of knowledge of a debtor’s exigible assets in the limitation of foreign judgment recognition proceedings.

The appellant obtained a default judgment against the respondent in a South Carolina court. The appellant commenced an Ontario action more than two years later to recognise and enforce the default judgment.  Twelve days later, the appellant secured an ex parte Mareva injunction against the respondent.  The respondent then obtained an order setting aside the Mareva injunction and holding that the appellant had commenced the Ontario action outside the limitation period.

The Court of Appeal upheld the motion judge’s decision.  It was legally appropriate for the appellant to commence his proceeding after the time to appeal the South Caroling judgment had expired.  The appellant’s subjective knowledge of whether the respondent had exigible assets in Ontario did not impact on the commencement of time.  This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Court of Appeal’s decision because it suggests that knowledge of a judgment debtor’s assets in Ontario won’t materially impact on the limitations analysis outside of unusual circumstances:

[55]      Now suppose the plaintiff settled with B before trial. In the Pierringer Order situation, the plaintiff reduces their recovery from A (who did not settle) by the amount it is determined that B is at fault. At trial, A and B are each found to be 50% at fault. The plaintiff reduces their claim against A by the amount of fault attributed to B. A’s net payment is the same 50%.

The Pierringer Order in the Hearsey Action Did Not Authorize Reduction of Recovery Due to Fault of Persons Other Than the Oral Surgeons

[56]      The Pierringer Order in the Hearsey Action is similar to the example above in so far as the hospital and the oral surgeons were concerned. For ease of reference, that Pierringer Order is attached as ‘Schedule A’ to these reasons. The hospital’s cross-claim against the oral surgeons in the Hearsey Action had been made so that the hospital could obtain indemnity from the oral surgeons if it was obliged to pay the plaintiff’s full damages. To the extent fault was attributed to the oral surgeons, the hospital could recover indemnity from them and thus reduce its net out of pocket expenditure. The Pierringer Order dismissed the cross-claim of the hospital against the oral surgeons. It did not prejudice the hospital by doing so, as it required the Hearsey appellants to reduce their claim against the hospital by the amount of fault that would be apportioned at trial to the oral surgeons, and it provided procedures whereby that determination could be made at trial. If that was all the Pierringer Order in the Hearsey Action did, it would meet the objectives generally ascribed to a Pierringer Order discussed above.

[57]      However, the effect the hospital argues for goes much further. According to the hospital, the effect of the Pierringer Order was to also reduce the Hearsey appellants’ recovery from the hospital by the amount of fault the trial judge might attribute to the manufacturer and the distributor. These were entities against whom the hospital had not claimed indemnity under the Negligence Act, and from whom the hospital had no practical ability to recover indemnity even if claimed. The Pierringer Order, if so interpreted, would do more than maintain a level playing field for the hospital compared to its pre-Order position. The effect of the interpretation the hospital seeks is to put the hospital in a better position than it was in before the Pierringer Order. Before the Pierringer Order, the hospital was at risk, if found at fault to any degree, to pay all of the Hearsey appellants’ damages without the ability to obtain indemnity from the manufacturer and distributor. This risk was on the hospital, regardless of the degrees of fault of the concurrent tortfeasors. As interpreted by the hospital, the Pierringer Order would free the hospital of that risk. The hospital would be placed in as good a position as it would have been had it claimed indemnity from the manufacturer and distributor and had the manufacturer and distributor been creditworthy and able to pay indemnity, rather than being bankrupt. No reason why this should be the case was suggested.

[58]      The Pierringer Order’s language, including that incorporated into the amended statement of claim, does not, taken as a whole, support this broader interpretation. Paragraph 5 of the Pierringer Order provides that the “Plaintiffs will only claim from the Defendant Hospital those damages, if any, arising from the actions or omissions of the Defendant Hospital”, and refers to the “Defendant Hospital’s several liability, or proportionate share of joint liability, as may be proven against it at trial”. But that must be read in light of the context and the other provisions of the Pierringer Order, which demonstrate that this was only intended to ensure the Hearsey appellants’ claim and recovery from the hospital did not include anything for the fault that may be attributed to the oral surgeons.

