Canada: Rights Of Trustees In Bankruptcy And Secured Creditors To Licenses Held By A Debtor

The Supreme Court of Canada recently released its decision in Saulnier v. Royal Bank of Canada1 ("Saulnier"), an important case involving fishing licences in the context of a secured lending transaction and an assignment in bankruptcy. This case contains what we believe is significant commentary on classifying certain governmental licences as "property" under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Canada) (the "BIA") and "personal property" under the Personal Property Security Act (Nova Scotia) (the "Nova Scotia PPSA").

Mr. Saulnier operated a fishing business and held four fishing licences. He and his wholly-owned fishing company separately obtained financing by Royal Bank of Canada (the "Bank"). Mr. Saulnier provided a personal guarantee to the Bank in respect of obligations of the fishing company and granted a general security agreement in favour of the Bank. His fishing company also provided a general security agreement in favour of the Bank. The general security agreements were in the Bank's standard form and created a security interest in all "present and after acquired personal property", including, inter alia, all "intangibles" (with reference to the definition of such term in the Nova Scotia PPSA) of the debtors.

Ultimately, the business failed and Mr. Saulnier made an assignment in bankruptcy. Shortly thereafter, he sought to lease one of the fishing licenses to a company owned by his spouse. Meanwhile, the receiver and the trustee in bankruptcy entered into an agreement to sell the licenses to a third-party purchaser. This sale, however, was conditional upon the trustee in bankruptcy being able to transfer the licenses to the new purchaser.

The question before the court was whether the commercial fishing licences were: (1) "property" of a bankrupt available to a trustee in bankruptcy under the BIA, and/or (2) "personal property" of a debtor available to a secured creditor under the Nova Scotia PPSA. Mr. Saulnier argued that the fishing licences were merely a "privilege" for him to fish and did not give rise to an interest in property. Mr. Saulnier followed that he should be entitled to continue to fish and enjoy the profits related thereto, or enter into new leases in respect of the licences, notwithstanding his assignment in bankruptcy and the rights of the Bank under the general security agreements.

In its decision, the Court stated that terms in the BIA and Nova Scotia PPSA should not be interpreted based on a strict common law understanding, but rather in a purposive manner that enables the BIA and Nova Scotia PPSA to accomplish their respective commercial purposes. When evaluating whether a fishing licence was included under the terms "property" or "personal property", the Court looked to the substantive nature of the rights conferred by a fishing licence.

Significantly, the Court noted that a fishing licence conferred rights that were broader than the traditional rights granted by a licence, namely, to permit the holder to do something which would otherwise be unlawful. A fishing licence also contains a proprietary right to tangible property in the form of the fish that are caught by its terms and the earnings from their sale.

The term "property" is defined under section 2 of the BIA as follows:

"property" means any type of property, whether situated in Canada or elsewhere, and includes money, goods, things in action, land and every description of property, whether real or personal, legal or equitable, as well as obligations, easements and every description of estate, interest and profit, present or future, vested or contingent, in, arising out of or incident to property.

The Court concluded that the "bundle of rights" possessed by Mr. Saulnier under terms of the fishing licence were sufficient to meet the purposefully broad and extended definition of "property" under the BIA.

With respect to the Nova Scotia PPSA, the Court found that the granting of the fishing licenses, coupled with the proprietary interest of the license holder in the fish caught thereby, was broad enough to be an "intangible" and within the definition of "personal property" under section 2 of the Nova Scotia PPSA.

Applying the Court's findings, the trustee in bankruptcy was entitled to sell the fishing licenses to the third-party purchaser with the power to transfer the licenses to the new purchaser. In addition, the Bank was entitled to proceed with its remedies as a secured creditor under the Nova Scotia PPSA in respect of the fishing licenses.

Saulnier is a significant case for secured creditors and trustees involved in transactions with debtors that operate in a regulated industry. The case provides clarification and, to a lesser extent, some certainty regarding the classification of certain governmental licenses under the BIA and personal property security legislation. One must be careful not to extend the judgement too far, however, since the Court is clear that its decision is not meant to apply to all types of governmental licenses or similar instruments, such as quotas. The Court was clear that the proprietary right to the fish caught under the licences was instrumental in it reaching its decision. Special consideration must be made in the circumstances to determine the rights of a secured creditors under personal property security legislation and trustees under the BIA with respect to governmental licenses.


1. [2008] S.C.J. No. 60

About BLG

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.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must 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