The Canadian Securities Administrators have approved amendments to National Instrument 45-106 – Prospectus Exemptions, to introduce the new “Listed Issuer Financing Exemption” for companies listed on a Canadian stock exchange (the “Exemption“).  By relying on a company’s existing continuous disclosure record and a simplified disclosure document, the Exemption is anticipated to reduce the regulatory burden and associated costs of certain financings for Canadian public companies. Subject to receipt of ministerial approvals, the Exemption is expected to be available for use on November 21, 2022.

Eligibility Criteria

To rely on the Exemption, a company must:

  1. have been a reporting issuer in Canada at least 12 months;
  2. have securities listed on a recognized Canadian stock exchange;
  3. have active business operations;
  4. not be an investment fund;
  5. have filed all periodic and timely disclosure documents as required under applicable Canadian securities laws;
  6. prepare a short offering document that will be considered a “core” document under the secondary market civil liability regime; and
  7. reasonably expect that it will have available funds to meet its business objectives and liquidity requirements for a period of 12 months following the distribution.

Limitations on Scope of Application

The Exemption will only apply to offerings that fit within the following parameters:

  1. The total dollar amount of the distribution, when combined with all other distributions undertaken by the company in reliance on the Exemption during the prior 12 month period, must not:
    1. exceed the greater of (i) $5 million, or (ii) 10% of the company’s market capitalization, to a maximum of $10 million; or
    2. result in an increase of more than 50% in the issuer’s outstanding listed equity securities, as of the date that is 12 months before the date of the news release announcing the distribution.
  2. The security being distributed must be a listed equity security or a unit consisting of a listed equity security and a warrant exercisable to acquire a listed equity security.
  3. The issuer must not allocate the available funds to (i) a significant acquisition, (ii) a restructuring transaction that would require additional financial statements under the prospectus rules, or (iii) any other transaction for which security holder approval is required.

Disclosure Requirements

To rely on the Exemption, a company must meet the following disclosure requirements:

  1. The company must issue and file a news release that announces the offering and contains prescribed language, and the issuer must close the financing within 45 days of such news release.
  2. The company must file a completed Form 45-106F19 Listed Issuer Financing Document (the “Form“), which is the streamlined disclosure document introduced for purposes of the Exemption, in accordance with the following requirements:
    1. the Form must be filed before soliciting an offer to purchase and no later than three business days after the date of the Form;
    2. if the company has a website, the Form must be posted on its website, and the company must take reasonable steps to ensure that prospective purchasers are aware of the means of accessing the Form; and
    3. the Form, together with all documents filed under Canadian securities laws within the earlier of (i) 12 months before the date of the Form and (ii) the date that the company’s most recent audited annual financial statements were filed, must disclose all material facts relating to the securities being distributed under the Exemption and must not contain a misrepresentation.
  1. The company must include prescribed language in any initial written communication with a prospective purchaser.
  2. The issuer must file a Form 45-106F1 Report of Exempt Distribution disclosing information related to the financing and the purchasers within 10 days of the distribution.

Under the Listed Issuer Financing Exemption, qualifying public companies will no longer need to prepare and file a short form prospectus and can instead rely on a condensed short offering document, saving both time and costs. The Listed Issuer Financing Exemption should allow smaller issuers greater access to retail investors and provide retail investors with a broader choice of investments. Equity securities issued in reliance on the exemption will be freely tradeable but subject to a seasoning period that will be satisfied by the company being a reporting issuer in good standing.

If you are involved with a public company and have questions concerning the impending amendments to NI 45-106, please contact Keith Inman at inman@pushormitchell.com or by phone at 250-869-1195.

Keith Inman is a securities and M&A lawyer with broad experience in capital markets. Keith regularly advises individuals and companies with respect to capital raises, securities reporting and compliance matters, purchases and sales of businesses and other corporate/commercial matters. Keith is licensed to practice law in Alberta and British Columbia.

Intellectual Property – What All Companies Should Know

There are many categories of intellectual property, but the main categories are:

  • Patents (Inventions)
  • Trademarks (Brand Names, Trade Names, Trade Dress)
  • Copyright (Expressions)
  • Industrial Designs (Ornamentation)
  • Trade Secrets (Undisclosed Ideas)
  • Integrated Circuit Topographies (Chip Designs)
  • Plant Breeder’s Rights (New Plant Varieties)

Most intellectual property rights have some legal protection as soon as they arise, however, these rights can be significantly enhanced and improved by registration with the intellectual property offices in many countries. The most common intellectual property rights are outlined in more detail as follows:

  1. Patents – A patent provides legal protection for an invention or process that is novel, non-obvious and clearly defined.
  2. Trademarks – A trademark is a symbol, word, slogan or logo used to distinguish your brand or product from others.
  3. Copyrights – Copyright exists the moment you write, record or otherwise create something tangible with your ideas. Ownership automatically belongs to the author, so if you are hiring a graphic designer to design a logo for your business for example, be sure to have them execute a “Copyright Assignment and Waiver of Moral Rights Agreement” assigning all rights in the logo to you/your company.

Protecting your intellectual property is extremely important. The value of your brand can be significant and often much more valuable than any inventory you may have. Protection early on is often much cheaper than battling out any potential infringement issues down the road.

Vanessa DeDominicis is a Partner and a Registered Trademark Agent with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and is also able to file Trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Her business law practice has a specific focus on intellectual property law, including filing Canadian and US trademark applications and advising clients on infringement issues. This information applies as a general rule ONLY and may change depending upon the specific circumstances of your own situation. You should consult a lawyer before acting on any of this information.  You can contact Vanessa on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com

The Canada Business Corporations Act (“CBCA”) was amended effective August 31, 2022 to require shareholders of a public company governed by such legislation to vote “for” or “against” directors at annual meetings of shareholders. This is a departure from the “for” and “withhold” options previously offered to CBCA public company shareholders. Subject to certain exceptions, the amendments also contemplate that each director in an uncontested election (i.e., where the number of director nominees is equal to the number of directors positions to be filled) must receive more “for” votes than “against” votes to be elected.

The ability for shareholders to vote against the election of a director will be a new development in Canada. It is important to note, however, that under Canadian securities laws, a form of proxy must provide an option for the shareholders to vote “for” or have their votes “withheld” from voting in respect of the election of directors. Accordingly, reconciling these different requirements may result in shareholders of a company governed by the CBCA being given three choices for uncontested director elections: “for”, “against” or “withhold”. While an exception from the securities law requirements is available if:

  1. the issuer complies with the requirements of the laws relating to the solicitation of proxies under which the reporting issuer is incorporated, organized or continued (e.g., the CBCA), and
  2. such requirements are substantially similar to the requirements under Canadian securities laws, the Canadian Securities Administrators have not yet provided guidance on whether the amendments will be considered substantially similar to the requirements under Canadian securities laws.

Under current TSX requirements, directors must offer to resign if they do not receive a majority of “for” votes, but the board has the option of not accepting such resignation in exceptional circumstances. The CBCA amendments effectively remove this discretion. The amendments will also result in changes for many TSXV and CSE listed issuers since they are not currently required to follow a majority voting standard.  However, the amendments create two exceptions to allow an unsupported nominee to be appointed as a director if that person is necessary for the corporation to meet its obligation under the CBCA for having either:

  1. at least two directors who are not officers or employees of the corporation or its affiliates; or
  2. to meet Canadian residency requirements, such as at least 25% of the board members being Canadian residents (or at least one director if the corporation has less than four directors).

If you are involved with a public company organized under the CBCA and have questions concerning the recent amendments to the Act, please contact Keith Inman at inman@pushormitchell.com or by phone at 250-869-1195.

Keith Inman is a securities and M&A lawyer with broad experience in capital markets. Keith regularly advises individuals and companies with respect to capital raises, securities reporting and compliance matters, purchases and sales of businesses and other corporate/commercial matters. Keith is licensed to practice law in Alberta and British Columbia.

When a Trust is established, through a Will or otherwise, it is usually recommended for the Will maker or Settlor to provide the trustees of the Trust with a Letter of Wishes (sometimes called a Memorandum of Wishes) with regard to the administration of the Trust and how they would like things to be handled. A Discretionary Trust will contain very little specific direction to the Trustee, because by its very nature it is “discretionary” and leaves a lot up to the Trustee.  A Letter of Wishes is a non-binding document wherein the creator of the Trust can share personal thoughts and perspectives with those who will be potentially acting over the years as Trustee. Letters of Wishes are very personal documents and can contain a myriad of suggestions for Trustees. A few examples are below:

– direction to give a gift of $100 on every birthday to X, Y, Z;

– direction to purchase a car from Trust funds on X’s 18th birthday, not to exceed $10,000;

– direction to allow Trust funds to be used for a down payment on X’s first home, not to exceed 25% of the home’s purchase provided X can demonstrate that they can support the remaining 75% by way of mortgage;

The list could go on and on. This is not something that your Lawyer needs to draft. It should come from you, to your Trustee. Your Lawyer can certainly give you suggestions and a template to work with.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com Vanessa practices in the area of Wills and Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

Deciding to become a publicly traded company is an extremely important decision that must be carefully considered by management of a company. A company must understand that going public entails complying with the many requirements imposed by securities regulatory authorities both during the process of going public and after it has been publically listed. This bulletin will discuss, at a very high-level some of these requirements and obligations as they pertain to an initial public offering (“IPO”) for listing on the TSX Venture Exchange (“TSXV” or the “Exchange”). Readers should note that an IPO is only one of the several ways in which a company can become publically listed.

Preliminary Considerations:

A company will generally decide to go public as a way to enhance its public profile, access capital markets, and provide liquidity to shareholders. In addition, going public can have many other advantages, such as:

  • Enhancing the ability to borrow funds, as the issuance of equity generally improves debt-to-equity ratios;
  • A better offering price arises from public issue, as the issuance of equity through private placements is often at a discount due to equity resale restrictions;
  • Providing a means for valuing the company through the market for its listed shares; and
  • Facilitating an issuance of stock options, stock appreciation rights, etc. as an incentive for management and employees.

There are also disadvantages to going public. Securities regulatory authorities and stock exchanges impose many obligations on public companies, which will have an impact on the amount of resources that will be dedicated to compliance and governance matters. A public offering will require the retention of lawyers, auditors and investment bankers as well as other technical consultants. In addition, administration costs for printing the prospectus, “road shows” and listing fees can be substantial. Companies looking at going public should weigh whether the costs of going and staying public are justifiable in the context of their specific business. Other disadvantages include the following:

  • The potential loss of control for founders of the company;
  • Continuous disclosure requirements may result in a loss of privacy;
  • Enhanced responsibilities arise for the board of directors, and additional controls are placed on management;
  • An increase in shareholder expectations as to profitability and success of the company;
  • Possible market indifference, resulting in “thin trading” of the company’s securities; and
  • Additional restrictions, such as escrow restrictions, may be placed on share disposal.

The IPO Process — the Securities Regulatory Authorities

An initial public offering is one of a number of ways to obtain a listing on the TSXV, but before endeavoring into the process of an IPO, a company must ensure its own internal governance ise ready for an IPO. This includes a review of the company’s minute books to ensure the validity of such matters as prior issuances of securities and the election of directors, and to determine if the articles and by-laws are suitable for a public company, with respect to such matters as transfer or issuance restrictions, composition of the board and quorum thresholds. Additionally, a company should review its material agreements (including banking or credit facilities) to confirm if there are any prohibitions or consent requirements that result from those agreements.

A company’s business plan will be scrutinized by its underwriters and potential investors and it will become an important component of the company’s marketing efforts. Due attention should be paid to whether the company’s business plan is realistic (will it withstand the scrutiny of outsiders?), understandable, well written and in plain language.

After deciding to pursue an IPO, a company must generally file both a preliminary prospectus and a final prospectus for approval from the securities regulatory authority in each province in which it (or its agent/underwriter) intends to solicit offers to purchase its securities. The prospectuses must contain full, true, and plain disclosure of all information concerning the company and the offered securities that can reasonably be expected to influence a prospective investor’s decision to purchase the company’s securities or the market price of those securities. This information will range in specificity, from general information regarding the company and its business, to specific audited financial statements.

Apart from the prospectuses, additional filings/requirements include (among others) those listed below:

  • copies of all material contracts entered into, other than in the ordinary course of business. Material contracts include those contracts which can be reasonably regarded to be material to a prospective investor;
  • the directors and officers of a prospective public company must file a prescribed form which authorizes the collection of the directors’ and officers’ personal information, as well as a “personal information form” to permit the relevant stock exchanges to complete background checks;
  • certain shareholders, including directors, officers, and significant shareholders may be required to place their shares in escrow for a defined period of time. Securities regulatory authorities and stock exchanges may require other shareholders to also place their shares in escrow. Accordingly, the company may be required to retain an escrow agent. The escrow requirements ensure that these shareholders have a long term interest in the viability of the company; and
  • the company will need to retain a transfer agent to act as registrar and transfer agent for the company’s shares.

After a receipt is issued upon filing the preliminary prospectus and other requisite documents, the company, its dealers or underwriters may begin to distribute the preliminary prospectus and solicit interest from potential investors in accordance with applicable securities laws.

The IPO Process — the Stock Exchange

Applications to list on the TSXV are made shortly after or concurrently with the filing of the preliminary prospectus. Approval of the application will be subject to such additional requirements as the TSXV may impose.

To gain a listing, a company must generally meet the initial listing requirements of the Exchange. The Exchange divides issuers into Tier 1 or Tier 2 categories according to the requirements, with the latter Tier being subject to more restrictive requirements. The TSXV also divides issuers into five subcategories according to industry:
technology/industrial, mining, oil and gas, real estate, and research and development. Each tier and subcategory will have different initial listing requirements based on a variety of criteria, some of which include the following:

  • The amount of net tangible assets;
  • Past and projected revenues;
  • Past and projected expenditures on research and development spending;
  • Amount of working capital; and
  • Amount of proven reserves or properties.

Depending on the amount of working capital it has, a technology/industrial company may be required to file a management plan detailing the company’s business development for the next 24 months, including evidence that the company’s product, service or technology is sufficiently developed and that there is reasonable expectation that there will be earnings from the product, service or technology within the next 24 months.

Additionally, a company must have issued a minimum number of securities of a minimum market value for public distribution. These threshold numbers are imposed by the Exchange to ensure market liquidity.

The Exchange also imposes requirements on the company’s management and control group. A listed company must have at least three directors, one of which must have expertise in the area of the company’s actual or proposed business, and another of which must have had favorable experience in operating and managing a public company. At least two directors must not be employees, senior officers, control persons, or management consultants. All members of management should be free of any history of past criminal behaviour, fraud, breach of trust, or securities violations. Except in limited circumstances, a listed company must have a chief executive officer (“CEO”) and a chief financial officer (“CFO”); the CEO and the CFO cannot be the same person.

Further, a company must establish an audit committee composed of at least three directors. After the IPO, audit committee members cannot be employees, control persons, or officers of the company, or have immediate family members that are employees, control persons, or officers of the company. The audit committee must review the financial statements, management discussion and analysis of the financial statements, and any press releases concerning earnings of the issuer before they are approved by the board of directors and disseminated to the public.

A company may also need to have sponsorship of their listing application. The sponsor will be a member of the Exchange, and will assist the Exchange in evaluating the financial strength of the company, its business plan, and the suitability of its management and control group. The sponsor is typically the company’s lead underwriter in its IPO.

After the IPO — Ongoing Obligations

A company must meet ongoing disclosure requirements after they become reporting issuers. The securities regulatory authorities and the TSXV impose continuous disclosure requirements that generally require annual filings of a variety of forms and documents.

Forms and documents required by securities regulatory authorities must be filed where the company has filed a prospectus. Some of the required forms and documents include as follows:

  • Audited annual financial statements;
  • CEO and CFO certification of the financial statements, and a statement certifying that they have reviewed the company’s internal financial disclosure procedures, ensured that said disclosure procedures have been implemented, and reviewed the company’s financial disclosure;
  • Management Discussion and Analysis accompanying the annual and interim financial statements, consisting of management’s narrative explanation of company performance, financial condition, and future prospects;
  • In certain instances, Annual Information Forms detailing material information about the company and its business at a point in time, including discussion of historical and future development of the company, its operations and prospects, its risks and other external factors that impact the company specifically;
  • Annual meetings of security holders, including the distribution to such holders of an information circular regarding the election of directors, the appointment of auditors and any other “special” business, and detailed disclosure of all executives’ individual compensation amounts and the company’s corporate governance practices;
  • Material change reports in the form prescribed by securities laws. A “material change” occurs when a change in the business, operations, or capital of the company is reasonably expected to have a significant effect on the market price of any of the securities of the company, or when a decision to implement such a change is made by the management of the company;
  • Periodic press releases informing the public of business developments of the company, including changes in the company’s corporate structure, changes of its auditor, and other material changes;
  • Insider trading reports by directors, officers and significant security holders; and
  • All material documents affecting the rights and obligations of security holders, including material contracts.


The decision to take a company public is often one of the key decisions management will need to make in the lifecycle of a company. Companies considering a going public transaction are advised to retain a team of knowledgeable accountants, lawyers and investment bankers early on in the process. Pushor Mitchell has the necessary experience to guide companies through this process and we would encourage you to contact us if your business is considering going public.

Leaving a charitable donation in your Will can be a wonderful way to benefit a charity that has meant a great deal to you during your lifetime. It gives the testator a really ‘feel good’ last word, and an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for all the great work that charities do for our community.

There are many different types of assets that can be donated. If your Estate will have cash, you can simply donate a sum of money to your favourite charity. It is also possible to donate your registered accounts like RRSPs, life insurance proceeds or personally held assets.

There are several reasons that people decide to make a charitable bequest:

  • Helping others – We all have an innate desire to help others. This is, of course, the main reason we give to charities during our lifetimes. A Will can ensure you keep giving after your death.
  • Tax Benefits – Your estate can reduce taxes that may be payable by making a charitable donation. You should talk to your Accountant for more information about this, during your Estate Planning process.
  • Leaving a legacy – Some charities will remember their donors by engraving their name on to a plaque, painting, wall or other object. This can leave you with a positive legacy and help console your bereaved loved ones. It may be somewhere they can visit and derive comfort from.

There are also different types of bequests that can be drafted into your Will, depending on what you wish to achieve with your charitable gift:

  • Specific Bequest: You can designate a specific dollar amount or piece of property, such as real estate, stocks, bonds or works of art, for example: “ I give the sum of $X.XX (or description of other property) to XXX to be used for such of the objects and purposes as the Board of Directors shall from time to time determine.
  • Residual Bequest: You can donate all or a portion of your estate to the charity after all your debts, taxes, expenses and other bequests have been paid “ I give the residue of my estate (or percentage of the residue of my estate) to XXX to be used for such of the objects and purposes as the Board of Directors shall from time to time determine.
  • Contingent Bequest: Your gift takes effect only if the primary intentions cannot be met (sometimes called the ‘disaster clause’). “ If neither (name of primary beneficiary) nor (name of alternate beneficiary) survives me for 30 days, then I give (describe amount of cash, property, percentage of residue or other gift) to XXX to be used for such of the objects and purposes as the Board of Directors shall from time to time determine.
This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.


