In June 2013, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food introduced Bill 46 to the Québec National Assembly: An Act to amend the Act respecting the acquisition of farm land by non-residents. The purpose of Bill 46 was to amend the Quebec Act respecting the acquisition of farm land by non-residents (the Act) by tightening the conditions required to qualify as a Quebec resident under this Act and by adding new criteria in the examination of applications for authorization to acquire farm land made by non-Quebec residents.
On October 30, 2013, the Québec National Assembly passed Bill 46. The amendments to the Act came into force on the same day but with a transitional measure applying to pending applications. This bulletin provides an overview of these amendments.
Under the Act, there are now two requirements to be met in order to qualify as a Quebec resident, which would allow one to be exempted from the authorization process when acquiring farm land in Quebec. First, an individual is now required to be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident within the meaning of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Second, an individual must have lived in Quebec for no less than 1,095 days (i.e., approximately 36 months) during the 48 months immediately preceding the date of acquisition of farm land. This new residency period requirement aligns with one of the requirements set forth in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to apply for Canadian citizenship. These new requirements are much more restrictive than the former ones whereby no citizenship or residency requirements were applicable and no more than 366 days of Quebec residency out of a 24-month period were required.
The new requirements also limit the number of legal persons who qualify as Quebec residents, as follows: (1) more than 50% of the voting shares of a legal person's capital stock must be owned by one or more persons residing in Quebec; (2) more than one-half of its directors must be individuals residing in Quebec; and (3) such legal persons must not be directly or indirectly controlled by one or more non-Quebec residents.
INDIVIDUALS INTENDING TO SETTLE IN QUEBEC
If an individual does not meet the above requirements but intends to settle in Quebec, he may be authorized by the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (the Commission) to acquire farm land suitable for the cultivation of the soil or the raising of livestock. In order to obtain such authorization, the individual will now be required to live in Quebec for no less than 1,095 days (i.e., approximately 36 months) during the 48 months following the date of acquisition and, on the expiry of such time, the individual shall have obtained his Canadian citizenship or permanent residency within the meaning of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Act now states that an individual who proves that the above requirements have been fulfilled may request a certificate attesting that he is a Quebec resident and confirming the acquisition for all legal purposes.
For those persons who do not qualify as Quebec residents and for individuals who do not intend to settle in Quebec, the Act still prescribes a specific authorization process but this process is subject to the new criteria. The Commission still has to take into consideration the biophysical conditions of the soil and of the environment to determine whether the farm land that is the subject of the application is suitable for the cultivation of the soil or the raising of livestock. If the Commission determines that the land is not suitable, the authorization must be automatically granted. However, what has changed is that if the farm land is suitable for the cultivation of the soil or the raising of livestock, new criteria must be taken into consideration by the Commission when examining the application, as follows:
- The intended use, in particular the applicant's intention to cultivate the soil or raise livestock on the farm land
- The impact of the acquisition on the price of farm land in the region
- The effects of the acquisition or projected use on the economic development of the region
- The development of agricultural products and the development of underutilized farm land
- The impact on land occupancy.
However, it is to be noted that for applications that were pending on October 30, 2013, a transitional measure provides that the Commission will use the criteria that were applicable before the amendments brought by Bill 46.
A new amendment to the Act provides that except for areas of land in respect of which an authorization is granted to individuals who intend to settle in Quebec, no more than 1,000 hectares of farm land suitable for the cultivation of the soil or the raising of livestock may be added in a year to the total of such areas that any other persons have already been authorized to acquire. This essentially means that in total and for all the Quebec territory, an annual maximum of 1,000 hectares may be purchased by non-Quebec residents. Farm land acquired from non-Quebec residents who have previously obtained an authorization from the Commission will not be taken into account in the calculation of this annual limit.
Despite this general rule, the Act also states that an application filed by a legal person or an individual who does not intend to settle in Quebec that would ultimately bring the total area added in the year beyond the 1,000-hectare limit may nevertheless be examined by the Commission.
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.