Canada: Financial Services


Chartered Banks

Canada's major banks are world-class organizations ranked first globally for soundness by the World Economic Forum for the past eight years. The private sector financing industry in Canada is dominated by five such banks, all of which are federally regulated. These banks (Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Bank of Montreal, The Bank of Nova Scotia, and The Toronto-Dominion Bank) are, by Canadian standards, very large, well-capitalized, and have significant international interests. Canada was a signatory to the Basel Accord and the major banks have, since 2013, all exceeded the minimum capital requirements established under Basel III.

In addition to the five banks noted above, there are approximately twenty-four other domestic banks (collectively referred to as "Schedule I Banks"), notable among which are National Bank of Canada and the Laurentian Bank. There are also approximately twenty-four subsidiaries of large international banks operating in Canada (referred to as "Schedule II Banks"), HSBC Bank Canada being one with significant retail presence. As well, large international banks may also operate in Canada through branches rather than solely through their subsidiary. These branches (referred to as "Schedule III Banks") will consist of either full-service branches, which may engage in consumer and commercial financing and other financial services activities permitted to Schedule I and II Banks (subject to certain exception), or lending branches, which have more limited powers and are more suited to cater to the borrowing needs of principally small and medium-sized businesses, credit card and consumer loan markets and commercial lending.

As in a number of other countries, the four pillars of finance in Canada (banks, securities, insurance and real estate) have largely been dismantled. Canadian banks now have significant ownership stakes in the brokerage industry, the trust industry and the insurance industry.

Other Financial Institutions and Alternate Forms of Financing

A large number of "non-bank" lenders also operate in Canada to provide asset-based lending, mezzanine debt, capital asset financing and/or accounts receivable factoring. A number of Schedule I Banks have also formed divisions to compete in the asset-based finance market formerly dominated by subsidiaries of U.S. lenders.

Other financial institutions in Canada, such as life insurance companies and pension funds, can also be approached for longer term funding and portfolio financing. As a result of the size of certain life insurance companies in Canada and the dismantling of the four pillars of finance, insurance companies, such as Manulife, Sun Life and Canada Life, are starting to provide more "banking" services to both businesses and consumers.

Security for Borrowing in Canada

Lenders will generally require security over some or all of the borrower's personal property, and sometimes real estate as well. Working capital loans from Canadian banks are typically secured by margined accounts receivable, and inventory and term loans are typically secured by all assets of a borrower. In the absence of (and often in addition to) security, the lender will usually require guarantees from principals or shareholders. In addition, lenders will frequently restrict borrowers from incurring additional debt, paying dividends, encumbering assets, reorganizing their business, providing financial assistance and other such matters in connection with the granting of significant term loans. Intercreditor arrangements may also be required where appropriate.

Personal property security regimes are provincially legislated, with all provinces and territories other than Québec having (largely similar) personal property security acts modeled on Article 9 of the U.S. Uniform Commercial Code. These provinces and territories also have separate regimes for real property security. Several provinces (Ontario included) have enacted legislation modeled on Article 8 of the U.S. Uniform Commercial Code which govern, among other things, the perfection of security interests in investment property such as securities.



In Canada, legislative jurisdiction over matters involving debtors and creditors is shared among the federal government and the provincial/territorial governments. The federal government has jurisdiction over "bankruptcy and insolvency," while each provincial government has jurisdiction over "property and civil rights in the province," which includes jurisdiction over real property and personal property security regimes. The federal government has, by statute, given the territorial governments powers similar to those of provincial governments.

There are three common types of insolvency or restructuring proceedings in Canada: (a) bankruptcy; (b) receivership; and (c) reorganization.

The initiation of any one of these proceedings will stay the rights of creditors other than, in certain circumstances, those creditors holding security over personal property or charges against real property. The exceptions are reorganization proceedings pursuant to the federal Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act ("CCAA"), wherein even secured creditors will usually be stayed by the initial filing. International creditors will generally have the same rights as Canadian creditors in all insolvency and restructuring proceedings.

It is not uncommon for insolvency proceedings in Canadian courts to run parallel with proceedings in the United States or other jurisdictions. Canadian courts may recognize a foreign proceeding where there is a "real and substantial connection" with a proceeding before the Canadian court, and/or may request a foreign court to initiate a parallel proceeding if significant assets of the debtor are located in that foreign jurisdiction.


The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act ("BIA") governs the bankruptcies of most individuals, estates of deceased individuals, corporations, partnerships and other entities. In addition to bankruptcy, the BIA deals with enforcement of security (and receiverships in particular) and reorganization of insolvent debtors.

