Ontario – Stay Granted where Competing Arguable Interpretations of Scope of Arbitration Agreement – #648

In Biancucci v Buttarazzi, 2022 ONSC 4054, Justice Myers followed the analytical framework for a stay application under s. 7 of the Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17  (the “Act”) as set out in Haas v. Gunasekaram, 2016 ONCA 744. The arbitration agreement at issue was contained in a settlement agreement, and interconnected litigation and arbitration taking place over a decade made analysis of the scope of the arbitration agreement complex. Ultimately, Justice Myers confirmed that there were competing arguable interpretations of scope and granted the stay, leaving jurisdiction to be ultimately determined by the arbitral panel.

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Alberta – SCC Wastech decision applies to exercise of arbitrator’s discretion to resign – #647

In SZ v JZ, 2022 ABQB 493 Justice Marion agreed to hear an application for urgent relief, despite the Respondent’s position that he had no jurisdiction. The Respondent argued that the parties were engaged in arbitration until the Arbitrator resigned unilaterally; however, the parties’ arbitration agreement continued to be enforceable. Justice Marion disagreed. He found that the Alberta Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c A-43 (Arbitration Act) and the arbitration agreement (to which the Arbitrator was a party) allowed the Arbitrator to resign and that because the parties agreed to arbitration only before the specific Arbitrator appointed, upon his resignation, the arbitration terminated. However, the Arbitrator was required to exercise his discretion to resign reasonably and in good faith, including in a manner that was consistent with the purposes for which the discretion was provided in the contract,  in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Wastech Services Ltd v Greater Vancouver Sewage and Drainage District, 2021 SCC 7. There was no suggestion that he had not done so.

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England – Court clarifies requirements for validly appointing arbitrators – #646

As our readers know, Canadian courts have been generating a wealth of jurisprudence on many international arbitration-related issues of late. However, there are still some lacunae in Canadian jurisprudence, which courts will often fill by referring to jurisprudence from other leading arbitral jurisdictions, including England and UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration jurisdictions such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Article 2A(1) of the Model Law explicitly provides for this: “In the interpretation of this Law, regard is to be had to its international origin and to the need to promote uniformity in its application and the observance of good faith.” Because of this, Arbitration Matters will occasionally report on interesting cases from other jurisdictions which could be applied in Canada if the issue were to present itself here. One such case made our radar this week, because it deals with an issue that is seldom fought about in Canada: whether an arbitrator was validly appointed. In ARI v. WXJ, [2022] EWHC 1543 (Comm), Justice Foxton of the English Commercial Court rejected the Claimant’s argument that the Respondent’s appointee was invalidly appointed, and that the arbitrator appointed by the Claimant should therefore decide the dispute as sole arbitrator.

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B.C. – Leave to appeal threshold not overcome by strategic drafting – #645

In MDG Contracting Services Inc. v. Mount Polley Mining Corporation, MDG sought leave to appeal an arbitral award on the basis of section 30 (errors of law) and to set aside the award on the basis of section 31 (failing to observe the rules of natural justice) of the former B.C. Arbitration Act, RSBC 1995, c 55. Justice McDonald dismissed MDG’s petition on the basis that it failed to meet the threshold requirement for granting leave in cases where there is a “clearly perceived and delineated” question of law, or, a rare extricable question of law. Rather, MDG’s arguments raised questions of mixed fact and law by submitting that despite the Arbitrator making a correct statement regarding the law, when properly applied, it should have resulted in a different outcome. The court also rejected MDG’s argument that the Arbitrator failed to observe the rules of natural justice when he failed to explain how he reached a “summary conclusion”, as the Award contained ample detail regarding the Arbitrator’s findings.

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Québec – 10-year limitation for foreign award recognition and enforcement– #644

In Itani v. Société Générale de Banque au Liban SAL, 2022 QCCA 920, the Québec Court of Appeal (Schrager, Moore, and Kalichman JJA) considered the limitation period for recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award rendered outside Québec. The Court applied the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Yugraneft Corp. v. Rexx Management Corp., 2010 SCC 19, confirming that recognition and enforcement of a foreign arbitral award is governed by the rules of procedure applicable in the territory in which the application is made―so it differs from province to province. The Court of Appeal considered the applicable provisions of the Québec Civil Code and ruled that the application to recognize and enforce the arbitral award was subject to a 10-year limitation period, upholding the decision of Justice Poulin at first instance.

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Ontario: Stay ordered as promissory note captured by separate arbitration agreement – #643

In Pioneer Cannabis Corp. v. 2715615 Ontario Inc., 2022 ONSC 3998, the Plaintiff’s action was stayed pursuant to s. 7(1) of Ontario’s Arbitration Act, 1991 (the “Act “) and the parties’ arbitration agreement found in their “Master Cannabis Agreement” (the “MCA”). The Plaintiff Pioneer Cannabis Corp (“Pioneer”) commenced an action alleging that the Defendants 2715615 Ontario Inc and Mr. Sangha owed money pursuant to a promissory note. The parties had entered into a number of agreements relating to cannabis retail consulting and brand licensing services including the MCA, a Retail Services Authorization Agreement (the “RSAA”), and a promissory note. On its motion to stay, the Defendants argued that the Plaintiff’s claim fell within the arbitration clause in the MCA. The Plaintiff, however, argued since its claim wass based solely on the promissory note, which should be viewed as a standalone instrument, it fell outside the scope of the arbitration clause. Associate Justice Robinson disagreed with Pioneer, found the arbitration agreement covered the promissory note, and granted the stay. As outlined below, in reaching his conclusion, Associate Justice Robinson applied the five-part test established by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Haas v Gunasekaram, 2016 ONCA 744  (“Haas”)at paragraph 17 to determine whether an action should be stayed in favour of arbitration (the “Haas Test”). 

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