Anyone who is contemplating selling their business should start the planning process early in order to maximize the value that a third party will pay. Part of that planning should include readying their business for the purchaser’s “due diligence” review. This due diligence usually takes place after signing of a letter of intent or purchase agreement, but before the purchaser becomes legally obligated to complete the transaction.  Preparing for the due diligence review will ensure that prospective purchasers aren’t scared away by any unexpected issues.

As part of this process, a prospective purchaser may want to review some or all of the following:

1. Corporate records, including articles, bylaws and minutes;
2. Documents evidencing securities issuances;
3. Material contracts and client lists;
4. Outstanding or potential litigation;
5. Employment agreements;
6. Financial records and tax filings;
7. Real property rights;
8. Intellectual property rights; and
9. Insurance.

Material contracts include agreements with any major customers and suppliers, any significant debts or financial obligations, or any other agreement that could have a material impact on a business. If a seller has standing (unwritten) arrangements, it’s advisable to document them via written agreements prior to the due diligence review. If a prospective purchaser intends to employ their current employees, they will want to ensure that there are employment agreements in place. They may also want to ensure that the company’s employees have entered into confidentiality and protection of corporate interest agreements.

If a company owns real property, the purchaser will want to ensure that there are no financial encumbrances on title or other unexpected liens or charges. Further, if a company’s business involves intellectual property rights, such as copyright, trademarks and patents, the purchaser will want to ensure that the seller has taken appropriate steps to protect such rights.

A prospective purchaser will also want to ensure that the business is adequately insured. Accordingly, sellers should ensure that they have adequate insurance to cover their assets and comprehensive liability insurance appropriate for their industry.

Finally, sellers should be prepared to be up front with prospective purchasers and disclose any potential issues early in the process. Purchasers tend to be more concerned about surprises than they are about issues which have been disclosed.

Failure to properly plan and prepare for the purchaser’s due diligence review can significantly complicate the sales process and result in collapsed deals.   By involving their various business advisors (ie. lawyer, accountant, broker) early in the process, sellers can often ensure that their records and related business documents are in order, and that they will withstand the purchaser’s scrutiny of same!

Currently in British Columbia there is a two-step process to certify a bargaining unit. A union must first get 45% of workers at a job site to sign membership cards, and once that threshold is reached, workers must then restate their preference for a union through an additional vote. Because employees can often be pressured into signing union cards, without full understanding of the potential consequences of unionization, the current two-step system in British Columbia (which exists in most provinces) helps ensure that union certifications are based on the actual wishes of employees.

However, on April 6, 2022 (with a second reading on May 5), the Provincial NDP government introduced, Bill 10, the Labour Relations Code Amendment Act, 2022,  which proposes labour friendly changes to the Labour Relations Code. Among other changes, the Bill introduces a single-step (“card-check”) union certification system:

  • If 55% or more of employees in a workplace indicate their intent to unionize by signing union membership cards, a union will be certified, and no further vote is required.
  • If between 45% and 55% of employees sign union membership cards, a second step consisting of a secret ballot vote is still required for certification.

If the Bill is passed into law, in some scenarios, the second step of an additional secret vote will be eliminated. Therefore, employers can expect union campaigns to ramp up in the province, especially in sectors that have traditionally been harder to unionize.

Employers who feel at risk of unionization should seek legal advice.

If you have an existing Will, that’s a great start. However, as your life changes, so will your Estate Planning needs.

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that client’s review their Wills every 3-5 years to ensure that it still reflects their wishes.  That said, here are a few of the triggers that should get you thinking about re-doing your Will:

  • If you marry or start a family, you’ll want an estate plan that ensures your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone. A Will is vital when you have children. Minor children can be provided for through Trusts set up for their health, maintenance, welfare and education. Guardianship issues can also be addressed if something happens to both parents. Wouldn’t you rather choose who gets to raise and care for your children?
  • A major life event such as a divorce, should also trigger a review of your current Estate Planning to ensure that it meets your current needs;
  • As your net worth increases, proper Estate Planning becomes vital. You will need to address tax issues and discuss with your Lawyer and Accountant the best way to minimize the probate fees and taxes payable, in order to maximize your beneficiary’s inheritance;
  • If you have adult children who are still dependent on you, you can make sure they have financial support for the rest of their lives by setting up a Trust. Whether this be for a disability, or otherwise;
  • If you’re thinking of leaving a spouse (including a common law spouse) or child out of your Will, or giving them less than they might reasonably expect, they may decide to contest your Estate, which is allowed under current legislation. This could result in the Court changing your Will to give your spouse and/or child(ren) a greater share of your Estate than you would have liked. Be sure to consult with a Lawyer on this who will be able to discuss your options with you and create an Estate Plan designed to minimize these claims.

Those are just some of the reasons to review your Will. Reviewing and updating your Will gives you peace of mind that you have cared for your loved ones in the very best way you can. The last few years have been rife with change for most us as we all realize how fragile life is, and how very precious our loved ones are to us. Don’t leave your Estate Planning until it is too late.

Apologies are one of the things for which Canadians are known internationally. In Canada, “I’m sorry” is used even in situations where we carry no responsibility, or where others might view it as unwarranted. For example, two people to bump into one another and both apologize despite no real fault, intent or damage, but it keeps things pleasant and allows everyone to carry on without noteworthy altercation.

Apologies come in many shapes and sizes, but apologies serve a fundamental role in our society. Even a simple apology can convey remorse where time is limited or words are failing. In fact, apologies are so sacrosanct that most Canadian courts have endeavored to keep apologies out of determinations of fault in the legal context. In British Columbia, the Apology Act, SBC 2006, c 19, prevents apologies from constituting admissions of fault or liability in most, if not all, circumstances. The Act is designed to be broad, and it is designed to keep the legal system from overanalyzing and interfering with such an important aspect of our society. Even attempts to exclude apologies result in oddly formal definitions of what exactly an apology is, such as the definition in the Act:

“apology” means an expression of sympathy or regret, a statement that one is sorry or any other words or actions indicating contrition or commiseration, whether or not the words or actions admit or imply an admission of fault in connection with the matter to which the words or actions relate.

It makes sense when you think about it. Sometimes apologies are so heartfelt and sincere that they carry far more weight and importance than any other type of relief that could be sought. At one extreme, claims might be carried through the courts solely because someone had not apologized. Other times, apologies are made more as a matter of empathy and regret of circumstances, rather than an intended admission of fault. In such cases, it would be unfair to hold someone to blame and could lead to come absurd results. It is also hard to imagine a Court ordered apology feeling like anything other than an empty obligation, and no doubt judges do not want to be ordering parties to “say it like they mean it”.

In short, if you are trying to prove fault or liability of another party, you are going to need more than an apology. But, if you are feeling the need, don’t let the specter of a legal claim prevent you from saying “I’m sorry”.

Whether a claim is being made for or against you, litigation is a complex and serious process. It is best to contact a litigation lawyer early, and prior to the commencement of a claim if possible, for assistance in weighing options and navigating the complexities of the legal system.

Developers have to deal with the requirements imposed by a municipality through the development permit process. These requirements can be onerous and time consuming, and sometimes appear to the developer as unreasonable or arbitrarily applied.

One land owner decided to push back against the denial of a development permit that the District of Squamish refused to issue. The land owner sought a declaration from the court that Squamish was required to issue the development permit in the case of 0742848 BC Ltd. v District of Squamish.

The Local Government Act permits a municipality to designate development permit areas (DPA) in an Official Community Plan (“OCP”) for a number of purposes. Developers commonly must obtain a development permit for the form and character of the development, but may also need a development permit relating to other issues like the protection of the natural environment or protection from hazardous conditions.

If a municipality designates a develop permit area, it must establish guidelines in the OCP setting out the objectives of the development permit and how the objectives will be addressed.

Squamish established a DPA in its OCP for the “protection of the natural environment, its ecosystems and biological diversity”. The guidelines established in the OCP relating to the DPA included to “minimize the visual and environmental impact of any development” and “to ensure that fish and wildlife conservation and protection of habitat are given priority over other values”.

The 0742848 BC Ltd. (“074”) owned a parcel of land that consisted of 78 acres which was included in the DPA set by Squamish. The Squamish River ran along the western boundary, with about 15 acres located to the west of a dike that ran through the property on a north-south alignment. 074 applied for a development permit to place a modular home on the land between the Squamish River and the dike. 074’s application met all zoning bylaw requirements.

Squamish refused to issue a development permit. The discussion of the councilors at the council meeting focused on the flood risk of permitting development on the western side of the dike, and not on the matters set out in the guidelines.

The Court found that the decision to not approve the issuance of the development permit was not based on the guidelines but on extraneous considerations outside the guidelines. The Court went on to find that even if the decision was based on the guidelines, the decision was unreasonable, even allowing for the considerable deference councils are provided when making a decision.

On that basis, the Court made an order that Squamish was required to issue the development permit.

Executors have many duties to the beneficiaries of an estate: they must act in good faith, to the standard of a reasonably competent person, they must keep an even hand between the beneficiaries, they must protect the assets, and they must make sure the taxes and debts are paid.

An executor also has the duty to communicate with the beneficiaries and to answer inquiries made of them by the beneficiaries.  Recently the Supreme Court of BC penalized an executor by making her personally pay some of the legal costs of the estate because the executor did not answer the inquiries of one of the beneficiaries.  There was distrust between the executor and her sister the beneficiary, and the lack of communication only exacerbated the distrust.

When choosing an executor, I advise clients to pick someone who gets things done, who is fair, and who is a good communicator.  The executor is entitled to hire a lawyer and an accountant to help them, so they don’t have to be able to do the legal and the tax parts of the job themselves, but they need to keep things moving in the estate, and they must be good at keeping the other beneficiaries informed.

Many of the estate disputes we see stem from lack of communication, first of all, from the parents to the children, and then after death, from the executor to the beneficiaries.

We are happy to help advise clients in their estate planning on how to best avoid disputes.

As an estate planning lawyer, one of the most common questions I hear is some variant of “what documents do I need to have in order to be prepared if something happens to me”? The answer to this, as usual, is “it depends”. However, there are 3 “main” documents a client should consider when making an estate plan.

The Will: this document is the core of an estate plan and most people are familiar with how it works. Taking effect only upon the death of the will-maker (testator), this document appoints an executor to act as trustee to ensure your debts are paid and your assets are disposed of in accordance with the terms of your will. Many details can complicate these arrangements: be aware of special clauses needed for disabled beneficiaries in particular as well as the risks BC’s legislation creates for blended families. It is straightforward to make a simple Will, it is equally easy to incorrectly make a complex Will.

The Power of Attorney: this document appoints an “attorney”, who in this use of the word is just a person who has been provided with authority to make decisions with respect to your finances. Managing your accounts, filing tax returns, and paying for your support using your funds are all common powers using this document. In particular, this document can take effect upon a loss of capacity (a “springing” power of attorney), or upon signing and continuously thereafter until revoked (an “enduring” power of attorney). There are multiple benefits and drawbacks to each of the springing vs enduring versions and it is recommended you receive experienced legal advice prior to deciding which will be right for you.

The Representation Agreement: this document is a comprehensive health care authority assignment aimed at the duration of a person’s medical condition and their treatment. Common provisions include approving or refusing medical procedures and treatments, hiring care providers, and making decisions with respect to assisted living arrangements. The Representation Agreement is much more than a method of planning for life-support decisions, however many clients understandably focus upon this aspect. An experienced lawyer will ensure consideration is paid to all areas of the document to provide for your well-being during vulnerable times when you may not be able to speak for yourself.

Unfortunately, many times we encounter situations where a Power of Attorney or Representation Agreement is needed but has not been created and the person has lost capacity to make one. In this instance, the alternative is to bring an application of British Columbia Supreme Court for appointment of a “committee”. This can be a lengthy and expensive procedure which should be considered a last resort. However, when needed, experienced estate lawyers can navigate the process skillfully to ensure clients have an appointed committee for their care as quickly as possible.

Rather than waiting until there is a pressing need for these documents, which results in enormous stress upon clients and their families, I recommend making estate planning arrangements without the pressure of urgency which can impair capacity and may lead to unexpected difficulties. Contacting an estate planning lawyer before there appears to be no immediate need is always the best course of action.

Pushor Mitchell LLP is pleased to have acted as legal counsel to GeneTether Therapeutics Inc. in connection with its initial public offering of Units.  In connection with its IPO, GeneTether issued a total of 7,500,000 Units at a price of $0.60 per Unit for aggregate gross proceeds $4,500,000. GeneTether Therapeutics Inc.’s common shares are listed for trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol “GTTX”.

Founded by EGB Ventures founder and managing partner, William J. Garner, M.D., and veteran gene editing researcher, R. Geoffrey Sargent, Ph.D., GeneTether is focused on developing its disruptive proprietary platform technology to significantly increase the efficiency of DNA insertion into the genome for gene correction and complementation strategies. The Company’s wholly-owned platform technology uses a proprietary method to “tether” donor DNA templates to the genome editing complex, making the template readily available for use during the genome editing repair stage. The Company is leveraging its platform technology to develop curative therapies for the treatment of rare genetic diseases. GeneTether’s proof of concept study demonstrated an approximately 7x higher gene editing efficiency as compared to the same gene editing payload without application of GeneTether’s technology.

The Pushor Mitchell team was led by Keith Inman and included assistance from Rebecca Dickson.


An old legal sage once pointed out the obvious that a marriage can end in only one of two ways:  Divorce or death.  The sage also noted how a person goes through similar emotional/psychological stages when advised they are dying, or being divorced.  The sage mentioned Dr. Kubler-Ross as the sources of the stages of dying, and noted the similarities with divorce.

Dr. Kubler-Ross had treated dying patients for a long time and noticed how many of them go through similar emotional/psychological stages when coming to grips with their inevitable outcomes.  In her book “On Death and Dying” written in 1969, Dr. Kubler-Ross noted the stages as generally denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

When advised of death/divorce, people often first deny it’s happening:  “Do the tests over again, there’s a mistake…” or “…my love would never leave me, they’ll get over it and be back soon…”.  But, unfortunately, the second round of tests show the same results as the first, and the “love” doesn’t return.

Anger often sets in after the diagnoses/news becomes undeniable.  The person may irrationally lash out at friends and family, or blame others for their sad predicament.

When the anger starts to subside, it can be replaced with bargaining.  That is, the person starts thinking of ways to postpone the inevitable.  The dying may try special diets or seek multiple opinions in the hope of prolonging life while the divorcing may make promises of changes for the good to appease the leaving spouse in the hopes they will return.  But the inevitable is not postponed, and there is no return.

Depression, not surprisingly, develops as they start to realize the practicality of their situations.  Sadness and regrets are prevalent at this stage, and some will withdraw into themselves and become distant and lethargic.  A nostalgic melancholy can set in.

Finally, it’s realized there is no ‘magic cure’ coming; there will never be a reunification.  The dying person accepts that circumstances can’t be changed, and hopefully starts to live each day thereafter to its fullest with appreciation.  The divorcing person starts to move forward with their new life.  Both the dying and divorcing lose something that can’t be replaced – a life; a past relationship.

But why is any of this important in family law?

Because in family law, whether in court or not, we first try to negotiate a resolution.  When negotiating (or attending court) it is good practice to consider the other person’s emotional/psychological state – it may help to explain why they act or react as they do, and gives some direction on how to best approach them.  The best negotiations occur when both parties have reached ‘acceptance’, but some people do not progress through all the stages, and some may skip stages.  How fast or slow you proceed through the stages, or if you proceed at all, is dictated to some degree by your own inherent emotional/psychological characteristics and fortitude.  Recognizing the stages may help you better understand the other person’s actions or inactions, and negotiate a resolution.

If you require assistance with a family law situation, please contact one of the lawyers who practice family law at Pushor Mitchell LLP.

Additional considerations arise when doing estate planning for indigenous clients.

Members of a band or nation hold “ownership” of land by a certificate of possession which gives them the right to use and lease for their own benefit the land for which they hold the certificate of possession.  Only a member of a particular nation or band can hold a certificate of possession for lands in that nation or band’s reserve.  A certificate of possession cannot be sold or transferred to anyone who is not a member of that nation or band.  Typically, if a member wants to transfer an interest in their land to a person who is not a member of the nation or band, they will do so by granting a registered lease to that person.

To effectively pass the right to the use and benefit of the land to their heirs, a Will for a member of that nation or band must leave the certificate of possession to a member of that nation or band.  A Will that tries to do otherwise will not be approved by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Under the Indian Act, Wills for indigenous people must still be approved by the Minister before they can be administered.  The Minister has the right to declare the Will void in whole or in part, if they think there was duress or lack of testamentary capacity, or if the Will did not provide for the deceased’s spouse or children, or if the Will tries to dispose of land in a manner contrary to the Indian Act.  If the Will is declared void, the provisions of the Indian Act dealing with intestacy will apply.

Sometimes the spouse of the member is not a member of the nation or band, so consideration must be given to how to protect that spouse’s right to remain on the lands held by the member after the death of the member.  It might be done by leaving the certificate of possession to a member of the nation or band and directing that the interest is subject to registering a lease in favour of the spouse for the spouse’s lifetime or some other period of time.  There is no community of real or personal property situated on a reserve.

An indigenous person who lives off the reserve and does not have a certificate of possession on the reserve may have his or her estate dealt with through the usual probate process in the Supreme Court.

One of the most formidable tools available to a spouse who is separating from their partner is an interim restraining order from the court if there is a risk that their former partner has disposed (or threatened to dispose) of family property, or otherwise deal with that property in a manner that could adversely affect their rights and until such time it can be properly valued and equitably divided.

As a rule only legally married couples, or common law spouses – that is those individuals who have been in a marriage-like relationship for no less than two years – may seek an order under s.91 of the Family Law Act for injunctive relief.

Strategically, restraining orders are ordinarily sought in the early stages of litigation and are often presented to the court without notice to the other spouse so as to limit the potential for further cause issue with family assets had the perpetrating spouse received advance notice.

How do I know if I need a restraining order against my spouse?

While the range of circumstances that may warrant a restraining order are theoretically limitless, some of the more conventional grounds for seeking this type of relief arises in situations where a spouse:

  • Solely controls the family bank account(s) and/or investment account(s);
  • Has unilaterally withdrawn funds from a joint bank account(s); diverted funds to a new account, or conducted other unusual financial transactions;
  • Operates a family business(es), or is the principal income earner;
  • Retains funds personally from a family business, or investment income for personal gain;
  • Has access to substantial credit facilities to fund their lifestyle, or there is a risk of accessing credit to disproportionately increase family debt;
  • Is under reporting their personal or business income, or undervaluing assets;
  • Is non-communicative or surreptitious in dealing with the family finances and assets generally;
  • Threatened bankruptcy;
  • Has made non-arm’s length transactions to friends or family so as to defeat claim by their spouse;
  • Has sold (or threatened to sell) assets of value, including vehicles, art, jewelry, and other personal property;
  • Has assets outside the province or country that pose risk to recovery, or otherwise defeat a family property claim.

Restraining Orders Against a Business

Apart from obtaining a restraining order to protect family property, in certain situations it may be prudent to seek a financial restraining order against a company or business venture controlled by a spouse if there is risk that assets may be sold, dissipated, or they may take actions “outside the normal course of business” that serve to either devalue or otherwise obstruct a claim.  This type of relief is governed by Rule 12 of the Supreme Court Family Rules.

