Bill C-19 and Proposed Amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act

We have previously discussed[1] the growing trend of federal and provincial governments increasing corporate ownership transparency. For example, in 2019, Bill C-86 made significant amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA)[2] by requiring federally incorporated companies to maintain a register of “individuals with significant control” (the “ISC Register”).

On June 23rd, 2022, Bill C-19[3] received Royal Assent. In addition to implementing many of the government’s budget[4] commitments, this piece of legislation also makes substantial amendments to the CBCA.

Before Bill C-19

Before Bill C-19, corporate owners were required to do the following:

  1. identify the individuals with significant control over the corporation and confirm their information;
  2. record their data in the ISC register; and
  3.  update the ISC register regularly.

Also, even though corporate owners were not required to disclose their ISC register to the public, they were required to disclose the same to their shareholders and creditors, investigative bodies, and Corporations Canada upon request.

However, not every federally incorporated entity is required to prepare and maintain an ISC Register. Section 21.1(7) provides a list of entities that are exempted from these reporting requirements:

  • that is a reporting issuer or an émetteur assujetti under an Act of the legislature of a province relating to the regulation of securities;
  • any of the securities of which are listed and posted for trading on a designated stock exchange, as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act; or
  • that is a member of a prescribed class.

Proposed Amendments

The critical difference between the legislative scheme before and after the proposed amendments is that before Bill C-19, corporate owners were only required to maintain an ISC Register. Now, the proposed amendments to the CBCA require non-exempted corporations to send beneficial ownership information to the Director appointed under the CBCA.  

Under the proposed section 21.21, corporations must provide the Director with information on its ISC register on (a) an annual basis or (b) within 15 days of any new information or amendment being recorded to its ISC Register. Similarly, according to the proposed section 21.21(2), non-exempted corporations must provide the Director with the information contained in their ISC register “on or after the date shown” on its certificate of incorporation, amalgamation or continuance, as the case may be.

The form in which the information in the ISC Register is to be sent to Corporations Canada and the period within which it is to be sent[5] will be prescribed in regulations which have not yet been published.

However, under the proposed section 21.21(3), the Director is not required to keep or produce information pertaining to a corporation’s ISC Register after the “end of the six-year period following the day on which it is received.”

The most significant amendment to the CBCA is section 21.301, which gives the Director authority to provide all or part of the ISC Register information of a non-exempted corporation to an investigative body, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) or any prescribed entity. We anticipate given the Government’s commentary specifically mentions tax evasion, this will allow Corporations Canada to provide this information to the CRA.

Potential Effect on Charter Rights

In compliance with section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act[6], which requires the Minister of Justice to prepare a Charter Statement that sets out the potential effects of a proposed Bill on the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”),[7] the Minister of Justice has recognized that the powers conferred by the proposed section 21.301 have the potential to interfere with privacy interests and may engage section 8 of the Charter:

The proposed new provisions would apply to a narrow set of information, as set out in subsection 21.1(1) of the CBCA, which is necessary to identify the natural persons who own and control Canadian corporations. Given this narrow set of information, privacy interests in this information are diminished. There is a strong public interest in increasing transparency around beneficial ownership information, and in ensuring that relevant agencies have access to this information, in order to prevent and detect the misuse of corporations for illicit activities such as tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing. The creation of a central registry of beneficial ownership information pertaining to Canadian companies would also align with international standards and best practices in this area[8].

What It All Means

The proposed amendments to the CBCA affect all federal private corporations, who will soon have to report regularly to Corporations Canada. While the effective date for these amendments has not been announced, and regulations will likely be released, corporation owners must be aware of these amendments.

While these amendments impose more onerous reporting requirements for business owners, it is consistent with Canada’s commitment to increasing corporate ownership transparency.

We encourage you to subscribe for alerts to be informed when the proposed amendments come into effect and stay abreast of how this will affect your business. If you have any questions, any of the lawyers from our Corporate Commercial Law Group would be happy to discuss.