Doing business in Canada

A Q&A guide to doing business in Canada.

This Q&A gives an overview of key recent developments affecting doing business in Canada as well as an introduction to the legal system; foreign investment, including restrictions, currency regulations and incentives; and business vehicles and their relevant restrictions and liabilities. The article also summarises the laws regulating employment relationships, including redundancies and mass layoffs, and provides short overviews on competition law; data protection; and product liability and safety. In addition, there are comprehensive summaries on taxation and tax residency; and intellectual property rights over patents, trade marks, registered and unregistered designs.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions, visit the Doing business in... Country Q&A Tool.

This article is part of the global guide to doing business worldwide. For a full list of contents, please visit www.practicallaw.com/dbi-guide.

Denise Nawata, Michael Korbin, Ryan Neely, Ron Dueck and Martin Twigg, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP (Lex Mundi Member Firm)
Contents

Overview

1. What are the key recent developments affecting doing business in your jurisdiction?

The business and economic environment in Canada was challenging in 2016, with growth slowing as a result of the sharp decline in global crude oil prices and volatility in the financial markets. Both of these are expected to continue having a negative impact in 2017. Depressed commodity prices have also weakened the Canadian dollar.

The political environment changed in 2016 after the federal election. The long-standing conservative majority government was replaced by a liberal majority government in late 2015 and, as a result, Canada's economy has increased its spending on large public infrastructure projects. The change of government has led to legislative developments, particularly in relation to implementing certain tax-related policy changes.

 

Legal system

2. What is the legal system based on (for example, civil law, common law or a mixture of both)?

Canada is a federation comprised of ten provinces and three territories. Legal authority is divided between the federal and provincial or territorial governments, although jurisdiction overlaps in some areas. The legal system is based on the English common law, with the exception of the province of Québec which has a civil law system.

Canada has a significant body of common law relating to the rights of aboriginal peoples. This includes the government's duty to consult with and, if required, accommodate the interests of aboriginal peoples when it has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of an aboriginal or treaty right and is contemplating actions that may adversely affect it. The duty to consult rests solely with the government, but procedural aspects of this duty can be delegated to third parties. This allows the government to rely on industry consultations with aboriginal peoples to assist in determining whether the duty to consult is triggered.

 

Foreign investment

3. Are there any restrictions on foreign investment (including authorisations required by central or local government)?

The Investment Canada Act (R.S.C. 1985) requires foreign investors to notify the Canadian government when they begin a new business activity in Canada and when they acquire control of an existing Canadian business. The following acquisitions are subject to review to ensure they provide a net benefit to Canada:

  • A direct acquisition of control of a Canadian business (by way of shares or assets) if the asset value of the business being acquired equals or exceeds Can$5 million.

  • An indirect acquisition of control of a Canadian business (the acquisition of a non-Canadian parent of a Canadian entity) if the asset value of the business being acquired either:

    • equals or exceeds Can$50 million, where the asset value of the Canadian business being acquired is less than 50% of the global transaction's asset value;

    • equals or exceeds Can$5 million, where the asset value of the Canadian business being acquired exceeds 50% of the global transaction's asset value.

There is a higher threshold for reviewable direct acquisitions by World Trade Organisation (WTO) investors. The current threshold is an enterprise value of Can$600 million (increasing to Can$800 million on 24 April 2017, Can$1 billion on 24 April 2019 and from 1 January 2021 onwards the threshold will be subject to inflationary indexing). The enterprise value of a publicly traded company equals its market capitalisation, plus its liabilities, minus its cash and cash equivalents. The enterprise value of a privately held company equals its acquisition value, plus its liabilities, minus its cash and cash equivalents.

Indirect acquisitions by WTO investors are generally not reviewable, but are subject to notification requirements. This higher threshold does not apply to acquisitions of Canadian cultural businesses (for example, publishing, film, video, music and broadcasting), which are significantly restricted areas for foreign investment.

The Canadian government can also review, prohibit or impose conditions on a wide range of investments by non-Canadians, based on whether an investment is injurious to national security.

Foreign state-owned enterprises are subject to a Can$375 million threshold for review based on asset value (subject to annual adjustment).

New guidelines were adopted in 2012 under the Investment Canada Act for the review of investments by foreign state-owned enterprises. Highlights of the guidelines include:

  • State-owned enterprises are defined as those that are owned, controlled or influenced, directly or indirectly by a foreign government or agency.

  • State-owned enterprises will be expected to address in their plans and undertakings that they are susceptible to state influence and will need to demonstrate a strong commitment to transparent and commercial operations.

  • The Minister will assess the state-owned enterprise's adherence to free market principles and the effect of the investment on the level and nature of economic activity in Canada.

Particular industry sectors, such as telecommunications, financial services and broadcasting, are subject to additional laws that regulate foreign investment.

 
4. Are there any restrictions on doing business with certain countries or jurisdictions?

Canada has imposed sanctions upon the following countries:

  • Belarus.

  • Burma (Myanmar).

  • Central African Republic.

  • Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire).

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  • Eritrea.

  • Iran.

  • Iraq.

  • Lebanon.

