Ontario – No appeal lies from preliminary jurisdictional decision – #666

In Iris Technologies Inc. v. Rogers Communications Canada Inc., 2022 ONCA 634, the Ontario Court of Appeal quashed a motion for leave to appeal from the lower court’s decision in which it was asked to  “decide the matter” of arbitral jurisdiction under the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991. The Court of Appeal confirmed its earlier decision, United Mexican States v. Burr, 2021 ONCA 64, made under the Ontario International Commercial Arbitration Act, 2017. The Court also made it clear that no appeal lies from lower court decisions which “decide the matter” of arbitral jurisdiction when the question comes before the court as a preliminary issue before the final award is rendered.

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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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Québec – Interests of justice require closely linked disputes to be arbitrated – #664

In Tessier v 2428-8516 Québec inc., 2002 QCCS 3159, Justice Dufresne granted an application for a declinatory exception in respect of  an originating application, and referred two disputes involving ownership of two closely connected companies to arbitration where the shareholders of only one of the two companies involved in the disputes were subject to an arbitration agreement. Justice Dufresne found that the disputes were linked. He relied upon the interests of justice and the principle of proportionality and  found that [informal translation]“rather than depriving the shareholders of the first [company] of the effects of the arbitration clause, the shareholders of the second [company] should be ordered to be subject to it.”

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Alberta – Court reviews preliminary jurisdictional award for correctness de novo – #663

In Ong v Fedoruk, 2022 ABQB 557, Justice Bourque confirmed that under subsection 17(9) of the Alberta Arbitration Act(“the Act“), the court reviews preliminary jurisdictional awards in domestic arbitrations for correctness on a de novo basis. In doing so, Ong aligned the standard of review and procedure in Alberta with the decision of the Ontario Divisional Court in The Russian Federation v. Luxtona Limited, 2021 ONSC 4604 (“Luxtona”), a case decided under the comparable provision of Ontario’s International Commercial Arbitration Act, 2017, SO 2017, c 2, Sch 5 (“ICAA”), which implements the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (“Model Law”). However, it diverged from Ace Bermuda Insurance Ltd. v Allianz Insurance Company of Canada, 2005 ABQB 975 (“Ace Bermuda”), an international case which applied a review standard of “reasonableness, deference & respect” under Alberta’s International Commercial Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c I-5, which also implements the Model Law. That case as a precedent may now be in doubt, considering the trend in Canadian and other Model Law jurisdictions in favor of non-deferential review of preliminary jurisdictional decisions of arbitral tribunals.

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B.C. – Material misapprehension of evidence is an extricable error of law – #662

In Escape 101 Ventures Inc. v March of Dimes Canada, 2022 BCCA 294, Justice Voith (for the Court) allowed an appeal of a commercial arbitral award on two grounds of significance: (1) the arbitrator demonstrated a material misapprehension of evidence going to the core of the outcome – this constituted an extricable error of law subject to appeal; and (2) an appeal is allowed with respect to “any question of law arising out of an arbitral award”, but this is not limited to errors arising from the formal award of the arbitrator. Here, the error was patent from the record, but was not apparent in the arbitrator’s reasons. The Court remitted the issue back to the arbitrator for reconsideration rather than substitute its own decision because there was no record of the proceedings, so it lacked the necessary evidentiary foundation to do so. (This was also the first appeal under the new B.C. Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2.)

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Alberta – Successful enforcement of right to arbitrate attracts triple “tariff” costs  – #659

In Barrel Oil Corp v. Cenovus Energy Inc., 2022 ABQB 488, Justice M.H. Hollins granted a Respondent who successfully defended an application to stay an arbitration the Respondent had commenced, triple “tariff” costs, equating to just over 40% of the Respondent’s out of pocket costs. The Court rejected the Respondent’s plea of full indemnity costs, finding they were inappropriate in this case.

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