[59]      The Pierringer Order was made in the context of an action that included the oral surgeons and the hospital as defendants — no one else. It was made in the context of a settlement by the appellants with the oral surgeons against whom the hospital had cross-claimed. It dismissed the hospital’s cross-claim against the oral surgeons. It expressly provided that the court at trial may apportion fault among “all Defendants named in the Statement of Claim (emphasis added), which meant only the hospital and the oral surgeons. It did not refer to apportionment of fault to anyone else. And it provided procedures, including for the obtaining and use of evidence from and about the oral surgeons, clearly aimed at assisting the parties to present their cases on what fault should be apportioned to the oral surgeons. It provided no similar procedures regarding the fault of any other entities.

Ontario: a clever but futile attempt to avoid an expired limitation period in foreign judgment enforcement

The Superior Court decision in H.M.B. Holdings Limited v. The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda reads like an exam question: can you use a chain of foreign judgment enforcement proceedings to avoid a limitations issue? Nope.

The plaintiff obtained a judgment from the Privy Counsel against the defendant and then commenced an action in BC to enforce the judgment and obtained default judgment.  The plaintiff then applied Ontario to enforce the BC judgment pursuant to the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act.  This proceeding was timely.

The defendant opposed the application successfully on the basis of s. 3(g) of the Act, which provides that the court shall not grant judgment if the judgment debtor would have a good defence to an action brought on the original judgment.  If the application were brought on the original judgment—the Privy Counsel judgment—it would be statute-barred.  Thus an application brought to enforce a judgment enforcing the Privy Counsel judgment must also fail.

Ontario: simple contracts haven’t been material to the limitations scheme for…nearly 15 years

It’s time for some limitations pedantry!

In Corona Steel Industry Private Ltd. V. Integrity Worldwide Inc., the court held that “an action for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment is treated as an action upon a simple contract for purposes of determining the limitation period.”

This was so until 2004 when the current Limitations Act came into force. The Limitations Act does not distinguish between categories of contracts, or causes of action.  The Limitations Act asks when the plaintiff discovered a “claim” (as defined by s. 1).  The Court of Appeal made the point explicit in addressed the issue squarely in Independence Plaza.

I think perhaps counsel had relied on a previous version of the Law of Limitations, or some obsolete jurisprudence.

Ontario: the limitation of claims on foreign judgments


In Independence Plaza 1 Associates, L.L.C. v. Figlioni, the Court of Appeal held that the basic two-year limitation period applies to a claim on a foreign judgment in Ontario, and begins to run, at the earliest, when the time to appeal the judgment has expired or, if there is an appeal, the date of the appeal decision.  Section 5 of the Limitations Act can operate to delay discovery of the claim.

This is a terrific decision from Justice Strathy that settles one of the last unresolved limitations issues.  I wrote about the issue in a now out-of-date section of the Law of Limitations.  Conflicting jurisprudence held that the basic limitation period applied (correctly, I suggested), and that as a proceeding to enforce an order no limitation period applied at all (utterly wrongly, I suggested, in more measured language).      

Justice Strathy’s analysis turns on a close reading of the Limitations Act.  His decision begins with the following: “The correct approach to resolving the two questions raised by this appeal begins and ends with the provisions of the Limitations Act, 2002, which is a comprehensive and exhaustive scheme for dealing with limitation periods”.  I would offer, gently, that the correct approach to a limitations question always begins and ends with the Limitations Act’s provisions, which courts rather often forget, but this mustn’t detract from the really excellent analyses.

The analyses begins where limitations analyses should—with section 2, which describes the application of the Limitations Act:

[31]   Because the proceeding on the New Jersey judgment brought by the respondent in this appeal is a “claim pursued in a court proceeding,” it falls within the comprehensive and exhaustive scheme of the statute.

Having found that the Limitations Act applies, Justice Strathy turned to the application of s. 16(1)(b).

