Ontario – Refusal to respond not a waiver to arbitrate – #686

In Justmark Industries Inc. v. Infinitus (China) Ltd., 2022 ONSC 5495, Justice Williams granted the Defendant/Moving Party’s motion to stay the court action in favour of arbitration. The Plaintiff/Responding Party Justmark Industries Inc. (“Justmark”) commenced the court action for breach of contract against the Defendant/Moving Party Infinitus (China) Ltd. (“Infinitus”). The contract, however, contained an arbitration clause requiring disputes to be arbitrated in Hong Kong by the Arbitration Committee of the International Trade Council (the “ITC”) pursuant to the law of the United Kingdom. As such, Infinitus brought a motion under s 9 of Ontario’s International Commercial Arbitration Act, 2017 (the “ICAA”), which incorporates Article 8(1) of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (the “Model Law”), to stay the proceedings. In response, Justmark alleged that Infinitus had waived its right to arbitration and thus rendered the arbitration agreement “inoperative” under Model Law Article 8(1). Justmark claimed that Infinitus’s failure to respond to its requests to commence arbitration amounted to waiver. Justice Williams, however, dismissed Justmark’s  argument on the grounds that there was no evidence that “[16] …  Infinitus had the requisite ‘unequivocal and conscious intention,’ or any intention, to abandon its right to arbitrate.

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Ontario – Defendant to stayed action may commence arbitration – #684

In Star Woodworking Ltd. v. Improve Inc., 2022 ONSC 5827, the defendant condominium corporation sought an order that the Court appoint an arbitrator to hear and resolve the plaintiffs’ claims against it. The plaintiffs had originally commenced actions in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and a number of claims were stayed as they were required to be brought in arbitration pursuant to the Condominium Act, 1998, SO 1998, c 19, and the Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c 17. Justice Myers rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that they could not be forced to be claimants in an arbitration if they did not wish to do so. Justice Myers held that the arbitration was properly commenced pursuant to section 23 of the Arbitration Act, 1991

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Federal – Amazon purchasers’ class-action competition claims referred to arbitration – #683

In Difederico v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2022 FC 1256, Justice Furlanetto of the Federal Court granted Defendants’ motion to refer to arbitration claims asserted under section 45 of the Competition Act, RSC 1985, c C-34 (the “Competition Act”) by a proposed class representative plaintiff. Of interest to arbitration observers, the judgment considered the circumstances which qualify as “commercial legal relationships” within the meaning of the United Nations Foreign Arbitral Awards Convention Act, RSC 1985, c 16 (2nd sup) (“UNFAACA”), the statute which implements the New York Convention into the federal law of Canada. The New York Convention, Article II(3), requires a court of a contracting State, at the request of a party, to refer claims covered by an arbitration agreement to arbitration, unless the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative, or incapable of being performed. This case also features detailed analysis of the access-to-justice exception to the competence-competence principle recognized in Uber Technologies, Inc. v. Heller, 2020 SCC 16 (“Uber”).

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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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Québec – Fragmentation of shareholders dispute stayed pending appeal on jurisdiction – #678

In Istanboulian v Kalajian, 2022 QCCA 1259, Justice Cournoyer granted leave to appeal from a judgment of the Québec Superior Court, which had referred part of a claim to arbitration. He found that the judgment under appeal caused irremediable injury to the Applicants by possibly preventing them from being heard in the appropriate forum and that it was in the interest of justice to immediately get to the bottom of the jurisdictional issue.

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Québec – No clean hands, no security despite stay of homologation application – #677

In Specter Aviation v United Mining Supply, 2022 QCCS 3643, Justice Castonguay granted a stay of an application by the successful party in a foreign arbitration to homologate the award, but denied the applicants’ alternative request for security, pending the unsuccessful party’s annulment application to the Paris Court of Appeal. Despite recognizing that a court should be reluctant to interfere with a successful party’s enforcement efforts, Justice Castonguay found that the annulment application was, “neither futile nor frivolous” and that the successful party did not have clean hands and had resorted to a self-help remedy. He also ordered costs against the successful party.

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