Ontario – Costs in both arbitration and court guided by same principles – #630

In Electek Power Services Inc. v. Greenfield Energy Centre Limited Partnership, 2022 ONSC 2437, Justice Perell held that when awarding costs, the discretion of both an arbitrator and the court are the same: both are guided by reasonableness and the fair and reasonable expectations of the unsuccessful party.

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Ontario – Determining appeal rights in arbitration agreement in effect since 1960 Arbitration Act – #614

In D Lands Inc. v KS Victoria and King, 2022 ONSC 1029, Justice Dietrich granted the Landlord leave to appeal the tribunal Majority’s award in a rent reset arbitration, but ultimately dismissed the appeal and the Landlord’s application to set aside the Majority’s award on jurisdictional grounds. Her reasons summarize the legal principles to be applied to determine whether the parties agreed to a right of appeal and, in particular: (1) the effect of an arbitration agreement when it spans a period of time in which more than one piece of arbitration legislation governed that provided for different rights of appeal; and (2) as a matter of contract interpretation, the language necessary for the parties to contract out of rights of appeal. Here, the parties’ agreement was entered into in 1968 and the arbitration legislation in Ontario changed since then from an “opt in” regime to an “opt out” regime. However, the parties provided in their arbitration clause that any arbitration was to be conducted under the ICDR Rules, which were silent on appeal rights. Therefore, it was necessary for Justice Dietrich to interpret the contract as a whole to determine the parties’ intentions. The words in the arbitration agreement that the tribunal’s award “is conclusive on the parties” and that judgment may be entered in any court having jurisdiction were not sufficiently clear to express an intention to contract out of a right to appeal.

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Federal – Pirating action stayed under New York Convention – #610

In General Entertainment and Music Inc. v. Gold Line Telemanagement Inc., 2022 FC 418, Justice Fothergill of the Federal Court allowed an appeal of the prothonatory’s order and stayed an action for breach of certain provisions of the Copyright Act, the Trademarks Act and the Radiocommunication Act in favour of arbitration seated in Bermuda. In doing so, he applied Article II.3 of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention) and the Supreme Court of Canada’s jurisprudence on staying court proceedings in favour of arbitration.  The prothonatory erred in applying the law relating to a forum selection clause to an arbitration clause.

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Ontario – Clause specifying non-exclusive attornment to courts doesn’t override arbitration clause – #609

In Husky Food Importers v. JH Whittaker & Sons, 2022 ONSC 1679, Justice Conway granted a stay of proceedings in favour of arbitration despite an allegation that no underlying agreement was ever finalized and notwithstanding a clause stating that the courts of New Zealand had non-exclusive jurisdiction.

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Ontario – Arbitrators can decide non-legal business disputes, but not in this case – #608

The case 1107051 Ontario Ltd. v. GG Kingspa Enterprises Limited Partnership, 2022 ONSC 1847 concerned the jurisdiction of an arbitrator to decide a business dispute that was not legal in nature. The Applicant, 1107051 Ontario Ltd. (“110”), applied to “set aside” a decision of an arbitrator to assume jurisdiction over a dispute about whether a major real estate development project at King Street West and Spadina Avenue in Toronto (the “Project”) should include a hotel component when the parties were deadlocked on the issue. Section 17(8) of the Ontario Arbitration Act allows a party to apply to the Court to “decide” a jurisdictional issue if, as here, an arbitrator decides it as a preliminary question, as opposed to with the merits. Justice McEwen granted the “set aside”. He agreed with the arbitrator that the dispute was of a business nature and not legal and, further, that parties could arbitrate such non-justiciable disputes if they clearly and specifically intended to do so. In this case, although the arbitration clause was described as broad, the dispute was beyond its scope because the dispute was required by the clause to arise “under this Agreement”. That meant the dispute had to be about more than just anything to do with the Project. It had to concern the rights and obligations of the parties under the Agreement. Although a hotel was contemplated as part of the Project, it was not a required component. Further, express authorization to determine a business issue would have been necessary.

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Ontario – Best practices: pre-appointment communications and application to appoint arbitrator – #607

In Magna International Inc. v Granite Real Estate Inc., 2022 ONSC 2200, Justice Myers granted the application of Magna, the tenant in a lease agreement, for an order appointing an arbitrator to fix the rent for a renewal term of the lease. The parties agreed that the tenant had validly renewed the lease, but could not agree on the rent for the renewal period. Respondent Granite, the landlord, opposed the appointment of the arbitrator for two reasons: (1) the evidence in support of the application was insufficient; and (2) the arbitration clause in the lease was invalid because it contained permissive, rather than mandatory, language and was too vague because it did not specify either the seat or the applicable rules of the arbitration. Justice Myers set out the preferred approach for both communicating with the proposed arbitrator in circumstances in which the parties are not cooperating and the kind of evidence that should be adduced on an application for a court order appointing the proposed arbitrator, using the analogy of the process for the court appointment of a receiver/trustee in bankruptcy. Also, he found that the issues relating to the validity of the arbitration clause were to be referred to the arbitrator under the competence-competence principle.

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