  • Liberia.

  • Libya.

  • North Korea.

  • Russia.

  • Somalia.

  • South Sudan.

  • Sudan.

  • Syria.

  • Tunisia.

  • Ukraine.

  • Yemen.

  • Zimbabwe.

Up-to-date information on Canadian economic sanctions and the details of those sanctions can be found at www.international.gc.ca/sanctions/index.aspx?view=d.

 
5. Are there any exchange control or currency regulations?

There are no exchange control or currency regulations.

 
6. What grants or incentives are available to investors?

The federal government provides investment incentives in many areas. Assistance is generally in the form of repayable loans, tax credits, tax rebates and technical and marketing support.

Grant and incentive programmes focus on areas such as the following:

  • Aerospace.

  • Agriculture.

  • Aquaculture.

  • Energy.

  • Research and development.

  • Job creation.

  • Region-specific development.

  • Film and media.

  • Mining.

  • Manufacturing and processing.

  • Project finance.

  • Fishing.

  • Export.

  • Green technology.

Provincial and territorial government incentives are also available.

The federal government also supports business through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). BDC provides direct and indirect financing, venture capital, growth and business transition capital, and consulting services to entrepreneurs. EDC provides insurance services, financial services, bonding products and other small business services to Canadian exporters and investors and their international buyers.

Two significant federal government incentives are the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) programme and the Industrial Research Assistance Programme (IRAP). SR&ED provides tax credits and/or a reduction of taxes payable on eligible research and development work done in Canada. IRAP provides advisory services and funding for small to medium sized enterprises to undertake innovative projects.

Many of the programmes listed above can be accessed by both domestic and foreign investors. Foreign investors involved in international trade may also benefit from some of Canada's tax and duty exemptions that create a regime somewhat similar to foreign trade zones.

 

Business vehicles

7. What are the most common forms of business vehicle used in your jurisdiction?

The main business vehicles used in Canada are corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, trusts and joint ventures.

The most common form of business vehicle used by foreign companies is the corporation, due to its wide use and the limited liability of shareholders. A corporation can be incorporated federally under the Canada Business Corporations Act or provincially.

 
8. In relation to the most common form of corporate business vehicle used by foreign companies in your jurisdiction, what are the main registration and reporting requirements?

The following applies to a corporation incorporated under federal laws and may not be applicable to a corporation incorporated under the laws of a province.

Registration and formation

The corporation's name must be approved by Corporations Canada (the governmental entity that administers corporate laws governing federal companies), which typically takes up to three business days.

A corporation is formed by electronically filing with Corporations Canada:

  • Articles of incorporation.

  • An initial registered office address and first board of directors form.

  • The requisite fee.

The corporation will be formed within one business day of the electronic filing.

Information about the formation of a company can be found at the Corporations Canada's website (www.corporationscanada.ic.gc.ca).

Reporting requirements

Corporations are required to file:

  • Articles.

  • Annual returns.

  • Notice of any change of address of the registered office.

  • Notice of any change in directors.

In addition, there are also provincial registration requirements in each province in which the corporation does business. The filing fee for the corporation's annual return is Can$20.

Corporations are required to prepare annual financial statements, which are not required to be filed with any regulatory authority.

Corporations whose securities are listed on a stock exchange are subject to significant additional reporting requirements.

Share capital

The articles of incorporation set out the classes of shares and maximum number of shares the corporation is authorised to issue for each class (this is usually unlimited). All shares are without nominal or par value.

Non-cash consideration

Consideration for shares can be in the form of money, past services or property transferred to the corporation. If payment is by way of past services or property, it cannot be worth less than the fair equivalent of the money that the corporation would have received had the shares been issued for money.

Rights attaching to shares

Restrictions on rights attaching to shares. The right to vote, receive any dividends and receive the assets of the corporation on dissolution or liquidation must be attached to the shares. However, all these rights are not required to be attached to the same class of shares.

Automatic rights attaching to shares. The articles of incorporation specify the rights, privileges, restrictions and conditions for each class of shares, including provisions relating to:

  • Voting.

  • Dividends.

  • Share of assets on liquidation or dissolution.

  • Priority on liquidation or dissolution.

  • Any rights on conversion, redemption and retraction.

Rights can vary among different classes of shares.

 
9. In relation to the most common form of corporate business vehicle used by foreign companies in your jurisdiction, outline the management structure and key liability issues.

The following applies to a corporation incorporated under federal laws and may not be applicable to a corporation incorporated under the laws of a province.

Management structure

The shareholders of a corporation elect a board of directors, which in turn appoints the corporation's officers. The directors' powers and liabilities can be transferred to shareholders by a unanimous shareholder agreement.

Management restrictions

At least 25% of a corporation's directors must be Canadian residents. There is no residency requirement for the corporation's officers.

Directors' and officers' liability

Directors are under an obligation to:

  • Comply with applicable corporate legislation, the corporation's articles and any unanimous shareholder agreement.

  • Exercise their powers diligently and with due care.

  • Act honestly and in good faith, in the best interests of the corporation.