[33]   I turn now to the first question raised in this appeal – whether there is any limitation period applicable to a proceeding on a foreign judgment. Section 16(1) of the Limitations Act, 2002, which had no counterpart in the former statute, created a class of claims that are subject to no limitation period, rather than the “basic” two-year limitation period or the “ultimate” fifteen-year limitation period.

[42]   It falls to this court, as a matter of first impression, to interpret whether s. 16(1)(b) applies to a proceeding on a foreign judgment. The words of s. 16(1)(b) are to be read in light of the language of the provision as a whole, their context within the statutory scheme, and the purposes of the Limitations Act, 2002: see R. v. Hajivasilis, 2013 ONCA 27 (CanLII), 114 O.R. (3d) 337, at para. 23; and Ayr Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Wright, 2016 ONCA 789 (CanLII), at paras. 26, 28-29, 31-32.

[43]   First, therefore, I consider the language of s. 16(1)(b) as a whole.

[44]   Phrases serving parallel functions and associated by the disjunction “or” in a statutory provision influence each other’s meaning. The parallelism “invites the reader to look for a common feature among the terms” to resolve any ambiguities: Ruth Sullivan, The Construction of Statutes, 6th ed. (Markham: LexisNexis, 2014), at p. 230. The Supreme Court has stated that “a term or an expression should not be interpreted without taking the surrounding terms into account” in order to identify a “common thread”: Opitz v. Wrzesnewskyj, 2012 SCC 55 (CanLII), [2012] 3 S.C.R. 76, at paras. 40, 43.

[45]   In my view, the term “order of a court” in s. 16(1)(b) takes its meaning, in part, from the parallel phrase immediately associated with it – namely, “any other order that may be enforced in the same way as an order of a court” (emphasis added). I observe that a similar parallel phrase is found in s. 19(1) of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.22, which provides that “[a] certified copy of a tribunal’s decision or order in a proceeding may be filed in the Superior Court of Justice by the tribunal or by a party and on filing shall be deemed to be an order of that court and is enforceable as such” (emphasis added).

[46]   The “common feature” or “common thread” linking these parallelisms is the concept of enforceability. Section 16(1)(b) of theLimitations Act, 2002 applies to court orders and to other orders, such as those of persons exercising a statutory power of decision, that are enforceable in the same way as a court order.

[47]   This common thread within s. 16(1)(b) does not extend to foreign judgments. The domestic judgments contemplated by the provision are directly enforceable in Ontario by means of the execution procedures in r. 60 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, including writs of seizure and sale, garnishment, or the appointment of a receiver: Lax, at para. 21. By contrast, like an order of a foreign arbitral tribunal, the debt obligation created by a foreign judgment cannot be directly enforced in Ontario in the absence of reciprocal enforcement legislation such as REJA or REJUKA. A proceeding in Ontario must be brought first: see Lax at paras. 11-13; Yugraneft at para. 45; Chevron Corp. v. Yaiguaje, 2015 SCC 42 (CanLII), [2015] 3 S.C.R. 69, at para. 43. That proceeding may result in a judgment or order of the Ontario court. The resulting order may be enforced as an order of the court, with no applicable limitation period.

[48]   Thus, the judgment of a foreign court is one step removed from being an order of a court for the purpose of s. 16(1)(b) of theLimitations Act, 2002. It is not on the same level as an order of an Ontario court or any other order, such as an order of an Ontario statutory decision maker, which may be enforced as an order of a domestic court. This was adverted to by Feldman J.A. in Lax, at para. 31, in explaining why she did not agree with the approach taken by Cumming J. in Girsberger:

[A]s long as only domestic judgments can be enforced by execution and the other methods discussed above, and therefore foreign judgments must be transformed into domestic judgments or registered before they are enforceable as domestic judgments, there is not parity of treatment.

