Debt Limitation Acts

Update  September 19, 2017……   Thus, courts in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario have now held that debts can be acknowledged by ordinary exchanges of emails so as to extend limitation periods, provided that other requirements are met, such as that the acknowledgment must have occurred within the limitation period.

The Federal Government and the Provinces have limitation acts which provide a limit on the time an unsecured debt survives.

Speak to a bankruptcy trustee about your unsecured debts and the statute of limitations. If an unsecured debt is not collected or payments are not made on the unsecured debt then after a certain time no legal action can be taken to collect the debt.

A March 4, 2003 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, Markevich v. The Queen decided that limitations applied to CRA as well as other Crown proceedings. Section 32 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act and Section 3 (5) of the BC Limitation Act barred collection of the Federal and Provincial portions of the debt since the debt was more than 6 years old.

This decision was “overruled” when parliament amended section 222 of the Income Tax Act to provide for a 10 year limitation period. Collins v. Canada, 2005 FCA 1431 CanLII.

If you owe monies to an unsecured consumer creditor and that creditor does not sue you (and you have not made any payments nor acknowledged the debt in the limitations period) before the expiry of the relevant limitation period on certain debt in your province then you will be in a position where you can choose not to pay a penny to that creditor.

It is important to remember that you cannot take advantage of the expiry of a limitation period to avoid paying any monies in connection with the following categories of debt:

  • Secured debt;
  • Student loans debt;
  • Monies owing to the government;
  • Non-dischargeable debts in Bankruptcy.

Examples from various provinces and the Federal Government:

  • British Columbia – As of June 1, 2013, the BC Limitation Act sets 2 years as the limit for debt.
  • Alberta – The Alberta Limitations Act sets 2 years as the term which is extended to 10 years if there is a judgement.
  • Ontario – The Ontario Limitation Act 2002, came into force on January 1, 2004. It sets two years as the term (Section 4). This limitation will be reinstated where the debtor acknowledges the debt or makes a partial payment towards repayment of his debt.If the default occurred prior to January 1, 2004, the creditor will continue to have 6 years to pursue the claim. However, if the default occurred after January 1, 2004 then the 2-year rule applies.
  • Federal – Section 32 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act sets 6 years as the limit for debt.
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