Canada: Duties Of Directors In The Insolvency Zone

Last Updated: October 21 2009
Article by Scott A. Bomhof

There is growing recognition that the directors of an insolvent corporation owe a duty of care to the corporation's creditors. Although this duty is not a fiduciary duty, the directors, in determining whether the board is acting with a view to the best interests of the corporation, may need to consider the interests of, inter alia, shareholders, employees, suppliers, creditors, consumers, governments and other stakeholders. Until recently, it was believed that the U.S. and U.K. approach to such duties, which involve directors shifting their primary duties from shareholders to creditors as a company approaches the zone of insolvency, would apply in Canada as well.1 The interests of these different constituencies may conflict, and the directors have the difficulty of balancing competing interests, with few clear criteria to guide their decision making.

Fiduciary Duty Is Not Owed

It is now clear that the directors of a company, even when the company is facing insolvency, do not owe a fiduciary duty to the creditors of the company. In Peoples Department Stores Inc. (Trustee of) v. Wise,2 the Supreme Court of Canada examined the nature of a director's duties under Canadian law in the context of an insolvency proceeding. The Peoples case involved a claim by the trustee in bankruptcy of the bankrupt corporation against the former directors of the bankrupt corporation. In this case, the directors of Peoples Department Stores had implemented a joint procurement policy with its parent company, Wise Stores Inc. whereby Peoples acquired all of the inventory offered for sale at both Peoples and Wise. As a result of the manner in which the joint procurement arrangement was implemented, Peoples effectively provided free unsecured inventory financing to Wise and, upon Wise's bankruptcy, Peoples itself was placed into a bankruptcy proceeding. The trustee in bankruptcy of Peoples brought an action against the directors of Peoples, alleging that the directors had breached their fiduciary obligations to the creditors of Peoples; however, the trustee in bankruptcy did not pursue any claim against the directors under either the oppression remedy or a derivative action on behalf of Peoples.

At the trial level, the trial judge recognized that British, Australian and New Zealand courts have all held that when a company is near insolvency, the directors owe duties not only to the shareholders of the company but also to its creditors.3 The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the lower court decision and rejected the concept that the duties of directors shift in favour of the creditors of the corporation as it nears the zone of insolvency.4 In examining the issue whether directors owe a fiduciary duty to the corporation's creditors, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal and expressly held:

The principal question raised by this appeal is whether directors of a corporation owe a fiduciary duty to the corporation's creditors comparable to the statutory duty owed to the corporation. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that directors owe a duty of care to creditors, but that duty does not rise to a fiduciary duty. We agree with the disposition of the Quebec Court of Appeal.5

In analyzing where a director's duty falls under Canadian law, the Supreme Court examined both the issue of a director's duty of loyalty and a director's duty of care. In referring to section 122(1)(a) of the Canada Business Corporations Act (the CBCA), which requires that a director "act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interest of the corporation," the Supreme Court held that the director's duty of loyalty at all times is a fiduciary obligation owed to the corporation itself. The Court held that the duty of loyalty does not extend to other stakeholders beyond the corporation. On the other hand, in examining section 122(1)(b) of the CBCA, which requires directors to "exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances," the Court held that the duty of care is owed to all stakeholders of the corporation. In casting the net for the duty of care widely, the Supreme Court has created a broad group of interested parties, including shareholders, creditors, employees and other similar parties, to whom directors owe a duty of care under Canadian law. On the other hand, by limiting the duty of loyalty to the corporation itself, the Supreme Court has excluded such stakeholders from the scope of a director's fiduciary duties. This distinction is summarized by the Supreme Court as follows:

The various shifts in interest that naturally occur as a corporation's fortunes rise and fall do not, however, affect the content of the fiduciary duty under s. 122(1)(a) ... At all times, directors and officers owe their fiduciary obligation to the corporation. The interests of the corporation are not to be confused with the interests of the creditors or those of any other stakeholders ... In using their skills for the benefit of the corporation when it is in troubled waters financially, the directors must be careful to attempt to act in its best interest by creating a "better" corporation, and not to favour the interests of any one group of stakeholders.6

