With the enormous amount of business between the United States and Canada these days, it’s little wonder that from time to time U.S. companies find themselves affected by a Canadian insolvency proceeding. A better understanding of Canada’s approach to bankruptcy and insolvency law can be helpful when sizing up how such a filing might affect your rights.

The Lay Of The Land. Canada has two primary federal insolvency acts, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, known as the BIA, and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, known as the CCAA. (A third statute, the Winding-up and Restructuring Act, is less frequently invoked.) You can access the text of each of three acts by clicking on the preceding links. These national statutes also operate in conjunction with applicable provincial law.

Canada’s Reorganization Law. When larger Canadian companies need protection from creditors they often seek relief under Canada’s CCAA. The CCAA is the Canadian insolvency law most analogous to Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Company management generally remains in charge as a debtor in possession, although a monitor is appointed and has certain oversight authority. Unlike the much longer U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the CCAA currently has only 22 sections, leaving it to the courts to fill in the gaps. Courts generally do so, including issuance of an early "initial order" that commonly implements a stay similar to the automatic stay of U.S. bankruptcy  law. (Click on the link for an example of an initial order.) Other court orders permit contracts and leases to be disclaimed (rejected), assets to be sold, and a restructuring to be implemented through a plan of arrangement after voting by creditors.

Cross-Border Issues. Canada has not yet adopted the Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, which the U.S. did in 2005 as Chapter 15 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. At least for now, Canada continues to use its own cross-border procedures under Section 18.6 of the CCAA and cross-border protocols used to coordinate proceedings in different countries. (For more on Chapter 15, you may find this prior post entitled "Chapter 15: The Bankruptcy Code’s New Cross-Border Insolvency Rules," of interest.)

Important Changes May Be Coming. Canada is currently working on adoption of significant revisions to its bankruptcy and insolvency laws. The legislation was originally proposed in 2005 as Bill C-55, and more recently was approved in legislation known as Bill C-12.  If it comes into force, this law would make a number of changes, including one of interest to licensees of intellectual property. The legislation would add to the CCAA a formal provision akin to Section 365(n) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, protecting the rights of licensees to continue to use licensed intellectual property if the underlying license agreement is disclaimed (rejected) in the CCAA proceeding.

Conclusion. Navigating Canadian insolvency law can be complex, especially when proceedings are pending in both the U.S. and Canada. Getting advice from U.S. and Canadian bankruptcy counsel can prove invaluable if your business becomes involved in an insolvency proceeding north of the border.