Potential orders against a spouse who has a controlling interest in a company may include:

  • Limiting them from withdrawing funds, or fixing the amount of funds that may be available for personal use;
  • Confining the management and usage of company funds for normal business operations exclusively;
  • A general prohibition on disposal of any company assets, or material changes to the nature of the business and/or operations generally;
  • Restrictions on voting rights;
  • Mandatory reporting requirements to ensure compliance.

The essence of a financial restraining order is to tightly govern the conduct of a spouse in relation to management of a family business. While these types of orders are on its face prejudicial the court will take care to ensure the viability of that business as a going concern so that it may continue to carry out regular commercial functions such as remaining sufficiently capitalized to service customers, meet payroll and debt obligations, and conduct other activities germane to its core business.

Apart from the obvious benefits a restraining order provides, it can also deliver strategic advantages in negotiations and expedite settlement. Indeed, a spouse who is subject to a court ordered restraining order may soon discover a renewed sense of motivation to bargain in good faith and seek final settlement with their spouse.

When exercised properly, a property or financial restraining order can be a potent instrument that immediately “levels-the-playing field”.

Whether a restraining order is appropriate measure requires a careful analysis of the party’s circumstances, a history of their relationship, and relevant conduct post-separation. The process for obtaining injunctive relief can be procedurally complex and requires technical precision. A spouse who believes that their rights may be at risk would be well served to seek legal advice with respect to their interests.

The newly proposed draft Underused Housing Tax Act (“UHTA”) is the first federal legislation aimed at countering real estate speculation and vacancy rates in Canadian real estate.  The underused housing tax (“UHT”) has many similarities to British Columbia’s Speculation and Vacancy Tax; however, the UHT is aimed at vacant homes owned by foreign owners and does not apply to owners who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents — whether or not they reside in Canada.

It is proposed that the UHT will consist of an annual tax of 1% of a residential property’s taxable value unless exemptions apply. Canadian citizens or permanent residents, including personal representatives of a deceased individual, would be exempt unless they hold their interest through a partnership or trust. All non-exempt owners of residential property on December 31 of a tax year will be required to file a declaration by April 30 of the following year. If the legislation receives final approval, the tax will apply starting January 1, 2022 with the first declaration due April 30, 2023, subject to parliamentary amendments.

This is provided as information only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation.

Pink Shirt Day is an anti-bullying campaign observed on the last Wednesday of every February, and this year it falls on February 23rd. On this day, individuals are reminded to act with kindness and empathy and speak up if they see someone bullied. The goals of Pink Shirt Day align with the legal obligations placed on employers to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace exists on a spectrum. It can range from unwanted comments to verbal and physical assault. Some employers and employees are surprised to learn that WorkSafeBC requires employers in British Columbia to have a bullying and harassment policy. The policy must – at a minimum – Include the following:

  • How and when investigations will be conducted;
  • What will be included in the investigation;
  • The roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers, and others such as investigators, witnesses, or union representatives;
  • Follow-up to the investigation (e.g., description of corrective actions, time frame, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc.); and
  • Record-keeping requirements.

Importantly, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for raising a bona fide bullying and harassment complaint.

Apart from breaches of a bullying and harassment policy, bullying and harassment may also constitute discrimination contrary to the British Columbia Human Rights Code if the bullying and harassment is related to a protected ground such as age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, colour, physical disability, mental disability or religion. Further, employers may be held liable for the actions of their employees and the bullying and harassment may result in a constructive dismissal of employment. With respect to the former, an employer may be responsible for the actions of its employee in certain circumstances even if management was not involved in the bullying or harassment. With respect to the latter, allegations of constructive dismissal may lead to claims for severance and aggravated and punitive damages.

Bullying and harassment is not just a moral issue: it is a legal issue. Employees who engage in bullying and harassment and employers who do not take the appropriate steps to prevent it run the risk on being on the wrong side of the law.

Our ten most popular Pushor Mitchell articles in 2021:

1. BC’s New Land Owner Transparency Registry – What Do You Have To Do To Comply? by Paul Tonita

2. A Long Time Coming: Two Important Changes to Divorce Act by Leneigh Bodset

3. COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace by Colin Edstrom

4. Can A Relationship Conducted Virtually be a Marriage-like Relationship? by Leneigh Bodset

5. Safety Deposit Boxes and Your Estate by Vanessa DeDominicis

6. Two New Paid Leaves for Employees: Temporary COVID Leave and Permanent Sick Leave by Colin Edstrom

7. The Elusory Nature of the “Marriage- Like Relationship” by Leneigh Bodset

8. Big Changes Coming Soon to Provincial Court Family Rules by Patrick Gaffney

9. Court Finds Notice of Termination of Contract to Subcontractors Not Required to Start Lien Filing Period by Mark Danielson

10. Tips For Executors by Vanessa DeDominicis

In IRP (Immediate Roadside Prohibition) cases the officer is required to promptly forward to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles a sworn or solemnly affirmed report in the form established by the Superintendent.

In Kuzmanovic v. The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, 2021 BCCA 83, the B.C. Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether a peace officer can fail to properly swear or affirm a report and then correct the issue after the fact and before the review hearing.

At paras. 23-27 the Court of Appeal set out the relevant circumstances as follows:

[23]      The Report included a preamble that stated, “I, Cst. Gallagher, swear or sol[e]mnly affirm that the contents of this report are true.” The Report included a jurat to be executed by the investigating peace officer and a commissioner for taking affidavits for British Columbia. The officer signed the jurat, but a commissioner did not.

[24]      On March 9, 2019, before Mr. Kuzmanovic applied for a review, the Superintendent faxed an urgent request to the New Westminster Police Department advising the jurat on the Report was incomplete.

[25]      In response, the officer forwarded a “Report to Superintendent – Supplemental to File”, solemnly affirmed by the officer on March 13, 2019 (the “Supplemental Report”).

[26]      The Supplemental Report said:


The Supplemental Report provided that the “IRP/VI PACKAGE” was attached. It also stated the original document was attached and the Supplemental Report “consists of 15 pages including this page”. The officer solemnly affirmed the contents of the Supplemental Report and the enclosures, which included the same package of documents he had faxed to the Superintendent on March 9, 2019.

[27]      The officer’s Occurrence Report provided the information summarized above as to the officer’s dealings with Mr. Kuzmanovic, but with the added information that the first ASD test at 2349 hours showed the ASD temperature was “in range”, and the result was a “warn”. The officer conducted the second ASD test at 2354 hours, the ASD temperature was “in range”, and the result was a “warn”.

Mr. Kuzmanovic’s counsel argued that the adjudicator’s finding that the Supplemental Report incorporated by reference the Report was unreasonable, among other things. In response, the Court of Appeal held that Supplemental Reports are not per se improper with the upshot being that if a Supplemental Report is properly sworn it can incorporate a Report that was not properly sworn thereby satisfying the requirements of s. 215.47(d) of the Motor Vehicle Act.

The key takeaway from this Decision is that one must scrutinize the report that is submitted to the Superintendent and confirm that it has been properly sworn or affirmed.

British Columbia employees are entitled to five paid days and three unpaid days of sick leave as of January 1, 2022. This new leave – referred to in the British Columbia Employment Standards Act as “Injury and Illness Leave” – applies to all eligible employees in British Columbia, including part-time, casual and seasonal employees.

To be eligible for the new leave, employees must be employed for at least 90 days and not otherwise excluded from the operation of the Employment Standards Act. A day of paid sick leave is calculated by adding all wages earned during the previous thirty days of employment and dividing that number by the number of days worked. Employees are not entitled to partial sick days.

The new sick leave provision applies to both unionized and non-unionized workplaces. The new provision automatically applies to collective agreements that do not currently provide for paid sick leave or provide for less than what is required by the Employment Standards Act.

Employers must also remember that sick leave protections may extend beyond the five days in the Employment Standards Act. For example, the British Columbia Human Rights Code prohibits employers from discriminating against employees by reason of, amongst other things, physical and mental disability. Employees who exhaust their injury or illness leave pursuant to the Employment Standards Act may still have additional job protections pursuant to the Human Rights Code.

The amendment to the Employment Standards Act follows the decision of other governments to increase paid sick leave entitlements, including the federal government which recently passed a bill to provide federally regulated employees with ten days of paid sick leave per year. The federal government has also announced that it intends to convene the provinces and territories in early 2022 to develop a national action plan to legislate paid sick leave for all workers across the country, notwithstanding that employment standards laws are mostly provincial jurisdiction. It remains to be seen whether the British Columbia government will make further increases to sick leave entitlement.

The New Year is a great time to review your Will. If you have an existing Will, that’s a great start. However, as your life changes, so will your Estate Planning needs.  Here are a few of the triggers that should get you thinking about re-doing your Will:

  • If you marry or start a family, you’ll want an estate plan that ensures your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone. A Will is vital when you have children. Minor children can be provided for through Trusts set up for their health, maintenance, welfare and education. Guardianship issues can also be addressed if something happens to both parents. Wouldn’t you rather choose who gets to raise and care for your children?;
  • A major life event such as a divorce, should also trigger a review of your current Estate Planning to ensure that it meets your current needs;
  • As your net worth increases, proper Estate Planning becomes vital. You will need to address tax issues and discuss with your Lawyer and Accountant the best way to minimize the probate fees and taxes payable, in order to maximize your beneficiary’s inheritance;
  • If you have adult children who are still dependent on you, you can make sure they have financial support for the rest of their lives by setting up a Trust. Whether this be for a disability, or otherwise;
  • If you’re thinking of leaving a spouse (including a common law spouse) or child out of your Will, or giving them less than they might reasonably expect, they may decide to contest your Estate, which is allowed under current legislation. This could result in the Court changing your Will to give your spouse and/or child(ren) a greater share of your Estate than you would have liked. Be sure to consult with a Lawyer on this who will be able to discuss your options with you and create an Estate Plan designed to minimize these claims.

Those are just some of the reasons to review your Will. Reviewing and updating your Will gives you peace of mind that you have cared for your loved ones in the very best way you can!

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information real estate matters or estate planning, and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com  Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

Should I put my Will in my safety deposit box? That is a frequently asked question by many clients of mine. We have a large vault at our office and always recommend to clients that they let us keep their original Wills in our vault for safekeeping. We give them blank copies and file a Wills Notice registering the location of our client’s Wills with the Vital Statistics Agency in Victoria. It is very easy for an Executor to come in and meet with us, the lawyer for the deceased, pick up the Will (with death certificate and appropriate ID) and gather some Estate information/assistance from us. Nobody can go into the deceased’s safety deposit box except for the Executor, but you don’t know who the Executor is until you open the box and read the Will, which can sometimes make things difficult.

If the deceased does have a safety deposit box, the Executor will need to make an appointment with the bank, again taking the death certificate and appropriate ID to gain access to the box. The bank will likely open the box in the presence of a bank staff member who acts as a witness. As Executor you will carefully need to list all the contents of the box, in front of the bank staff member.

Once that is done, make sure that you change the ownership of the box to the deceased’s estate so that you can easily access it at a later date if need be. You can close the box if you wish but sometimes Executor’s like to keep it open for the deceased’s valuables/personal papers while the Estate is ongoing – after all, one of the Executor’s duties is to keep Estate valuables safe. Remember, if items go missing, the Executor can be personally responsible for them.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on Estate Planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com  Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills/Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you!

Over 80% of businesses around the world are family-owned businesses. Specifically, Canada’s family businesses employ 4.7 million full-time employees, and the total annual sales of Canadian family businesses is $1.3 trillion.

It is thus very clear that Canadian family-owned businesses are a force to be reckoned with. So how does a family business become such a successful empire? One of the keys to many of these business’ success stories is a good governance system. Good governance will help any organization find its direction and identity. An excellent governance tool for a family business, large or small, is having a family philanthropic foundation.

A family philanthropic foundation is an effective way to bring all family members together to work towards a shared objective. They all have the same goal and must work as a team to create results for the common good, not just for financial gain (where we all know that the green-eyed monster can rear its ugly head). The family can give back to a community that has supported their success over the years through time or money or community programs that the family business can institute. Not only is a family philanthropic foundation a good way to give back to the community that the family business gained its success in, but it is also an incredible way for the next generation in line for the family business to learn to work together at a very young age. It will allow the current and younger generation to work together to better understand the business and the bottom line.

Effective governance is essentially wealth preservation. This type of governance will encourage collaborative decision-making among the family members, possibly across several generations of family members where financial skills and practices can be very different. A philanthropic goal for a family business will effectively unify their values and vision and provide the glue that will keep the family members focused and excited for the future. It will also encourage the family to address succession planning, business structuring and the family inheritance plan.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis at dedominicis@pushormitchell.comor on 250-869-1140. Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

Ever since the Family Law Act S.B.C. 2011, c. 25 came into force in British Columbia, the definition and determination of which relationships are considered to be “marriage-like” and therefore meeting the definition of “spouses” as set out in the act has become a high stakes endeavor.

The question is an important one because for those couples that are unmarried, if they are found to be living in a marriage-like relationship for a continuous two-year period as it is defined in section 3(1) of the Family Law Act, it allows standing for claims to property division and spousal support.

Meanwhile, the caselaw has not necessarily served to clarify the criteria or made it any easier for lawyers who practice family law to provide advice. Although many cases do provide a list of factors, the court is also clear in the cases that a “holistic” approach needs to be considered and it is not simply a matter of going through a checklist.

One would think that the most important factor would be cohabitation but that factor is clearly not determinative or even necessary. In the case Dey v. Blackett 2018 BCSC 244 the judge found that the parties lived in the same residence for more than two years, they shared sleeping arrangements and had a sexual relationship, they returned to the same residence on a daily basis, and carried out domestic duties together. They represented themselves to those they knew as a romantically involved couple. However, there was a marked absence of financial interdependence that the court found to be indicative of a lack of intention to live in a “marriage-like relationship” so in the end the judge did not find that they were spouses and therefore able to make claims under the Act to property division or support.

In contrast, a recent very interesting case which has garnered much attention in BC is Han v. Dorje 2021 BCSC 939. The facts of the case are that the parties never lived physically together although the Claimant, Ms. Han alleges that she has a child with Mr. Dorje arising from a sexual assault which she alleges occurred in October of 2017. Mr. Dorje is the high lama of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism and he travels the world teaching Tibetan Buddhists Dharma and hosting ceremonies in which Buddhists express their gratitude and devotion to Buddha.

Master Elwood in this case goes through the various cases on unmarried couples living in marriage like relationships and determines that while the facts of this case do not fit into most of the factors, he confirms that the court should not consider the factors on a checklist basis and should look at it holistically. He quotes from several cases throughout the country, including a 2003 Saskatchewan: Yikiwchuk v. Oaks 2003 SK QB 124 where Mr. Justice Myers states

“It is this variation in the way human beings structure their relationships that make the determination of when a “spousal relationship” exists difficult to determine. With married couples, the relationship is easy to establish. The marriage ceremony is a public declaration of their commitment and intent. Relationships outside marriage are much more difficult to ascertain.”

The Master goes on to quote from a BC Court of Appeal case, Weber v. Leclerc, 2015 BCCA 492 which states at paragraph 23:

[23] The parties’ intentions – particularly the expectation that the relationship will be of lengthy, indeterminate duration – may be of importance in determining whether a relationship is “marriage-like”.

While the Master did not decide at this stage that the relationship was “marriage-like” he certainly indicated that it may be a possibility and left the door open procedurally for Ms. Han to pursue her claims.

In the end, which relationships are marriage-like? That depends on your unique circumstances and it is essentially impossible to predict with certainty which creates risk for the parties.

This Article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of BarTalk

The very conservative government of Ontario has introduced a bill called the Working for Workers Act which, among other changes, would prohibit restrictive covenant clauses in certain employment contracts and would require all employers with 25 or more employees to have a written policy designed to allow employees freedom to disconnect from the workplace for a certain number of hours per day. The particulars of the limits of the “right to disconnect” have yet to been announced.

Restrictive covenants are commonly used, particularly with managerial and sales employees, to provide some protection to employers from employees competing with the employer during their employment and after it comes to an end. The Ontario legislation would only apply to strike any agreements attempting to prohibit competition after the employment relationship comes to an end. Agreements regarding confidentiality of information and non-solicitation of customers and employees may not be affected by this legislation. The proposed legislation exempts restrictive covenants negotiated on the sale of a business. In other words, if one of the owners of a business as a term of the sale, is contracted to stay on, a clause prohibiting him or her from competing with the business after their employment comes to an end should be enforceable (if it is not unreasonable). It is not clear whether the legislation will render existing employments agreements with restrictive covenants unenforceable.

The stated intent of the legislation is to make Ontario a friendlier place to work. This seems to be a result, in part, of the hangover of COVID-19 and the shortage of workers in certain industries. It would not be surprising to see other provinces enact similar legislation.

Since the legalization of Cannabis here in Canada in October as of 2018, we have seen an influx of cannabis-based businesses looking to protect their intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights can take various forms, but specifically in relation to the cannabis industry there are a number of ways cannabis-based businesses can protect themselves, including protecting their intellectual property in the form of patents, plant breeders rights, trademarks (which include brand names and trade names) and trade secrets.

A patent provides legal protection for an invention or process that is novel, non-obvious and clearly defined. A trademark is a symbol, word, slogan or logo used to distinguish a brand or product from others. Plant breeders’ rights allow plant breeders to protect new varieties of plants in the same way that an inventor protects an invention with a patent.

The value of a properly protected and registered trademark is huge. A trademark provides your company with a competitive edge by differentiating your goods and services from those of your competitors. A trademark provides your customers with a memorable way to identify your goods and services. I would urge cannabis-based businesses to secure their trademarks now, before the Trademark’s Register gets crowded with an influx of these types of applications.

Securing trademarks is extremely important. Consumers trust and recognize brand names and trademarks. Good trademarks increase the value and goodwill of a company substantially. When a company is sold, a registered trademark can significantly increase the value of the business. Companies purchase other companies based on their know-how, reputation, and trademarks. Big name brands are in demand, and companies are willing to pay accordingly for the instant recognition and market access of recognized trademarks.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on intellectual property rights, and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa is a Registered Canadian and US Trademark Agent at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you!

As I have written about earlier, the Protection of Public Participation Act (the “PPPA”) is aimed at combating strategy lawsuits against public participation (“SLAPPs”) and to guard against the vulnerability of the legal system to SLAPPs being used to censor public opinion, intimidate people and silence critics. I have previously written about the practical application of  the PPPA in Lyncaster v Metro Vancouver Kink Society2019 BCSC 2207 (CanLII).

The recent decision of Peterson v Deck, 2021 BCSC 1670 (CanLII) provides further insight on the practical application of the PPPA to a more common source of defamation actions: online complaints.

In Peterson, the plaintiff was a plastic surgeon who had performed a breast augmentation surgery for the defendant. The defendant, unhappy with her results, posted several negative reviews on her personal website and through Google Reviews. The plaintiff noticed these reviews and asked that they be taken down and the defendant refused. The plaintiff commenced a defamation action and the defendant defended, in part, by relying on the PPPA.

The defendant’s complaints focused on alleged lack of professionalism in the plaintiff and his office’s dealings with her, failure to provide adequate consultation, surgical outcomes falling below ordinary standards and what was represented as could be expected and encouraging the public to not make use of the plaintiff’s services.