In the Peoples case, the Supreme Court affirmed that courts should respect the business judgment of the directors of a corporation in reviewing the conduct of these directors. The Court ruled that judges are ill-suited to second-guess the application of a director's business expertise in considerations that are involved in corporate decision making; judges should rather focus their review on determining whether the directors brought an appropriate degree of prudence and diligence to the table.7

In assessing whether or not directors have fulfilled their duties, different considerations apply to the procedural and substantive aspects of their conduct. The procedural aspect requires directors to make reasonable inquiry into all relevant information available to them before making a decision (i.e., directors are required to make informed decisions). This means that directors should take a direct and active role, especially in key matters affecting the corporation. Although directors are not bound to attend all meetings of the board, they should make an effort to attend: it would be a breach of their duty of diligence to deliberately ignore the corporation's affairs.

If a director has fulfilled this duty of care, any substantive decision made should be subject to the "business judgment rule." In other words, if business decisions have been made honestly, prudently, in good faith and on reasonable grounds, the courts will be reluctant to interfere or to substitute their judgment for the director's judgment. In short, directors should not be liable for errors in judgment if they had otherwise acted properly.

The sanctity of the business judgment rule was also recently re-affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Re BCE Inc.8 In the BCE case, which did not involve an insolvency proceeding, the Supreme Court gave an overview of directors' duties, considered the interests that are protected under the oppression remedy available under most Canadian corporate statutes and discussed the test for approval of a plan of arrangement. The Court re-affirmed its earlier decision in Peoples and held that the directors have a duty to act in the best interests of the corporation, which requires directors to consider the interests of all stakeholders and not to equate the interests of the corporation with the interests of shareholders alone. The Court rejected the "shareholder primacy" model derived from U.S. jurisprudence and held that the duties of directors in Canada:

comprehends a duty to treat individual stakeholders affected by corporate acts equitably and fairly. There are no absolute rules. In each case, the question is whether, in all of the circumstances, the directors acted in the best interests of the corporation, having regard to all of the relevant considerations, including, but not confined to, the need to treat affected stakeholders in a fair manner.9

In examining the conduct of the directors in this case, the Supreme Court specifically noted that the directors had considered the interests of the complaining debentureholders and that this had fulfilled the duty of the directors to consider such parties' interests and did not amount to unfairly disregarding the interests of such creditors. The Court went on to hold that the business judgment rule prevailed:

Provided that, as here, the directors' decision is found to have been within the range of reasonable choices that they could have made in weighing conflicting interests, the court will not go on to determine whether their decision was the perfect one.10

It follows that directors have a duty to ensure that their corporation carries on business only if it can meet its liabilities as they become due and if there is a reasonable expectation of newly incurred obligations being satisfied. The latter issue is a highly sensitive one for directors of financially troubled companies and is sometimes referred to as "the risk of trading while insolvent." Directors are often placed in the difficult position of having to balance this concern with the need to maximize the prospects of the corporation by continuing to carry on business in the ordinary course for as long as possible.

While there is no bright-line test in this regard, it is clear that the directors of a corporation that is experiencing financial difficulties should, and should be seen to, maintain a high degree of diligence and care regarding the dealings of the corporation. If it becomes evident that the corporation can no longer pay its debts as they become due, and additional funding is not imminently available, it would be prudent and consistent with the directors' duties for the corporation to enter into insolvency proceedings for its restructuring or liquidation. Until that time, the directors should continue to consider the interests of creditors, which may involve ensuring that outstanding debts to creditors are not increased pending completion of a restructuring or financing or other event that resolves the company's financial difficulties.

