Update – Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act and the Wills Act
We have an update with respect to the status of our recent consultations with the government.
Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act
The House of Assembly has passed the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act (the “Act”) which can be found online at: https://www.assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/statutes/t04-02.htm
While this Act does not amend a limitation period, it does allow for deadlines or time periods prescribed in legislation to be extended, depending on statutory responsibility, by either the Speaker of the House of Assembly, a Minister, the Premier or the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Deadlines may be extended for a period not exceeding 6 months. Further, the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor in Council (on the advice of the Attorney General) may make the extensions retroactive to 14 March 2020. Information must be provided to the various departments as soon as possible.
As such, we are asking you to advise us and the department responsible, of any statute with limitation and/or time periods which should be extended, how long the extension should be and whether retroactivity is required so that we can bring the information to the attention of the specific Minister responsible for the variation.
We note that, in accordance with s. 9, the Act will cease to have effect after the end of the next sitting of the House of Assembly. While the next regular sitting of the House is not until the fall, the House could decide to sit any time, therefore, swift action with respect to the above request is required.
In light of the concerns you have already raised, yesterday we asked the Minister of Justice and Public Safety to, in accordance with s. 6 of the Act, consider advising the Lieutenant Governor in Council to extend all limitation periods outlined in the Limitations Act for a period of 6 months retroactive to 14 March 2020.
In addition, we have asked the Minister of Justice and Public Safety to extend the timelines outlined in the:
- Judicature Act and Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986;
- Court of Appeal Rules;
- Small Claims Act and Small Claims Rules; and
- Law Society Act, 1999
We anticipate that the Government will consult with the Courts on these proposed extensions.
We have not been provided with any indication that there will be any legislative changes enacted regarding the witnessing of wills during the COVID-19 Public Health State of Emergency. The Law Society will issue some guidance materials for members with respect to the preparation and witnessing of wills in the context of the pandemic.
We have, however, been invited to canvass you for policy considerations which could inform long-term legislative changes to the Wills Act and for expressions of interest in sitting on a committee that may be established by the Provincial Government to address issues with the Wills Act.
Commissioning of Documents
We have not been provided with any indication that there will be any legislative changes enacted regarding the commissioning of documents during the COVID-19 Public Health State of Emergency. The Law Society will issue some guidance to the profession with respect to the commissioning of documents in the context of the pandemic.
We ask you to please direct any comments you may have relating to statutory deadlines, the Wills Act and your expressions of interest to Brenda B. Grimes, QC at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will continue to provide you with updates and/or guidance as further information becomes available.