There are several ways in which a debtor may become bankrupt, the principal ones being: (a) the making by the debtor of an assignment for the general benefit of his creditors; and (b) the making of a bankruptcy order by the court on the application of one or more creditors. The legal effect is the same – the vesting in a trustee of all the bankrupt's non-exempt property, but subject to the rights of secured creditors (creditors which hold security interests in the debtor's personal property and/or charges against its real property).

Bankruptcy Administration

Unpaid suppliers can repossess goods delivered within 30 days prior to the date of the bankruptcy filing, provided the goods are still in the trustee's possession, identifiable, in their original state and have not been sold or contracted for sale. These rights also apply in a receivership.

Secured creditors will sometimes support or initiate a bankruptcy to run in parallel with a receivership, going concern sale or liquidation. The bankruptcy will relegate to unsecured status certain statutory liens and deemed trusts which might otherwise supersede the creditor's security.

Bankruptcy trustees in Canada are considered officers of the Court and are required to treat the interests of all stakeholders fairly and as such interests may appear. Trustees are generally not adversarial to secured creditors.


Notice of Intention

Secured creditors are generally free to enforce their security without interference from a trustee in bankruptcy. The BIA does, however, require that, before enforcing security on all of the inventory, accounts receivable or other property of an insolvent debtor used in relation to the debtor's business, the secured creditor must first give the debtor a 10-day notice of its intention to do so.

Private Appointment of Receiver

A security agreement will normally contain a provision authorizing the secured creditor to appoint a receiver upon the occurrence of a default in payment by the debtor or other specified events of default. If the agreement does not do so, the secured creditor will have no alternative but to seek a court appointment.

A private receiver will take direction from the secured creditor. A private receiver is not subject to general fiduciary duties to other interested parties, but is subject to certain standards set out in the BIA (for receivers) and in the provincial Personal Property Security Act ("PPSA") (for enforcement of security), namely to act honestly and in good faith and to deal with the debtor's property in a commercially reasonable manner.

The BIA also imposes duties on a receiver to deliver to the debtor, certain creditors and the official receiver's office notice of its appointment, a statement of its intended plan of action, interim reports and a final report and statement of accounts.

Court Appointment of Receiver

The BIA (as well as the statute in each province, other than Québec, governing the rules of the provincial court) authorizes the court to appoint a receiver or receiver and manager where it is "just or convenient to do so." Even though a secured creditor may have a contractual right to appoint a receiver, it may have no choice but to seek a court appointment (e.g., where the debtor or a third party will not give access to the charged property), or it may wish to do so (e.g., where it wishes to prevent a subsequent challenge that it acted negligently or improvidently in disposing of the debtor's property, by having the court establish the terms and conditions of sale and oversee the sale process, or where it expects to face intercreditor priority disputes).

A court receiver is an independent officer of the court and is subject to the direction of the court, not of the secured creditor. A court receiver will serve the interests of all creditors and other stakeholders, as such interests may appear, and does not, for example, prefer the interests of unsecured creditors.  

Effect of Appointment of Receiver

The appointment of a receiver, whether privately or by the court, does not end a corporate debtor's existence. However, the appointment does normally suspend the powers of the debtor's management to carry on the debtor's business or to deal with its property. A receiver will usually be empowered – a private receiver by the security agreement and a courtappointed receiver by the order – to carry on the debtor's business (and in doing so, to continue the employment of employees, to perform contracts, etc.) and also to dispose of the debtor's property.

Because the BIA is a federal statute with effect throughout Canada, an order appointing a receiver (or an interim receiver, as discussed below) under the BIA in one province can be enforced in other provinces.


Canada has four federal statutes that provide for formal reorganizations (sometimes called restructurings) between insolvent debtors and their creditors. The principal statutes are the BIA (Part III) and the CCAA. The additional statutes are the Farm Debt Mediation Act, which permits insolvent farmers to make arrangements with their creditors, and the Winding-up and Restructuring Act, which is dedicated to insolvencies of (a) corporations formed by federal parliament (or certain provincial parliaments) and subject to the authority of federal parliament, and (b) most financial institutions, including banks, trust companies and insurance companies. There recently has also been some use of the restructuring provisions of the federal corporations statute, the Canada Business Corporations Act, to restructure bond debt of corporate families wherein some, but not all, members are insolvent.

Proposals Under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

Under Part III of the BIA, insolvent individuals, corporations, partnerships and other entities may make "proposals" to their creditors. There are separate schemes for consumer proposals and commercial proposals. We focus here on commercial proposals.