In her defense, the defendant invoked s. 4 of the PPPA, which the Court noted:

“….creates a pre-trial procedure that allows a defendant to apply to the court for an order dismissing a claim arising out of an expression of public interest.” The Court further noted that the stated intention in enacting the PPPA “…was to protect public participation in debates of the issues of the day and prevent strategic lawsuits brought by the wealthy and powerful to shut down public criticism…”

The Court engaged in a similar analysis to that employed in Lyncaster v Metro Vancouver Kink Society. In Peterson, the tasks the Court set itself to where to:

  1. first, determine whether the defendant satisfied the court that her statements related to a matter of public interest. If not, the PPPA defence was not made out;
  2. if the first stage was satisfied, the Court would then decide whether the defamation claim and defence relied upon had any merit; and
  3. as its last step, the Court would balance whether the public interest was weighed in favour of the expressions of the defendant or the prejudice that might be suffered by the plaintiff.

The Court did note that the intention of the PPPA was to potentially bring resolve to defamation claims early rather than when both parties had put the merits of their cases to trial, as was the case before the Court.

The Court found that whether a matter is in the public interest was a concept that deserved liberal interpretation. Having so found, the Court found that a consumer review of a plastic surgeon’s skills was within the ambit of what was a public interest. More generally, the Court also found that that consumer protection has always been the subject of protection of the public interest in defamation cases. The Court found that a defined segment of society would have a genuine interest in receiving information about a surgical procedure they were considering and, as such, the first stage was met.

The Court found that the defamation claim had substantial merit whereas the ordinary defences to defamation did not. As a result, the Court found that the defendant’s PPPA defence failed on the second stage. The Court also found that, while it was alive to the concern of the chilling effect judicial scrutiny of online reviews may have, online platforms were not a carte blanche to say whatever a person may wish without consequence. The Court weighed the impugned statements and found the prejudice that might be suffered by the plaintiff outweighed the public interest in the protection of the defendant’s statements and, as such, the PPPA defence also failed on the third stage.

More generally, the Court provided a thorough review of general defamation principles starting first with the legal framework of defamation which required the plaintiff to prima facie prove that the impugned words:

  1. are defamatory in the sense that they are capable of lowering the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person;
  2. refer to the plaintiff; and
  3. were published to at least one person.

The Court reiterated that whether words might be found to be defamatory can be based on their literal meaning, their meaning as revealed by context or the inferred meaning or impression. It went on to find that:

“The court may take into consideration all of the circumstances of the case, including any reasonable implications the words may bear, the context in which the words are used, the audience to whom they were published, and the manner in which they were presented…”

The Court had little difficulty finding the impugned statements were defamatory. It found that “Professionals may be defamed by comments that question or impugn their qualifications, knowledge, skill, capacity, judgment, or efficiency. Comments suggesting that a medical practitioner is incompetent, unqualified, or guilty of discreditable conduct in his or her profession are defamatory…” It also found that there were several defamatory meanings to be drawn from or contained within the defendant’s impugned words.

The Court had little difficulty finding that the defendant’s words referred to the plaintiff; she referred to him by name and vocation. The Court was also able to readily infer the defendant’s posts had been read, even in the absence of proof given the method of publication and other surrounding circumstances.

The Court noted that justification or truth is a defence to defamation claim. The impudent words, however, were peppered with opinion that could not fall within the ambit of matters which are objectively true in fact or not. There were also statements of fact which the Court found were false statements. As a result, many aspects of the defendant’s statements were found to be outside the defence of truth.

The Court also noted that fair comment is defence to a defamation claim noting that “It does not cover defamatory statements of fact that are untrue. A fair comment defence cannot, as a matter of law, expunge the unjustified defamatory statements of fact noted above. It may, however, preclude liability for some of the defendant’s prima facie defamatory opinions.” The Court further noticed the onus is on a defendant to establish the defence of fair comment.

The Court noted that:

“The publication of negative and unflattering remarks about a plaintiff, if honestly held, based on fact, not actuated by malice, and in respect of matters of public interest, are considered fair comment and not actionable…” and that “…the facts must be sufficiently stated or otherwise known to the reader, so that the reader is able to make up his or her own mind on the merits of the comment. The comment must be presented as an expression of subjective opinion, not an assertion of objective fact…”

While the defendant did present a number of facts leading to her opinion, the opinion she presented to the public was predicated, at least in part, on false facts and misrepresenting or omitting critical facts which would help a reader evaluate and form their own opinion on the plaintiff and his conduct.

In the result, the Court found that defamation had been made out and that all of the impugned statements were not defensible under the PPPA or at law. The Court went on to find that damages had to be assessed based on the following objectives:

  1. to act as a consolation to the plaintiff for the distress suffered as a result of the defamation;
  2. to repair the damage to the plaintiff’s reputation; and
  3. to vindicate the plaintiff or his business reputation.

The Court awarded general damages of $30,000 and made an injunctive order that the defendant remove her defamatory posts and not re-post them.

Peterson v Deck is a reminder that online reviews can and do attract significant damages. The PPPA does not provide protection for any critical review that may have some component of public interest. An opinion intertwined with incorrect and misrepresented fact is not protected from potential defamation claims. That said, a person should not be discouraged from sharing a review so long as it is grounded in fact.

Please note that since the publication of this article, the government of British Columbia has extended the filing deadline for pre-existing owners to November 30, 2022.

There is a new publicly searchable registry in British Columbia – the Land Owner Transparency Registry. This Registry has been around for almost a year, but there is an upcoming deadline that relevant corporations, trusts and partnerships should be aware of. A relevant corporation, trust or partnership that owns land in British Columbia must complete a Transparency Report by November 30, 2021. The Report must be filed by a legal professional1 and will include information about the beneficial individual owners of the land.

Below, we provide answers to some commonly asked questions about the Land Owner Transparency Registry requirements.

What is the Land Owner Transparency Registry?

The Land Owner Transparency Registry is a new publicly searchable registry in British Columbia. It was created to combat money laundering and to end hidden ownership of land in the province. The Registry includes information about the beneficial individual owners of the land collected through Transparency Declarations and Reports.

When is a Transparency Registry filing required?

There are two situations where a Transparency Registry filing is required.

If a new interest in land is registered:

A Declaration (and Report, if applicable) is required every time a new interest in land is registered.

The definition of an “interest in land” includes:

  • fee simple ownership;
  • a life estate; and
  • a lease for a term of more than 10 years.

This requirement ensures that the Transparency Registry will always contain up to date information about the beneficial owners of land in British Columbia.

If a “reporting body” has an existing interest in land:

All “reporting bodies” with an interest in land acquired before November 30, 2020 must file a Transparency Report prior to November 30, 2021.

The definition of “reporting body” includes:

  • corporations (including limited liability companies, incorporated associations and societies);
  • partnerships (including general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships and professional partnerships); and
  • trusts (including express trusts and bare trusts);

and excludes many specific entities such as:

  • public companies;
  • strata corporations;
  • real estate investment trusts;
  • testamentary trusts;
  • charitable trusts; and
  • alter ego and joint partner trusts.

These Reports allow information about the beneficial owners of land to be captured for interests in land that existed prior to the introduction of the Transparency Registry in 2020.

What has to be filed?

There are two documents that may be involved in a Transparency Registry filing:

  1.   A Transparency Declaration
  2.   A Transparency Report

A Transparency Declaration is short, and simply indicates whether the interest in land is being registered to a “reporting body”.

A Transparency Report is required when the interest in land is registered to a “reporting body”. It includes information about the individuals who are behind the reporting body that benefit from the property interest.

How to get started

Transparency Declarations and Reports are filed through myLTSA, and must be submitted by a legal professional. The deadline for corporations, trusts and partnerships with existing interests in land to comply is November 30, 2021. Pushor Mitchell is happy to assist you in your efforts to do this. For more information, please contact Paul Tonita at tonita@pushormitchell.com or Rebecca Dickson at dickson@pushormitchell.com.

1LOTR Resources

Paul Tonita is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law, real estate, estate planning and estate administration.  His business experience includes assisting clients right from the beginning by discussing the different business structures, incorporating, buying and selling businesses, assisting with lending or financing needs, drafting and advising on contracts, and providing general advice to business owners.

His real estate practice involves working with developers to navigate the complex waters that are unique to each development and vary from municipality to municipality. Paul also assists both residential and commercial clients with purchases, sales, financing and leasing.

Paul also helps clients plan for their future with estate and incapacity planning. He guides executors through the legal challenges that are unknown to many when they agree to take on the executor’s role. This may involve determining whether a grant of probate is required and applying for one if necessary, calling in assets, paying out debts, transferring real estate to surviving joint tenants and determining whether additional steps may be required in order to wind up an estate and transfer the balance of assets to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

Rebecca Dickson is an Articled Student at Pushor Mitchell. She completed law school at Thompson Rivers University in 2021, and is happy to have settled in Kelowna upon graduation.

The Federal Government recently passed legislation to create a new annual federal statutory holiday on September 30th.  Named the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the statutory holiday was created as a step in the reconciliation process and in response to call to action number 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. According to the Government of Canada website, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation “provides an opportunity to recognize and commemorate the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, and to honour their survivors, their families and communities.”

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a paid federal holiday. It only applies to employers and employees subject to the Canada Labour Code, such as banks, radio and television broadcasting, air transportation, first Nations band councils, crown corporations, and road transportation services, including trucks and buses, that cross provincial or international borders. Employees are entitled to paid time off similar to other general holidays like Labour Day or Christmas Day. While the new statutory holiday does not apply to provincially regulated organizations (i.e., those governed by provincial employment standards legislation like the British Columbia Employment Standards Act), organizations should be cognizant that banks will be closed on September 30th and plan accordingly. In addition, some provincially regulated employers, like Pushor Mitchell LLP, will voluntarily close on September 30th to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools.

The Builders Lien Act, S.B.C. 1997, c. 45 (the “BLA”) establishes mandatory deadlines for the filing of builders liens against title to land in British Columbia. One of the triggers for the commencement of the lien filing period is termination of the “head contract” made between the owner and the “head contractor” for an improvement (that is, a contractor who is engaged to do all or substantially all the work respecting an improvement). If a claim of lien is not filed before the expiry of 45 days from the date of termination of the head contract, then lien is extinguished.

Until recently, the question of whether notice of the termination of the head contract is required to trigger commencement of the lien filing period was unresolved. The BLA does not expressly state that such notice is required, although notice was often given to preclude any arguments about whether the lien filing period had started.

In Hans Demolition & Excavating Ltd. v. Green Oak Development (West 7th) Corp., 2021 BCSC 1472 (“Hans Demolition”), the Supreme Court of British Columbia recently considered whether notice of termination is required to trigger the start of the lien filing period, and the answer is “no”.

In Hans Demolition, the owner terminated the head contract on September 1, 2016. The lien claimant (a subcontractor) did not file its claim of lien until February 9, 2017. The owner argued that the subcontractor’s lien was invalid because it was not filed within 45 days of the head contract being terminated. The subcontractor argued that it was not advised that the head contract had been terminated, but rather advised that a replacement head contractor would be “awarded the rest of the work”. The subcontractor argued that constituted notice of an “assignment” of the head contract to a new contractor, not notice that the head contract had been “terminated”.

The court held that plain language of s. 20(2) of the BLA contains no provision that requires that subcontractors be notified when a head contract is terminated (at para. 93). The court held that if the legislature had intended for such requirement, the BLA would have expressly set out and required such notification (at para. 94). The court noted that the BLA does not contain a provision that requires the owner to publish notice of termination of a contract in a prescribed form (as does Ontario’s Construction Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. C30) and held that “unless and until the [BLA] is also amended, no such notice is required”.

The result in Hans Demolition does not necessarily mean that owners should absolutely stop notifying subcontractors about the termination of a head contract. It may be advantageous to have the termination clearly communicated to subcontractors to (a) bring certainty to the resolution of builders lien issues, and (b) eliminate the opportunity for argument about the termination date.

Conversely, it may be advantageous to the owner not to publicize the termination so that any liens filed more than 45 days after the termination date would be invalid. Another consideration may be that the continued participation of subcontractors may be required for completion of the project. A lack of transparency about the status of the head contract may not be appreciated. The most suitable strategy depends on the facts of the case, and legal advice should be sought before terminating a head contact and determining how and when to give notice of the termination, if at all.

For a host of reasons, folks often enter contracts through verbal agreement either not fully appreciating that they are entering into a binding contractual relationship or because one or more parties has refused to agree to reduce the contract to writing. While an oral contract may be fine when everything goes as planned, many complications can arise when an oral contract results in a dispute. This was the case in the recent decision of Go Transport Ltd. v Moore, 2021 BCSC 1099 (CanLII).

The Plaintiff, Go Transport, provided trucks and trailers for transporting concrete blocks for a travelling circus. The central issue was whether Go Transport contracted with the defendant, Mr. Moore or the companies which owned the circus as Mr. Moore asserted. Go Transport asserted that it has contracted directly with Mr. Moore and that he owed them $20,946.35 plus interest on the issues it issued to him. Mr. Moore contested that he was an intermediary for the circus companies and was acting only as their agent. If Mr. Moore’s version of events was upheld, Go Transport had named him wrongfully as a defendant instead of the circus companies.

In its analysis the Court first made it clear that oral contracts are enforceable, but that the party asserting the oral contract must establish the parties’ intent to be bound by the contract and the essential terms of the contract. The Court noted that the substance of the contract is more important than its form. The Court also emphasized the challenge in oral contracts is properly interpreting such agreements without the key interpretative aid, which is ordinarily the written words of a contract itself.

Given that it was dealing with an oral contract, the Court found it was called upon to consider the complete context and factual matrix of the circumstances surrounding the alleged contract to determine if it existed and, if so, what its terms were. Mr. Moore, for his part, admitted that he and Go Transport entered a similar contract for services the previous year and was not able to produce evidence he said existed and supported his arguments that the contract in question was entered between Go Transport and the circus companies.

There were bills of lading various addressed to Mr. Moore or iterations of his name, phone calls between Mr. Moore and Go Transport and invoicing addressed to Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore failed to produce evidence of the contract he says existed directly between Go Transport and the circus companies, did not obtain any admissions of such an agreement and produced no evidence that he was acting as an intermediary between Go Transport and the circus companies only.

The Court summed up its findings as follows: “I find the circumstances in 2019 were the same as in 2018: [Mr. Moore] engaged [Go Transport] and [Go Transport] did the work. The only difference is that [Mr. Moore] paid [Go Transport] in 2018. He failed to pay in 2019. The fact that [Go Transport] billed him differently in 2019 does not vitiate the contract.”

Respecting claimed interest, Go Transport alleged that it should be entitled to interest at a rate of 24% based on it including such a claim in its invoicing. The Court made it clear that Go Transport could not unilaterally foist such a term on Mr. Moore by simply including a claim for interest in its invoicing; an agreement to such a term had to be found.

Relying on s. 1(1) of the Court Order Interest Act, the Court found that an appropriate interest rate was the prime lending rate on a simple interest basis. This was in the absence of evidence about what the standard from of interest was but also noting that the basic interest rate under the Court Order Interest Act would be inappropriate in such commercial circumstances.

Go Transport Ltd. v Moore once again underscores how important it is for parties to carefully reduce their contractual arrangements to writing. Even a very simple contract could have clarified for all parties which parties were contracting and which obligations were owed by which party to which party. Go Transport could have secured its 24% interest rate; Mr. Moore could have made it clear that Go Transport was contracting with the circus companies. All parties could have potentially avoided significant legal expense and uncertainty.

For related reading, please consider:

It is an unfortunately common story in construction litigation: parties agree on a scope of work and price, the scope of work changes and the parties don’t go back to the bargaining table to reach an agreement on the new scope of work. This occurred in the recent decision of Digg’n 4U Contracting Ltd. v Kharwar, 2021 BCSC 1027 (CanLII).

The plaintiff contractor was originally retained by the defendant property owners to construct a five-foot high lock-block retaining wall consisting of two rows of concrete lock-blocks for the estimated price of $25,000-$30,000 based on the owners also supplying certain materials. Several changes to the project were contemplated including moving the siting of the wall, expanding the height of the wall, making alterations to the shape of the wall, making alterations to the wall that required the input of an engineer and additional excavation and preparation work for these changes. The contractor, for its part, did not immediately invoice for its expanded scope of work.

Relying on the original $25,000-$30,000 estimate, the owners refused to pay the contractor’s invoice, which was $70,618.80. In insuring discussions, the owners also alleged several deficiencies in the contractor’s work and invoicing. In their legal submissions, the owners also relied on case law related to the notion that estimates can limit the amounts properly charged, can influence the amount a court may determine work is worth if a price isn’t agreed for that work and that deficiencies with the work might disentitle a contractor to its full claims. The owners also alleged several issues with the math and basis of the invoicing itself.

The Court ultimately found that it was patently obvious to the owners that the scope of work had changed and expanded significantly. It similarly found that there was no evidence to counter the reasonableness of the contractor’s invoicing. Simply put, when the owners increased the work, they increased the amount that could be properly charged and the estimate no longer was relevant.

The owners did not establish what the duty of care applicable to the contractor for the construction of its retaining wall was, did not prove they suffered any damage as a result of alleged issues with the retaining wall and did not lead evidence the court could have relied on to conclude otherwise. The owners did not give the contractor an opportunity to remedy alleged issues with the retaining wall before they had another party alter the contractor’s work.

In the end, the judge awarded the contractor its full invoice less $665.13 in errors the contractor admitted in its invoicing. The judge rejected the owners’ counterclaims and awarded costs against them.

Digg’n 4U Contracting Ltd. v Kharwar is once again a reminder of the importance of parties reducing their contractual agreements to writing. This remains just as important when commencing contractual relations as it does when the parties agree to alter those contractual relations. Had the contractor obtained an agreement in writing from the owners as to the amount that could be charged for the additional work or even provided a new estimate that was accepted, a significant fight could have been avoided. Similarly, if the owners wanted to limit the amount that could be invoiced or bind the contractor to an estimate, it was important to refresh such commitments as the scope of work changed. Having failed to reach such agreements and no party agreeing with the position of the other, the parties had to turn to litigation to obtain resolution.

For related reading, please consider:

A Power of Attorney, if used carefully, is an important estate planning tool. This legal document is commonly prepared to provide for situations where a person cannot manage his or her own affairs.  It gives another person (whom you appoint) the power to deal with your legal and financial affairs when you are unable to (many spouses appoint each other and / or their adult children).  Many of my clients do up their Powers of Attorney, appointing people they trust fully, with no intention of their Power of Attorney being used until some undetermined time in the future (accident, dementia etc.). They leave it in our vault, or they keep it somewhere safe at home.

Lately, financial institutions are becoming more and more stringent in their internal requirements / policies regarding whether or not they will accept the Power of Attorney.  Keep in mind that the financial institutions role is to protect their client first and foremost. If their client (the Donor under the Power of Attorney) is incapacitated, then this can be problem – they have no way of checking with their client that the Power of Attorney is valid (even though it is a properly prepared Power of Attorney).

Theoretically, as long as your Power of Attorney is properly prepared and witnessed, and the financial institution has no reason to suspect that it is invalid, or that funds are being inappropriately used (ie. not in the best interests of the Donor) it should be recognized.  That being said, to avoid any issues with your financial institution’s internal policies “when the time comes”, it is strongly recommended that you go to your financial institution and make sure they put a copy of your Power of Attorney on file and confirm the arrangement directly with you, their client.  You should also send a copy to any other financial institutions that you deal with. This way, they will have a note on your file that you personally (their client) advised them of the Power of Attorney that you had put in place and confirmed its validity while you were of sound mind.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com . Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

Intra-company disputes often involve two broad categories of remedies:

  1. oppression: where a minority shareholder claims they are being disadvantaged by the majority in some fashion and seek to have the court exercise its broad statutory discretion to correct the issue; and
  2. derivative actions: where a shareholder or director seeks to have the court compel a company to take some form of action. Typically the action sought is for the company to recourse or action against another shareholder or director it otherwise would not seek such recourse or action against.

