Ontario – Motion to “compel” participation in arbitration dismissed, despite arbitration clause – #635

In Black & McDonald v. Eiffage Innovative Canada Inc., 2022 ONSC 1855, Justice Dow was faced with two motions: (1) the defendants’ motion to stay the Ontario action on the basis of forum non conveniens; and (2) the plaintiff’s motion to “compel” the defendants to participate in arbitration as a result of an arbitration clause contained in the relevant contract. Justice Dow granted the stay on the ground that British Columbia was the proper forum, but declined to “compel” the defendants to participate in arbitration. He found that whether the arbitrator had jurisdiction over the dispute was to be determined by the arbitrator at first instance and that any failure on the part of the defendants to participate in an arbitration would have consequences for them in that proceeding.

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Ontario – “Vigorous” intervention and “difficult”, “incisive” questions by arbitrator not bias – #632

In Dufferin v Morrison Hershfield, 2022 ONSC 3485, Justice Woodley dismissed an application made pursuant to sections 13(6) and 15(1) of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17, for an order removing an arbitrator on the basis that, “circumstances exist which give rise to justifiable doubts about the Arbitrator’s independence and impartiality, which are alleged to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias”. Essentially, the allegations were that the arbitrator had “entered the fray” because of the many questions he asked the witnesses, pre-judged the issues, and become an advocate for the Respondent. Justice Woodley found that the arbitrator was interventionist, but that she could find no bias or a reasonable apprehension of bias; “instead, [she] found a deeply invested, engaged Arbitrator that worked tirelessly for the parties in furtherance of his mandate, which was to determine the truth of the issues before him”. The Applicants were not out of time to brig their application because the alleged conduct complained of was “cumulative”. In any event, it would be “nonsensical” to allow a partial arbitrator to continue, even if the Respondent had not objected in time.

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Ontario – No stay despite broad arbitration clause – #629

In FNF Enterprises Inc. v. Wag and Train Inc., 2022 ONSC 2813,Justice Ramsay dismissed the Defendant’s motion for a stay of proceedings under section 7 of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17. The Defendant sought a stay of proceedings based on an arbitration clause included in a lease agreement. Justice Ramsay concluded that, standing alone, the arbitration clause suggested that issues arising out of the lease agreement shall be determined by way of arbitration, but he decided that, interpreting the lease agreement as a whole, the arbitration clause did not extend to an issue concerning collection of unpaid rent, which could be sought by action. Therefore, Justice Ramsay declined to stay the proceedings.

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Ontario – Arbitrator’s notes not a substitute for transcript – #627

In Aquanta Group Inc. v Lightbox Enterprises Ltd, 2022 ONSC 3036, Justice Morgan was asked to appoint an arbitrator when the parties could not agree. The Respondents opposed all arbitrator candidates on the Applicants’ list and requested the appointment of an arbitrator who was previously appointed by the parties in an earlier arbitration involving the same parties and the same agreements. The Respondents argued that this would facilitate costs and time savings by allowing the arbitrator to use his notes from the earlier arbitration because there was no transcript of that arbitration. The Applicants had challenged the award arising from the earlier arbitration and opposed the appointment of the same arbitrator on the basis of reasonable apprehension of bias. Justice Morgan rejected the Respondents’ request to appoint the same arbitrator and found that their proposal, among other things, violated the principle of deliberative secrecy. In the alternative, the Respondents agreed to the appointment of certain candidates on the Applicants’ list. Justice Morgan chose one of those, “resort[ing] to the entirely arbitrary approach of going in alphabetical order”.

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Ontario – Receiver not bound by international arbitration clause with foreign seat – #626

In Royal Bank of Canada v. Mundo Media Ltd., 2022 ONSC 2147, Justice Penny found that a court-appointed receiver was not required to arbitrate claims under New York law-governed contracts that provided for JAMS arbitration seated in New York. He found that the B.C. Court of Appeal’s analysis in Petrowest Corporation v. Peace River Hydro Partners, 2020 BCCA 339, which focused on the separability of the arbitration clause, was not binding on him, and declined to follow it. Rather, Justice Penny focused on the insolvency law “single proceeding” doctrine. He found that the appointment of the receiver rendered the arbitration clause “inoperative”.

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Ontario: Award set aside for “trickery and injustice” – #624

In Campbell v. Toronto Standard Condominium Corp. No. 2600, 2022 ONSC 2805, Justice Perell of the Ontario Super Court of Justice set aside an arbitral award for “constructive fraud” pursuant to s. 46(1), para. 9 of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991. The arbitral award ordered the Campbells, who were condominium owners (the “Owners”), to pay $30,641.72 to the Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 2600 (the “Condo Corp.”), which represented the costs of their arbitration. The matter began as a dispute regarding the Owners’ alleged non-compliance with the rules of the Condo Corp, including noise complaints and short-term rentals. However, the Owners were led to believe that the arbitration would be limited to the reasonableness of Condo Corp.’s legal costs in enforcing compliance up to and including the arbitration. Justice Perell held that the Owners were “tricked” intothe arbitration because it was actually an arbitration on the non-compliance issues.While Justice Perell found that the Condo Corp. was not deceitful, he found that “[2] it misled, outmanoeuvred, and outsmarted the [Owners]” such that “[t]he court should not countenance the trickery and the injustice.” As a result, the arbitral award was set aside.

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