Alberta – Master’s stay decision appealable despite no appeal under Arbitration Act – #665

In Agrium v Orbis Engineering Field Services, 2022 ABCA 266, the majority of a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal of Alberta (the “Court of Appeal”) dismissed an appeal to overturn a decision staying the action in favour of arbitration. The Appellant, Agrium, Inc. (“Agrium”), commenced an action against the Respondents, Orbis Engineering Field Services Ltd., Elliott Turbomachinery Canada Inc., and Elliott Company (together, the “Respondents”), in relation to a dispute arising out of the parties’ services contract that included a mandatory arbitration agreement. The Respondents defended the claim, including on the ground that the arbitration agreement barred the action pursuant to s 7 of Alberta’s Arbitration Act (the “Act”). The Respondents’ initial application to stay the action was dismissed by Master Prowse on the grounds of waiver and attornment. The Respondents then appealed to a Justice of Alberta’s Court of King’s Bench. Before Justice Dilts, Agrium relied upon s 7(6) of the Act, which states that “[t]here is no appeal from the court’s decision under this section”.  Agrium argued that thisprohibited the appeal. Justice Dilts dismissed this argument and allowed the Respondents’ appeal on the grounds that: (1) an appeal was permitted notwithstanding s. 7(6); and (2) the Respondents’ conduct did not amount to a waiver of their right to arbitrate. The majority of the Court of Appeal upheld Justice Dilts’ decision based on a similar analysis. Of note, Justice Wakeling wrote a 44-page dissenting opinion, which includes 140 paragraphs and 152 footnotes, as compared with the 34- paragraph majority decision (!).

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Ontario – Court of Appeal upholds “single proceeding” insolvency model over recourse to arbitration – #660

In Mundo Media Ltd. (Re), 2022 ONCA 607, Court of Appeal for Ontario Justice Julie Thorburn dismissed a motion for leave to appeal a decision denying a motion to stay a receiver’s court proceeding. The Appellant/Moving Party sought the stay on the basis of an international arbitration agreement. Justice Thorburn found no reversible error in the motion judge’s choice to apply the “single proceeding model”, applicable in insolvency proceedings, with the effect that the Appellant/Moving Party, one of the insolvent company’s debtors, could not require the receiver to arbitrate its claim rather than litigate it. Together with the Superior Court’s decision below, this decision provides important guidance on the interplay between arbitration agreements and claims advanced in the bankruptcy and insolvency context.

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Ontario – Arbitrator resignation did not terminate arbitration – #652

In Kubecka v Novakovic, 2022 ONSC 4503, Justice Pinto determined that, on the wording of the parties’ arbitration agreement, the parties had agreed that the arbitration was not terminated and their dispute returned to the jurisdiction of the courts – even when the arbitrator resigned. He appointed a replacement arbitrator on the application of one of the parties.

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Québec – Parallel proceedings insufficient to justify disregard of arbitration agreement – #651

In Travelers Insurance Company of Canada v Greyhound Canada Transportation, 2022 QCCQ 4746, Justice Davignon declined jurisdiction over part of a dispute – the Plaintiffs sued the Defendants for recovery of damages as a result of an explosion on their property; in a separate action, one Defendant sued the other to recover any damages it might be required to pay to the Plaintiffs, relying upon a warranty provision in the Defendants’ agreement (to which the Plaintiffs were not parties). That agreement contained both a forum selection and arbitration clause. Justice Davignon declined jurisdiction over the warranty claim. He was unmoved by the fact that this would result in the dispute being debated in two different forums – the court, in respect of the principal action, and arbitration, as to the warranty claim – and gave full effect to the arbitration clause in the agreement between the Defendants.

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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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