Recently the Supreme Court of Canada in 2538520 Ontario Ltd. v. Eastern Platinum Limited, 2021 CanLII 44590 (SCC) rejected an appeal from the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision and, in so doing, left the appeal judgment, 2020 BCCA 313 (CanLII) as a strong, recent authority on derivative actions in British Columbia.

The underlying dispute in the litigation concerned a shareholder, described as “253” seeking leave to commence a derivative action on behalf of a company, described as “EPL”, against past and present directors and officers for breaches of fiduciary duty related to such directors’ and officers’ roles in causing EPL to enter into a framework agreement and related transactions with a company described as “Union Goal” concerning mining operations in South Africa. 253’s complaints centered on what it said was a failure of EPL to conduct due diligence and to enter into agreements 253 alleged would result in costs exceeding the benefit that such agreements could yield.

There was significant procedural wrangling at the trial level, but the trial judge and Court of Appeal did not turn their decisions on such issues.

In its analysis the Court of Appeal began by citing the provisions of the Business Corporations Act which concern derivative actions, ss. 232 and 233(1):

232   (1)In this section and section 233,

“complainant” means, in relation to a company, a shareholder or director of the company;

“shareholder” has the same meaning as in section 1 (1) and includes a beneficial owner of a share of the company and any other person whom the court considers to be an appropriate person to make an application under this section.

(2)A complainant may, with leave of the court, prosecute a legal proceeding in the name and on behalf of a company

(a)to enforce a right, duty or obligation owed to the company that could be enforced by the company itself, or

(b)to obtain damages for any breach of a right, duty or obligation referred to in paragraph (a) of this subsection.

(3)Subsection (2) applies whether the right, duty or obligation arises under this Act or otherwise.

(4)With leave of the court, a complainant may, in the name and on behalf of a company, defend a legal proceeding brought against the company.

233   (1)The court may grant leave under section 232 (2) or (4), on terms it considers appropriate, if

(a)the complainant has made reasonable efforts to cause the directors of the company to prosecute or defend the legal proceeding,

(b)notice of the application for leave has been given to the company and to any other person the court may order,

(c)the complainant is acting in good faith, and

(d)it appears to the court that it is in the best interests of the company for the legal proceeding to be prosecuted or defended.

The Court of Appeal went on to detail the requirement that the party seeking a derivative action, the complainant, must be acting in good faith. This requirement is based on the notion that the primary purpose of a derivative action must be for the company (not the complainant). The complainant has the burden of proving this good faith. The court can accept a complaint’s assertion that the derivative action is sought in good faith, but that is not determinative. Without the court finding that a derivative action is sought in good faith, a derivative action will not be permitted.

The Court of Appeal next explored the best interests requirement, which requires the court to consider whether the best interests of the company, not the complainant, lie with prosecuting the proposed action. A significant consideration is whether the proposed action is likely to succeed or bound to fail. There needs to be a properly proposed legal and factual basis for the proposed action and indication that it has a reasonable prospect of success. Whether the proposed action is worthwhile is a further consideration.

Even if the good faith and best interests tests are met, the court retains discretion whether it will grant leave to commence a derivative action.

In applying this analysis, the Court of Appeal found that the trial judge did take the views of 253’s principal on the merits of the proposed derivative action into account in his good faith analysis. It was the ulterior motives of 253’s principal that were of concern. It was not enough for there to be some belief in the merits of the proposed action, the good faith requirement was focused on the primary purpose of the proposed action to be for the benefit of the company.

253’s principal was not frank with the court that he had made considerable efforts to partner with a third party to seek a controlling interest in EPL and seek to purchase chrome offtake from OPL unsuccessfully. The trial judge found the proposed derivative action was motivated by 253’s principal unsuccessful takeover bid or to obtain retribution for such failure. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge had evidentiary basis to reject the proposed derivative action on the basis of ulterior motives for the proposed action.

The Court of Appeal affirmed that the good faith test is not subsumed by the best interest test. A proposed action can benefit a shareholder individually, but that could only coincide with the best interests of a company so far as the requirements of a derivative action were concerned. There was no clearly articulated or apparently factual basis for the proposed derivative action, being based on breaches of fiduciary duties which breaches were not detailed, supported or described.

A party considering pursuing a derivative action should consider reviewing 2538520 Ontario Ltd. v. Eastern Platinum Limited, 2021 CanLII 44590 (SCC) and considering the lengthy and well-detailed explanations of the various requirements for such an application to succeed.

British Columbia recently passed legislation requiring employers to provide employees with two new separate paid leaves:

  • Three paid days of leave for absences due to COVID-19; and
  • Paid sick leave for an undetermined number of days.

The paid COVID leave came into force on May 20, 2021 and expires on December 31, 2021. The paid sick leave comes into force on January 1, 2022, and has no expiry date.

Three Days of Paid COVID Leave

The British Columbia Employment Standards Act was amended last year to provide unpaid job protection leaves to individuals unable to work as a result of COVID-19. The criteria to qualify for the unpaid leave are fairly broad, and include the need to provide care to an eligible person for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure. The criteria to qualify for a paid COVID leave are narrower. Employees are entitled to a paid COVID leave where:

  • the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with public health direction; or
  • the employer, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others, has directed the employee not to work.

Employees who satisfy the above criteria are entitled to three days of paid leave consisting of their average day’s wages. The government will reimburse employers who do not currently have a paid sick leave policy up to $200 per day for each employee on leave.

This paid leave is only available to individuals who cannot work due to the reasons enumerated above. For example, it does not apply to individuals who cannot work due to childcare responsibilities arising from COVID such as a COVID-related school closure. That said, such individuals may still be entitled to an unpaid leave of absence. Conversely, the paid leave applies to individuals self-isolating due to a public health order as they await a COVID test result. The government has said that the purpose of the leave is to financially “bridge the gap” between when employees first become aware of a potential illness and when they can access the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit, thus encouraging employees not to attend work while ill.

Permanent Paid Sick Leave

Employees will be entitled to an unknown number of paid sick days beginning January 1, 2022. The legislation introducing this paid leave is relatively sparse. The provincial government passed legislation last year entitling employees to three unpaid sick days. The number of paid sick days will be finalized following consultation with the business community, labour organizations and Indigenous partners.

A recent interesting court decision came out last week from the B.C. Supreme Court: Han v. Dorje 2021 BCSC 939.  The facts of the case are interesting in that the parties never lived physically together although the Claimant, Ms. Han alleges that she has a child with Mr. Dorje arising from a sexual assault which she alleges occurred in October of 2017.

Mr. Dorje is the high lama of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism and he travels the world teaching Tibetan Buddhists Dharma and hosting ceremonies in which Buddhists express their gratitude and devotion to Buddha.

Ms. Han was originally seeking child support for the child that she says is Mr. Dorje’s biological child and she recently applied to amend her claim and add in a claim for spousal support.

This case examines the law on unmarried couples and when they are considered spouses under the BC legislation, the Family Law Act. 

In order to apply for spousal support, Ms. Han must prove that they lived together in a spousal relationship and had a child together.  If the parties did not have a child together, then she would need to prove they lived together in a spousal relationship for a minimum of a two year time period.

Master Elwood goes through the various cases on unmarried couples living in marriage like relationships and determines that while the facts of this case do not fit into most of the factors, he confirms that the Court should not consider them on a checklist basis and should look at it holistically.  He quotes from several cases throughout the country, including a 2003 Saskatchewan: Yikiwchuk v. Oaks 2003 SK QB 124 where Mr. Justice Myers states:

“It is this variation in the way human beings structure their relationships that make the determination of when a “spousal relationship” exists difficult to determine. With married couples, the relationship is easy to establish. The marriage ceremony is a public declaration of their commitment and intent. Relationships outside marriage are much more difficult to ascertain.”

The Master goes on to quote from a BC Court of Appeal case, Weber v. Leclerc, 2015 BCCA 492 which states at paragraph 23:

[23]  The parties’ intentions – particularly the expectation that the relationship will be of lengthy, indeterminate duration – may be of importance in determining whether a relationship is “marriage-like”.

The Master in this case did not decide whether or not Ms. Han was in a marriage-like relationship with Mr. Dorje and could therefore claim spousal support.  He was to make a decision on the procedural issue of whether or not Ms. Han could amend her claim to include a claim, at this stage, that they were in a marriage-like relationship and therefore she could claim spousal support.  In order for her to amend the claim at this stage of the proceedings, Ms. Han needed to prove that there was a reasonable claim that the parties were in a marriage like relationship and the Master needed to assume that the facts as alleged by Ms. Han were true in order to make that determination.

The Master ultimately determined that there was a reasonable claim and that it would be up to the trial judge to decide, so allowed Ms. Han to amend her claim.  He did acknowledge that the proposed amendment raises a novel question which is “can a secret relationship that began on-line and never moved into the physical world be like a marriage?” and that Ms. Han’s claim was that they could not be physically together because Mr. Dorje was forbidden by his station and religious beliefs from intimate relationships and marriage and that it will be up to the trial judge to determine. The two factors which the trial judge may find weigh in favour of this being considered a marriage like relationship are the fact that Mr. Dorje provided Ms. Han with large amounts of financial support, during the year that she alleges they were in a marriage like relationship, and that there is text message correspondence between the parties during that year, which the trial judge may find is indicative of an intimate marriage like relationship.

It will be interesting to see ultimate how this case is decided at trial.  If it is determined that there was a marriage like relationship here, it is a further broadening of the types of relationship that can be considered to be marriage like for spousal support purposes and potentially for the purposes of property division as well.

This case is yet another reminder that if you are in an unmarried relationship, it is prudent to clarify the terms of your relationship.  If you want to avoid litigation in the future, a Cohabitation Agreement between you and your partner is always recommended.

The Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) has released a new information brochure for consumers looking to purchase a pre-sale condo. The brochure, called Understanding Pre-Sale Purchases, identifies risks and other information that consumers should be made aware of prior to signing a pre-sale contract. OSRE strongly encourages the developer and legal community to share this resource with pre-sale consumers.

For many consumers, including first-time home buyers, pre-sales are an affordable pathway to home ownership and OSRE is supportive of the efforts of the development community to ensure consumers are informed of their rights and responsibilities when signing a pre-sale contract.

OSRE receives numerous enquiries each month from purchasers related to pre-sale purchase agreements. Consumers thinking about purchasing a pre-sale condo need to make an informed decision and understand their rights and obligations when signing a pre-sale contract. This brochure is intended to help prepare them for this significant decision.

In the coming weeks, OSRE will be working with the Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) to promote the usage of this brochure by licensed real estate agents. OSRE and RECBC will also be promoting the brochure through social media channels and as part of RECBC’s ongoing consumer awareness campaign in response to current market conditions.

There are a number of important considerations which arise where an estate planning client holds shares in a company including legal, tax and financial considerations.  This article is intended as an overview of some of these matters and is by no means exhaustive.  It is very important to get specific legal and tax advice to ensure that your wishes will be achieved and in the best possible way.

One tool available to a shareholder in the estate planning process is called an “estate freeze”.  This tool is intended to limit the capital gains tax payable by the Estate on the death of the shareholder (“Shareholder A”).  In many cases, this is beneficial where the value of the shares held by Shareholder A is likely to significantly increase prior to the death of Shareholder A.  In essence, the purpose of the estate freeze is to lock in the value of the company as of a certain date.  This is achieved by a share exchange whereby Shareholder A will exchange their shares for a different class of preferred shares with a fixed value.  Going forward, new shareholders in the company (whether they be individual family members or a family trust) will have any appreciation in the value of the company flow to them rather than Shareholder A, thereby limiting the capital gains tax that the Estate may be exposed to on the death of Shareholder A.  This is a very brief summary of what can be a fairly complicated process involving accounting and legal advice.

Another issue that often arises in the course of considering a shareholder’s estate plan is the question of who will take over the operation of the business once the shareholder passes away.  There are a number of ways of arranging the transfer of shares to meet the testator’s wishes.  In some cases, the testator will have a child or other family member who will be taking over the business.  In others, the testator will want the company to be sold and the proceeds from the sale to be available for distribution to the beneficiaries.  Specific matters that need to be considered is who the voting shares in the company will be transferred to (as they will be entitled to vote on the composition of the board of directors to run the company) as well as when the testator wants their chosen successor (if there is one) to receive the shares in the company.

In many cases, a shareholders’ agreement for the company in which the testator holds shares may impact the transfer of the testator’s shares on their death.  The shareholders’ agreement and the articles of the company should be reviewed carefully in the course of establishing the estate plan.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

Whenever parties fail to fully document the contractual agreement between them, the risk of litigation is heightened given the lack of prescribed remedies and consequences in addition to the wide spectrum of issues that may come down to “he said, she said”. In the recent decision of Hodder Construction (1993) Ltd. v Topolnisky, 2021 BCSC 666 (CanLII) (“Hodder”) the Court was called upon to adjudicate a myriad of issues that can arise in both a collapsing construction project and where there is no formal contract at the heart of the dispute.

In Hodder, the plaintiff contractor had been retained to act as a general contractor for a specially designed steel-frame home for the defendant property owner. The project was commenced without a written agreement and ran into several issues including the head architect eventually leaving the project and a stop work order being issued as a result. Disputes arose between the contractor and owner because of the owner refusing to pay the contractor’s invoices and questioning the billing practices of the contractor.

The total amount of the invoices issued was $854,400 of which the owner paid $495,000. The contractor stopped working when payment was being refused and liened the property. The owner retained another general contractor to finish the work and paid it another $635,000 including $131,094 alleged to be work within the scope of the work the plaintiff contractor invoiced. The owner also alleged the contractor’s invoicing was in violation of an agreed-upon maximum cost of $850,000. The contractor sued for its unpaid invoices based on both contract and quantum meruit (the concept of being paid the fair value of your work) and the owner countersued for the amount she said she wrongfully paid the contractor, breach of contract and negligent representation.

In analyzing whether the parties reached a binding contract, the court held that such a finding was dependent on finding there had been a consensus ad item or meeting of the minds, which, in turn, required an analysis of the expressions of intent of the parties.

The court did not have difficulty finding that the parties had agreed for the plaintiff to act as a general contractor for the construction of a home, but that was not enough to find that a contract had been formed. The court found that “fixed price” documents exchanged were not signed and were produced for the purposes of obtaining construction financing. The full scope of the contract’s work and the cost consequences of work being removed from that scope were not spelled out. There was no clear completion date agreed upon. There was no clear agreement on the amount the contractor would be paid for its work once complete.

Ultimately, the court found that there was no enforceable contract between the parties. The lack of any clear agreement on the contract price or remuneration caused no contract to be formed.

In the absence of a binding contract, the court then went on to analyze how the contractor’s claims for payment and the owner’s counterclaims for overpayment and costs to complete the work should be adjudicated.

The court held firstly that it is possible that estimates the contractor gave could be given contractual effect, setting a limit beyond which its charges could not go. The court further detailed that this legal concept is tempered by the uncertainty inherent in construction work and that even an estimate found to have binding legal effect must treated with leeway.

While the court found that there was no contract and, as such, there could be no contractual effect for any representations the contractor made to the owner, there existed a quasi-contractual relationship between the parties supporting the notion that a reasonably informed estimate provided by an experienced builder and relied upon to an owner’s detriment could have legal effect. The court went on to cite the law that such effect made be found where:

  1. a special relationship between the parties existed;
  2. a false, inaccurate, or misleading representation was given by one party to the other;
  3. there was negligence in making the representation,
  4. there was reasonable reliance on the representation; and
  5. detriment occurred as a result of the reliance

The court found that a quasi-contractual relationship existed satisfying the first element. The court rejected the factual underpinnings of arguments about whether representations made were false because the court found that there was conflicting and inconsistent evidence about a construction budget and found that the contractor never agreed to a $850,000 costs cap as alleged by the owner. As the owner failed to meet the second element of the test for negligent misrepresentation, the court concluded its analysis and rejected arguments about misrepresentation.

In determining what the contractor might be owed, the court first discussed that there are a variety of contractual, quasi-contractual and equitable means of determining the amount a contractor may claim which are fact specific in application. At paras. 178 and 179, the court held as follows:

In the case of contractual quantum meruit, the underlying premise is that the parties reached an agreement that included an implied term for reasonable remuneration, without specifying the amount or mechanism for determining remuneration. In such cases, the appropriate monetary award is determined by reference to the “cost of the services, rather than the benefit to their recipient…

In the case of restitutionary quantum meruit, the underlying premise is that the party who provided the services is entitled to be compensated in connection with the opposing party’s unjust enrichment. As an equitable remedy, restitutionary quantum meruit is flexible. Over time, courts have come to assess quantum meruit awards “in various ways, including the cost to the claimant of providing the service, the market value of the benefit, or even the value placed on the benefit by the recipient”:… Thus, the measure of damages has been described variously as “the amount the [claimant] deserves”, “what the job is worth”, “the value of the benefit obtained by the defendant”, “the reasonable market value of the services”, or the “value of the services rendered to the defendant”…

The court made several adjustments to the contractor’s claims including:

  • rejecting the contractor’s claims for rental of its own equipment;
    • the court noted this might be appropriate in cost-plus arrangements, but was not for this sort of quantum meruit claim;
  • the court reduced labour costs;
    • the amounts claimed were increased over the costs incurred and, while the court accepted that there was some justifiable overhead expenses that could be added onto the amounts actually paid, not all such amounts were claimable on a quantum meruit claim;
  • the court rejected markup on materials;
    • again, since a cost-plus arrangement was not agreed to, the court would allowed payment for the contractor’s costs but not an amount on top of that; and
  • the court adjusted a 5% management fee it allowed to harmonize with other adjustments it made to amounts claimed.

In total, the court reduced the amounts claimed as outstanding by the contractor from $359,862.09 to $199,879.16. In that same vein, the contractor was entitled to a builders’ lien for the same amount and the remedies that flowed from same.

The court rejected the owner’s claims for defects and deficiencies finding that such claims were for amounts to complete the work started by the contractor and were not actually defects and deficiencies.

Hodder is a cautionary tale for both contractors and owners.

As the court in Hodder pointed out many times, in a cost-plus arrangement, the contractor might have claimed significant portions of the over $150,000 in claims the court disallowed because it was granting a judgment based on quantum meruit. The contractor may have also been able to realize anticipated profit more easily on incomplete work had the parties had reached a properly detailed contract that would have governed their dealings.

Similarly, the owner might have succeeded in her arguments that construction costs would be capped and may have successfully advanced costs for completing work or for amounts which exceeded the construction cap if she had properly secured a detailed contractual agreement containing such budgetary constraints.

Both parties may have saved significant legal expense by entering a detailed contract even if elements of that contract would have come into dispute anyways. The parties may have significantly reduced the amount of testimony that was required to be given, the need to argue about the meaning and import of tangentially related documents and communications and even number of issues that could reasonably be disputed.

