Ontario – Arbitrator to determine jurisdiction/validity of arbitration clause in employment dispute – #654

In Irwin v. Protiviti, 2022 ONCA 533, the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that, unless the question is one of pure law or is a question of mixed fact and law requiring only a superficial review of the evidence, questions about the jurisdiction of an arbitrator are to be arbitrated. This includes whether an arbitration clause in an arbitration contract is void for unconscionability, or for inconsistency with the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S. O. 2000, c. 41 (“ESA”) or the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H. 19 (“the Code”).

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British Columbia –  Effect of consent orders staying proceedings in favour of arbitration – #636

Williams v. Audible Inc., 2022 BCSC 834 (“Audible”) is the second of two decisions by Justice Horsman extending stays of proceedings in favour of arbitration under s. 15 of the former Arbitration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 55 in the context of class proceedings. The first, Williams v. Amazon.com Inc., 2020 BCSC 300 (the “Amazon Stay Decision”), concerned a separate class proceeding, brought by the same representative plaintiffs as in Audible, alleging similar causes of action, but against Amazon. That decision is under appeal. In this case, Justice Horsman granted the stay sought by Audible. Following the principles in Seidel v TELUS Communications Inc., 2011 SCC 15, the parties agreed to a consent stay of proceedings in favour of arbitration in respect of the plaintiff’s non-consumer protection legislation claims because of the arbitration clause in the relevant contracts. On this application, Justice Horsman found that, because the representative plaintiffs’ non-consumer claims were stayed by virtue of a consent order, there was no proceeding in which to advance the claims of the other possible class members, whose claims related to a period of time when Audible’s contracts did not contain arbitration clause. Therefore, she granted an extension of the stay of those proceedings to cover those claims too.

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Québec – Intervention by appointing authority not permitted on challenge to decision – #613

In Mullen v. Nakisa inc., 2022 QCCS 1164, Justice Lacoste rejected a request that the Canadian Commercial Arbitration Centre (the “CCAC”), an appointing institution, be permitted to intervene in an appeal of a decision by an arbitrator appointed by it. Applying the higher threshold for interventions in private litigation, Justice Lacoste held that there was no reason to permit the CCAC to intervene as it would not add any substance to the arguments on appeal.

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Saskatchewan – Judicial review available only when arbitration agreement provides – #594

In Ministry of Highways for the Province of Saskatchewan v. West-Can Seal Coating Inc. et al, 2022 SKQB 43, Justice Currie heard, and rejected, all grounds pursued by the applicant, Ministry of Highways (the “Ministry”), to set aside a decision arising from an arbitration conducted pursuant to the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (“NWPTA”), a trade agreement among the four western Canadian provinces. Justice Currie confirmed that, unless contracted for by the parties, there is no role for judicial review of an arbitration award. The options are appeal (if applicable) and set aside. Set aside applications are also limited to issues of procedural fairness, and not whether the decision is correct on its merits.

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Ontario – tolling agreement from arbitration overcomes limitation defence at pleadings amendment stage – #574

In Vale Canada Limited v. Solway Investment Group Limited et al, 2021 ONSC 7562, Justice Koehnen considered, in the context of a motion to amend a Statement of Claim,  the impact of a tolling agreement made in respect of claims made in arbitrations that had been commenced and concluded five years previous. In a decision that canvasses the law on the interaction of motions to strike and motions to amend, Justice Koehnen ultimately permitted the amendments, without prejudice to the defendants to plead a limitation defence and to bring a motion to strike.

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Ontario – Motion to quash appeal dismissed in light of conflicting policy implications – #558

In considering whether to grant a motion to quash an appeal in Leon v. Dealnet, 2021 ONSC 7192, Justice Kristjanson of the Ontario Divisional Court was faced with two conflicting policy concerns: respect for and giving effect to arbitration agreements and protecting vulnerable workers by ensuring that  the arbitration agreement did not constitute a contracting out of an employee’s statutory rights

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