Alberta – Misapplication of separability principle in contract dispute – #762

Gutama Estate v Vital Property Services Inc., 2023 ABKB 436, is NOT an arbitration case and the contract at issue contained no arbitration clause. But bear with me! The case involved the alleged repudiation/termination of a shareholders agreement and the consequences to the rights and obligations of the parties as a result. The question: if the contract was repudiated/terminated, were all the parties’ rights unwound? The Court quoted from Heyman v. Darwins Ltd. (, the leading U.K. decision that established the common law principle of separability of the arbitration clause. The Court described Heyman v Darwins as a case that addresses the operation of an arbitration clause where the contract has come to an end: in circumstances in which the contract-terminating event did not go to the very existence of the contract, “it did not matter how the contract came to be terminated: the contract (including its arbitration clause) had existed, and the arbitration clause continued to operate….” The Court then extrapolated that concept and applied it more broadly: “[i]n other words, pre-existing and engaged contractual rights continued to operate despite the later termination (by whatever means) of the contract”. Applying that reasoning to this case where the shareholders agreement was alleged to have been repudiated or terminated by its own terms, the Court said that any such termination did not,  “eclipse the agreement completely ie render it meaningless for all purposes and at all times… [i]nstead, crystalized rights and obligations would continue.”  In other words, “the parties would be discharged from future obligations, but remain bound by rights and obligations that have accrued through partial performance”. Thus the Court imported part of a uniquely arbitration law principle with a specific public policy purpose, separability, into general contract law.

Continue reading “Alberta – Misapplication of separability principle in contract dispute – #762”

Alberta – No discretion under Rules to correct procedurally flawed appeal of award – #759

In Kwadrans v Kwadrans, 2023 ABCA 203, the Alberta Court of Appeal considered the appeal of a chambers judge’s order that struck the appeal of an arbitration award in a family law dispute. The chambers judge held that the appellant, by filing a Notice to Attend Family Docket Court instead of an originating application, did not properly commence his appeal of the arbitral award within 30 days as required by the Alberta Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c A-43 (“Arbitration Act”). The chambers judge issued an order striking the appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld the chambers judge’s finding and dismissed the appeal. Kwadrans makes clear that although the Arbitration Act is silent about how an appeal is to be commenced, rule 3.2(5) of the Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 124/2010 (“Rules of Court”) fills that gap and requires that an appeal be made by originating application. Further, based on the authority of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Kwadrans and Allen v Renouf, 2019 ABCA 250, the Court does not have discretion to cure a procedural deficiency if the effect would be to extend a limitation period under the Arbitration Act. Kwadrans addresses issues that may arise as a result of the interplay between the Rules of Court and the Arbitration Act generally and has application to appeals of commercial arbitral awards.

Continue reading “Alberta – No discretion under Rules to correct procedurally flawed appeal of award – #759”

Alberta – Restrictive interpretation of exceptions to stay applications – #754

In 2329716 Alberta Ltd. v Jagroop Randhawa, 2023 ABKB 297, the Court of King’s Bench stayed interim and injunctive relief applications pending a resolution of the parties’ dispute in arbitration. The Court found that the Respondent’s application for interim and injunctive relief related to arbitrable matters covered by the arbitration clause in the parties’ agreement, and that the summary judgment exception in ss. 7(2)(e) of the Alberta Arbitration Act did not apply because: (a) there had been no application for summary judgement; and (b) the Applicant did not attorn to the Court’s jurisdiction by seeking declaratory orders (in a previous proceeding that had been dismissed on procedural grounds) and injunctive relief (at the stay application hearing).

Continue reading “Alberta – Restrictive interpretation of exceptions to stay applications – #754”

Alberta – “Participating in” not same as “taking a step in” an arbitration – #745

In Dow Chemical Canada ULC v NOVA Chemicals Corporation, 2023 ABKB 215,  Justice Wooley dismissed an application by Dow Chemical Canada ULC (“Dow”) for an order declaring the invalidity of the arbitration pursuant to Section 47 of the Arbitration Act to enjoin an arbitration between the parties. That provision requires that the  party seeking the order has “not participated in the arbitration.”  The Court found that Dow did participate in the arbitration and the case provides a useful framework for what it means to “participate” in an arbitration.

Continue reading “Alberta – “Participating in” not same as “taking a step in” an arbitration – #745″

Alberta – Former arbitrator, now judge/facilitator in same matter not biased – #730

In Shannon v Shannon, 2023 ABCA 79, the Appellant appealed the final consent order of  a judge of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (as it then was), which was made after a Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution (“BJDR”) process under the  Alberta Rules of Court, AR 124/2010 and AR 194/202. The parties signed a Resolution Agreement dated February 16, 2021, which disposed of all the issues in dispute and whose terms were incorporated into a consent order. Both parties had counsel during the BJDR process, but not on the appeal. The Appellant challenged the consent order on the bases that: (1) there was a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the judge who facilitated the BJDR process because she had previously acted as arbitrator in the same matter before she was appointed to the Bench; and (2) the Appellant was not competent to enter into the Resolution Agreement that led to the consent order, which should be set aside as null and void. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal because it found that the Appellant had consented to having the judge who had previously sat as arbitrator facilitate the BJDR process, but also that a reasonable apprehension of bias allegation could not be established – there is a high burden to show that a superior court judge would not disabuse her mind of anything learned on a prior occasion and there is also a strong presumption that a judge will act judicially. 