[49]   There are good reasons for giving different treatment for limitations purposes to the enforcement in Ontario of a judgment of an Ontario court, on the one hand, and a judgment of a foreign court, on the other hand. The principle of territorial sovereignty means that the judgment of a court has effect only inside the territory in which the court is located and cannot be enforced outside its borders: Stephen G.A. Pitel & Nicholas S. Rafferty, Conflict of Laws, 2d ed. (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2016), at p. 162. The extraterritorial enforcement of a court’s order is not a legitimate exercise of state power: see Tolofson v. Jensen, 1994 CanLII 44 (SCC), [1994] 3 S.C.R. 1022, at p. 1052; Club Resorts Ltd. v. Van Breda, 2012 SCC 17 (CanLII), [2012] 1 S.C.R. 572, at para. 31;Chevron, at paras. 47-48; and Endean v. British Columbia, 2016 SCC 42 (CanLII), 401 D.L.R. (4th) 577, at para. 45.

[50]   Thus, while a domestic judgment can be enforced as of right in Ontario, it is necessary to bring a proceeding on a foreign judgment. If that proceeding is successful, it will give rise to an Ontario judgment which can be directly enforced in the province.

[51]    Furthermore, a judgment creditor who brings an Ontario proceeding on a foreign judgment must show that the foreign court had jurisdiction and that the judgment is final and for the payment of money (or that it would be appropriate for the Ontario court to recognize it as enforceable within the province even if it is interlocutory or non-monetary): see Pro Swing; Chevron; and Cavell Insurance Co. (Re) (2006), 2006 CanLII 16529 (ON CA), 80 O.R. (3d) 500 (C.A.), at para. 41.

[52]   The foreign judgment debtor is entitled to raise defences to the proceeding, such as fraud, denial of natural justice and public policy: see Beals. These defences “distinguish foreign judgments from local judgments, against which the sole recourse is an appeal”: Janet Walker & Jean-Gabriel Castel, Canadian Conflict of Laws, loose-leaf (Rel. 54-3/2016 Pub.5911), 6th ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2005), at para. 14.3.

[53]   I conclude that the language of s. 16(1)(b) of the Limitations Act, 2002 suggests that the term “order of a court” refers to an order of a domestic court.

[54]   Second, I consider the statutory context of s. 16(1)(b) of the Limitations Act, 2002.

[55]   Section 16(1)(b) also takes its meaning from the surrounding provisions of s. 16. When statutory provisions are grouped together, the legislature is presumed to have drafted each with the others in mind: Inland Revenue Commissioners v. Hinchy,[1960] A.C. 748 (H.L.), at p. 766. They tend to illuminate each other’s meaning because they “share a single idea”: Ruth Sullivan,Statutory Interpretation, 3d ed. (Toronto, Irwin Law, 2016), at p. 175.

[56]   The other provisions grouped together in s. 16 pertain to claims such as family law support awards, sexual assault claims and government claims that are considered so important that, for one policy reason or another, they should have no limitation period at all. For example, the policy reason underlying the exemption for sexual assault claims “is grounded in the likelihood that the dynamic of the relationship will impede the autonomy of the victim”: Boyce v. Toronto (City) Police Services Board, 2011 ONSC 53(CanLII), at para. 40, aff’d, 2012 ONCA 230 (CanLII).

[57]   In this context, it is important to identify the policy reason for including claims “to enforce an order of a court” in the subset of claims that have no limitation period under s. 16. In my view, the reason is that such claims have already passed a limitations hurdle under Ontario law – a court order can only be obtained if the underlying cause of action giving rise to it was not time-barred.

[58]   This was the policy reason suggested by the British Columbia Law Reform Commission, in its 1974 Report on Limitations, for the argument that no limitation period should apply to claims to enforce domestic court orders. As quoted by Newbury J.A. inYoung v. Verigin, at para. 7, the commission wrote:

Furthermore, the successful plaintiff cannot be said to have slept on his rights. He has taken action, and as a consequence recovered judgment. It might be argued, with considerable justification, that no limitation period whatsoever should exist with respect to the enforcement of judgments. It may seem unfair that the plaintiff who has been put to the trouble and expense of obtaining a judgment to enforce a right or obligation should face a further limitation period with respect to the exercise of his rights under the judgment. Why should he not be free to pursue his rights under the judgment at his leisure if he so chooses?