Directors who breach these duties can be held personally liable for any resulting loss. In addition, directors can be liable for breaches of certain statutory requirements, including unpaid taxes, employee wages and environmental contamination.

Parent company liability

Shareholders are not liable for a subsidiary's obligations.

 

Employment

Laws, contracts and permits

10. What are the main laws regulating employment relationships?

Employment relationships are principally regulated by the common law and by provincial employment and labour legislation (except for certain federally regulated industries, such as banking, that are governed by federal employment and labour legislation).

Provincial and federal employment standards legislation (such as the Canada Labour Code (R.S.C. 1985)) sets out the minimum standards that apply in relation to:

  • Minimum wages.

  • Hours of work.

  • Statutory holidays and annual vacation.

  • Maternity and parental leave.

  • Notice of termination of employment and severance.

  • Equal pay for equal work.

The employment relationship is also regulated by provincial or federal legislation relating to:

  • Human rights (such as the Canada Human Rights Act, R.S.C. 1985).

  • Workers' compensation (such as the Canada Labour Code, R.S.C. 1985).

  • Privacy legislation (such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, S.C. 2000).

Unionised workplaces are also regulated by federal or provincial labour relations legislation that provides for collective bargaining rights.

The above laws:

  • Generally apply to foreign workers working in Canada.

  • Apply to employees from Canada working abroad where there is a sufficient connection to Canada, for example:

    • the employer's place of business is in Canada;

    • the employee's residence and usual place of business is in Canada; or

    • the employee's terms of employment require employees to work both inside and outside of Canada, or employment outside of Canada immediately followed employment with the same employer in Canada.

  • Apply regardless of any choice of law in the employment contract.

 
11. Is a written contract of employment required? If so, what main terms must be included in it? Do any implied terms and/or collective agreements apply to the employment relationship?

A written employment contract is not usually required, but is often recommended. Where there is no written employment contract, certain terms are implied into the employment relationship, including the requirement for an employer to provide reasonable notice on termination without cause. The parties to a written employment contract can agree on a variety of terms and conditions of employment, including the amount of notice or pay in lieu of notice an employee will receive on termination without cause.

 
12. Do foreign employees require work permits and/or residency permits?

Foreign nationals require a work permit to work temporarily in Canada. The fee is Can$155. Before a work permit is issued, the Canadian employer or foreign service provider must generally first obtain a confirmation or labour market impact assessment of the job offer in favour of the foreign worker from a federal agency, which must conclude that no Canadian or permanent resident is available for the job at the stated wage and experience level. The application fee is Can$1,000 per foreign worker. This can take several weeks or months and requires that the position be advertised publicly. However, there are a number of exemptions to the labour market impact assessment requirement such as:

  • Certain intra-company transferees.

  • Certain limited information technology workers.

  • Certain qualified individuals who are citizens of countries with which Canada has signed a bilateral agreement (such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) and so on).

Canadian companies hiring foreign nationals on Labour Market Impact Assessments exempt work permits must first make an online employer compliance filing that provides the government with critical information on the position, the terms of employment, salary and applicable benefits. The fee for this filing is Can$230 per foreign worker

Depending on the applicant's citizenship, a temporary resident visa can also be required to travel to Canada. If the foreign national is a citizen of a country that does not require a travel visa, applications for work permits can be made in person at a Canadian port of entry (land, air or sea) and there is no need to apply for a temporary resident visa. Otherwise, a foreign national must apply for both their work permit and a temporary resident visa through a foreign visa office (an additional cost of Can$75 for single entry and Can$150 for a multiple entry visa). Depending on the visa office the individual is required to use, processing times range from two weeks to six months.

From 29 September 2016, foreign nationals travelling from countries that do not require a visa to travel to Canada must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) prior to boarding a Canada-bound flight. The fee for this is Can$7. An ETA is valid for five years.

Termination and redundancy

13. Are employees entitled to management representation and/or to be consulted in relation to corporate transactions (such as redundancies and disposals)?

Employees are not entitled to management representation or to be consulted in relation to corporate transactions, with the exception of some unionised workplaces where this is expressly provided for in a collective agreement or labour legislation.

 
14. How is the termination of individual employment contracts regulated?

Employees in Canada cannot have their employment terminated at will. If an employee is dismissed without just cause (such as when a position is no longer necessary or a business slow-down occurs), the employer must provide a period of notice (or pay in lieu of notice) that complies with:

  • The applicable federal or provincial employment standards legislation.

  • Common law (unless there is a valid termination clause in an employment contract).

Unless an employment contract provides otherwise, under common law, an employee is entitled to reasonable notice of termination, which is generally between one week and one month per year of service depending on an employee's:

  • Age.

  • Length of service.

  • Position.

  • Marketability.

A written employment contract can provide for a different notice period or pay in lieu of notice on termination, provided the minimum statutory entitlement is met.

If an employee is dismissed for just cause, notice obligations do not apply. Ultimately, whether a just cause exists is a question for a judge or an arbitrator to decide. However, just cause has often been found where an employee had engaged in material misconduct that fundamentally breaches the employment relationship, such as:

  • Theft.

  • Dishonesty.

  • Assault.

  • Harassment.