Continue reading “Alberta – Former arbitrator, now judge/facilitator in same matter not biased – #730”

Alberta – Claimants denied stay of own action in favour of arbitration – #716

In 10060 Jasper Avenue Building Limited v Scotia Place Tower III Inc, 2023 ABKB 23, Justice Summers refused an application to stay a proceeding brought by the party who commenced it. He found that the applicant party did not have status to make the application under the relevant arbitration legislation.

Continue reading “Alberta – Claimants denied stay of own action in favour of arbitration – #716”

Alberta – Power to prevent “manifestly unfair treatment” not power to stay arbitration – #706

In IBI Group Architects (Canada) Inc. v Edmonton (City), 2022 CarswellAlta 1805, the applicants, IBI Group Architects (Canada) Inc. and a related party (“IBI”), applied to stay an arbitration commenced by the City of Edmonton in favour of court proceedings.  Although there is no express power to stay arbitrations under the Alberta Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c A-43(“the Act”), the application was brought under subsection 6(c) which provides “[n]o court may intervene in matters governed by this Act, except for the following purposes as provided by this Act…(c) to prevent manifestly unfair or unequal treatment of a party to an arbitration agreement”. Previously, the Alberta Court of Appeal held in New Era Nutrition Inc. v Balance Bar Company, 2004 ABCA 280 (“New Era”), that courts could use subsection 6(c) to provide a remedy to cure unfairness arising from matters not covered by the specific language of the Act and that it could be used to allow “a party, faced with both a statement of claim and a notice to arbitrate, to apply to stay the arbitration on the basis that the matters in the two proceedings overlap and cannot be reasonably separated” in order to avoid unfairness (para. 43).  IBI argued, among other things, that it needed the full participation and evidence of non-parties to the arbitration clause to defend itself and so if it were forced to arbitrate it would be unable to meet the case against it, which was manifestly unfair and so the arbitration should be stayed. Justice Dunlop, delivering his decision from the bench, refused the application to stay the arbitration as he determined that he had no jurisdiction to do so under the Act.  He concluded that New Era “was no longer good law” in Alberta as the case had been considered and expressly overruled by the Supreme Court of Canada in TELUS Communications Inc. v. Wellman, 2019 SCC 19 (CanLII), [2019] 2 SCR 144 (“Telus v Wellman”).

Continue reading “Alberta – Power to prevent “manifestly unfair treatment” not power to stay arbitration – #706”

Alberta – Alberta never bound by Sattva and Teal Cedar – #705

In Esfahani v Samimi, 2022 ABKB 795, the parties’ marriage broke down and they agreed that certain issues would be decided by way of arbitration and other matters by litigation. The Arbitrator issued an award, which Husband appealed and sought to set aside pursuant to s. 44(1) (appeals) of the Alberta Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c A-43, but not s. 45 (set asides) of the Act. Ultimately, Justice Marion dismissed the appeal and declined to set aside the award, but varied and remitted certain issues back to the Arbitrator. This Case Note focusses on the following two issues:

Continue reading “Alberta – Alberta never bound by Sattva and Teal Cedar – #705”

Alberta – Court of Appeal to clarify its jurisdiction in arbitration matters – #689

In Schafer v Schafer, 2022 ABCA 358, Justice Pentelchuk ordered further briefing on the court’s jurisdiction to hear an appeal from an order of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench refusing permission to appeal under section 44(2) of the Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c A-43 (the “Arbitration Act”). Although the amounts in dispute were relatively small, the case engaged several foundational questions. The first involved the overlapping, and sometimes dissonant, statutory jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal in matters ancillary to arbitration. Second, Justice Pentelchuk saw merit in providing interpretive guidance to parties and counsel on the appeal rights which flow from the arbitration agreement signed by the parties, which was said to be “standard” in family law arbitration in Alberta. She accordingly granted permission to brief the issue of jurisdiction to a panel of the Court of Appeal, in order to provide clarity in situations where the Judicature Act, Rules of Court, and Arbitration Act intersect. Justice Pentelchuk also asked the parties to address whether the arbitration agreement was a standard form agreement (which could make its interpretation an issue of law rather than mixed law and fact), and apply to adduce fresh evidence on that question, if necessary.

Continue reading “Alberta – Court of Appeal to clarify its jurisdiction in arbitration matters – #689”

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. 

Continue reading “Alberta – Arbitral award enforced despite Russian sanctions  – #685”