The British Columbia government recently introduced Bill 34, the
Limitation Act (the 2012 Limitation Act), into the
legislature for first reading. Assuming the 2012 Limitation Act is
adopted as proposed, all civil claims in B.C. will be subject to a
two-year basic limitation period, and a 15-year ultimate limitation
period. These changes follow those made in other provinces with
modernized limitation statutes, such as Ontario, Alberta,
Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick. This bulletin summarizes the key
The previous B.C. Limitation Act (the 1975 Limitation
Act) imposed limitation periods of two, six, or 10 years depending
on the legal nature of the claim. Under the 1975 Limitation Act,
the limitation period ran from the time the cause of action arose
or, in certain cases, from when it ought reasonably to have been
Under the 2012 Limitation Act, a two-year period will apply to
all types of claims and runs from the time when the cause of action
ought reasonably to have been discovered. The 2012 Limitation Act
also simplifies the calculation of the ultimate limitation period,
that is, the period until the final date by which claims must be
made. The 2012 Limitation Act also shortens this period, even if a
potential claimant has not discovered the cause of an action. Under
the 1975 Limitation Act, the ultimate limitation period was 30
years after an action became available to a potential plaintiff.
Since many claims require damage to have occurred, and damage does
not always happen at the same moment as the act or omission on
which the claim was based, the limitation period might extend for
more than 30 years after the initial action or omission. Under the
2012 Limitation Act, the ultimate limitation period will expire 15
years from the date on which the act or omission on which the claim
is based took place. This method simplifies the calculation of the
period for potential liability and greatly reduces its
The 2012 Limitation Act still includes the possibility for the
extension of the ultimate limitation period in special
circumstances, including instances of wilful concealment, fraud,
and the acknowledgment of liability. Additionally, the limitation
periods are not applicable to some claims, including some
counterclaims and some third-party proceedings where the initial
claim was brought within its own limitation period.
The 2012 Limitation Act also provides a more rational scheme for
parties who grant obligations payable on demand, such as a demand
loan with no fixed date for repayment. Under the 1975 Limitation
Act, the six‑year limitation period to collect on a
demand obligation was interpreted by the courts to begin at the
time the loan was made. This meant that the limitation period to
collect on any demand obligation expired if it was left outstanding
for longer than six years. While under the 2012 Limitation Act the
general limitation period is shortened to two years, the limitation
period for demand obligations will not begin until the first day
that there is a failure to perform an obligation after a demand is
made. This provides greater certainty and fairness for parties
granting demand obligations.
The 2012 Limitation Act has transitional provisions to address
situations where the act or omission providing the basis of the
claim took place under the 1975 Limitation Act, but a claim is not
made until after the 2012 Limitation Act comes into force. Where a
potential claimant has discovered the cause of a claim before the
2012 Limitation Act comes into force, the tiered limitation periods
under the 1975 Limitation Act will apply whether or not the claim
has already expired. Where a potential claimant has not discovered
the cause of a claim when the 2012 Limitation Act comes into force,
the ultimate limitation period will be the earlier of expiration of
the 30-year final claim period under the 1975 Limitation Act or 15
years after the coming into force of the 2012 Limitation Act,
subject to any extensions to the 15-year period provided therein.
The 2012 Limitation Act also contains special transition provisions
applicable to hospitals and medical practitioners.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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A recent decision of an Alberta court in Lafarge Canada Inc. v Edmonton (City) confirms that a party choosing to commence an action in the face of a valid agreement to arbitrate runs the risk of being left without a remedy.