  • Fraud.

  • Refusal to follow a valid work directive.

  • Continued incompetence or neglect of duty (after specific warnings that are reasonable and clear that termination will result if the behaviour continues).

If an employer has acted in bad faith in terminating employment, the employee may be entitled to additional damages. Unionised employees have stronger protection against unjust dismissal as such employees can only have their employment terminated for just cause (although they may be subject to layoff for economic reasons). An employer can also be exposed to liability for breach of human rights legislation in terminating employment.

 
15. Are redundancies and mass layoffs regulated?

Both provincial and federal legislation regulate mass layoffs and redundancies (often defined as the termination of 50 or more employees during a prescribed period of time).

The group termination notice provisions in provincial and federal legislation are in addition to any individual notice required.

 

Tax

Taxes on employment

16. In what circumstances is an employee taxed in your jurisdiction and what criteria are used?

For tax purposes, residence is determined by either:

  • An individual's connection to Canada (including financial, residential, personal and social ties).

  • Being deemed resident for tax purposes if they reside in Canada for more than 183 days in a tax year.

An individual is considered a resident of the Canadian province where he resided on 31 December of that particular tax year.

 
17. What income tax and social security contributions must be paid by the employee and the employer during the employment relationship?

Tax resident employees

An individual who is resident in Canada (see Question 16) during a tax year is subject to the following taxes on his worldwide income from all sources:

  • Federal income tax. Federal income tax rates in 2016 are:

    • 15% on taxable income greater than Can$11,474 and less than or equal to Can$45,282;

    • 20.5% on taxable income greater than Can$45,282 and less than or equal to Can$90,563;

    • 26% on taxable income greater than Can$90,563 and less than or equal to Can$140,388;

    • 29% on taxable income greater than Can$140,388 and less than or equal to Can$200,000; and

    • 33% on taxable income greater than Can$200,000.

  • Provincial income tax. Provincial income tax rates and tax brackets vary by province. The combined federal and provincial top marginal tax rates, including any surtaxes, of the four largest provinces for 2016 are as follow:

    • British Columbia.The applicable tax rates are: 43.7% on taxable income greater than Can$140,388 and less than or equal to Can$200,000; and 47.7% on taxable income greater than Can$200,000.

    • Alberta. The applicable tax rates are: 42% on taxable income greater than Can$150,000 and less than or equal to Can$200,000; 47% on taxable income greater than Can$200,000 and less than or equal to Can$300,000; and 48% on taxable income greater than Can$300,000.

    • Ontario. The applicable tax rates are: 47.97% on taxable income greater than Can$150,000 and less than or equal to Can$220,000; and 53.53% on taxable income greater than Can$220,000.

    • Québec.The applicable tax rate in Québec is: 49.97% on taxable income greater than Can$140,388 and less than or equal to Can$200,000; and 53.31% on taxable income greater than Can$200,000.

Canada pension plan and Québec pension plan. For 2016, the employee contribution rate is 4.95% of salary earned in the year, greater than Can$3,500 and less than or equal to Can$54,900.

Employment insurance. For 2016, the employee contribution rate is 1.88% of salary earned in the year, less than or equal to Can$50,800.

Non-tax resident employees

A non-resident individual employed in Canada is liable to pay Canadian federal and provincial income tax on their employment income. The rate and extent of taxation is equal to that for resident employees, except to the extent that they can be reduced by a tax treaty.

Employers

An employer is generally required to deduct, withhold and remit in respect of its employees in Canada:

  • Federal and provincial income tax on employment income.

  • Employee and employer pension plan and employment insurance premiums.

Employer contributions for 2016 are:

  • Canadian pension plan: equal to applicable employee contributions.

  • Employment insurance: calculated as 2.632% of salary earned in the year, less than or equal to Can$50,800.

Business vehicles

18. When is a business vehicle subject to tax in your jurisdiction?

Tax resident business

A corporation will generally be considered resident in Canada for tax purposes if either:

  • It was incorporated in or changes its governing legislation to a jurisdiction in Canada.

  • Its central management is situated in Canada.

An applicable tax treaty will also be considered when determining residency.

Non-tax resident business

A non-resident corporation is liable to pay tax on taxable income from carrying on business (including trading) in Canada and from the disposition of taxable Canadian property at the same rate as a tax resident corporation (see Question 19) (subject to any applicable tax treaty).

 
19. What are the main taxes that potentially apply to a business vehicle subject to tax in your jurisdiction (including tax rates)?

Income tax

A corporation resident in Canada must pay federal and provincial income tax on its worldwide income (income includes 50% of capital gains). The general federal income tax rate for 2016 is 15% on active business income. Provincial income tax rates vary by province. The combined federal and provincial general tax rates on active business income earned by a corporation in the four largest provinces for 2016 are:

  • British Columbia: 26%.

  • Alberta: 27%.

  • Ontario: 26.5%.

  • Québec: 26.9%.

Excise tax

Excise tax is levied in the form of a single federally administered harmonised sales tax (HST) in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.

