Ontario – Leave to appeal award application and appeal dismissed together – #692

In The Tire Pit Inc. v Augend 6285 Yonge Village Properties Ltd., 2022 ONSC 6763, Justice Vermette dismissed an application for leave to appeal an award and the appeal itself. The grounds of appeal did not raise questions of law which were subject to appeal pursuant to subsection 45(1) of the Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17 (“Act”) and had no importance beyond the parties. In any event, if she was wrong, she found that they lacked merit.

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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.

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Supreme Court – Peace River v Petrowest Part 2: no conflict between arbitration, bankruptcy law – #687

In Peace River Hydro Partners v Petrowest, 2022 SCC 41, the central issue was whether a receiver/trustee in bankruptcy may disclaim the arbitration clause in a contract and sue in the courts when it seeks to enforce the debtor’s contractual rights against third parties. The case concerned the tension between the court’s supervisory power over all proceedings brought by a receiver/trustee under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) RSC 1985, c. B-3, and party autonomy to contract out of the courts. Section 15 of the British Columbia (former) Arbitration Act, RSBC 1996 c. 55 required a stay of proceedings where a party to an arbitration agreement has commenced a court proceeding in respect of a matter to be submitted to arbitration, unless the arbitration agreement is “void, inoperative, or incapable of being performed”. The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the stay application of the defendant sued by the receiver/trustee, but split 5-4 on the reasons. The majority found that the arbitration clauses at issue were “inoperative” because enforcing them would compromise the orderly and efficient resolution of the receivership. This authority arises from the statutory jurisdiction conferred on provincial superior courts under ss. 243(1) and 183(1) of the BIA. It found that this interpretation of the stay provision ensures that provincial arbitration legislation and federal bankruptcy legislation are not in conflict. The minority found that the specific language of the “template” Receivership Order authorized the Receiver/Trustee to disclaim the arbitration agreements, rendering them inoperative.

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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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Ontario – Foreign award enforcement upheld on appeal despite previous attornment to court – #679

In Wang v. Luo, 2022 ONSC 5544, Justice LeMay, sitting as an Ontario Divisional Court judge, upheld the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award rendered under the auspices of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (“CIETAC”). He rejected the Appellant’s arguments that the Superior Court of Justice erred in enforcing the award, including an argument that enforcement was improper given the Respondent’s previous attempt to pursue its claim before the Ontario Small Claims Court.

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Alberta – Action brought to require payment ordered in award – #676

In Tomalik v Enthink Inc., 2022 ABCA 302, the Court dismissed an appeal of the decision of Justice Gill of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench, who ordered the Appellant companies to buy out the Respondents’ shares in the companies pursuant to a Unanimous Shareholders Agreement (“USA”) and a valuation done by the second of two valuators.  The Respondents argued that the first valuation was too low and pursued arbitration, as result of which the arbitrator found the first valuation deficient and ordered a second valuation, which was even lower.  The arbitrator ordered the Appellants to purchase the shares at the second valuation amount. When they refused to pay, the Respondents sued the Appellants for breach of contract and, in a separate action, the second valuator in negligence for failing to arrive at a fair valuation.  The two actions were permitted to proceed; by accepting the valuation as binding upon them in the first action and challenging it in the second, the Respondents were not seeking “inconsistent and mutually exclusive rights”.

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