Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fraud and Limitation Period

Guerin v. Canada, 1984 CanLII 25 (S.C.C.), [1984] 2 S.C.R. 335 at 390, Justice Dickson

...It is well established that where there has been a fraudulent concealment of the existence of a cause of action, the limitation period will not start to run until the plaintiff discovers the fraud, or until the time when, with reasonable diligence, he ought to have discovered it.

The fraudulent concealment necessary to toll or suspend the operation of the statute need not amount to deceit or common law fraud. Equitable fraud, defined in Kitchen v. Royal Air Force Association, [1958] 1 W.L.R. 563, as "conduct which, having regard to some special relationship between the two parties concerned, is an unconscionable thing for the one to do towards the other", is sufficient. I agree with the trial judge that the conduct of the Indian Affairs Branch toward the Band amounted to equitable fraud.

Although the Branch officials did not act dishonestly or for improper motives in concealing the terms of the lease from the Band, in my view their conduct was nevertheless unconscionable, having regard to the fiduciary relationship between the Branch and the Band. The limitations period did not therefore start to run until March 1970. The action was thus timely when filed on December 22, 1975....

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