Excise tax is levied in the form of a federal goods and services tax (GST) of 5% and provincial sales taxes (PST) of various amounts in British Columbia, Québec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Alberta has no PST and the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have no territorial sales tax, so only GST applies in those jurisdictions.

GST and HST registrants that are exclusively engaged in commercial activities are generally entitled to recover GST or HST payable on input costs.

Excise tax rates for the four largest provinces in 2016 are as follows:

  • British Columbia: GST is payable at 5% and PST is payable at 7%.

  • Alberta: GST is payable at 5% and no PST is payable.

  • Ontario: HST is payable at 13%.

  • Québec: GST is payable at 5% and PST is payable at 9.975%.

Dividends, interest and IP royalties

20. How are the following taxed:
  • Dividends paid to foreign corporate shareholders?

  • Dividends received from foreign companies?

  • Interest paid to foreign corporate shareholders?

  • Intellectual property (IP) royalties paid to foreign corporate shareholders?

Dividends paid

Dividends are generally subject to a 25% non-resident withholding tax. Applicable tax treaties generally reduce this to between 5% and 15%.

Dividends received

An individual or corporation resident in Canada must include in taxable income dividends received from a foreign corporation (see Question 19). In certain circumstances, a corporation resident in Canada can deduct dividends received from and paid out of a foreign affiliate's active business income.

Interest paid

Interest paid to arm's-length parties that is not participating debt interest is not subject to withholding tax. A 25% withholding tax applies to any payment to non-arm's-length parties or on any participating debt interest. Applicable tax treaties generally reduce this to between 0% and 15%.

IP royalties paid

These are generally subject to non-resident withholding tax at 25% (subject to any reduction under an applicable Canadian tax treaty).

Groups, affiliates and related parties

21. Are there any thin capitalisation rules (restrictions on loans from foreign affiliates)?

Thin capitalisation rules restrict the deductibility of interest payable on debt to certain non-residents in excess of a 1.5:1 debt to qualifying equity ratio, including debt relating to certain consolidated financing arrangements with foreign taxpayers.

 
22. Must the profits of a foreign subsidiary be imputed to a parent company that is tax resident in your jurisdiction (controlled foreign company rules)?

Foreign affiliate rules require a Canadian resident corporation to include in its income a participating percentage of certain passive foreign income (foreign accrual property income (FAPI)) of controlled foreign affiliates, regardless of whether the FAPI has been distributed. Corresponding deductions are generally available for foreign tax paid by such an affiliate on the FAPI.

Income may also be imputed to a Canadian resident from investment in a foreign investment entity or fund.

Active business income of a foreign affiliate is generally exempt from Canada's foreign affiliate rules.

 
23. Are there any transfer pricing rules?

Where a taxpayer and a non-arm's-length, non-resident person enter into one or more transactions, the transfer pricing rules generally provide that:

  • If the consideration paid in the transaction is not an arm's-length amount, the consideration paid is deemed to be the arm's-length amount.

  • If the transaction is not one which would have been entered into had the parties been at arm's length (and it may reasonably be considered that the transaction was not entered into other than to obtain a tax benefit), the nature of the transaction entered into is deemed to be that which would have been entered into had the parties been at arm's length.

Customs duties

24. How are imports and exports taxed?

Importers are generally subject to Canadian excise tax and duty on goods imported into Canada (see Question 19). Exporters are not generally subject to Canadian excise tax or duty on goods exported from Canada. The rate of duty depends on the type of goods imported.

Free trade agreements are currently in force between Canada and the US and Mexico (NAFTA), the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), Chile, Israel, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Jordan and Honduras.

Free trade agreements have been signed with the EU and South Korea, but are not yet in force.

The application of excise tax will generally depend on the applicable provincial excise tax regime (see Question 19). Goods imported for consumption, use or supply in the course of commercial activities are generally entitled to recover GST or HST payable on input costs.

Double tax treaties

25. Is there a wide network of double tax treaties?

Canada is a party to over 90 tax treaties, including treaties with the US, UK, Australia, China and France.

 

Competition

26. Are restrictive agreements and practices regulated by competition law? Is unilateral (or single-firm) conduct regulated by competition law?

Competition authority

Competition is regulated in Canada by the Competition Bureau.

Guidance on competition law in Canada can be found on the Competition Bureau's website (www.competitionbureau.gc.ca).

Restrictive agreements and practices

The Federal Competition Act (R.S.C. 1985) is aimed at maintaining and encouraging competition in Canada by preventing corporations and individuals from engaging in anti-competitive conduct. The Competition Act applies to all entities, both domestic and foreign, doing business in Canada.

The act focuses on two types of practices:

  • Civil matters. These are subject to review by the Competition Tribunal (the governmental entity that hears and decides all applications filed under the Competition Act and any related matters) and includes:

    • price maintenance;

    • tied selling;

    • refusal to deal;

    • exclusive dealing;

    • market restriction;

    • delivered pricing;

    • certain misleading marketing practices; and

    • agreements among competitors that substantially prevent or lessen competition.

  • Criminal matters. These are subject to prosecution in Canadian courts and include:

    • bid-rigging;

    • conspiracies to fix prices, allocate markets or control production of a product;

    • multi-level marketing; and

    • certain misleading advertising and telemarketing practices.