Some related articles I have recently written on similar subject as this one include:

It is a common question: when you lend someone money, they use that money to purchase land and the money is not paid back, can you somehow secure repayment by encumbering title to the land? Clients often ask about whether they can “lien” or tie up real property for their debts and are curious whether there is any means to secure a debt or encumber land before judgment.

With a mortgage or security agreement, generally the means of encumbering land based on an alleged interest in that property is through a certificate of pending litigation or CPL. In BC, the Land Title Act provides that CPLs can be registered against real property by a person who has commenced a proceeding or is a party to a proceeding that has commenced who claims an estate or interest in land or is given a right of action in respect of land by statute. Land with a CPL registered on it prevents other instruments being registered on it or sold or transferred except in specific circumstances.

In the recent decision of Beijing Tian Zi Property Group Trading Ltd. v Jia, 2021 BCSC 423 (CanLII) the Supreme Court tackled questions about when a lender can or cannot seek to register a CPL against the lands of a debtor.

In Beijing Tian, the plaintiff sought to cancel CPLs registered by the defendant against the plaintiff’s lands. The underlying dispute was complex, involving allegations that the defendant misappropriated funds from the plaintiff’s bank account. The defendant alleged that the money taken was authorized and was a partial payment for purchase of his shares and that he was owed a substantial additional amount. The defendant’s position was altered and his pleadings were amended alleging the repayment of a loan related to the taken funds. He alleged he had an equitable interest in the form of a constructive trust over the lands he registered CPLs against.

In its analysis, the Court held that whether the CPLs could be maintained required an examination of the court filings and whether those filings demonstrated the defendant alleged a proper interest in the lands which could support a valid CPL. The Court stated at para. 16 that “The key issue in this case is whether [the defendant’s] pleadings are capable of giving rise to an interest in land.”

The Court held that the defendant’s claims were based on the funds he allegedly lent to the plaintiff being used to acquire, preserve, maintain and improve the subject lands. The defendant alleged he performed work on the lands and maintained and cared for them.

The court at paras. 26 and 28 cited the following passages from Nouhi v. Pourtaghi2019 BCSC 794:

A party seeking either type of constructive trust must satisfy two criteria, in addition to the cause of action or circumstances on which the remedial or substantive constructive trust is based. The first is that there must be referential property, i.e. the plaintiff must demonstrate a substantial and direct link, a causal connection or a nexus between the claim and the property upon which the remedial constructive trust is to be impressed… The second is that the plaintiff must demonstrate that a monetary award is inadequate, insufficient or inappropriate in the circumstances…

[An application to strike a CPL] requires the court to determine whether the pleadings disclose a claim to an interest in land so as to support a certificate of pending litigation. …[T]he party who filed the certificate of pending litigation may not maintain the certificate when the pleadings were inadequate to disclose a claim to an interest in land at the time the certificate was filed. If the pleadings were not adequate when the certificate was filed, the certificate was never valid and is immediately cancelled… In such a case, the plaintiff can seek to amend the pleadings and then file a valid certificate of pending litigation in the event that the amended pleadings disclose a claim to an interest in the land… [citations omitted].

In completing its analysis, the Court determined that the defendant’s claim failed to give rise to an interest in land. There was no direct link, causal connection or nexus between the claim and impugned lands to give rise to a remedial constructive trust. Pleadings were insufficient to support the notion that a monetary judgment would be inadequate, insufficient or inappropriate, which the court found was necessary to permit the CPLs to continue.

The Court found that ultimately the defendant’s claim was one seeking a monetary judgment. There was no connection between the funds alleged to be loaned and the lands. Providing a loan where the funds lent might be used to purchase property does not, in and of itself, establish an interest in land.

The Court was clear that the defendant could seek to amend his pleadings to properly allege an action supporting a CPL, if such basis existed.

Beijing Tian is an important reminder that simply because someone might owe another person money does not mean that there is any ability of the creditor to encumber lands owned by the debtor prior to judgment. Whether the funds lent were used to purchase lands can be immaterial. There can be circumstances in which lent funds could give rise to a valid CPL, but generally not in the situation of a basic loan. Further, a party wishing to secure loaned funds should avoid any arguments about the validity of any CPL it might later file by properly drafting and having a debtor execute security agreements and/or a mortgage.

It is notable that Pre-judgment garnishment can also be considered as a means to effectively secure a debt claim before judgment, but does require knowledge of the debtor’s banking information and/or other financial affairs to be successful.

Leaving a charitable donation in your Will can be a wonderful way to benefit a charity that has meant a great deal to you during your lifetime. It gives the testator a really ‘feel good’ last word, and an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for all the great work that charities do for our community.

There are many different types of assets that can be donated. If your Estate will have cash, you can simply donate a sum of money to your favourite charity. It is also possible to donate your registered accounts like RRSPs, life insurance proceeds or personally held assets.

There are several reasons that people decide to make a charitable bequest:

  • Helping others – We all have an innate desire to help others. This is, of course, the main reason we give to charities during our lifetimes. A Will can ensure you keep giving after your death.
  • Tax Benefits – Your estate can reduce taxes that may be payable by making a charitable donation. You should talk to your Accountant for more information about this, during your Estate Planning process.
  • Leaving a legacy – Some charities will remember their donors by engraving their name on to a plaque, painting, wall or other object. This can leave you with a positive legacy and help console your bereaved loved ones. It may be somewhere they can visit and derive comfort from.

There are also different types of bequests that can be drafted into your Will, depending on what you wish to achieve with your charitable gift:

  • Specific Bequest: You can designate a specific dollar amount or piece of property, such as real estate, stocks, bonds or works of art, for example: “ I give the sum of $X.XX (or description of other property) to XXX to be used for such of the objects and purposes as the Board of Directors shall from time to time determine.
  • Residual Bequest: You can donate all or a portion of your estate to the charity after all your debts, taxes, expenses and other bequests have been paid “ I give the residue of my estate (or percentage of the residue of my estate) to XXX to be used for such of the objects and purposes as the Board of Directors shall from time to time determine.
  • Contingent Bequest: Your gift takes effect only if the primary intentions cannot be met (sometimes called the ‘disaster clause’). “ If neither (name of primary beneficiary) nor (name of alternate beneficiary) survives me for 30 days, then I give (describe amount of cash, property, percentage of residue or other gift) to XXX to be used for such of the objects and purposes as the Board of Directors shall from time to time determine.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

I recently attended a Continuing Legal Education Society of BC presentation about the significant changes coming to the Provincial Court Family Rules and forms effective May 17, 2021.  Below is a brief summary of some of what I learned.

There are 13 parts to the rules.  The first part deals with the purpose and interpretation of the rules which generally is to encourage resolution by agreement, and to resolve matters in a just and timely way proportionate to the issues at hand.

New defined terms include Family Law Matter, Priority Parenting Matter, and Case Management Order.

Family Law Matters includes issues about parenting arrangements, child and spousal support, guardianship of a child, and contact with a child.  The Provincial Court does not deal with divorce or division of family property.

Priority Parenting Matters include issues concerning the health of a child, applications for passports, etc., permission to travel, etc., changing a child’s residence, orders to prevent removal of a child from BC, among other serious matters.  As the name suggests, these issues will likely be given priority treatment.

Case Management Orders are available to deal with issues of a procedural or administrative nature like transferring files, document disclosure, conduct orders, expert reports, etc.  The orders can be made at any time in a case and are designed to manage the case and move it forward to resolution.  Often, no court appearance will be necessary.

Applications for Case Management Orders replaces the previous notice of motion, and require seven days notice unless the court directs otherwise.  The applications can be brought at any time and the forms are specific to the issues.  There are specific forms for protection orders, priority parenting matters, case management, prohibiting relocation, and enforcement.

How a case proceeds depends on the registry, and the rules direct in which registry to start or continue a case.  The Kelowna Provincial Court is a designated Family Justice Registry which requires a litigant to participate in a needs assessment with a Family Justice Counsellor, and complete an online parenting education program before filing their court application.  Also offered is the opportunity to utilize a voluntary consensual dispute resolution process.

Forms have been totally revamped and are expected to be much easier to follow and complete.  An online guidebook will be available.  The forms are generally in the first-person format with questions requiring answers, and are specific to the issues at hand often including schedules.  They are designed to give litigants the opportunity to tell their story in a meaningful way and collects the necessary information to allow for informed decisions while avoiding duplicity of claims.

Family Management Conferences are also new, and replace first appearances.  The conference is informal and time limited.  It is designed to help litigants identify the issues, explore options, make consent orders if agreement, manage the case and direct the next steps, and make interim orders to address needs until final resolution.  The conference is recorded and evidence can be provided.  The conferences are expected to reduce the number of interim orders required before trial proceeds.  If a person does not appear at a conference, then the court can proceed to make orders in their absence.

There are a number of other important changes to the rules that are not mentioned above, and it will likely take some time for the ‘dust to settle’ before the new rules can be evaluated, but they are expected to make it easier to access justice.

If you require assistance with the new Provincial Court Family Rules then contact one of the family lawyers at Pushor Mitchell LLP.

Patrick has been practising Family Law since 1996.  First in Prince George, then in Ontario, and now in Kelowna with Pushor Mitchell LLP as associate counsel.  He can be contacted at gaffney@pushormitchell.com, or 250.869.1164.

It’s well known that drinking and driving is linked to a high risk of causing a car crash.

UBC Medial Relations has an article on a new UBC study that concludes that many common prescription medications pose a risk of causing a car crash.

  • taking common prescription medications like sleeping pills, opioids and medication used to treat anxiety and depression also poses a risk, a new UBC study of millions of drivers finds.
  • drivers prescribed sedating antipsychotics have a 35 per cent increased risk of causing a road collision.
  • people on commonly prescribed benzodiazepines (like Valium or Xanax) increase their risk by 25 to 30 per cent.
  • high-potency opioids such as morphine showed a 24 per cent increased risk of road collisions.

Dr. Jeff Brubacher, an associate professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine, says these results indicate a need for more caution among drivers taking medications, and specific advice from physicians who prescribe them.

Although standard advice recommends not driving if you feel drowsy, a lack of symptoms does not mean drivers are not at risk.  “Even if you feel safe to drive, you’re still at a modestly increased risk of up to 35 per cent, which is nothing to ignore,” he says.  “I don’t want to give advice that you just absolutely shouldn’t be driving when you take these medications, but there has to be a lot of caution if you do choose to drive, especially if you are feeling at all drowsy.”

No evidence of tolerance

The researchers studied prescription records and motor vehicle collisions over a 20-year period in B.C. This included almost five million drivers, over 131 million prescriptions and over 600,000 collisions from Jan. 1, 1997 to Dec. 31, 2016.

The study analyzed police reports to determine which drivers were responsible for crashes, and then compared the risk between drivers with active prescriptions and those without any prescriptions.

They also assessed whether tolerance might play a factor.  People with a new prescription (less than 30 days) and people with an established prescription (more than 30 days) turned out to have similar risk.

“People taking these medications on a long-term basis might think they are tolerant to it and are safe to drive,” Dr. Brubacher says. “But in reality, the risk of causing road collisions goes up in these groups of people and it stays up even with time.”

Brubacher also warns that risk increases when drivers take several prescription medications at the same time, or if they mix their medications with alcohol.

Specific messaging needed

The findings can further guide prescription choices and warnings on medication labels, and inform public education campaigns targeting impaired driving, Dr. Brubacher said.  “If almost every medication is dispensed with a warning not to drive, then that messaging loses its effect,” he says. “We can maybe be a little bit more selective and specific in our warnings.”

The study proposes that clinicians who prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines should regularly counsel patients on the risks of driving while using these medications, even for patients who have been on the medications for a long time.

This study was published Monday in Lancet Public Health.

Paul Mitchell, Q.C. is a BC personal injury lawyer who is a Past Member of the Board of Governors of the BC Trial Lawyers Association.  He has extensive experience with severe injury claims, including brain injury claims, spinal injury claims, bicycle claims, death claims, ICBC claims, medical malpractice, and other catastrophic injury claims.  He acts for injured clients all over BC and Alberta, and will not act for ICBC or any other insurance company.

Contact Paul Mitchell, Q.C. at 250-869-1115 (direct line), or send him a confidential email amitchell@pushormitchell.com.

The amendments to the federal Divorce Act came into force March 1, 2021 which marked long overdue changes to a piece of legislation that has not been significantly amended in more than thirty years.

The change that I believe will impact the most on a day-to-day basis in my capacity as a family lawyer was finally getting rid of the terminology of custody and access. British Columbia brought in its current family law legislation in 2013 and was ahead of the times in the shift away from this language. It’s about time that now the federal legislation has followed suit.

A change in language may not seem like a significant change, however unfortunately good old custody has become quite the albatross in dealing with parties going through separation in crafting their parenting plans. The words “custody” and “access” has over time become both emotionally loaded and meaningless.
When a new client comes through the door and declares that they want “sole custody!” I always ask, “What does that mean to you?” Usually they do not have a clear idea of what it means but somehow a conception that in achieving sole custody they are deigned to be the most important or better parent, or the one who will have the final say in parenting disputes.

I try and reframe the conversation with more neutral language of putting in place a parenting plan that is focused on what will work the best for their kids instead of equating their worth as parents on a perplexing label. Now, both the Divorce Act and our provincial legislation in British Columbia have language that is helpful in reframing this conversation and I can just tell clients, “We don’t use that word or concept anymore.”

“Parenting time,” as opposed to custody, focuses on the parent-child relationship and a consideration of what the plan will be for the child (i.e., how much time they will spend with their child in their care and what will that plan look like). Words are powerful and shape the way we think about our relationships.

My other favourite part of the new legislation is the emphasis on family dispute resolution processes. It represents the results of a discussion that has been happening in the family bar and in the culture more generally to broaden the context and view on how we resolve disputes for families. Family dispute resolution used to be called “alternative dispute resolution” and was seen as the alternative to court, with the court process as the default. I believe we are now on our way to seeing court options as the alternative in family disputes, particularly in parenting disputes and where there are children involved. The old Act did have reference to a lawyer’s duty to have this discussion with their client, however, it was much less specific or exhaustive and simply referenced mediation and negotiation. Now collaborative law has been added in and recognized as a viable option for resolution.

It remains to be seen how much difference these two changes will make in the way we practise as family lawyers and in the way the broader culture supports families going through the transition of a separation. However, it is a long overdue and positive step to recognizing that these difficult issues should be approached through a child-centred lens.

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

Leneigh Bosdet is a partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna, B.C. and practises exclusively in family law. She has an emphasis in her practice on out of court resolution. Bosdet is the chair of the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group and is the 2020-2021 president of the Okanagan family law section of the B.C. bar association.

Sir Richard Branson leads this worldwide initiative to end the death penalty.

A global group of executives, supported by the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, is launching the Business Leaders’ Declaration Against the Death Penalty, calling on governments everywhere to end the practice, and asking their peers to join them. The declaration seeks to build a global movement of like-minded leaders committed to the cause of abolition.

Sir Richard Branson is quoted in a Fast Company article:

“I am of the opinion that the death penalty is inhumane and barbaric. Study after study has shown that it has failed to deter or reduce crime. It is also disproportionately used against minorities and other vulnerable and marginalized groups. Virginia Delegate Jay Jones, speaking just prior to his state’s historic vote, called it a “direct descendant of lynching.” It’s true. The death penalty can no longer hide its rotten roots: The world over, it has been an instrument of racism, oppression, and intimidation.

From a fiscal point of view, capital punishment cases are often prohibitively expensive, especially when compared to the cost of a life sentence. Under any circumstances, it is an enormous waste of public funds—not just in the U.S., but also in other countries where large numbers of people languish on death row, only to be released a decade or more later as courts acknowledge that charges were trumped up and never warranted a death sentence in the first place.

Most important, perhaps, capital punishment is terrifyingly prone to error. In the U.S., for every nine people executed, one person has been exonerated. Since 1976, 185 innocent people have been freed from U.S. death rows. That’s far more than just a shocking statistic. It’s 185 personal stories of needless suffering, agony, and injustice. Bryan Stevenson, a brilliant champion of criminal justice and human rights, once compared this rate of error to the safety record of an airline.

Against this backdrop, today’s business mobilization against the death penalty shouldn’t come as a surprise. The heightened attention to corporate sustainability over the last three decades has raised expectations of business as a driver of social and environmental progress. But getting your own house in order, tackling material challenges like climate or human rights issues in supply chains, is no longer enough. Increasingly, consumers, employers, and investors expect businesses and their leaders to take a stand on critical issues of our time. If business can lobby for its own good, the argument goes, it must also be a lobbyist for the greater good of humanity.

In the case of the death penalty, the business case for engagement is blindingly obvious. As a biased and inherently unjust form of punishment, it runs counter to the ideals of good governance, social cohesion, transparency, and fairness—all factors considered critical to long-term business success. Where governments hide or obscure the origin of lethal injection drugs, for instance, businesses have good reason to wonder about commitments to private contracts. Where people of color and the poor are far more likely to be caught up in a vicious and deadly cycle, business should raise concern about the rule of law and equal justice. And where precious public resources are wasted on the relentless pursuit of executions, rather than invested in schools, quality healthcare, social services, and infrastructure, business must vocally call into question government priorities.

I believe that business leaders must strive to hold up their end of a social contract that entrusts us with great leverage to grow and succeed.

Sir Richard Branson is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the founder of the Virgin Group.

So in summary:

  • The death penalty system is applied in an unfair and unjust manner against people, largely dependent on how much money they have, the skill of their attorneys, race of the victim and where the crime took place.  People of color and minority groups are far more likely to be executed than white people, especially if the victim is white.
  • The death penalty is a waste of taxpayer funds and has no public safety benefit. The vast majority of law enforcement professionals surveyed agree that capital punishment does not deter violent crime; a survey of police chiefs nationwide found they rank the death penalty lowest among ways to reduce violent crime.  They ranked increasing the number of police officers, reducing drug abuse, and creating a better economy with more jobs higher than the death penalty as the best ways to reduce violence.  The FBI has found the states with the death penalty have the highest murder rates.
  • Innocent people are too often sentenced to death.  Since 1973, over 156 people have been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence.  Nationally, at least one person is exonerated for every 10 that are executed.
  • Statistics also show that the death penalty often results in jurors being more reluctant to find guilt, and results in more guilty offenders being acquitted, and back on the streets.

To learn more about the Business Leaders’ Declaration Against the Death Penalty, visit businessagainstdeathpenalty.org.

Paul Mitchell, Q.C. is a BC personal injury lawyer who is a Past Member of the Board of Governors of the BC Trial Lawyers Association. He has extensive experience with severe injury claims, including brain injury claims, spinal injury claims, bicycle claims, death claims, ICBC claims, medical malpractice, and other catastrophic injury claims. He acts for injured clients all over BC and Alberta, and will not act for ICBC or any other insurance company.

Contact Paul Mitchell, Q.C. at 250-869-1115 (direct line), or send him a confidential email at mitchell@pushormitchell.com.

Most people are aware that they are supposed to shovel the sidewalk in front of their house after a snowfall. Many people are aware of what time their municipality expects them to do so. The recent decision of Der v. Zhao, 2021 BCCA 82 (CanLII) explored the legal principles related to the obligations of residential owners to clear the sidewalk in front of their houses and what risks are created when a person slips on a sidewalk in front of someone’s house.

In the Der v. Zhao decision, the Plaintiff, Mr. Der, was injured when he slipped on black ice in front of the Defendants’ home. The sidewalk had been cleared, but black ice had formed on a sloped section of the sidewalk allowing for wheelchair access. When Mr. Der stepped on that sloped portion, he did not see the black ice and he fell backwards, striking his head and causing serious injury. The Defendants had cleaned the sidewalk after a snowfall two days earlier including salting the sidewalk in the morning of the accident.

As in most if not all municipalities, the City of Burnaby (where the accident occurred) had a bylaw requiring a property owner to clear a sidewalk of snow and ice by 10 a.m. each morning.

At trial, Mr. Der conceded that whether the Defendants had breached the bylaw did not make them liable to him for using their sidewalk. He also agreed that the Defendants were not occupiers of the sidewalk meaning they could not be held liable further to the Occupiers Liability Act. He also conceded that no duty of care was owed by a residential property owner to clear their sidewalk of snow and ice. Instead, Mr. Der tried to argue a novel duty of care resulting from the Defendants failing in their attempt to clear snow and/or ice prior to the accident thereby created a hazardous, slippery sidewalk that was not visible to a reasonable person in Mr. Der’s circumstances. Put succinctly, he sued for a negligent attempt to clear the sidewalk.

The trial court rejected Mr. Der’s positions finding that “It is not reasonable to interpret an attempt to comply with a bylaw as a voluntary undertaking to the City to maintain the sidewalk and resolve dangers that later form on it.” The trial judge refused to recognize a new duty of care noting that “To agree that homeowners owe no duty to users of the sidewalk to maintain it, but argue that failing to act to the appropriate standard in doing so can create a duty of care, is contrary to basic negligence principles in that it conflates concepts of duty of care with standard of care. It is circular reasoning.”

On appeal, Mr. Der abandoned arguments about a novel duty of care arising from the negligent undertaking of the sidewalk clearly. Instead, he changed his position and argued that there was a duty of care by residential homeowners to clear adjacent municipal sidewalks. Mr. Der contended that the trial judge erred by asking whether a reasonable person in the position of the Defendants would have foreseen that their actions would risk danger.

The Court of Appeal in its analysis first turned to the most basic principles which establish liability, known as the Anns/Cooper analysis. That analysis as cited by the Court is:

  • Does a sufficiently analogous precedent exist that definitively found the existence or non-existence of a duty of care in these circumstances;

If not;

  • Was the harm suffered by the plaintiff reasonably foreseeable;

If yes;

  • Was there a relationship of sufficient proximity between the plaintiff and the defendant such that it would be just to impose a duty of care in these circumstances;

If yes, a prima facie duty arises;

  • Are there any residual policy reasons for negating the prima facieduty of care established in question/step 3, aside from any policy considerations that arise naturally out of a consideration of proximity.

If not, then a novel duty of care is found to exist.

Applying these factors, they Court found as follows.

1) Sufficiently Analogous Precedent

The Court reviewed several previous cases and concluded that:

…[A] property owner owes no duty of care at common law to pedestrians to clear adjacent sidewalks of snow and ice. In most of the cases, this conclusion has been reached in circumstances where a municipal bylaw imposed an obligation on the property owner to remove snow or ice.

The existence of a bylaw requiring a property owner to clear snow and ice does not impose such a duty; courts have repeatedly held that such bylaws may impose penal consequences for non-compliance but not civil liability to third parties.

[I]t is well‑established at common law, through tort and property law principles, that a property owner’s liability for the condition of and activities on his or her property ends at the property boundaries.

2) Foreseeability

The Court had no difficulty finding that the harm suffered by Mr. Der was foreseeable. It a sidewalk is not cleared of snow and ice, someone falling is a clearly foreseeable risk created as a result.

3) Relations of Proximity

The Court noted that there were existing authorities rejected the existence of a duty of care in the same or similar circumstances as Mr. Der which it had to consider. Previous decisions had determined without exception that no proximate relationship exists. The Court noted that a different relationship exists between municipalities and the roads and sidewalks in their ownership and care and the public than exists between residential homeowners, a municipally owned sidewalk and a pedestrian on that sidewalk.

The Court noted that there is a history of courts finding that pedestrians are expected that snow and ice create hazards on sidewalks even when sidewalks are cleared. Such expectations suggest that pedestrians should not rly on adjacent property owners or municipalities to keep sidewalks free from hazards caused by changing winter conditions after a snowfall. It would be unfair for residential property owners to constantly monitor changing weather conditions and check for and clear all hazards which are dynamically created as a result.

Ultimately, the Court was able to find that no duty of care was owed to Mr. Der and, as such, he could not successfully sue because no relationship of proximity existed.


Der v. Zhao is a good reminder to the public that sometimes accidents are just accidents and that, even when foreseeable risk is present and serious injuries have been suffered, there may be no one to sue. Pedestrians must take care to guard their own safety and be aware of risks around them.

Der v. Zhao should not be viewed as asserting that there are no circumstances in which a slip and fall on a sidewalk or elsewhere may result in liability. The Court specifically distinguished municipally owned sidewalks in front of residential property from sidewalks in front of commercial operations where the public is invited to access the business via said sidewalk. The case does not speak to municipally owned and municipally maintained sidewalks or to sidewalks which may be owned and managed as part of the common property of a strata. Lastly, occupiers’ liability can be created as soon as a victim steps off the municipally owned sidewalk onto a residential owner’s walking path or driveway.

In short, pedestrians should take care when walking in the winter. Residential property owners should abide by all obligations to clear municipally owned sidewalks adjacent to their property as required by applicable bylaws but are not responsible to do more by removing all hazards created by dynamically changing weather conditions occurring after snow removal required by bylaws has occurred.

Some important changes to the Worker’s Compensation act have come into effect.

One that could be of particular interest to those workers in receipt of long-term disability benefits is the Board will reconsider decisions made regarding the duration of pensions.  Currently pensions are only payable until age 65 unless at the time that the pension is granted the worker can prove that he or she was intending to work beyond age 65.  For all intents and purposes that was an impossible test for most workers. How would a 40-year-old know when he was going to retire?

Under the new rules anyone having been granted a pension before they reach age 63 provided that they make an application before they reach the age 65.  The board will decide whether pension extensions will be granted based on some of the following factors:

  • names of the employer or employers the worker intends to work for after age 65, a description of the type of employment the worker is going to perform, the expected duration of employment, and information from the identified employer or employers to confirm that the employer(s) intends to employ the worker after the worker reached age 65 and that employment is available;
  • a statement from a bank or financial institution outlining a financial plan and post-age 65 retirement date;
  • an accountant’s statement verifying a long-term business plan (for self- employed workers), indicating continuation of work beyond age 65;
  • information provided from the worker’s employer, union or professional association regarding the normal retirement age for workers in the same occupation and whether there are incentive plans for workers working beyond age 65;
  • information from the employer about whether the worker is covered under a pension plan provided by the employer, and the terms of that plan;
  • information regarding whether the worker has the capacity to perform the work;
  • financial obligations of the worker, such as a mortgage or other debts;
  • family commitments and/or circumstances of the worker; and
  • an outstanding lease on a commercial vehicle (for self-employed workers).

Another important change increases the amount of compensation payable to workers as a result of the increase in the maximum assessable earning rate to $100,000 from $87,100 in 2020.  This change puts BC roughly on par with Alberta and Ontario but below Manitoba’s $127,000.

COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace

As COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available, employers have lots of questions about how vaccines will impact their workplace. This article addresses some of the important issues at play before providing answers to some frequently asked questions about vaccinations and the workplace. That said, the rules and regulations around COVID-19 are fluid and ever-changing. While jurisdictions across Canada have similar rules and regulations, every jurisdiction is different. Employers are encouraged to review the most up to date information from public health officers.

Issues at Play

Vaccinations in the workplace engage many different areas of law including privacy, human rights, and occupational health and safety. It is important to discuss legal principles because they provide the foundation for what employers can (and cannot) do in the workplace.

Human rights are protected by legislation in every jurisdiction in Canada. They are quasi-constitutional which means that they generally take precedent over other legislation. Human rights legislation prohibits discrimination based on protected grounds. Mandatory vaccination policies engage the following protected grounds: religion (e.g., certain religions oppose vaccinations), mental disability (e.g., some individuals have medically-recognized needle phobias) and physical disability (e.g., some individuals are prone to allergic reactions resulting from vaccination). Individuals with a protected ground must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship.

Employee privacy rights are similarly protected in every jurisdiction in Canada. The hallmarks of privacy legislation are consent, reasonableness and proportionality. In short, an organization must not collect, use or disclose personal information about an employee without the consent of the individual or unless permitted by statute. But, even with consent, there are limits on what can be collected. The information requested by an employer must be proportional to the necessity of the information. Information must be collected in the least intrusive way possible. We see this principle play out in accommodation cases where an employee takes time off for a medical leave. The employer is entitled to receive the employee’s prognosis (i.e., the timeline for getting better) but not the diagnosis (i.e., the actual illness causing the absence). We also see this principle in random drug testing cases where the Supreme Court of Canada has held that random drug testing is generally not permissible even in safety sensitive environments because it is an unreasonable intrusion into an employee’s privacy.

With respect to occupational health and safety, every jurisdiction in Canada has distinct rules pertaining to the steps employers must take to ensure the health and safety of workers.

The above are issues that largely protect the interest of employees. But employee rights are not absolute and need to be balanced against workplace safety (including the safety of patients, clients, students and customers) and the legitimate business interests of an organization.

Influenza Vaccination Decisions

Although COVID-19 is novel, the issues underlying mandatory vaccinations are not. Arbitrators in British Columbia and Ontario have dealt with mandatory “vaccination or mask” policies in the health care sector. The decisions pre-date COVID-19 but are useful tools to predict where courts and tribunals will land on the issue of compelling vaccination. However, each case and workplace is unique and caution must be exercised in applying the principles gleaned from these decisions. Policies in the health care sector are subject to the “precautionary principle”, the essence of which being that a policy that otherwise infringes on an individual’s rights may be more justifiable given the heightened risks in health care settings.

The British Columbia health authorities implemented an immunization or mask policy in 2013 for health care workers in situations where there is an influenza outbreak. The union grieved alleging that the policy was unreasonable, discriminatory and contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both parties submitted voluminous amounts of expert evidence on the efficacy of vaccines and masks to prevent the spread of influenza. The arbitrator reviewed the expert evidence and concluded that the policy was reasonable in health care settings as it represented the least intrusive way to ensure patient safety. Notably, the policy did not compel vaccinations. It offered employees a choice: vaccinate or wear a mask. In addition, the collective agreement between the parties expressly permitted the employer to require vaccinations in certain circumstances.

Interestingly, a very similar case was heard by an Ontario arbitrator in 2015. In that decision, a hospital implemented a vaccinate or mask policy similar to the one implemented in the British Columbia decision. The nurses’s union grieved the policy. Again, both parties led a significant amount of expert evidence on the efficacy of vaccines and masks to prevent the spread of influenza. However, the arbitrator came to a completely different decision based on his interpretation of the expert evidence related to the use of masks in reducing the transmission of influenza to patients, and the policy was deemed unreasonable.

There are important distinctions between the influenza policies cited above and COVID-19 policies. First, influenza does not pose the same public safety risks as COVID-19. Second, the influenza decisions dealt with “vaccinate or mask” policies. Employees were offered a choice. In this way, the policies were much less invasive than a COVID-19 policy compelling vaccination.

The two arbitration decisions above also reflect how we anticipate courts and tribunals will deal with the issue of mandatory vaccination policies: courts and tribunals will likely reach different conclusions depending on the circumstances until the appellate courts or Supreme Court of Canada rule on the matter.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vaccines in the Workplace

Q:        Will the Federal or Provincial Governments mandate COVID-19 vaccinations?

A:         No. The Government of Canada and provinces have confirmed that vaccination is not mandatory. While some provinces have legislation permitting mandatory vaccinations generally, no jurisdiction in Canada has confirmed that they intend to enforce such legislation.

Q:        Can an employer compel its employees to get a vaccination?

A:         It is unlikely that employers will be permitted to compel vaccinations in most workplaces: such policies will be deemed an unnecessary intrusion into an individual’s privacy. Courts and tribunals will balance employee rights with workplace safety. Employers who implement a mandatory vaccination policy must be able to explain why occupational health and safety rules (such as physical distancing, working from home, and mask wearing) are not sufficient to protect worker safety and the employer’s legitimate business interests. Employers will also need to accommodate individuals who are unable to receive the vaccination for reasons related to human rights protections. Employers who implement mandatory vaccination policies should exercise caution as they may be liable if an employee develops an adverse reaction upon receiving the vaccine.

Mandatory vaccination policies will likely be more acceptable in industries with increased health or transmission risks, such as long-term care homes, camps and health care settings.

Q:        Will employees need to wear masks in the workplace after vaccination?

A:         This depends on whether occupational health and safety rules and local authorities require masks in the workplace. While (depending on the jurisdiction) masks are not mandatory in all workplaces, they are mandatory in many workplaces, particularly where it is not possible to maintain appropriate social distancing. Occupational health and safety regulations do not currently state that masks will not be required upon vaccination. At some point this will likely change; however, we do not have insight into when. While the efficacy of vaccination appears extremely high, it is still unknown whether vaccinated individuals can act as carriers and transmit the illness to others.

Q:        What can I do as an employer if an employee refuses to wear a mask post-vaccinations?

A:         Employees must follow occupational health & safety guidelines or risk discipline. Employees who are unable to wear a mask due to a protected ground under human rights legislation may require accommodation to the point of undue hardship but accommodation does not necessarily include allowing them to not wear a mask where a mask is required by law.

Q:        Can employees refuse to work with unvaccinated employees under occupational health & safety legislation?

A:         Very unlikely. Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work. However, worker compensation boards require employees who refuse unsafe work to identify how the unsafe work is contrary to occupational health and safety guidelines. Assuming the workplace is following proper occupational health & safety protocols, the workplace is “not unsafe”. In other words, if the workplace was “safe” prior to an employee being able to receive a vaccine, it is still “safe” for occupational health and safety purposes after an employee becomes eligible to receive a vaccine.

Q:        Are employees required to advise employers if they are vaccinated?

A:         If there is a valid vaccinate policy in place (e.g., health care workers), then yes. However, employers will want to take great strides to ensure the information is kept confidential and not disclosed. However, in many workplaces, requiring employees to advise of vaccination will constitute an unreasonable intrusion into an individual’s privacy.

Given the ever-changing landscape and myriad legal issues at play, employers are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice before implementing any vaccination policies.

This article is the first in a series about the intersection of family law and estate planning. In further articles the writer will set out several available planning options to help realize a client’s goals and intentions with respect to family law planning, wealth management and estate planning.

Who is my spouse anyway?

The answer to this question is not always clear and often requires an analysis of the relevant facts. The Courts generally employ a flexible approach and consider the diversity of relationships.

Before getting into the details of when two people are considered spouses, you may wonder about the consequences of inadvertently being in a marriage-like relationship.

Why does it matter?

From a family law perspective, it matters because subject to an agreement or order that provides otherwise, spouses are both entitled to family property and responsible for family debt regardless of their respective use or contribution (s. 56 of the FLA). In simple terms, this means that on separation there is a presumption that family property and family debt will be divided equally between spouses.

This may result in a division of property that is entirely contradictory to a person’s wishes.

From an estate planning perspective, it matters because the case law has established that a will-maker has a legal and moral obligation to provide for their spouse and for their children. If a will-maker dies leaving a will that does not, in the court’s opinion, make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of the will-maker’s spouse or children, the court may, in a proceeding by or on behalf of the spouse or children, order that the provision that it thinks adequate, just and equitable in the circumstances be made out of the will-makers’ estate for the spouse of children (s. 60 of the WESA). In short, a court may vary a will-maker’s will if adequate provision has not been made for the will-maker’s spouse and children.

The bottom line – it is important to know when you are considered to have a spouse and plan accordingly.

The Definition of a Spouse

In British Columbia, there are two statutes (for the purpose of this article) that should be considered when answering the question of whether someone has a “spouse” – the Family Law Act, SBC 2011, c 25 (the “FLA”) and the Wills Estates and Succession Act, SBC 2000, c 13 (the “WESA”). The Courts have also weighed in by creating a multi-faceted framework to determine whether two people are spouses.

The WESA defines a spouse as follows:

When a person is a spouse under this Act

2(1)        Unless subsection (2) applies, 2 persons are spouses of each other for the purposes of this Act if they were both alive immediately before a relevant time and

     (a)          they were married to each other, or

     (b)          they had lived in a marriage like relationship for at least 2 years.

Similarly, the FLA defines a spouse as follows:

Spouses and relationships between spouses

3(1)        A person is a spouse for the purposes of this Act if the person

     (a)          is married to another person, or

     (b)          has lived with another person in a marriage-like relationship, and

          (i)            has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years, or

          (ii)           except in Part 5 [Property Division] and 6 [Pension Division], has a child with the other person.

(2)          A spouse includes a former spouse

(3)          A relationship between spouses begins on the earlier of the following

     (a)          the date on which they began to live together in a marriage like relationship;

     (b)          the date of their marriage.

As you can see from the above definitions, both statutes define a spouse as a person who has lived with another person a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.

What is a marriage-like relationship?

In defining a marriage like relationship, the Courts have consistently relied on a case called Molodowich v Penttinen, (1980), 17 RFL (2d) 376 (Ont. Dist Ct.) (“Molodowich”). In Molodowich, the Court identified several factors which were indicative of whether parties live in a marriage-like relationship. The factors include: (1) Shelter; (2) Sexual and Personal Behaviour; (3) Services; (4) Social; (5) Societal; (6) Support (economic); and (7) Children. Under each of these factors the Courts ask various questions. For example, with respect to shelter the courts may consider whether the parties lived under the same roof and if so, whether the parties shared a bedroom.

The above factors are not meant to be a checklist but are considered together by the court to give effect to the subjective intention of the parties and the objective behaviour of the parties. The Courts have found that the analysis is fact specific and must be made on a comprehensive basis, having regard to all of the evidence.

There have been several cases since Molodowich that further support the position that no one factor is determinative and the relationship must be considered broadly and holistically.

For example, in the 2018 case of Robledano and Jacinto, 2018 BCSC 152, one of the parties sought a declaration that she was the will-maker’s surviving spouse. The parties lived together on and off for 20 years. However, at the time of the will-makers death the parties were not sexually active and they were not consistently living in the same residence. The Court concluded that it was not fatal to the plaintiff’s claim that the parties did not consistently live together and justified the couple’s unusual living arrangements. The parties were found to be spouses under the definition in the WESA.

Take Away

In summary, spousal relationships are varied and structured differently. There is not one factor that sufficiently describes a marriage-like relationship so individuals must consider their circumstances and assess whether they could have a spouse.

If a person is seeking to protect their assets and have greater certainty from a family law or estate planning perspective we suggest that you speak to a lawyer regarding the most effective planning options.

The B.C. government is taking over the running of the provincial home owner grant from municipalities. The home owner grant reduces the amount of property tax you pay for your principal residence. The grant is available to homeowners who pay property taxes to a municipality, or to the province if they live in a rural area.

Effective 2021 all home owner grant applications must be submitted directly to the B.C. provincial government through a secure online application. Previously, home owners would submit their applications through their municipal offices.

As of February 16, home owners can apply for their current year or their retroactive home owner grants online at Home Owner Grant.

Home owners are reminded to keep their property assessment notice from BC Assessment or property tax notice from their municipality, as they will need their roll and jurisdiction number from their notice to apply for the grant.

