Canada: In Summary: It's Still A Balance Of Probabilities

Last Updated: February 15 2019
Article by Allie Laurent

On February 6, 2019, the Alberta Court of Appeal released the Weir-Jones Technical Services Incorporated v. Purolator Courier Ltd. 2019 ABCA 49 ("Weir-Jones") decision. This decision was the result of a panel of 5 judges convened to hear two summary judgment appeals, Weir-Jones and Brookfield Residential (Alberta) LP v. Imperial Oil Limited, 2019 ABCA 35. It was anticipated that this decision would provide clarification on the test for summary judgment in Alberta in light of numerous contradictory cases regarding the appropriate burden of proof.

The Court of Appeal upheld the Court of Queen's Bench decision wherein the Chambers Judge granted summary dismissal to the Defendant Purolator Courier Ltd., on the basis that the Plaintiff, Weir-Jones Technical Services Incorporated's claim was statute barred from bringing their claim as a result of the Limitations Act.

The Majority Decision

The four member majority of the panel acknowledged that since the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 ("Hryniak"), the test for summary judgment in Alberta has been unclear. The majority cited the Can v. Calgary Police Service, 2014 ABCA 322 ("Can") and Stefanyk v. Sobeys Capital Incorporated, 2018 ABCA 125 ("Stefanyk") decisions as illustrative of this riff discussed at paragraph 12:

In Can, at paragraph 20, the Court of Appeal described the test for summary judgment as when "A party's position is without merit if the facts and law make the moving party's position unassailable...A party's position is unassailable if it is so compelling that the likelihood of success is very high."

In Stefanyk, at paragraph 17, the Court of Appeal stated that, "the issue is not whether the appellant's position is "unassailable"... The ultimate issue is whether the appellant has proven on a balance of probabilities that it is not liable for the Plaintiff's injuries."

Decisions following the analysis in Can held on to the pre-Hryniak analysis that required a higher standard of proof. The majority held that this approach is inconsistent with Hryniak because requiring a claim to be irrefutable defeats the whole purpose of the "culture shift" that was called for.

The majority clarified that the only standard of proof in civil proceedings is "on a balance of probabilities." The majority noted that the real question is not whether on the facts alone the "standard of proof" has been met, but rather if the factual basis of the claim is proven on a balance of probabilities, whether the presiding judge is satisfied that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial. In reaching that decision the judge must be guided by the principle of fairness, and consider whether it is fair to conclusively adjudicate the matter summarily. With the principle of fairness being considered at all stages; fact-finding, making a determination on a the balance of probabilities, deciding if there is a genuine issue requiring a trial, and if overall summary judgment is a suitable means of achieving a just result.

Going forward when determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, it will be important to consider the following:

  1. Based on the record is it possible to fairly resolve the dispute summarily, or are there any uncertainties that reveal a genuine issue requiring a trial?
  2. Can the applicant show on a balance of probabilities that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial?
  3. Can the respondent demonstrate either that there is a genuine issue requiring a trial or that there is a positive defence, and therefore summary disposition should not be available?
  4. Whether based on the record, the presiding judge can confidently, properly and fairly resolve the dispute.

Applying this analysis to the appeal at hand the majority held that the evidence demonstrated Weir-Jones knew more than two years before commencing the proceeding that its injuries warranted a bringing an action. Thus, the chambers judge had not erred in concluding that Weir-Jones failed to prove any reason why their claim was not statute barred, and the decision to dismiss the claim was upheld.

The Minority Decision

The decision of the Honourable Justice Wakeling concurs in the result, but dissent in the analysis. His reasons contain a lengthy review of the history of summary judgment both in Canada and abroad, and hold that Hyrniak has not changed the interpretation of Rule 7.3 in Alberta. He maintains that summary judgment should only be available if the disparity between the parties "is so marked that the ultimate outcome of the dispute is obvious." This analysis runs contrary to the majority's holding that summary judgment is available if having proven the facts on a balance of probabilities the presiding judge can confidently decide the matter. As his reasons for upholding the Appeal were specifically rejected by the Majority, the analysis of Justice Wakeling is of limited precedential use.

Looking Forward

This decision is important because the Court of Appeal has clarified the confusion which has existed for a number of years regarding the standard of proof. The Court of Appeal has made it clear that the balance of  probabilities is the standard of proof on summary judgment. However, it should be noted, this does not mean summary judgment will always be granted if an Applicant proves the facts on a balance of probabilities. Summary judgment applications also require the Court to determine whether on the record and in light of the applicable law, that it is fair to decide the matter summarily.

Despite this additional clarity regarding the standard of proof, there remain other contentious issues with the summary judgment procedure which have been raised in recent cases, but were not specifically considered by the Court in Weir-Jones, including a jurisdictional concern on the fact finding powers of a Master hearing the application in its first instance.  Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the Court of Appeal will be faced with additional challenges on the summary judgment procedure going forward.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Allie Laurent
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions