Ontario – Court of Appeal does not address whether Vavilov changed the standard of review – #546

In Ontario First Nations (2008) Limited Partnership v. Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, 2021 ONCA 592, Justice Jamal (as he then was), writing for the Court of Appeal, found that it was unnecessary to address whether Vavilov changed the standard of review analysis in Sattva and Teal Cedar in an appeal from a commercial arbitration decision. Justice Jamal held that the parties’ disagreement as to how the applicable principles of contractual interpretation should be applied to the contractual facts is, absent an extricable error of law, an exercise of contractual interpretation by a first-instance decision maker on a matter of mixed fact and law that attracts appellant deference. Further, the Court should refrain from deciding issues of law that are unnecessary to the resolution of an appeal.  

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Québec – Consideration of scope and applicability of arbitration clause – #545

In Dr. Catherine Morin-Houde Dentist Inc. v. Dr. Marie-Ève Costisella Inc., 2021 QCCS 4109, Justice Faullem of the Québec Superior Court reviewed the applicability of an arbitration clause and in doing so set out a number of principles relevant to an understanding of the scope of arbitration clauses and the assessment of arbitral jurisdiction. 

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Alberta – Award was “abbreviated” to save time and costs – #544

In Alvarez v Alvarez, 2021 ABQB 717, Justice Malik denied leave to appeal an arbitrator’s award on a question of law pursuant to section 44(2) of the Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c. A-43. He found that no question of law was raised. However, the case raises issues  concerning s. 44(1) of the Act, which allows a party to ask the tribunal to “correct typographical errors, errors of calculation and similar errors in the award”  and s. 40, which permits a party to ask the tribunal to “explain any matter” in the award. The arbitrator issued an Award, and later at the request of the applicant, a Corrected Award, which included a “nominal correction”. It also addressed the applicant’s requests for correction, but made no changes to the Award. Before Justice Malik, the applicant argued (unsuccessfully) that the Award and Corrected Award contained errors of law. Justice Malik noted that the, “[a]rbitrator acknowledged that the Award was abbreviated to save time and costs, that just because he had not set out every fact or argument did not mean he had not considered them, and that a party could request additional reasons should they wish to pay the additional cost.”  The applicant argued on the application for leave to appeal that the arbitrator had not explained his Award sufficiently. The decision does not indicate whether the parties requested an abbreviated award to save time and costs. The Award was issued 8 months after the close of hearings.

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Ontario – Challenge to arbitrator’s integrity to be determined using bias test – #543

In Farmer v Farmer, 2021 ONSC 5913, the appellant wife appealed three arbitral awards arising out of a five-day family arbitration pursuant to s. 45(6)(a) of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c. 17. The wife’s grounds for appeal included that the arbitrator’s reasons were deficient and that the arbitrator’s “Clarification/Explanation Award” rendered after the parties complained that he had omitted certain issues in his first award, was an “after-the-fact” justification for the first award. The arbitrator admitted that he had had difficulty with his dictaphone when he had drafted the first award so that certain portions of it were inadvertently omitted, but said in the “Clarification/Explanation Award” that all issues had been considered. Justice Finlayson found that the “presumption of integrity” which applies to judges also applies to arbitrators and that the wife had to meet a test “similar to” the “reasonable apprehension of bias test” to rebut that presumption. She did not do so and this ground of appeal was dismissed. Justice Finlayson also concluded that the arbitrator’s reasons were insufficient, and substituted his own decision on one issue.

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Ontario – Court denies stay of order authorizing CCAA sale process despite ongoing arbitration – #542

In Urbancorp Toronto Management Inc. (Re) 2021 ONCA 613, Justice Miller refused to grant a stay pending appeal of an order in a CCAA proceeding authorizing the sale of an interest in a property development. The moving party unsuccessfully argued that the sale should be postponed until the conclusion of an ongoing parallel arbitration, the outcome of which would materially impact the value of the interest. If the sale process was not postponed, the moving party argued, the ongoing arbitration would chill the sale process and it would be impossible to know if a higher sale price could be achieved. Justice Miller held that he could not substitute his own evaluation of the efficacy of the sale process over that of the lower court judge, who had dismissed as speculative the argument that the sale process would suffer a chilling effect.

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Québec – Court favors arbitration even for related, but non-signatory, parties – #541

In 10053686 Canada inc. v. Tang, 2021 QCCS 3467 (unreported), Justice Geeta Narang declined jurisdiction with respect to a dispute arising out of a Franchise Agreement. Plaintiffs were the franchisees and a director of a franchisee. Defendants were directors and shareholders of the franchisor. Justice Narang referred the case to private arbitration following Defendants’ demand for declinatory exception because the Franchise Agreement contained an arbitration clause. Justice Narang first concluded that the arbitration agreement was a “complete undertaking to arbitrate”, in conformity with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Zodiak International v. Polish People Republic, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 529. She concluded that all allegations in the Plaintiffs’ claim were related to the franchisor-franchisee relationship and covered by the arbitration agreement. Secondly, she recognized the Legislator’s intention to favor a private dispute resolution mechanism over the public justice system whenever the parties have expressed the intention to resolve their dispute out of court. Thirdly, she granted Defendants’ demand for a declinatory exception, even though all Defendants and one of the Plaintiffs were non-signatories to the arbitration agreement. In interpreting the arbitration agreement liberally, she concluded that in this context ignoring the arbitration agreement because the Defendants were not parties to the arbitration agreement would be to rely upon a “blind technicality”.

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