Ontario: the interaction of representation orders and the Limitations Act


Can a party obtain a r. 12.08 representation order after the expiry of the limitation period? No, held the Court of Appeal in United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, Local 175, Region 6 v. Quality Meat Packers Holdings Limited.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rule, the court’s summary is helpful:

(i)           Rule 12.08

[27]      Rule 12.08 states:

Where numerous persons are members of an unincorporated association or trade union and a proceeding under the Class Proceedings Act, 1992 would be an unduly expensive or inconvenient means for determining their claims, one or more of them may be authorized by the court to bring a proceeding on behalf of or for the benefit of all.

[28]      There is little reported case law dealing with the application of Rule 12.08. Indeed, the parties did not point to any cases that directly deal with the issue here, namely, whether a representation order can be obtained under Rule 12.08 following the expiry of a limitation period.

[29]      However, there are several points worth mentioning about Rule 12.08.

[30]      First, Rule 12.08 falls under Rule 12, which is entitled “Class Proceedings and Other Representative Proceedings”.

[31]      Second, it is engaged where a person or persons seek to bring a claim on behalf of or for the benefit of all members of an unincorporated association or trade union. The rule addresses the problems facing unincorporated associations and trade unions seeking to sue in their own names.

[32]      Third, Rule 12.08 is meant to provide for a less costly and more convenient procedure than the Class Proceedings Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 6 (“CPA). Indeed, in determining whether to authorize a representative action under Rule 12.08, the court will take a similar approach to that taken in determining whether a class action should be certified under the CPA: see Ginter v. Gardon (2001), 2001 CanLII 28052 (ON SC), 53 O.R. (3d) 489 (S.C.), at para. 14; Ottawa (City) Police Assn. v. Ottawa (City) Police Services Board2014 ONSC 1584 (CanLII), 55 C.P.C. (7th) 183, at para. 38 (Div. Ct.).

[33]      Fourth, the rule is discretionary. One or more members of an unincorporated association or trade union “may be authorized by the court” to bring a proceeding on behalf of or for the benefit of all. Thus, unless and until authorization is granted, no representative proceeding may be brought.

[34]      Fifth, the rule is silent on the question of limitation periods.

The plaintiff argued that under the Limitations Act, the representative plaintiff need only have commenced a proceeding within two years of discovery, a representation motion is not a proceeding, and anyway the court can make a representation order nunc pro tunc. The court rejected these arguments:

[46]      First, under Rule 12.08, authorization is required “to bring a proceeding on behalf of or for the benefit of all” members of a trade union or unincorporated association. As I noted earlier, under s. 4 of the Limitations Act, “a proceeding shall not be commenced in respect of a claim after the second anniversary of the day on which the claim was discovered.” Reading Rule 12.08 harmoniously with s. 4, the limitation period does not stop running for the claims of class members until a proceeding has been brought on their behalf and that does not happen unless and until court authorization has been granted under Rule 12.08.

[47]      Second, Caetano is effectively arguing that Rule 12.08 suspends the limitation period – that once a proposed representative commences a proposed representative proceeding, the limitation period is suspended on behalf of all members of the trade union or unincorporated association. That, as explained above, is the situation under the CPA where s. 28 expressly suspends any limitation period applicable to a cause of action asserted in favour of class members on the commencement of a proceeding. In contrast, Rule 12.08 is silent on the question of limitation periods and does not purport to extend, suspend or otherwise vary any limitation period applicable to claims asserted in favour of class members.

[48]      Third, the Supreme Court’s decision in Green supports the view that, without a tolling provision, any limitation period applicable to the claims advanced on behalf of class members continues to run until the court authorizes the claims to be brought by the representative plaintiff: Green, paras. 74, 174-175.

[49]      Finally, I would reject the argument that a nunc pro tunc order would be available in the circumstances of this case where leave was not sought prior to the expiry of the limitation period: see Green, at paras. 94-111.

[50]      I recognize that a representative action under Rule 12.08 is meant to provide a less onerous and less expensive alternative to bringing a class action and yet a proposed representative plaintiff may feel it is necessary to proceed under the CPA instead of Rule 12.08 to avoid any limitations problems even if it would be more expensive and less convenient to do so. My interpretation, therefore, may seem to be at odds with concerns about expense and convenience. However, as Côté J. observed in Green, at para. 75, “policy concerns, as compelling as they are, do not override the plain meaning of the text and the intent of the Ontario legislature.”

The court then considered another rather esoteric limitations issue: can the court make a representation order under r. 10.01 in respect of claims that are statute-barred? The answer: no.

Rule 10.01, for those who need a refresher, provides

[56]      Rule 10.01 provides as follows:

In a proceeding concerning,

(a) the interpretation of a deed, will, contract or other instrument, or the interpretation of a statute, order in council, regulation or municipal by-law or resolution;

(b) the determination of a question arising in the administration of an estate or trust;

(c) the approval of a sale, purchase, settlement or other transaction;

(d) the approval of an arrangement under the Variation of Trusts Act;

(e) the administration of the estate of a deceased person; or

(f) any other matter where it appears necessary or desirable to make an order under this subrule,

a judge may by order appoint one or more persons to represent any person or class of persons who are unborn or unascertained or who have a present, future, contingent or unascertained interest in or may be affected by the proceeding and who cannot be readily ascertained, found or served.

The plaintiff argued that the because r. 10.01 representation orders are brought within an already commenced proceeding, if a representation order does not seek to add new parties, the Limitations Act does not bar the order.  However, the court found that it seeks to add new claims, which engages the Limitations Act:

[61]      While the Abreus do not seek to add parties to their action, the question is whether they can assert claims, through the device of a representation order, on behalf of persons who are not plaintiffs in the proceeding, after the limitation period in respect of such claims has already expired. The Abreus’ statement of claim seeks termination pay under the ESA and wrongful dismissal damages, as well as common employer and other declarations, and aggravated and punitive damages for themselves. It purports to assert claims for monetary amounts for approximately 125 other non-unionized former employees of the Defendants, relying on Rule 10.

[64]      This court, however, has repeatedly held that parties cannot circumvent the Limitations Act by amending their pleadings to add additional claims: see Frohlick v. Pinkerton Canada Ltd(2008), 2008 ONCA 3 (CanLII)88 O.R. (3d) 401Dee Ferraro Ltd. v. Pellizzari2012 ONCA 55 (CanLII)346 D.L.R. (4th) 6241100997 Ontario Limited v. North Elgin Centre Inc.2016 ONCA 848(CanLII)409 D.L.R. (4th) 382. The addition of new statute-barred claims by way of an amendment to a statement of claim is conceptually no different than issuing a new and separate statement of claim that advances a statute-barred claim: Frohlick, at para. 24. An amendment will be statute-barred if, after the expiry of the limitation period, it seeks to advance “a fundamentally different claim based on facts not originally pleaded”: North Elgin Centre, at para. 23.