[59]   It follows that the term “order of a court” in s. 16(1)(b) should be interpreted as referring to an order of a domestic court only. A proceeding on a foreign judgment has not passed any Ontario limitations hurdle. If the action on the foreign judgment is successful, it results in an Ontario judgment, which is subject to no limitation period. But that can only be justified if the underlying cause of action based on the foreign judgment has already passed a limitations hurdle in Ontario.

[60]     I find support for this conclusion in the Report of the Ontario Law Reform Commission on the Limitation of Actions (Toronto: Department of the Attorney General, 1969), at pp.50-51. The report stated, at p. 49, that there was good reason to apply the longer twenty-year limitation period in the former Limitations Act to actions on domestic judgments because, in terms later adopted by the British Columbia report, “the successful plaintiff cannot be said to have slept on his rights. He has taken action and, as a consequence, recovered judgment.” However, the report nevertheless recommended that foreign judgments should remain subject to the six-year limitation period governing debts in the former Limitations Act, notwithstanding the artificiality of treating them as simple contract debts.

[61]   It is also noteworthy that several provinces have subjected foreign judgment proceedings to a special limitation period that is distinct from the one that applies to proceedings on domestic judgments. British Columbia’s Limitation Act subjects “local” judgment proceedings to a ten year limitation period in s. 7, but it deals with “extraprovincial judgments” separately. Section 2(1)(l) of Manitoba’s The Limitation of Actions Act, C.C.S.M., c L150, treats “Canadian judgments” differently from other judgments. Newfoundland sets a six-year limitation period on an action “to enforce a foreign judgment” and a ten-year period on actions to enforce a judgment of a court in the province: see Limitations Act, S.N.L. 1995, c. L-16.1, s. 6(1)(g). And Prince Edward Island’sStatute of Limitations, R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. S-7, s. 2(1)(f) distinguishes between “extraprovincial judgments” and other judgments.

[62]   The statutory context therefore suggests that the language of s. 16(1)(b) of the Limitations Act, 2002 is confined to orders of domestic courts.

[63]   Third, and finally, I consider s. 16(1)(b) in light of the purposes of limitations statutes.

[64]   It would be contrary to the purposes of limitations statutes to interpret s. 16(1)(b) as exempting foreign judgments from any limitation period. If it were always possible to bring a proceeding on a foreign judgment in Ontario without time limitation, no matter when and where it was obtained, the debtor would be indefinitely exposed to the prospect of defending such proceedings in Ontario. As was pointed out in the Ontario Law Reform Commission’s report at p. 50, problems associated with the preservation and reliability of evidence are especially pronounced for foreign judgment debtors. This militates in favour of having some limitation period apply to proceedings on foreign judgments. As well, exempting such proceedings from a limitation period would not encourage diligence or reasonable dispatch on the part of the foreign judgment creditor, who, unlike domestic judgment creditors, has not already surmounted an Ontario limitations hurdle.

[66]   I conclude, therefore, that s. 16(1)(b) of the Limitations Act, 2002 does not apply to proceedings on foreign judgments, and the applicable limitation period for the respondent’s proceeding on the New Jersey judgment at issue in this appeal is the basic two-year period in s. 4. The result is that time begins to run when the claim is “discovered” within the meaning of s. 5. I turn to that question next.

Justice Strathy then considered when time begins to run on a claim on a foreign judgment in Ontario:

[70]   The test under the Limitations Act, 2002 is not whether the judgment is “final”; it is when the claim is discovered, a fact that is ascertained through the application of s. 5(1), aided by the presumption in s. 5(2).

[71]   I acknowledge the point made by Newbould J. in PT ATPK that, in the context of s. 5(1) of the Limitations Act, 2002, a proceeding on a foreign judgment does not fall particularly neatly into the definition of “claim” as “a claim to remedy an injury, loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act or omission.” However, the statute was meant to be comprehensive and exhaustive.Section 2(1) provides that it applies to “claims pursued in court proceedings,” and s. 4 provides that the basic two-year limitation period applies “unless this Act provides otherwise.”

