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Third reading of Bill 51 - The Limitations Act

On Thursday May 20,  I spoke  at third reading on Bill 51, the Limitations Act.  My comments (from Hansard) are below:

Bill 51–The Limitations Act

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Yes, I raise concerns about this bill. This bill drastically shortens the time period–the period of time during which an action must be brought forward.

      The government has consulted with people in industry, with lawyers, but has not adequately con­sidered, in my view, the people who are less well off, who are often victims and who need often more time to bring things forward.

      I am sure, having talked to a number of people, that there will be matters which now do not come forward and it is, in part, related to the time and effort that it takes to build a case before one brings some­thing forward and the need, often, to build that case in a way that doesn't alert the people or organization against whom the case is being built, in part because such early notification before it's fully presented or fully prepared may alert the person who has per­petrated the problem in a way that they could easily destroy records.

      Even though that may, in some cases, be illegal, it speaks to the care which a legal case has to be developed: the evidence has to be to put together and in a number of instances, the matters are sufficiently complex that you really can't put this together in the timeline that is prescribed and that is particular true if you are an individual who doesn't have a huge amount of resources and time to do this.

      So I think the sad part is that some people will be cut off from seeking redress for circumstances that have happened to them and I think that's a sad fact that there will be people who are no longer able to take their issues to court to get a resolution.

      There is, in relationship to this, one item which is fairly important, and that is that this bill will come into law when it is proclaimed. Now, because this is a drastic change, I suggest to the government that it will be very, very important to circulate widely the fact that these limitation periods are being so drastically shortened and–so that people have a chance to put forward cases which have waited because they were acting based on the previous limitation period and were not aware that, all of a sudden, they were drastically shorted by this–shortened by this legis­lation.

      I think it is only fair that the government advertise far and wide about the shortening so that people can have an opportunity to bring forward cases quickly if they have delayed and would miss the new periods of limitation and miss the opportunity to bring their case forward at all.

      So, I make this suggestion. It is a matter of fair­ness and justice that people know that these drastic changes are occurring and that they have fair warning and that the government does not spring on people these changes overnight without having made a sub­stantial of effort in letting people know that the changes are taking place before they actually imple­ment them.

      So, hopefully, the government will listen and will make sure that people–not just lawyers, but people in the general public, are aware of this because the people who are at highest risk are people who are in the general public who have a court case that they want to bring forward but they have been waiting based on their belief that the operative framework was the old periods of limitation.

      And it would only be fair to widely circulate the fact that these changes will be made, for example, at the end of this year, so that there's a number of months that people will know when the change is going to be, rather than making it precipitously within a few days of when this legislation is passed.

      So I ask the government to be fair and decent in how they handle and when–how they make and implement this legislation so that it doesn't dis­advantage a lot of people who are acting in good faith on the old period of limitation without knowing that this period of limitation is being changed.

      So with those few comments, I will pass this on. We will not support this. We will vote against it because we believe that this will decrease access to justice, particularly for those who are most vulnerable, who are victims, who have been poorly served by circumstances.

      Thank you.

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