Federal Canada-Wide COVID-19 Legal Resources

Our federal Canada-wide COVID-19 legal resources were updated on April 15, 2020. The Canadian federal government has implemented legislation and a number of national programs and initiatives to support the construction industry. Federal and country-wide trade organizations have also prepared resource pages for construction industry stakeholders to stay informed on COVID-19 issues.

The following organizations and law firms have prepared collections of links and information that Canada-wide construction industry stakeholders may find useful. (Alternatively, you may want to review specific COVID-19 legal resources for each of the Canadian provinces.)

Federal Canada-Wide COVID-19 Resources

  1. The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has prepared a helpful table of legal updates for construction companies across every Canadian province. The table features information on whether construction activities have been shut down, suspension of limitations periods, court closures, and COVID-19 emergency legislation.
  2. The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has a list of resources for construction businesses including a “Pandemic Preparedness Guide” published by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, “COVID-19 Standardized Protocols for All Canadian Construction Sites,” and “COVID-19 Resources from Local Construction Associations.”
  3. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada has prepared a resource page on COVID-19 along with articles and resources related to labour, IT, and occupational health and safety.
  4. Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP‘s “Construction statutes and COVID-19” for updates related to Canadian laws and regulations.
  5. McCarthy Tetrault LLP‘s “COVID-19 Hub: Latest Updates and Legal Considerations for Your Business” has a selection of resources and updates geared towards private-sector businesses in Canada. Few are specific to the construction industry, but many of the resources will be applicable. McCarthy Tetrault LLP has also prepared a “COVID-19 Emergency Measures Tracker” for a running list of emergency measures being implemented across Canada.
  6. Miller Thomson LLP has prepared a “COVID-19 Resources” page with information updates broken out by industry sector, including construction and infrastructure.
  7. The Government of Canada has a running tracking list of legislation, charter statements, orders and regulations on its website.
  8. The Canadian Home Builders Association has a members-only resource center for COVID-19 related guidance and information.
  9. Dentons has a COVID-19 Hub with resources on force majeure and insurance coverage, in addition to a workplace law resource collection and employer toolkit.
  10. BDO Canada has its own COVID-19 Hub with a focus on trending issues, target industries, and specific services.
  11. The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum has gathered resources for apprentices across the country to check in on the status of their apprenticeship. The CAF also has resources related to COVID-19 occupational health and safety.
  12. The Canadian Institute of Steel Construction has a COVID-19 support and resource page for its membership.
  13. The Canadian Roofing Contractors Association has a COVID-19 resource page that includes specific information related to government programs, finances, human resources, and other pandemic-related support.
  14. The Surety Association of Canada has a COVID-19 Updates page with current news on the pandemic’s impact on holdback, limitations periods, force majeure, and links to further resources.

Ontario’s Construction Act is Carved Out from Limitation Period Suspension

On March 20, 2020, Ontario passed regulation 73/20 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to suspend all statutory limitations periods and time periods to take procedural steps. The suspension was retroactive to March 16, 2020 and was intended to preserve limitations periods that would have otherwise been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wording of the regulation as of April 8, 2020 read as follows:

  1. Any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any limitation period shall be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020.
  2. Any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding, shall, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding, be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020.

On April 9, 2020 the Attorney General (“AG”) of Ontario clarified that as of April 16, 2020, the Construction Act is carved out from the province’s suspension of statutory limitation periods and procedural steps, and amended O. Reg. 73/20 accordingly.

The AG’s Order in Council amended Ontario Regulation 73/20 to explicitly exempt both the Construction Act and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act from having their statutory limitations periods and procedural timelines suspended.

The Order reads as follows:

Construction Act

  1. On and after April 16, 2020, sections 1 and 2 do not apply to provisions of the Construction Act or of the regulations made under it if the provisions establish a limitation period or period of time within which any step must be taken in a proceeding, including an intended proceeding. 

This change is the AG’s answer to the construction industry’s concern that the suspension of limitations periods and procedural deadlines applied to lien deadlines. The extension of lien deadlines in turn arguably suspended the deadline to pay holdback on construction projects across Ontario.

In a letter dated April 9, 2020, AG Doug Downey confirmed the intentions of the regulation and the problem it was designed to fix:

The emergency order has been amended to lift the suspension of limitation periods and procedural time periods under the Construction Act. This will allow for the release of holdback payments to contractors and subcontractors in the normal course, helping to resolve a potentially significant cash flow problem as a result of the order for the construction industry. The suspension will be lifted on April 16, 2020, to give the industry time to prepare for these changes. Once lifted, parties will have the same amount of time to meet a deadline that had been remaining before the suspension began on March 16, 2020.

Construction industry stakeholders across Ontario now have until April 16, 2020 to prepare for the regulation to come into effect.