Ontario – Limitations defence not a matter of arbitral jurisdiction – #674

In Cruickshank Construction Ltd. v The Corporation of the City of Kingston, 2022 ONSC 5704, Justice Myers allowed an application to appoint an arbitrator, providing his views on the method for that appointment. He also dismissed the Respondent’s cross-application for a declaration that the notice of arbitration was limitation-barred and that the Applicant had not complied with preconditions to arbitration in the parties’ agreement. Justice Myers held that there was no basis in the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c 17 (“Arbitration Act”) to permit the court to grant the cross-application and the grounds raised were not matters of arbitral jurisdiction.

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Quebec – The broad powers of an arbitrator as “amiable composer” – #673

In Investissements immobiliers MB inc. c. SMP Direct inc., 2022 QCCS 3315, Justice Godbout affirmed the broad jurisdiction that an arbitrator has to grant remedies in oppression claims, especially when empowered as an ‘amiable composer’. An ‘amiable composer’ may make a binding decision based on equity (rather than law) and without procedural formalities. It is a role that has its roots in civil law (“amiable compositeur”).

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Ontario – Does an appeal of a costs award require leave? – #672

In Schickedanz v Wagema Holdings Ltd., 2022 ONSC 5315, Justice Ramsay dismissed the motion by Wagema Holdings Ltd (Respondent on appeal) to quash Appellant Schickedanz’s appeal of a costs award. Wagema argued that leave was required under s. 133(b) of the Ontario Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43 (“CJA”) and so the appeal was also out of time. Justice Ramsay was not persuaded that Wagema would prevail when the issue was determined by the appeal judge. First, the parties’ arbitration agreement contained a broad appeal process, without a leave requirement for costs appeals. Second, there is nothing in s. 45 of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17 that requires leave to appeal a costs award or imports the leave requirement set out in the general costs appeal provision in s. 113(b) of the CJA. Third, the parties could contract out of the appeal provisions in s. 45 of the Arbitration Act pursuant to s. 3. Imposing a leave requirement to appeal a costs award would amount to judicial interference with the parties’ right to contract, which was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in TELUS Communications Inc. v. Wellman, 2019 SCC 19. Ultimately, it would be up to the judge hearing the appeal to decide whether leave was required and, if so, whether the appeal was out of time and whether the appeal had merit.

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Québec – Solidary liability allegation no bar to referral to arbitration for one defendant – #671

In Nantel v Gonzalez (not reported), Justice Buchholz stayed an action as against one defendant of a group and referred its dispute with the Plaintiffs to arbitration, even though the Plaintiffs alleged solidary (joint) liability as against all Defendants.

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B.C. – Leave to appeal granted on question of law of public importance – #670

In The Graham-Aecon Joint Venture v. Malcolm Drilling Company Inc., 2022 BCCA 319, the Applicants (The Graham-Aecon Joint Venture and related entities) sought leave to appeal an arbitral award where the underlying dispute turned on the proper interpretation of section 8(d) of the Limitation Act, S.B.C. 2012 c. 13. That provision states that a claim is “discovered” “on the first day on which the person “knew or reasonably ought to have known…that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damages, a court proceeding would have been an appropriate means to see to remedy the injury or loss”.  Based on his interpretation of section 8(d), the Arbitrator had found that the claim was not time-barred. On application for leave to appeal, even though the Arbitrator’s reasons were “careful and thorough” Justice Voith decided to exercise his discretion to grant leave. He found the question of the proper interpretation of section 8(d) met the requirements  of the Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c.2  for leave as it was a question of law that ‘cannot be dismissed through a preliminary examination’ and was of public or general importance as it had received little previous judicial attention.

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Manitoba – Arbitration Agreement Invalid due to Unconscionability and no Consideration – #669

In Pokornik v. SkipTheDishes Restaurant Services Inc., 2022 MBKB 178, Justice Chartier considered the principles arising from Uber Technologies Inc. v. Heller, 2020 SCC 16 (CanLII) (“Uber”) in a contract of adhesion between a restaurant delivery corporation, SkipTheDishes, and one of its individual couriers. Justice Chartier found that there was no arbitration agreement; SkipTheDishes asserted that the courier was bound to a new agreement with an arbitration agreement that only became effective after she sued. Had he found otherwise, Justice Chartier would have found the agreement to be invalid due to unconscionability and a lack of consideration. These findings were despite efforts by SkipTheDishes to address some of the concerns that animated the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Uber.

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