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Manitoba's new Limitations Act easier to understand and more aligned with other provinces’ limitation laws

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On May 20, 2021, Bill 51, which proposed to repeal and replace The Limitations of Actions Act of 1987, received Royal Assent. The Limitations Act will not come into effect until September 30, 2022. This new framework will bring Manitoba in line with other provinces that long ago replaced their limitation laws with simplified versions that rely on the so-called “discoverability” principle.

The current (the old) Act prescribes different limitation periods for different causes of action. The limitation periods run from the date the cause of action arises and do not take into consideration when the claim was discovered by the claimant.

The limitation periods range from one to 10 years, with 30 years being the “ultimate” limitation period. However, in cases where a claim is discovered after the limitation period has expired, the current Act allows a claimant to make an application to the Court of Queen’s Bench to commence an action. To obtain leave from the Court, the claimant has to show that not more than 12 months have passed from the date on which they first knew, or ought to have known, all material facts of a decisive character upon which the action is based and the date on which the application was made to the Court.

The new Act removes the various limitation periods for different causes of actions and replaces them with a basic two-year limitation period applicable to all claims, which starts to run from the date a claim is discovered. In addition, the new Act changes the “ultimate” limitation period from 30 to 15 years after the date the act or omission on which the claim is based took place. There is an exception, however, for certain Indigenous claims which keep the 30-year “ultimate” limitation period.

The real property limitation period provisions in the current Act will be repealed under the new Act and not replaced. In Ontario, similar provisions are found in Ontario’s Real Property Limitations Act. It remains to be seen whether Manitoba will fill this gap or whether the basic/ultimate limitation periods in the new Act will be applied under those circumstances. 

To summarize, the new Act is straightforward, less daunting and should help eliminate much of the confusion with the current Act. Overall, this new Act is easier to understand, which will help enhance access to justice which has long been a goal of the government and courts alike. This Act will also create efficiency, certainty, reduce trade barriers, and help Manitoba’s economy grow.

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