In Canada, directors must also be aware of the scope of the oppression remedy, which is common to most corporate statutes in this country. As noted by the Supreme Court in Peoples, the corporate oppression remedy gives stakeholders of a corporation, including creditors, a very powerful remedy if the activities of the corporation or its directors amount to oppressive or unfairly prejudicial conduct. The oppression remedy gives the court very broad powers to impose any remedy it sees fit when oppressive conduct has been proven. While provincial corporate statutes each have their own oppression remedy provisions, most are similar to section 241(2) of the CBCA, which is as follows:

Grounds – If, on an application under subsection (1), the court is satisfied that in respect of a corporation or any of its affiliates

  1. any act or omission of the corporation or any of its affiliates effects a result,
  2. the business or affairs of the corporation or any of its affiliates are or have been carried on or conducted in a manner, or
  3. the powers of the directors of the corporation or any of its affiliates are or have been exercised in a manner

that is oppressive or unfairly prejudicial to or that unfairly disregards the interests of any security holder, creditor, director or officer, the court may make an order to rectify the matters complained of.

A final area of personal liability for directors arises from the common law jurisprudence on negligent misrepresentation. Under these cases,11 directors and/or officers of corporations have been held personally liable to creditors where the directors/officers have made negligent misrepresentations to creditors regarding the creditworthiness of the corporation in situations in which such creditors could establish that they reasonably relied on such statements in advancing new credit to the company. These cases highlight the delicate balancing act that directors face when the corporation is near insolvency but still operating in the normal course. Care must be given to answering creditor enquiries regarding the financial health of the corporation. While no one wants to start a panic by informing a creditor that the corporation is facing liquidity concerns or is otherwise in financial distress, directors must avoid portraying an overly optimistic picture to creditors, otherwise they may face personal liability risks if there is a subsequent insolvency.

Statutory Liabilities

In addition to their general duty of care to creditors and common law liability exposure to creditors, directors are exposed to a broad array of liabilities that become most pronounced during insolvent circumstances. In simple terms, these liabilities can be placed into three key categories: (i) liabilities relating to employees of the company; (ii) liabilities for improper corporate actions, most notably relating to transfer of value in insolvent or near insolvent situations; and (iii) personal liability for the corporation's failure to remit or make tax and other payments.

Employee Obligations

Directors can, under various statutes, be personally liable for unpaid claims of employees. Under the CBCA, for example, directors are personally liable for the corporation's debts to its employees for services performed. The employee must sue for the debt while the director is still in office or within two years thereafter, and the amount to be recovered cannot exceed six months' wages of the employee. The meaning of the corporation's "debts" to its employees encompasses not only wages but also other forms of remuneration, such as vacation pay. However, Canadian courts have not extended these liabilities to termination or severance pay (in fact, the Ontario Employment Standards Act specifically excludes termination and severance pay from the definition of "wages" for which directors are liable).12 A director is not liable for unpaid wages under the CBCA if he or she relied in good faith on financial statements represented by an officer of the corporation, or the corporation's auditor, as fairly reflecting the financial condition of the corporation or on a report of a professional.

Improper Corporate Actions

Claims may be made against directors for improper corporate actions that impair the company's ability to meet its liabilities (e.g., paying out dividends or repurchasing shares while the corporation is unable to meet its liabilities). The typical threshold is the "solvency test" – namely, whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that the corporation would, after the particular action is taken, be unable to pay its liabilities as they become due, or that the realizable value of the corporation's assets would be less than the aggregate of its liabilities. If there are reasonable grounds for believing that the corporation would remain solvent, the corporate actions taken cannot be said to be improper. Directors can also be personally liable if they approve the issuance of shares for non-cash consideration that has a fair equivalent value less than the amount of money the corporation would have received if the shares were issued for money.

Statutory Liabilities for Failure to Make Remittances and Payments

Claims may be made against directors for a corporation's failure to remit and pay a broad array of taxes and other obligations. In certain cases (e.g., payroll and other source deductions), directors may avoid personal liability if they can establish that they exercised the degree of care, diligence and skill to prevent the failure that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in comparable circumstances.

Generally, the statutes impose "joint and several liability" on directors, meaning that any one of the directors may be sued for the entire sum and, if found liable, that director has a right to claim against the other directors and the corporation. Directors are personally liable only for the amount not remitted or paid by the corporation.

Schedule A to this paper summarizes the key statutory liabilities to which corporate directors may be exposed, particularly in insolvent or near insolvent circumstances. The statutory liabilities set out in this schedule focus on federal laws and Ontario laws.