A proposal is a written document that sets out the terms on which the debtor proposes to settle or compromise the claims of unsecured creditors. A proposal may, but usually does not, deal with the claims of secured creditors. A proposal will often provide for one or more of the following elements: a percentage reduction of each creditor's claim; an extension of time for payment of claims; for corporate debtors, a conversion of claims or a portion of them into shares; or a release of claims against directors. A licensed trustee in bankruptcy, named in the proposal, assists the debtor in preparing and, if approved, performing the proposal.

Upon the filing of a proposal through a licensed trustee with the federal regulator, the debtor obtains a number of benefits including: (a) a stay of proceedings by creditors, including certain secured creditors and the federal and provincial/territorial governments; (b) a prohibition against enforcement of "insolvency" clauses in agreements under which the other party might terminate the agreement or accelerate payment of indebtedness; (c) the ability to obtain a super-priority charge for debtor-in-possession ("DIP") financing; and (d) a right in certain situations to disclaim commercial leases and other contracts. The BIA allows secured creditors stayed in a BIA proposal proceeding to seek to have an interim receiver appointed by the court to protect their interests and collateral, although usually with powers limited so as to allow the debtor to remain in possession and control of most of its business and assets.

A proposal must be approved by unsecured creditors and by the court. Non-approval at either stage results in automatic bankruptcy. For creditor approval, all classes of unsecured creditors must accept the proposal by a majority in number and two-thirds in value of the unsecured creditors of each class present at the meeting and voting on the proposal. For court approval, the court must be satisfied that the terms of the proposal are reasonable and calculated to benefit the general body of creditors. Once approved by the unsecured creditors and the court, the proposal is binding on all unsecured creditors and on any secured creditors to whom it was made and who have approved the proposal (by the same requisite majorities).

A debtor may initiate the process by filing a notice of intention to make a proposal, giving it the same benefits in terms of protection from creditors, DIP financing and disclaimer of agreements. The debtor will then have 30 days within which to file a proposal, subject to extension or abridgement by the court. In total, the process, including all court-ordered extensions (of up to 45 days each), cannot take more than six months. Failure to file a proposal within the required time results in automatic bankruptcy. The debtor also is required to file, within 10 days of filing a notice of intention, cash flows showing an ability to bring a viable proposal and failure to do so also results in automatic bankruptcy.

When a proposal has been fully performed, the trustee gives a certificate to that effect to the debtor and the official receiver. Where there is default, which is not remedied by the debtor or waived by the creditors, the creditors or the trustee may apply to the court for an order annulling the proposal. When a proposal is annulled, there is a deemed assignment in bankruptcy by the debtor.

The BIA also allows for an out-of-the-ordinary-course sale of the debtors' business and assets without shareholder approval, but subject to approval of the court. This may occur where a proposal does not appear possible, or only possible with the proceeds of such sale.

Arrangements Under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act

Under the CCAA, an insolvent corporation may seek the court's assistance in making a compromise or an arrangement with its creditors, where the total of claims against the corporation or affiliated corporations exceeds C$5 million. The debtor applies to the court, generally on notice to the significant creditors, for an order (called the initial order) that will normally impose a stay of proceedings by creditors (secured and unsecured), and also by the federal and provincial/territorial governments, for up to 30 days, prohibit termination of contracts with the debtor by other parties to those contracts, and appoint a monitor (normally a licensed trustee in bankruptcy) to assist the debtor with its arrangement. The debtor may apply for an extension of the stay period and must satisfy the court that it has acted, and is acting, in good faith and with due diligence.

The initial order will often authorize DIP financing (and create a super-priority charge in respect thereof), and permit preferential payments to critical suppliers. The CCAA also gives the debtor the right to disclaim commercial leases and other contracts.

The court will normally, in either the initial order or any subsequent order or orders that it makes, require the debtor to present a plan of arrangement to its creditors to be voted on at a meeting of creditors to be held within a specified period of time after the date of the order. If a majority in number representing two-thirds in value of the creditors or class of creditors present and voting at the meeting accepts the compromise or arrangement, and the court sanctions it, the compromise or arrangement becomes binding on the debtor and on all the creditors or the class of creditors, as the case may be.

A compromise or arrangement under the CCAA may include provision for the compromise of claims against directors, on the same basis as set out above with regard to proposals under the BIA. Recent decisions have also allowed the compromise of claims against third parties, where deemed necessary to the success of the reorganization. A CCAA plan may also involve reorganization or conversion of share capital pursuant to the Canada Business Corporations Act or applicable provincial corporate statute.

The CCAA also allows for an out-of-the-ordinary-course sale of the debtors' business and assets without shareholder approval, but subject to approval of the court. This might occur where a plan does not appear possible, or possible only with the proceeds of such sale.

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.

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