[72]   The words “injury, loss or damage” in s. 5(1) can reasonably refer to the debt obligation created by a foreign judgment and owed by the foreign judgment debtor to the creditor. The “act or omission” can reasonably refer to the debtor’s failure to discharge the obligation once it became final. Viewed in this light, s. 5(1) can reasonably be viewed as applying to a proceeding on a foreign judgment.

[74]   Section 5(1) provides that a claim is discovered on the earlier of: (a) the day on which the claimant first knew, among other things, “that having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy it”; and (b) the day on which “a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the person with the claim first ought to have known of the matters referred to in clause (a)”. The test in s. 5(1)(a) has been referred to as a “subjective test” because it looks to the claimant’s actual knowledge, and the test in s.5(1)(b) as a “modified objective” test because it looks to what a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the claimant ought to have known: see Ferrera v. Lorenzetti Wolfe Barristers and Solicitors, 2012 ONCA 851 (CanLII), 113 O.R. (3d) 401, at para. 70; and Crombie Property Holdings Limited v. McColl-Frontenac Inc. (Texaco Canada Limited), 2017 ONCA 16 (CanLII), at para. 35.

[75]   In 407 ETR Concession Co. v. Day, 2016 ONCA 709 (CanLII), at para. 48, Laskin J.A. explained that “one reason why the legislature added ‘appropriate means’ [in s. 5(1)(a)] as an element of discoverability was to enable courts to function more efficiently by deterring needless litigation.” “Appropriate” means “legally appropriate.” For example, a tactical choice to delay commencement of a proceeding to engage in settlement discussions after a loss, injury or damage is known does not make the proceeding inappropriate: Markel Insurance Co. of Canada v. ING Insurance Co. of Canada, 2012 ONCA 218 (CanLII), 109 O.R. (3d) 652, at para. 24.

[76]   Appropriateness must be assessed on the facts of each case, and case law applying s. 5(1)(a)(iv) is of limited assistance:Brown v. Baum, 2016 ONCA 325 (CanLII), 348 O.A.C. 251, at para. 41. However, it is noteworthy that courts have held that a proceeding is not legally appropriate until other mechanisms for resolving a dispute, such as a statutory remedial process, have been exhausted: see 407 ETR, at para. 40; U-Pak Disposals (1989) Ltd. v. Durham (Regional Municipality), 2014 ONSC 1103(CanLII), at paras. 22-25; Kadiri v. Southlake Regional Health Centre, 2015 ONSC 621 (CanLII), at paras. 52-57, aff’d, 2015 ONCA 847 (CanLII); and Mew, at pp. 95-96.

[77]   In the usual case, it will not be legally appropriate to commence a legal proceeding on a foreign judgment in Ontario until the time to appeal the judgment in the foreign jurisdiction has expired or all appeal remedies have been exhausted. The foreign appeal process has the potential to resolve the dispute between the parties. If the judgment is overturned, the debt obligation underlying the judgment creditor’s proceeding on the foreign judgment disappears.

[79]   To regard a claim based on the foreign judgment as discoverable and appropriate only when all appeals have been exhausted is also consistent with the observations of Rothstein J. in Yugraneft. He stated, at para. 57, that the limitation period to enforce a foreign arbitral judgment under Alberta’s Limitations Act starts to run when the time to appeal the judgment has expired or, where an appeal is taken, the date of the appeal decision.

[79]   To regard a claim based on the foreign judgment as discoverable and appropriate only when all appeals have been exhausted is also consistent with the observations of Rothstein J. in Yugraneft. He stated, at para. 57, that the limitation period to enforce a foreign arbitral judgment under Alberta’s Limitations Act starts to run when the time to appeal the judgment has expired or, where an appeal is taken, the date of the appeal decision.