Protective Measures Available to Directors of Insolvent Companies

Prior to accepting an appointment as a director, individuals should ensure that appropriate directors' and officers' insurance is in place to minimize the risk of personal liability claims. As a company nears the zone of insolvency, directors should ensure that the D&O insurance payments are up to date and, if appropriate under the circumstances, that arrangements have been made for the payment of any premiums that may come due for the remainder of the term of the policy. The policy should be carefully reviewed to ascertain the types of risks that are covered, and all riders to the policy should be examined to see if any risks are specifically excluded from coverage. Furthermore, the policy should be reviewed to determine if it is a "claims-made" policy or an "occurrence" policy. While occurrence-based policies tend to be more expensive, such policies provide ongoing coverage for any insured events that happened during the policy period whether or not a claim is made within the specified claims period. On the other hand, a claims-made policy applies only to actual claims that are asserted against directors and officers during the term of the policy (subject to purchasing a "claims tail" period). In the case of a claims-made policy, it is important to ascertain any potential claims before the expiry of the policy and to provide notice of such claims to the insurer.

The following are additional actions that directors can take to minimize personal liability exposure, particularly if the corporation in question is insolvent or near insolvency:

  1. Attend all board meetings and ensure that personal dissents on any resolution are recorded in the minutes.
  2. Ensure that the financial reporting and payment systems of the corporation are timely and effective.
  3. Carefully review the financial statements of the corporation, question the management and pursue any inconsistencies. Directors may also want to obtain written confirmation from management that statutory liabilities (i.e., source deductions, GST remittances) are being paid when due.
  4. Where appropriate, obtain expert advice on the corporation's compliance with its obligations and/or financial condition.13
  5. Ensure that segregated trust accounts or remittance procedures have been established to deal with taxes and source deductions.
  6. Ensure that adequate and comprehensive directors' liability insurance is in effect.
  7. Ensure that the corporation has entered into an indemnity agreement with each director to the full extent permitted by the by-laws and the relevant governing statute.
  8. Consider the appropriateness of resigning as a director, subject to issues that might arise in the event of a proposed en masse resignation of the board of directors.
  9. Consider conflicts or appearances of conflicts and consider abstaining from board deliberations and decisions as appropriate.
  10. Consider the appropriateness and availability of security arrangements to support the indemnities granted to directors, such as the creation of a segregated trust or issuance of letters of credit (subject to ensuring compliance with material company agreements and consideration of fraudulent preference issues).
  11. Become familiar with relevant corporate obligations and monitor the company's compliance with those obligations.

In the event that an insolvency proceeding is required for a company, directors and officers may want to consider the benefits of pursuing a restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.14 If a plan is approved by the necessary number of creditors and sanctioned by the court, the CCAA expressly allows the court to release claims against the directors of the company that arise from their role as directors. Under section 5.1 of the CCAA, a court-sanctioned plan of arrangement may provide for the compromise of claims against the directors that arose before the CCAA proceedings commenced and that relate to the obligations of the company for which the directors are liable in their capacity as directors for the payment of such obligations. Under the CCAA, such directors' release may not include claims that relate to contractual rights of creditors (i.e., personal guarantees signed by directors) or that are based on directors' alleged misrepresentations to creditors or of directors' wrongful or oppressive conduct. In addition, under section 11.5(1) of the CCAA, during the pendency of a CCAA proceeding, the court may issue a stay of proceedings in favour of directors.15 By allowing a compromise of claims and a stay of proceedings against directors (and officers) of a corporation, the CCAA provides a useful mechanism to allow directors and officers to focus on a successful restructuring of the corporation rather than dealing with litigation aimed at pursuing the directors in their personal capacity.

