Not so Simple after All: A Comment on Ravndahl v. Saskatchewan

Dianne Pothier


Ravndahl became entitled to a survivor’s pension under workers’ compensation legislation upon the death of her husband in 1975, and disentitled upon remarriage in 1984. In 2000 she filed a statement of claim alleging the disentitlement constituted a section 15 Charter breach. The Saskatchewan government brought a pretrial motion claiming the action was barred because of a six-year statute of limitations.

The Supreme Court of Canada assumed without deciding that the Charter applied. The author contends the Court should have affirmatively concluded that the Charter applies, on the basis that the claim is founded on the claimant’s on-going status as a survivor, not on the 1984 remarriage as a discrete pre-Charter event.

The Court concluded that, as a one-time cause of action arising on April 17, 1985, the statute of limitations barred any in personam remedy (section 24 of the Charter). However, the Court concluded that the statute of limitations did not bar in rem remedies against the statute pursuant to section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The author questions the premise that a statute of limitations is properly applied in a constitutional claim against a statute. Even assuming it can be, the author contends that this case should be analysed as a rolling claim, recurring each month of non-payment of pension. The author also raises questions about the relationship between section 24 and section 52, indicating confusion and uncertainty as to whether retroactive relief pursuant to section 52 is possible where section 24 remedies are statute barred.


Constitutional Law; Labour Law; SCC Cases

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