Ontario: Appointing a guardian of property doesn’t start the limitation period


In Shaw v. Barber, Justice McNamara held that the appointment of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee as guardian of property doesn’t cause a limitation period to commence:

[13]           […] Where [the parties] disagree completely is when the six month limitation period for a claim for support under Section 61(1) of the Succession Law Reform Actbegins to run.

[14]           The first point that needs to be made is that under the Limitations Act the six month limitation period under the Succession Law Reform Act is incorporated into the act by Section 19(1) of the Limitations Act. That section provides that any limitation period set out in or under another act applies as long as the provision establishing it is listed in the schedule to the Limitations Act. There is no issue that this particular limitation period is in that schedule.

[15]           It is also common ground that the limitation period in question does not run in the circumstances set forth in Section 7(1) of the Limitations Act.That section provides:

7 (1) the limitation period established by section 4 does not run during any time in which the person with the claim,

(a) is incapable of commencing a proceeding in respect of the claim because of his or her physical, mental or psychological condition; and

(b) is not represented by a litigation guardian in relation to the claim.  2002, c. 24, Sched. B, s. 7 (1).

[16]           The six month limitation, then, did not run while Ms. Shaw was incapable of commencing a proceeding because of a mental condition and was not represented by a litigation guardian in relation to the claim (emphasis added).

[17]           The Estate argues that after its appointment as Ms. Shaw’s statutory guardian of property the OPGT had the authority to act as litigation guardian and were then under an obligation to advance a claim within a six month period of their appointment.

[18]           That argument, in my view, is flawed.

[19]           There is no mechanism in the Limitations Act for the self-appointment of a litigation guardian. To do that, regard must be had to the Rules of Civil Procedure. A number of provisions are relevant.

[20]           First is Rule 7.01(1) which provides as follows:

7.01  (1)  Unless the court orders or a statute provides otherwise, a proceeding shall be commenced, continued or defended on behalf of a party under disability by a litigation guardian.  O. Reg. 69/95, s. 2.

A proceeding, then, which includes an application, must be commenced on behalf of a party under a disability by a litigation guardian.

[21]           Next Rules 7.02(1) and 1.1(a) which provide:

7.02 (1) Any person who is not under disability may act, without being appointed by the court, as litigation guardian for a plaintiff or applicant who is under disability, subject to subrule (1.1).  O. Reg. 69/95, s. 3 (1).



Mentally Incapable Person or Absentee


(1.1)  unless the court orders otherwise, where a plaintiff or applicant,

(a) is mentally incapable and has a guardian with authority to act as litigation guardian in the proceeding, the guardian shall act as litigation guardian;

[22]           It is important to note that while the above section directs that the guardian shall act as litigation guardian, it does not dictate when that authority is to be exercised. That, in my view, occurs once the guardian of property has determined there is a basis for exercising their authority as litigation guardian.

[23]           Surely that is appropriate. As the affidavit of counsel at the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee discloses, once they are appointed statutory guardian of property in a factual situation such as existed here, they begin an investigation into the entire matter. That can be, as the affidavit discloses, a time consuming process because there are usually information gaps because of the client’s incapacity which require the OPGT to be reliant on third party information with a need to be verified. The initial investigation is done by a client representative and if the situation warrants it, the matter is then referred to counsel in the OPGT’s office which in this case occurred in October of 2015. According to the evidence, further investigation continued under counsel’s direction exploring options available. Outside counsel was formally retained by the OPGT on May 6, 2016. The application was brought in August.

[24]           Moving carefully and cautiously prior to commencing litigation at public expense would require a thorough investigation of the facts and legal options available. As counsel in his affidavit points out, the client they act for has little capacity to properly advise them of her circumstances, so they have to rely on third party information which may support or not support or be neutral towards the incapable person’s position. I agree with counsel that imposing a limitation period commencing as of the OPGT’s appointment as guardian of property is not only contrary the wording of the Limitations Act, but would also create impossible timelines thus creating the potential for injustice being done to vulnerable individuals.

Ontario: time not suspended by a litigation guardian’s conflict of interest

The basic limitation period doesn’t run when the claimant is a minor or incapable person, except when the claimant is represented by a litigation guardian (see sections 6, 7, and 8 of the Limitations Act).

If the litigation guardian discovers that she has a conflict of interest, she must take steps to have a new litigation guardian appointed.  The conflict of interest will not suspend the running of the limitation period.

Per Justice Sweeny in Socha v. Peninsula Towing & Recovery:


[24]        The conflict of interest which is said to arise as a result of being named a defendant to a counterclaim cannot absolve a litigation guardian of his or her responsibilities to a minor. The conflict of interest may be seen as an indication that the litigation guardian has an“interest adverse” to the minor (see Murray v. Childrens Centre Thunder Bay & Murray, 2010 ONSC 845 (CanLII), at para. 25). However, the existence of a counter-claim or the potential liability of a parent has not precluded a parent from representing a minor as a next friend (the precursor to a litigation guardian) as was the case in Beckerson and Beckerson v. Dougherty, 1953 CanLII 129 (ON SC), [1953] O.R. 303.

[25]        In my view, a litigation guardian is not relieved of his or her duties to the minor or incapable person because he or she finds that his or her interest may be adverse. If that situation does arise, the litigation guardian should take steps to have a new litigation guardian appointed. The conflict should not have the effect of suspending the running of the limitation period.