The Nortel proceedings illustrate the benefit of a stay.16 Justice Morawetz was asked to extend the stay of proceedings issued in favour of the directors and officers of the Canadian Nortel entities that were subject to CCAA proceedings to an action commenced in the United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville District (the U.S. Action). In the U.S. Action, certain directors and officers of the Canadian Nortel entities were named defendants with respect to the U.S. legislation known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 1974 (ERISA). The plaintiff in the U.S. Action claimed that the named officers and directors of the Canadian Nortel parties were being sued in their capacity as fiduciaries under ERISA and not in their capacity as directors or officers of the Nortel entities. In reviewing the claim issued against Nortel and the named directors and officers, Justice Morawetz noted that the allegations raised against the named directors and officers were not limited to claims in their role as fiduciaries under the ERISA legislation and determined that the named directors and officers should have the benefit of a stay of proceedings under the CCAA to prevent the litigation from proceeding against them in their personal capacities.

SCHEDULE A: Directors' and Officers' Statutory Liability

The following is a summary of notable federal and Ontario statutory liabilities for directors. Statutory liabilities in Canada can be complicated because more than one statute can impose similar (or dissimilar) directors' liabilities on the same subject matter. For example, a company incorporated under the Business Corporations Act (Ontario) (OBCA), having employees in Ontario, is subject to both the OBCA and the Employment Standards Act (Ontario) (ESA), both of which make directors liable for unpaid wages to employees. A company incorporated federally (such as under the CBCA) and having employees in Ontario, would be subject to both the CBCA and the ESA. Federal works and undertakings are subject to the Canada Labour Code (CLC). While none of the OBCA, the ESA and the CBCA impose liability for termination pay, the CLC does. The summary below is only general in nature and not exhaustive.

(i) Claims Related to Employees and Employment




  • Unpaid wages (and other debts for services performed by employees)

OBCA, s. 131

CBCA, s. 119

ESA, s. 81(7)

CLC, s. 251.18

Maximum amount equal to six months' wages.

  • Vacation pay

ESA, s. 81(4)

OBCA, s. 131

CLC, s. 186, s.183

Greater of 4% of wages or contractual amount of vacation pay for the last 12 months.

  • Severance and termination pay

ESA, s. 81(3)

CLC, s. 235

No liability

except if corporation is a federal work, undertaking, or business subject to the Canada Labour Code where liability is greater of:

(i) two days' wages x years of employment; or

(ii) five days' wages.

  • Source deductions for taxes not deducted, withheld and remitted

Income Tax Act (ITA), s. 227.1

Liability for amount not withheld only if execution against the corporation has been returned unsatisfied or the corporation has commenced liquidation or dissolution proceedings or has had an assignment or a bankruptcy order issued against it and a claim for the corporation's liability has been proved within six months after the date of the assignment or bankruptcy order. Due diligence defence is available.

(ii) Corporate Finance




  • Issuing shares in return for property or past services

OBCA, s. 130(1)

CBCA, s. 118(1)

Directors must make good any amounts by which the consideration received is less than the fair equivalent of the money that the corporation would have received had the shares been issued for money.

  • Payment of dividends
    • in violation of the solvency or impairment of capital tests
    • within 12 months preceding bankruptcy if the dividend was paid when the company was insolvent or if the payment made the company insolvent


OBCA, s. 130(2)

CBCA, s. 118(2)

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA), s. 101(2)


Directors can be liable for the amount of the dividend not recovered by the corporation.

Directors can be liable to trustee in bankruptcy for the amount of the dividend, plus interest.

Due diligence defence is available.

  • Share purchases, acquisitions or redemptions
    • in violation of the solvency or impairment of capital tests
    • within 12 months preceding bankruptcy if the redemption or repurchase was done when the company was insolvent or if the payment made the company insolvent


OBCA, s. 130(2)

CBCA, s. 118(2)

BIA, s. 101(2)


Directors can be liable for the amount paid and not recovered by the corporation.

Directors can be liable to trustee in bankruptcy for the amount of the payment, plus interest.

  • Prohibited financial assistance to any person in violation of requirements for management proxy circulars as per the prescribed form (CBCA)

CBCA, ss. 150(1), (3), (4), Reg. s. 57(z.7)

Directors may be subject to a fine of $5000 and imprisonment up to six months.