Civil matters are subject to remedial orders and administrative monetary penalties, whereas criminal matters are punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.

The Competition Act is a federal law. Competition is generally not regulated by provincial or local laws.

Unilateral conduct

The Competition Act prohibits abuse of a dominant position if the Competition Tribunal finds that:

  • A person substantially or completely controls, throughout Canada or any area of it, a class or type of business.

  • A person engages in a practice of anti-competitive acts.

  • That practice has or is likely to have the effect of preventing or lessening competition substantially in a market.

In the case of a finding of abuse of a dominant position, the Competition Tribunal can make an order for any of the following:

  • Prohibition of the practice.

  • Divestiture of assets.

  • Imposing a penalty of up to Can$10 million for a first infraction and up to Can$15 million for subsequent infractions.

 
27. Are mergers and acquisitions subject to merger control?

The Competition Act applies to mergers, acquisitions, proposed mergers and proposed acquisitions. If the Competition Tribunal finds that a merger or acquisition prevents or lessens competition substantially in a trade, industry or profession, then the Competition Tribunal can make an order, such as an order dissolving or prohibiting the merger or acquisition.

The parties to a merger or acquisition will be subject to pre-completion notification rules that require the filing of prescribed information and the undertaking of a waiting period (generally 30 days) before completing the transaction in the following circumstances:

  • Acquisition of assets, if:

    • the transaction involves the direct or indirect acquisition of a Canadian operating business;

    • the parties together have Can$400 million in Canadian assets or have sales in, from or into Canada exceeding Can$400 million; and

    • the aggregate value of assets of the Canadian operating business being acquired, or the gross revenues from sales in or from Canada generated from those assets, exceeds Can$87 million.

  • Acquisition of shares, if:

    • the transaction involves the acquisition of voting shares of a corporation that carries on a Canadian operating business or controls a corporation that carries on a Canadian operating business;

    • the parties together have Can$400 million in Canadian assets or have sales in, from or into Canada exceeding Can$400 million;

    • the aggregate value of assets of the Canadian operating business, or the gross revenues from sales in or from Canada generated from those assets, exceeds Can$87 million; and

    • the acquisition results in the acquiring party or parties holding voting shares that, in aggregate, carry more than the following percentages of the votes attaching to all outstanding voting shares of the corporation: 20%, if any of the corporation's voting shares are publicly traded; 35%, if none of the corporation's voting shares are publicly traded; or 50%, if the acquiring party or parties already own more than the percentages set out above before the proposed acquisition.

Foreign-to-foreign mergers and acquisitions are subject to these merger control laws (see above), including the pre-completion notification rules, if the transaction involves the direct or indirect acquisition of a Canadian operating business. There are exemptions from the pre-completion notification rules, such as exemptions for certain types of transactions, but none of the exemptions are specifically targeted at foreign-to-foreign mergers and acquisitions. The Investment Canada Act (see Question 3), may also apply where a transaction involves the foreign acquisition of a Canadian business.

 

Intellectual property

28. Outline the main IP rights in your jurisdiction.

Patents

Definition and legal requirements. Statutory rights are created by the Patent Act (R.S.C. 1985). In order to patent an invention, it must be all of the following:

  • Novel.

  • Have a useful function.

  • Demonstrate inventive ingenuity and not be obvious to someone skilled in that area.

Registration. A patent application must be filed with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) in order for an invention to be protected. Public disclosure of an invention prior to filing may prevent issuance of a patent.

Enforcement and remedies. The rights holder can sue for infringement under the Patent Act, which provides that the court can make orders for relief by way of injunction and/or the recovery of damages or profits.

Length of protection. An issued patent lasts for 20 years from the filing date, provided the requisite maintenance fees are paid. In rare circumstances, patent rights can be extended by an act of Parliament but are not otherwise renewable.

Trade marks

Definition and legal requirements. Common law rights accrue in a trade mark with use of the trade mark in association with goods or services.

Protection. Under the common law action for passing off, a trade mark holder can prevent the subsequent use of the same or a confusingly similar trade mark for similar goods and/or services. However, without registration, protection is limited to the geographic area in which the holder has developed a reputation for the trade mark. Only registration under the Trade-marks Act (R.S.C. 1985) with the CIPO gives the holder full legal protection across Canada. It also allows an action to be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction to prevent depreciation of goodwill in the trade mark.

Enforcement and remedies. The rights holder can sue under common law and/or the Trade-marks Act, the latter of which provides that the court can make orders for relief by way of injunction and/or the recovery of damages or profits.

Length of protection and renewability. A trade mark is valid for 15 years, but can be renewed indefinitely.

Registered designs

Definition. To qualify for protection, an industrial design must be original and not have been published in Canada or elsewhere more than one year before the filing date.

Registration. Protection is through registration under the Industrial Design Act (R.S.C. 1985) with the CIPO, which examines applications on a first-to-file basis.

Enforcement and remedies. The rights holder can sue for infringement under the Industrial Design Act, which provides that the court can make orders for relief by way of injunction and/or the recovery of damages or profits.

