Ontario – Refusal to respond not a waiver to arbitrate – #686

In Justmark Industries Inc. v. Infinitus (China) Ltd., 2022 ONSC 5495, Justice Williams granted the Defendant/Moving Party’s motion to stay the court action in favour of arbitration. The Plaintiff/Responding Party Justmark Industries Inc. (“Justmark”) commenced the court action for breach of contract against the Defendant/Moving Party Infinitus (China) Ltd. (“Infinitus”). The contract, however, contained an arbitration clause requiring disputes to be arbitrated in Hong Kong by the Arbitration Committee of the International Trade Council (the “ITC”) pursuant to the law of the United Kingdom. As such, Infinitus brought a motion under s 9 of Ontario’s International Commercial Arbitration Act, 2017 (the “ICAA”), which incorporates Article 8(1) of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (the “Model Law”), to stay the proceedings. In response, Justmark alleged that Infinitus had waived its right to arbitration and thus rendered the arbitration agreement “inoperative” under Model Law Article 8(1). Justmark claimed that Infinitus’s failure to respond to its requests to commence arbitration amounted to waiver. Justice Williams, however, dismissed Justmark’s  argument on the grounds that there was no evidence that “[16] …  Infinitus had the requisite ‘unequivocal and conscious intention,’ or any intention, to abandon its right to arbitrate.

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Alberta – Arbitral award enforced despite Russian sanctions  – #685

In Angophora Holdings Limited v. Ovsyankin, 2022 ABKB 711, Justice Romaine dismissed an application by an arbitral award debtor to stay enforcement of the award issued in favour of a party indirectly owned and controlled by Russian bank Gazprombank JSC, which is an entity subject to Russian sanctions. 

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Ontario – Defendant to stayed action may commence arbitration – #684

In Star Woodworking Ltd. v. Improve Inc., 2022 ONSC 5827, the defendant condominium corporation sought an order that the Court appoint an arbitrator to hear and resolve the plaintiffs’ claims against it. The plaintiffs had originally commenced actions in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and a number of claims were stayed as they were required to be brought in arbitration pursuant to the Condominium Act, 1998, SO 1998, c 19, and the Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c 17. Justice Myers rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that they could not be forced to be claimants in an arbitration if they did not wish to do so. Justice Myers held that the arbitration was properly commenced pursuant to section 23 of the Arbitration Act, 1991

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Federal – Amazon purchasers’ class-action competition claims referred to arbitration – #683

In Difederico v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2022 FC 1256, Justice Furlanetto of the Federal Court granted Defendants’ motion to refer to arbitration claims asserted under section 45 of the Competition Act, RSC 1985, c C-34 (the “Competition Act”) by a proposed class representative plaintiff. Of interest to arbitration observers, the judgment considered the circumstances which qualify as “commercial legal relationships” within the meaning of the United Nations Foreign Arbitral Awards Convention Act, RSC 1985, c 16 (2nd sup) (“UNFAACA”), the statute which implements the New York Convention into the federal law of Canada. The New York Convention, Article II(3), requires a court of a contracting State, at the request of a party, to refer claims covered by an arbitration agreement to arbitration, unless the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative, or incapable of being performed. This case also features detailed analysis of the access-to-justice exception to the competence-competence principle recognized in Uber Technologies, Inc. v. Heller, 2020 SCC 16 (“Uber”).

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Supreme Court – Peace River v Petrowest Part 1: Separability Clarified? – #682

Most of the commentary about the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision of Peace River Hydro Partners v Petrowest, 2022 SCC 41, is about the interplay between arbitration law and bankruptcy/insolvency law – and my next Case Note will address that issue. However, perhaps a more important issue for arbitration law was the Court’s consideration of the doctrine of separability (although it was not relevant to the outcome). The scope of its application in Canada was uncertain following the 2020 decisions of the British Columbia Court of Appeal under appeal, Petrowest Corporation v Peace River Hydro Partners, 2020 BCCA 339, and the Supreme Court of Canada in Uber Technologies Inc. v Heller, 2020 SCC 16 (“Uber”). 

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Québec – No enforcement of award against alter egos – #681

In a much-anticipated decision, the Québec Court of Appeal overturned Justice Pinsonneault’s first instance decision and quashed the seizure before judgment by garnishment taken against a subsidiary and non-party to an arbitration to answer for the debt of the parent pursuant to an arbitral award. Justice Pinsonneault’s decision was discussed in a previous case note concerning CC/Devas (Mauritius) Ltd. v. Republic of India, 2022 QCCS 7. In Air India, Ltd. v. CC/Devas (Mauritius) Ltd., 2022 QCCA 1264, the Court of Appeal unanimously granted the appeal of the parent, ruling that a foreign award cannot be enforced against a third party’s assets unless it is proven: (1) that the third party is the debtor’s alter ego; and (2) that the third party was used in order to conceal fraud, abuse of right or a violation of a public order rule by the debtor. The Court of Appeal ruled that the applicable criteria for the enforcement of a foreign award against the shareholder of a condemned party were the same as the applicable criteria to lift the corporate veil, as codified at section 317 CCQ. Here, those criteria were not met, and the court did not lift the corporate veil.

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