  • Payment of an unreasonable commission to a purchaser (or someone who procures purchasers) on the purchase of the corporation's shares

OBCA, s. 130(2) CBCA, s. 118(2)

Directors can be liable for the amount paid and not recovered by the corporation.

(iii) Miscellaneous




  • Payment of indemnities to directors and officers who have failed to act in the best interests of the corporation or did not believe their conduct was legal

OBCA, s. 130(2)

CBCA, s. 118(2)

Directors can be liable for the amount paid and not recovered by the corporation.

  • Payment of amounts to security holders under statutory dissent rights or to complainants in an oppression remedy action in violation of the solvency or impairment of capital tests

OBCA, s. 130(2)

CBCA, s. 118(2)

Directors can be liable for the amount paid and not recovered by the corporation.

(iv) Securities




  • Contravention by the corporation of Ontario securities law

Securities Act (Ontario), ss. 122(1), (3), s. 129.2

Directors who authorize, permit or acquiesce to a contravention by the corporation can be fined up to $5,000,000 and imprisoned for up to five years.

  • Misrepresentation in a prospectus, take-over bid circular or an offering memorandum

Securities Act (Ontario), s. 130, s. 130.1, s. 131.

Directors in office at the time of filing of the document may be personally liable to investors for damages, subject to a due diligence defence (maximum liability equal to the price at which securities were offered to the public for misrepresentations under s. 130 and s. 130.1).

  • Insider trading

Securities Act (Ontario), s. 122(4), s. 122(1), s. 122(3), s. 129.2

Fines are a minimum of the profit made or loss avoided and a maximum of the greater of $5,000,000 and three times the profit made or loss avoided, in addition to any imprisonment imposed.

(v) Pensions/Health & Safety




  • Canada Pension Plan premiums

Canada Pension Plan, s. 21.1

Directors can be liable for the amount (plus penalties or interest) that the corporation fails to deduct and remit.

  • Failure to comply with the obligations and standards of care under pension benefits legislation

Pension Benefits Act (Ontario), s. 110(2),
s. 110(3)

Directors may be subject to a fine of up to $100,000 on the first offence and up to $200,000 on subsequent convictions.

  • Failure to comply with obligations relating to workplace safety

Occupational Health & Safety Act (Ontario), s. 66(1), s. 32


CLC, s. 148, s. 149(2)

Directors may be subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment of up to 12 months.

On conviction on indictment, directors may be subject to a fine of up to $1,000,000 and imprisonment of up to two years; or summary conviction to a fine of up to $100,000.

(vi) Taxes




  • Source deductions for taxes not deducted, withheld and remitted (also shown under "Claims Related to Employees and Employment" above)

ITA, s. 227.1

Liability for amount not withheld only if execution against the corporation has been returned unsatisfied in whole or in part or the corporation has commenced liquidation or dissolution proceedings or has had an assignment or a bankruptcy order issued against it and a claim for the corporation's liability has been proved within 6 months after the date of the assignment or bankruptcy order. Due diligence defence is available.

  • Taxes not withheld and remitted on account of withholding taxes in respect of certain payments to non-residents

ITA, s. 227.1

Liability only if execution against the corporation has been returned unsatisfied and the corporation has commenced liquidation or dissolution proceedings or has had an assignment or a bankruptcy order issued against it and a claim for the corporation's liability has been proved within six months after the date of the assignment or bankruptcy order. Due diligence defence is available.

  • Federal income taxes

ITA, s. 238(1), s. 242

Director can be fined from $1,000 up to $25,000 and imprisoned up to 12 months.

  • Employment insurance premiums

Employment Insurance Act, s. 83(1)

Directors can be liable for the amount (plus any interest or penalties) that the corporation fails to deduct and remit.

  • Goods and Services Tax

Excise Tax Act (Canada), s. 323, s. 329, s. 330

Directors can be held liable for unremitted amounts plus interest and any penalties.

Can also be imprisoned up to six months and fined $1,000 plus 20% of amount of tax (plus interest and penalties) that director willfully failed to pay, collect or remit. Due diligence defence is available.