[80]   Finally, as the application judge noted, this approach avoids the risk of multiplicity of proceedings by not requiring the judgment creditor to commence a proceeding on a foreign judgment in Ontario before all proceedings in the foreign jurisdiction have run their course. It furthers the purpose of s. 5(1)(a)(iv) of the Limitations Act, 2002 by deterring the unnecessary litigation that may result from commencing an Ontario proceeding on a foreign judgment that is subsequently overturned.

[82]   In a particular case, a claim based on a foreign judgment may not be discovered under s. 5 of the Limitations Act, 2002 until such time as the judgment creditor knew or ought to have known that the judgment debtor had exigible assets in Ontario and could be served with process: see Yugraneft at paras. 49. 58, 61. As s. 5(1)(b) makes clear, the discoverability assessment, including the appropriateness criterion, must take account of the factual context and the plaintiff’s actual circumstances, and I reiterate that each case must be decided on its own facts: see 407 ETR, at paras. 34, 45-46.

These are the other noteworthy aspects of the decision:

  • Justice Strathy uses the language of proceeding—”When does time begin to run a proceeding”.  This is the correct way to engage with the commencement of time, because the Limitations Act bars proceedings, not claims or causes of action.  One sees this accuracy, and the accordant conceptual clarity, quite infrequently.
  • Justice Strathy provides a succinct overview of the purposes of statutes of limitations, which is now the leading Ontario authority for the principles (and, forgive me for adding, cites the Law of Limitations):

[19]   Limitations statutes reflect public policy about efficiency and fairness in the justice system. There are three broad policy justifications for limitation statutes: Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2013 SCC 14 (CanLII), [2013] 1 S.C.R. 623, at paras. 231-234.

[20]   First, they promote finality and certainty in legal affairs by ensuring that potential defendants are not exposed to indefinite liability for past acts: Hare v. Hare (2006), 2006 CanLII 41650 (ON CA), 83 O.R. (3d) 766 (C.A.), at para. 41. They reflect a policy that, after a reasonable time, people should be entitled to put their business and personal pasts behind them and should not be troubled by the possibility of “stale” claims emerging from the woodwork.

[21]   Second, they ensure the reliability of evidence. It is inefficient and unfair to try old claims because evidence becomes unreliable with the passage of time. Memories fade, witnesses die and evidence gets lost. After a reasonable time, people should not have to worry about the preservation of evidence: K.M. v. H.M., 1992 CanLII 31 (SCC), [1992] 3 S.C.R. 6, at p. 30.

[22]   Third, and related to this, limitation periods promote diligence because they encourage litigants to pursue claims with reasonable dispatch.

[23]   Other justifications have been given, including the interest in the efficient use of public resources through the expeditious resolution of disputes and the desirability of adjudicating disputes on the basis of contemporary values and standards: see Graeme Mew, The Law of Limitations, 3d ed. (Toronto, LexisNexis, 2016), at pp. 16-18.

  • Justice Strathy also provides a very succinct overview of the legislation history of the Limitations Act:

[28]    The Limitations Act, 2002 was the culmination of several attempts, beginning in the late 1960s, to reform, consolidate and simplify the law of limitations in Ontario. The history of those attempts was set out by Weiler J.A. in York Condominium Corp. No. 382 v. Jay-M Holdings Ltd., 2007 ONCA 49 (CanLII), 84 O.R. (3d) 414, at paras. 27-30. See also McConnell v. Huxtable, 2013 ONSC 948 (CanLII), 113 O.R. (3d) 727, at paras. 62-73, aff’d, 2014 ONCA 86 (CanLII).

[29]   The purpose of the new statute was to replace a complex, obscure and confusing regime of multiple limitation periods with a simple and comprehensive scheme. The new scheme consists of a basic two-year limitation period applicable to most claims, an “ultimate limitation period” of fifteen years and a statutorily-enshrined discoverability principle. It was intended to promote certainty and clarity in the law of limitation periods: see Dilollo Estate (Trustee of) v. I.F. Propco Holdings (Ontario) 2013 ONCA 550 (CanLII), 36 Ltd., 2013 ONCA 81, 117 O.R. (3d) 81, at para. 61.