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Resealing of foreign orders appointing guardians

By David M. Smith and Yasmin M. Vinograd

In some cases, an incapable person residing outside of Canada has assets in Canada. Can a guardian appointed outside of Canada have access to the incapable’s Canadian assets? By extension, would a guardianship order made outside of Canada be recognized in Ontario?

In Ontario, this scenario is dealt with in the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (SDA). Section 86 of the SDA provides a mechanism by which orders made by a court outside of Ontario to appoint a guardian of property or of the person may be recognized or “resealed” in Ontario. Subsections of s. 86 specify that:

s.86(1): a foreign order is “an order made by a court outside Ontario that appoints, for a person who is sixteen years of age or older, a person having duties comparable to those of a guardian of property or guardian of the person.”

s.86(2): “Any person may apply to the court for an order resealing a foreign order that was made in a province or territory of Canada or in a prescribed jurisdiction.”

s.86(3): an applicant seeking to have the court reseal the foreign order is required to file a copy of the foreign order, along with a certificate signed by registrar, clerk or other officer of the foreign court stating that the order is unrevoked and is of full effect.

The effect of these provisions is that a guardianship order made by a foreign court will be recognized and enforceable in Ontario.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is not.

I had previously blogged about the possibility of resealing guardianship orders made in other provinces and territories. The issue arises when trying to reseal a guardianship order made outside of Canada. The problem is that Ontario has yet to prescribe any other country as a “prescribed jurisdiction” for the purpose of s. 86(2). This begs the question: can the court reseal a foreign guardianship in the absence of the list of prescribed jurisdictions?

When faced with this exact issue in this case, the court refused to apply s. 86 to reseal a guardianship order made in Italy. Justice Mesbur stated:

It seems to me that unless and until Ontario creates a list of “prescribed jurisdictions” there is simply no legislative basis on which I can apply s. 86. This is not a case where the statute inadvertently fails to deal with an issue. Here, the province has simply failed to take the regulatory steps necessary to create a list of prescribed jurisdictions to which s.86 would apply. I have no idea of the province’s intentions in that regard. I fail to see how I can simply assume Ontario would designate Italy as a prescribed jurisdiction when it finally creates a list of prescribed jurisdictions under the SDA. I have no basis to conclude that Ontario has any intention of having s.86 apply to any jurisdiction other than another Canadian province or territory. Section 86 cannot apply.

In light of this decision, it appears that s. 86 and the mechanism it provides cannot be used to reseal an order made by a jurisdiction outside of Canada. What, then, is a guardian to do if the incapable has assets in Canada that need to be accessed?

There are two ways in which this could be addressed.

The first is to bring an application to have the guardianship order recognized as a non-monetary order, pursuant to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in this casethis case, and this case. As of now, there is no decision that applied the SCC’s test of real and substantial connection in the context of a guardianship order. It remains to be seen whether an Ontario court would be open to recognizing a guardianship order on that basis and what the Public Guardian and Trustee’s position will be on such an application.

The second option is to commence a new guardianship application in Ontario. The evidence of incapacity in the foreign jurisdiction may be useful in such an application, but it would probably need to be updated to reflect the current status of the incapable and to demonstrate his or her incapacity. The “new” guardianship application will need to conform to Ontario’s requirements under the SDA, including the filing of a management and/or guardianship plan(s), service on required persons, and naming of specific respondents in the notice of application.

This blog was written in collaboration with, and with thanks to Yasmin Vinograd of Merovitz Potechin LLP.

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