Length of protection and renewability. The owner of a registered industrial design has exclusive rights to it for ten years from the date of registration, provided the requisite maintenance fees are paid. A registered industrial design cannot be renewed.

Unregistered designs

Definition and legal requirements. Not applicable.

Enforcement and remedies. Not applicable.

Length of protection. Not applicable.

Copyright

Definition and legal requirements. Literary works, artistic works, dramatic works and musical works are all protected by copyright law. Copyright does not exist in ideas themselves, but only in the original, fixed expression of ideas.

Protection. Copyright automatically subsists in a work in Canada on the creation of an original work (whether or not the work was published), if at the time the work was created, the author was one of the following:

  • A Canadian citizen.

  • A citizen of a country that is a member of an international agreement for the protection of copyright to which Canada is a party.

Although registration of copyright is not necessary, it is recommended. A registration application must be filed with the CIPO.

Copyright law provides the copyright owner with certain exclusive rights, including the right to produce, reproduce, perform or publish a work. In addition, copyright law provides for moral rights that are specific to the author of a work. Moral rights include the right to the integrity of the work and the right to be associated with the work as its author. Moral rights cannot be assigned and can only be waived by the author.

Enforcement and remedies. Copyright can be enforced by the copyright holder through common law remedies and/or remedies under the Copyright Act (R.S.C. 1985), such as injunctive or monetary relief.

Length of protection and renewability. In most works, copyright subsists for the life of the author, plus 50 years. If a work is not published before the death of the author, copyright subsists until publication and for a period of 50 years after publication. A copyright cannot be renewed.

Other

Other areas of intellectual property rights include integrated circuit topographies, which can be registered under the Integrated Circuit Topography Act (S.C. 1990) and plant breeders’ rights, which can be registered under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act (S.C. 1990).

 

Marketing agreements

29. Are marketing agreements regulated?

Agency

Agency agreements are not regulated.

Distribution

Distribution agreements are not regulated.

Franchising

Canada does not have federal franchise legislation. However, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have provincial franchise regulations. Also, franchise legislation has been approved, but is not yet in force, in British Columbia.

 

E-commerce

30. Are there any laws regulating e-commerce (such as electronic signatures and distance selling)?

E-commerce is regulated by both federal and provincial legislation (such as the federal Personal Information Protection and Electric Documents Act S.C 2000). Under both federal and provincial legislation, most types of electronic signatures and documents are recognised as having the same legal force as their non-electronic counterparts. Some provinces have consumer protection laws that apply to internet sales and distance selling.

 

Advertising

31. Outline the regulation of advertising in your jurisdiction.

The Competition Act contains numerous provisions that regulate advertising, including provisions prohibiting false or misleading advertising (see Question 26).Canada's Anti-Spam Law (S.C. 2010) prohibits the sending of commercial electronic messages unless the recipient has consented to receiving the message, and imposes requirements on the content of commercial electronic messages, such as:

  • Identifying the sender and providing the sender's contact information.

  • Providing a mechanism to unsubscribe from receiving further commercial electronic messages.

Canada's Anti-Spam Law also contains provisions relating to the unsolicited installation of computer programs or software. Compliance is currently enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. On 1 July 2017, additional provisions of the Anti-Spam Law will come into force providing for a private right of action for persons affected by breaches of the legislation. Other federal statutes that regulate specific aspects of advertising, either in respect of certain types of products (such as food and drugs) or certain activities (such as telemarketing), include:

  • Food and Drugs Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Precious Metals Marketing Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Textile Labelling Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Broadcasting Act (S.C. 1991).

  • Telecommunications Act (S.C. 1993).

Additionally, there are provincial statutes regulating advertising.

 

Data protection

32. Are there specific statutory data protection laws? If not, are there laws providing equivalent protection?

The collection, use and disclosure of personal information is regulated by federal and provincial legislation including the:

  • Federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (S.C. 2000) (PIPEDA). This applies to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities by:

    • federally regulated private sector organisations (for example, in the transportation, communications, broadcasting, federal banking and offshore sectors);

    • provincially regulated private sector organisations in provinces that have not enacted data protection laws substantially similar to the federal legislation; and

    • provincially regulated private sector organisations across provincial and international borders.

Personal information is defined as information about an identifiable individual. Organisations must obtain consent when they collect, use or disclose personal information (subject to limited exceptions). Organisations must also obtain consent to use personal information if it is for a purpose other than the stated purpose for which such information was collected. The type of personal information collected by an organisation must be limited to what is necessary for the purposes identified by the organisation. Organisations have an obligation to protect personal information using security safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information. The Digital Privacy Act was passed on 18 June 2015 to introduce amendments to PIPEDA related to the mandatory reporting of privacy breaches. The new breach reporting provisions are not yet in force and will become effective on a date fixed by order of the federal government.

  • Federal Privacy Act (R.S.C. 1985). This governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by federally regulated public bodies, including federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations. The act also gives individuals a right of access to personal information being held by those public bodies.