  • Retail sales tax

Retail Sales Tax Act (Ontario), s. 43




Retail Sales Tax Act (Ontario), s. 32(4.1)

Director can be held liable for unpaid amounts in certain circumstances, including an assignment in bankruptcy or a receiving order. Due diligence defence is available.

Can also be fined up to double tax payable and imprisoned up to two years if director consented to tax evasion.

  • Ontario corporate taxes

Corporations Tax Act (Ontario), s. 76(5), s. 96, s. 110

Fines up to twice the amount of tax payable and up to two years imprisonment/general maximum fine of $5,000 for other offences.

  • Customs and excise taxes

Various fines and penalties.

(vii) Environmental Protection




  • Preventing contamination (unlawful discharges)

Environmental Protection Act (Ontario), s. 194, s. 187

Also see Ontario Water Resources Act, s. 116

Canadian Environmental Protection Act (Canada) 1999, s. 280, s. 272

Liability of up to $50,000 per day (or up to $100,000 per day and/or imprisonment up to one year on subsequent convictions) for permitting discharge of contaminants or failure to prevent contamination (even if no actual discharge).

Liability of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

(viii) Bankruptcy




  • Bankruptcy Offences
  • Listed in BIA s. 198

BIA, s. 198, s. 204

Directors who direct, authorize, assent to or acquiesce or participate in the commission of a bankruptcy offence may be liable (on summary conviction) for up to $5000 and/or imprisonment up to 12 months; or may be liable (upon conviction on indictment) for up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to three years.

  • Reviewable Transactions

BIA, s. 100

Directors, officers and others may be liable for the difference between the actual consideration given or received by the bankrupt and the fair market value of the property or services concerned.

  • Failure to Keep Proper Books of Account

BIA s. 200(1), s. 204

Directors and officers may be liable for up to $5000 and/or imprisonment up to one year.

  • Unlawful Transactions

BIA s. 201(3), s. 204

Directors and officers may be liable for up to $5000 and/or imprisonment up to one year.


1.In a decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Dylex Ltd. (Trustee of) v. Anderson ([2003] O.J. No.833), Justice Lederman outlined the law on whether directors owe any fiduciary duty to creditors. In Canbook Distribution Corp. v. Borins ((1999), 45 O.R. (3d) 565), Justice Ground at paragraph 16 observed that "Canadian law appears to be moving in the direction of recognizing such fiduciary duty, particularly in situations where the corporation was insolvent when it entered into the challenged transaction or the challenged transaction rendered the corporation insolvent."

2. [2004] 3 S.C.R. 461 [Peoples].

3.Peoples Department Stores Inc. v. Wise, [1998] Q.J. No. 3571.

4.Peoples Department Stores Inc. v. Wise, [2003] Q.J. No. 505.

5.Peoples, supra note 2 at para. 1.

6.Ibid. at para. 43.

7.Ibid. at para. 67.

8. [2008] 3 S.C.R. 560 [BCE].

9.BCE, ibid. at para. 82.

10.Ibid. at para. 112.

11.For instance, NDB Bank, Canada v. Dofasco, (1999) 46 O.R. (3d) 514 (Ont. C.A.); leave to appeal refused (2000) 254 N.R. 400, (S.C.C.).

12.On the other hand, in the case of certain corporations, the Canada Labour Code imposes specific director's liability for severance and termination pay, as discussed in more detail later.

13.Certain provisions in corporate statutes, such as ss. 123(4)(b) and 123(5)(b) of the CBCA provide directors with a due diligence defence if they relied in good faith on "a report of a person whose profession lends credibility to a statement made by the professional person."

14.R.S.C. 1985, c. C-36, as amended [CCAA].

15.Although not specifically mentioned in the statute, courts have held that the release of claims and stay of proceedings may be extended to officers as well as directors (see, for instance, Re Canadian Airlines Corp. 2000 ABQB 442; aff'd [2001], 4 W.W.R. 1 (Alta. C.A.); leave to appeal refused, [2001] S.C.C.A. No. 60 (S.C.C. July 13, 2001).

16.Re Nortel, Court File No. 09-CL-7950, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, August 18, 2009.

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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Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.