Limitation periods for sexual assault

June 13, 2016

Prepared by Isaac da Silva Aboo, Summer Student

As of March 8, 2016, victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse are not imposed any time limits for suing. Bill 132, entitled Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment) (the “Act”) received Royal Assent and is now law. The Act is a clear message to abuse survivors that their claims are important and should not be stopped simply because it has taken them time to be ready to address the issue legally. It amends several laws in an effort to implement the government’s priority of protecting Ontarians from the devastating impacts of sexual violence, sexual harassment and domestic violence. One of those laws is the Limitations Act of 2002.

Limitation Periods are basically timelines for suing, and when they expire, one cannot sue. Thus, in the past, they have presented a significant obstacle in many sexual assault cases as it is often difficult for abuse survivors to justify why they took so long to come forward. Even though the new Limitations Act of 2002 significantly helped with the problem, it still took a lot of time, money and effort to overcome limitation periods. The Act amends the Limitations Act of 2002 and removes any limitation period for sexual assault claims, and it has retroactive application to all claims, including ongoing proceedings already commenced.

Pursuant to the Act, there are now no limitation periods for cases “based on a sexual assault” or based on “any other misconduct of a sexual nature if, at the time of the misconduct, the person with the claim was a minor or if there is an authority, dependence or trust relationship.” It also eliminates limitation periods for cases based on physical assault if, “at the time of the assault, the person with the claim was a minor or if the parties had an intimate relationship or there is a relationship of dependence.” There is also a provision clarifying that claims for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty or any other duty, or vicarious liability are also not subject to a limitation period. Finally, the act amended the time limit to provide that there is no limitation period with respect to Compensation for Victims of Crime Act applications. These changes are retroactive and apply whenever the acts occurred regardless of the expiry of any previous limitation period, unless the case is over (settled or determined by the Court).