All provinces and territories have adopted legislation governing the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by provincially regulated public bodies and providing individuals with a right of access to such information. British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have adopted legislation governing private sector organisations that is similar to PIPEDA. Consequently, PIPEDA does not apply to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by private sector organisations within those provinces. Finally, there is also federal and provincial legislation that is sector-specific, including legislation in a number of provinces regulating the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information.

 

Product liability

33. How is product liability and product safety regulated?

Product safety falls within both federal and provincial jurisdictions, with a variety of legislation regulating a wide range of products, such as the:

  • Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (S.C. 2010).

  • Radiation Emitting Devices Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Hazardous Products Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (R.S.C. 1985).

  • Food and Drugs Act (R.S.C. 1985).

Some provincial legislation implies statutory warranties if the quality, fitness or performance of a product does not comply with express or implied contractual terms.

In addition, product manufacturers have a post-sale common law duty to warn consumers and users of their products, of defects and dangers that become known to the manufacturer after its products were manufactured and sold into the marketplace.

Post-sale duties for suppliers of certain types of products also exist under common law.

 

Main business organisations

Industry Canada

W www.ic.gc.ca

Main activities. Economic development, including incorporation of federal corporations, foreign investment, certain government grants and business financing.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

W www.cra-arc.gc.ca

Main activities. Tax authority.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

W www.cic.gc.ca

Main activities. Immigration agency.



Online resources

Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII)

W www.canlii.org/en/

Description. Provides access to court judgments, tribunal decisions, statutes and regulations from all jurisdictions in Canada. This website is maintained by the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) and is an unofficial consolidation that is updated regularly.



Contributor profiles

Denise Nawata

Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

T +1 604 661 1746
F +1 604 661 9349
E dnawata@farris.com
W
www.farris.com

Professional qualifications. British Columbia, Canada, 2006; Alberta, Canada, 2005

Areas of practice. Securities and corporate finance; M&A; mining and energy.

Recent transactions

  • Extensive experience in a broad range of transactions, including debt and equity financings, mergers involving both public and private companies, plans of arrangements, and other corporate reorganisations.
  • Advising many Canadian international mining and resource sector clients.
  • Chair of the Canadian Bar Association's National Business Law Section.
  • Recognised in the Best Lawyers in Canada Directory.

Michael Korbin

Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

T +1 604 661 9330
F +1 604 661 9349
E mkorbin@farris.com
W www.farris.com

Professional qualifications. British Columbia, Canada, 1995

Areas of practice. Labour and employment.

Recent transactions

  • Represents employers in all aspects of labour and employment law disputes, including arbitrations, labour board hearings, human rights matters, workers compensation matters, employment standards matters and wrongful dismissal actions.
  • Acts as counsel for employers in several industries and sectors, including post-secondary institutions; newspapers; supermarkets; transportation companies; printing companies; beverage companies; telecommunications companies; biotech companies; occupational health and safety employers; real estate agencies; and retail and service sector employers.
  • Recognised in the Best Lawyers in Canada Directory.

Ryan Neely

Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

T +1 604 661 9359
F +1 604 661 9349
E rneely@farris.com
W www.farris.com

Professional qualifications. British Columbia, Canada, 2004

Areas of practice. Immigration, specialising in business immigration.

Recent transactions

  • Advising many of Canada's largest employers with respect to their use of temporary foreign workers to fill short-term labour shortages.
  • Counselling a number of foreign companies commencing operations in Canada with respect to bringing in management and start-up teams.
  • Assisting high net-worth individuals to obtain permanent residence in Canada through a variety of immigrant investor opportunities.
  • Supporting executives of numerous Chinese State Owned Enterprises in obtaining proper travel visas and work permits to undertake Canadian operations.
  • Acted as immigration counsel for employers across various industries, including biotech, mining, transportation, tourism and recreation, post-secondary education, food service distribution, telecommunications, real estate development, and environmental technology companies.

Ron Dueck

Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

T +1 604 661 9395
F +1 604 661 9349
E rdueck@farris.com
W www.farris.com

Professional qualifications. British Columbia, Canada, 2008

Areas of practice. Taxation law.

Recent transactions

  • Extensive experience on income tax planning and structuring for both private and public corporations and their stakeholders.
  • Transactions include mergers and acquisitions, reorganisations, equity and debt financing, project finance and cross-border investment and business structuring.
  • Presented at the 2015 course Tax Issues for Commercial Practitioners by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia on the topic of taxation of partnerships.
  • Presented at the 2014 Canadian Tax Foundation BC Conference on the topic of framework of related, affiliated and associated rules under the Canadian Income Tax Act.

Martin Twigg

Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP

T +1 250 405 1989
F +1 250 382 1100
E mtwigg@farris.com
W www.farris.com

Professional qualifications. British Columbia, Canada, 2008

Areas of practice. Intellectual property; technology and privacy law.

Recent transactions

  • Advising public and private corporations on the negotiation and drafting of agreements relating to the commercialisation of technology and related services, including software and technology licensing, distribution agreements, services agreements and terms of use.
  • Advising companies regarding compliance with federal and provincial public and private sector privacy laws, including requirements for cross-border data transfers and access to information requests.
  • Contributor to the Canadian Privacy Law Review.

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