If the home owner would prefer to apply over the phone, they can call the contact centre toll-free at 1 888 355 2700 to speak with an agent. The contact centre will begin taking applications over the phone as of February 16.

Municipalities will no longer accept any applications.

Patrick Bobyn is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law and real estate. His real estate experience includes assisting clients with purchasing and selling real property, financing, and providing general advice as it relates to real estate law. Please do not hesitate to contact Patrick at bobyn@pushormitchell.com.

If you have been appointed Executor in a Will, there are a wide range of obligations if you accept the position of Executor.  You can decline to act as Executor by renouncing your Executorship and signing the appropriate documents so that the Alternate Executor may act or so that some other person may apply for the representation grant. If you are Executor, there are a few big “No-No’s” you will want to avoid as you take on this onerous role, both involve tampering with the original Will itself.

  1. Do NOT write on the Will. Seems obvious? In acting for many Estates over the last decade, I have seen it happen. The Executor thinks they are being helpful, but it simply adds another layer of paperwork to the probate application, in the way of explanatory documentation, which can be expensive.
  2. Do NOT remove the staples! Guard the original Will diligently and DO NOT allow anyone else to remove the staples either (unfortunately this does happen when you hand it to others to possibly photocopy, such as the financial institution or insurance company). Again, if staples are removed, it just creates an extra burden on the Executor as they will need to provide an explanation / Affidavit / evidence to the Court as to why the staples were removed, which can be very difficult. The Court has to be satisfied that the Will has not been interfered with.

The safest and best place for the original Will is most often in the vault of the law firm who did the original Will, and we always recommend our client’s Wills are retained in our vault for safekeeping. We register the location of the original Will(s) at Vital Statistics, Wills Registry. The original Will is going to be required for the probate application to Court in any event, so the law firm is an excellent place for safekeeping it.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information real estate matters or estate planning, and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com.  Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

In my earlier article, Defamation, the Protection of Public Participation Act and Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, I wrote about the Protection of Public Participation Act (the “PPPA”), a piece of legislation  aimed at combating strategy lawsuits against public participation (“SLAPPs”). And, in particular, about the stated intention of the PPPA to guard against the vulnerability in the legal system of SLAPPs being used to censor public opinion, intimidate people and silence critics.

Since my initial article, cases continue to be published which explore the practical application of the PPPA including Lyncaster v Metro Vancouver Kink Society, 2019 BCSC 2207 (CanLII) (“Lyncaster”).

In Lyncaster the Plaintiff was a member of the BDSM or kink community in the lower mainland. The Defendants were a society dedicated to educating and advocating for members of the kink community and several of its Directors. The complaint of the Plaintiff centered on a letter and statements made by the Defendants which variously stated that the Plaintiff invited a minor to his home to discuss BDSM, that he engaged in potentially predatory sexual behaviour and engaged in BDSM practices without consent.

The Defendants applied further to s. 4 of the PPPA seeking a dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claim on the basis that their comments were protected under the PPPA. As the Court framed things, there were two stages of analysis engaged as a result:

  1. the Defendants were required to satisfy the Court that their statements related to a matter of public interest. If the Defendants failed to do so, their application to dismiss the claim would be denied; and
  2. if the Defendant satisfied the first stage, the onus would shift to the Plaintiff to satisfy the Court that there are grounds to believe that his claim had substantial merit and there was no defence to same. This required the Plaintiff to also show that there is public interest in allowing the claim to continue by demonstrating that the harm potentially suffered by him if his claim did not proceed outweighed the public interest in promoting the value of freedom of expression.

Citing several other decisions, the Court in Lyncaster set out the following principles applying to the consideration of whether a matter is of public interest:

  1. A matter of public interest must be distinguished from a matter about which the public is merely curious or has a prurient interest.
  2. The phrase “public interest” must be given a broad, although not unlimited, interpretation.
  3. The public interest is to be determined objectively, having regard to the context in which the expression was made and the entirety of the relevant communication.
  4. An expression can relate to a matter of public interest without engaging the interest of the entire community, or even a substantial part of the community. It is enough that some segment of the community would have a genuine interest in the subject matter of the expression.
  5. The characterization of the expression as a matter of public interest will usually be made by reference to the circumstances as they existed when the expression was made.
  6. Neither the merits of an expression, nor the motive of the author in making it, should be taken into account in determining whether an expression relates to a matter of public interest.
  7. To be of public interest, the subject matter must be shown to be one inviting public attention, or about which the public has some substantial concern because it affects the welfare of citizens, or to which considerable notoriety or controversy has attached.

Applying these principles, the Court found that the Defendants’ statements in Lyncaster concerned matters of public interest. As a result, the Court moved on to whether the Plaintiff satisfied the merits-based second stage of the analysis.

The Court summarized its task as follows: the Plaintiff was required to prove “…on a balance of probabilities, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that his defamation claims are legally tenable and supported by evidence, which could cause a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that his claims have a real chance of success.” The Court found that the words complained of met the test of being defamatory such that the claim had substantial merit. The defamatory words were published in a potentially public way meaning that they may have reached a very large audience. The defamatory words included thinly veiled allegations of sexual criminal misconduct. The conclusion being that the Plaintiff met the onus of proving a reasonable judge could conclude the claim for defamation should succeed.

Lastly, the Court engaged in a balancing of the public interesting in continuing the proceeding vs. protecting the Defendants’ statements. The Court held that the Plaintiff could establish evidence of harm suffered by the defamatory statements through incomplete evidence and common sense reading of the claim. On this relatively low threshold, the Court found that the Plaintiff had satisfied his obligation to demonstrate that he may have suffered some financial, physical, psychological and social harm. The Court also noted that the circumstances were not the type of circumstances the PPPA is aimed at, which are generally instances of a more powerful and financially backed entity using its power and resources to shock and deter critics through use of SLAPPs.

In summary, the Court found that the Plaintiff demonstrated that the harm he likely suffered, in all the circumstances, was sufficiently serious that the public interest in permitting him to continue his defamation claim outweighed the public interest in protecting the Defendants’ words.

Lyncaster is a helpful case for both plaintiffs and defendants to defamation proceedings to understand the application of the PPPA to such proceedings and the onus and burden or proof on both parties at various stages of analyzing how the PPPA might be engaged by a defamation proceeding. It is important to clarify that the PPPA does not provide absolute protection to any defendants for their potentially defamatory conduct, but needs to be applied carefully and while considering a number of factors.

One of the issues that can frequently come up, particularly when couples separate later on in life and when they have higher net worth assets is the question of “double dipping”.

The question is, if the spouses divide their property such that one spouse is bought out and paid compensation for their interest in an asset, how does that impact on income and any spousal support entitlement in the future?

The Supreme Court of Canada considered this question as it relates to pensions in Boston v.  Boston 2001 SCC 43.  In brief, the facts of this case were as follows:

  • It was a 36 year marriage;
  • The wife was a homemaker and primarily responsible for raising 7 children, while the husband pursued his career outside of the home and supported the family.
  • The parties agreed when they separated that the wife would receive an equalization payment for her interest in the husband’s pension and the husband would retain his pension for the future. The husband would then pay spousal support in an agreed upon amount over time indexed to inflation.
  • The husband sought to vary this agreement once he started collecting his pension based on the material change in circumstances as the wife had prudently invested the equalization payment that she received, which generated income for her. He claimed that it was double dipping for the wife to have been compensated for her share of the pension and then additionally receive spousal support based in part on the income that he received from her portion of the pension that had already been equalized in the division of property.

Ultimately the court did agree with the husband that the wife could not be permitted to “double dip” in this respect, and the spousal support paid to the wife was reduced to be based only on the husband’s income from the portion of the pension that had not been equalized.

The Supreme Court of Canada did make it clear that there would be some exceptions to this approach in that income from a pension that had been equalized could still be considered in the spousal support analysis if;

  • the payee had used their equalized assets prudently, in order to produce income; and
  • despite this there was still some economic hardship for the payee that was directly related to the breakdown of the relationship and the payor had the ability to pay.

In the case M.C.D. v. D.A.D. 2017 BCSC 1832, one spouse was paid an equalization payment for their interest in the business.  The spouse retaining the business argued that they should not pay spousal support based on the income generated from the business in the future, as the other spouse had already received compensation through the division of assets. The argument was that for the payee spouse to receive further benefit from the income generated by the business would constitute “double dipping”.

The Court rejected that argument in this instance on the basis that when a spouse retains marketable assets with an income yield as part of the equalization of family assets, they cannot eliminate such income from the determination of their capacity to pay as it relates to spousal support.

There is a clear distinction made between pensions which are considered to be liquidating assets and other types of assets, such as a functioning business, which are marketable assets and have an ongoing income yield.

One of the distinctions is that a successful business can produce income on an ongoing basis that can be spent without depleting the value of the business.

It is important when dealing with these types of assets and the very complex nature of spousal support, to consider how the division of property could impact on spousal support in the future.


A Representation Agreement is a legal planning document which can be used in British Columbia to provide your named representative the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so because of mental or physical disability. Living Will language can also be incorporated into a Representation Agreement which provides the named representative the legal right to refuse specific medical treatment or any treatment at all.

A Representation Agreement gives you the opportunity to appoint a person of your choice to make health care decisions for you on an ongoing basis. You set out in what circumstances consent to treatment is to be given on your behalf by your representative and in what circumstances it is not to be given. As well, you can specify acceptable types of treatment.

The Representation Agreement enables you to choose who will make the decisions regarding your personal care and health matters when you cannot. As well, it provides you with the flexibility to choose more than one person so that two or more people have to act together to make the necessary decisions. You can also stipulate whether one representative can break a tie or has a veto; and choose an alternate representative in the event the person(s) you have chosen are unable or unwilling to act at the time.

A Representative who has authority over an adult’s personal care or health care is under strict obligations in regards to record keeping. He/she must keep the following records in relation to personal care or health care of the adult:

  • a copy of any record made by the adult of the adult’s instructions, wishes, beliefs/values;
  • if there are any changes in the adult’s residence, or needs with respect to personal or health care, the Representative must record the nature of the change and the decision made by the Representative in respect of it;
  • if the Representative made a major health care decision or admitted the adult to a care facility, the Representative must describe why the decision was made and the date of that decision;
  • if the Representative decides to restrict a person from associating with the adult, the Representative must explain why; and
  • if the adult was physically restrained, moved or managed, the Representative must describe who restrained the adult and why.

Proper planning is essential. Representation Agreements provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to planning for incapacity in the delegation of decision-making authority for personal care and health matters.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com  Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate, Wills & Estates and Intellectual Property at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

In British Columbia, the Employment Standards Act, R.S.B.C., c. 113 (the “ESA”) provides significant employment rights for pregnant women. Under the ESA pregnant women have the right to take an unpaid leave of absence (up to 17 consecutive weeks) regardless of their length of employment. An employer must not because of a woman’s pregnancy terminate her employment or change a condition of her employment without her written consent. As soon as the maternity leave ends, the employer must place the employee in the position they held before taking maternity leave or in a comparable position. Therefore, employees who find changes have been implemented to their jobs or who find their position has been eliminated upon their return from maternity leave may make a complaint against an employer at the Employment Standards Branch.

An employee may also be able to file a complaint for discrimination with the BC Human Rights Tribunal if an employee is fired, laid off, denied opportunities or experiences other negative treatment because they are pregnant or taking maternity leave. Although the Human Rights Code, R.S.B.C., c. 210 (the “Code”) does not specifically enumerate pregnancy as a prohibited ground of discrimination, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Brooks v. Canada Safeway Ltd., 1989 CanLII 96 made it clear that, “discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination.” To succeed in a claim for discrimination an employee will need to establish:

  • The employee was pregnant;
  • The employee suffered some adverse treatment in the workplace; and
  • The employee’s pregnancy was a factor in the adverse treatment she received.

The employee’s pregnancy needs only to be one factor in the adverse treatment; it does not need to be the only, or event the primary factor, for an employee’s complaint for discrimination to be established.

If you are an employee experiencing any negative treatment from your employer because of your pregnancy you should consult with an employment lawyer to better understand your rights.

Under the Builders Lien Act (“BLA”) a statutory right is created to filed builders liens for work performed and/or materials supplied to an improvement. Understanding this seemingly simple concept requires applying the following terms defined in the BLA:

  • “work” means “…work, labour or services, skilled or unskilled, on an improvement…”;
  • “materials” means “…movable property that is delivered to the land on which the improvement is located and is intended to become part of the improvement, either directly or in a transformed state, or is consumed or used in the making of the improvement, including equipment rented without an operator…”; and
  • “improvement” is given a non-exhaustive definition of including “…anything made, constructed, erected, built, altered, repaired or added to, in, on or under land, and attached to it or intended to become a part of it, and also includes any clearing, excavating, digging, drilling, tunnelling, filling, grading or ditching of, in, on or under land.”

The recent decision of Shelly Morris Business Services Ltd. v Syncor Solutions Limited, 2020 BCSC 2038 (CanLII) is illustrative of some of the difficulties that can arise in the interpretation and application of the definitions of the BLA.

In Shelly Morris the defendant had contracted with the plaintiff to provide interior design and construction management services for two office buildings. Pre-construction work including site visits, design and tendering was performed before further work was put on hold due COVID-19. The defendant issued two invoices for its work, which were not paid in full. In July 2020, the plaintiff advised that it would not continue with the contracts. In August 2020 the defendant filed builders liens for its unpaid invoices against the project lands.

The decision in Shelly Morris came about as a result of the plaintiff seeking to have the builders liens on title cancelled. In rendering its decision, the Court first went through the definitions detailed above. It held, per earlier case law, that the object of the BLA was to “… prevent owners of the land getting the benefit of buildings erected and work done at their instance on their land without paying for them…”. The Court also found, based on previous case law, that “Because a builders lien is a creature of statute, the legislation must be interpreted strictly, insofar as it creates a preference in favour of one creditor over another…”

The Court noted that “improvement” was inclusive in that the examples of improvements given in the legalisation did not preclude additional meanings to the word. The Court also noted previous case law that had held that “improvement” means an improvement to the property itself; work and construction must commence. Similarly, “improvement” does not include intended construction.

The Court ultimately determined that, since the improvement didn’t commence, the defendant’s pre-construction efforts and preparation did not constitute an improvement and, therefore, were not lienable. The Court did observe that the defendant’s work not being lienable did not mean that it was not recoverable in contract.

Shelley Morris is illustrative of how the strict requirements of the BLA can be difficult to understand and difficult to follow. While the defendant’s work was certainly intended to become part of an improvement, it had not become part of an improvement yet and was not lienable. As may be discerned from the decision, had a shovel hit the ground of a nail been hammered that required planning, such planning would be lienable (although there would still be a question of how much planning/pre-construction related to an actual improvement).

For related cases about some of the strict requirements of the BLA, please also consider the following articles:

As discussed in my previous article, COVID-19, Builders Liens and Limitation Periods, since March 26, 2020, limitation periods in BC were suspended. This suspension was listed as of April 15, 2020 for builders lien issues.

By way of simple introduction, a limitation period is generally two years and requires that a party commence a lawsuit within two years of knowing or having the information to know they have a cause of action, or basis for a lawsuit, or forever lose the right to commence litigation. When a limitation period begins to run, how a limitation period may be extended and various restrictions and extensions of the basic two-year limitation period are complex subjects that need to be considered in each potential action but are beyond the scope of this article.

In a new provincial order made on December 21, 2020, the provincial government announced that the suspension of limitation periods is ending as of March 25, 2021.The provincial government released an explanatory document explaining the technicalities of this important legal development.

The suspension of limitation periods was formerly tied to the state of emergency, with the intention being to lift the suspension when the state of emergency was lifted. With the recent announcement, the limitation periods suspension will be lifted on March 25, 2021 regardless of whether the state of emergency in BC lifts before or after that date.

The suspension of the limitation period for one year makes calculating the time remaining in a limitation period simple: just add one year.

By way of example:

  • a limitation period that expired before the suspension remains expired. By example:
    • payment under a contract was not made when due on February 26, 2018;
    • the limitation period was on February 26, 2020;
    • the limitation period expired on February 26, 2020 if no action was commenced;
  • a limitation period that would have expired during the limitation period suspension has the same time remaining after the suspension as it did before, resulting in one year being added to the limitation period. By example:
    • a person was in a motor vehicle accident with an identified at-fault driver on April 26, 2018;
    • the victim’s limitation period would have expired on April 26, 2020 but for the suspension;
    • the victim had one month left in their limitation period before the suspension period and will have one month left afterwards;
    • the victim’s limitation period expires on April 26, 2021;
  • a limitation period that would have expired after the limitation period suspension also has the same time remaining after the suspension as it did before, resulting in one year being added to the limitation period. By example:
    • a new home owner discovered on June 26, 2019 that the vendors misrepresented that the house they sold had no water damage when they knew that it did have water damage;
    • the new home owner’s limitation period would have expired on June 26, 2021 but for the suspension of the limitation period;
    • the new home owner’s limitation period expires on June 26, 2022;
  • a limitation period began to run during the suspension starts to run when the suspension is lifted. By example:
    • a supplier fails to deliver product when required on September 26, 2020;
    • the limitation period would have expired on September 26, 2022 but for the suspension;
    • the limitation period starts to run when the suspension is lifted on March 25, 2021; and
    • the limitation period expires on March 25, 2023.

This new announcement provides certainty for calculating the expiration of limitation periods. Previously, it was unknown how and when the suspension would be lifted. It is critical that counsel and clients who may have previously relied on the suspension of the limitation period to “sit” on claims to appreciate and calculate when action must be taken to preserve a limitation period. It is also crucial for parties to understand that, for the next couple of years, claims may be commenced later than expected because of the extended limitation periods.

More complicated limitation issues such as acknowledgment of claims that might renew the limitation period and how those interact with the newest announcement should be carefully considered with the wording of the announcement but are beyond the scope of this article.

It should be noted that the discretionary power provided to entities which have statutory power to waive, suspend or extend a limitation period will continue until 90-days after the state of emergency is lifted, although the limits of that discretion are beyond the scope of this article.

If you are concerned about how any limitation period concerns might affect your legal interests, we are happy to assist.

As discussed in my previous articles, Builders Liens: The Consequences of Less than Strict Compliance and Builders Liens: Strict Compliance or Lose Your Lien, the Builders Lien Act (“BLA”) creates extraordinary remedies and, as such, requires extraordinary attention be paid to complying with its requirements. Issues about the strict procedural requirements of BLA were at the center of the recent decision of Toska Woodworking Inc. v Balazadeh-Nayeri, 2020 BCSC 1378 (CanLII).

In Toska the plaintiff was a contractor was retained to supply and install custom cabinetry and millwork in the defendants’ home. The parties fell into dispute and a builders’ lien for a little over $92,000 was filed against the homeowners’ property on February 22, 2020. The parties continued to try to resolve their differences unsuccessfully. Eventually, the homeowners served a 21-day notice on the contractor.

Under s. 33(1) of the BLA, a party with a builders’ lien is required to commence an action in the Supreme Court and file a certificate of pending litigation (“CPL”) within one year from the date of the filing of a builders’ lien to maintain the right to claim the lien. This process is known as “perfecting” a lien. Under s. 33(2), a property owner or another lien claimant can serve a 21-day notice shortening the time in which a lien needs to be perfected to 21 days after the effective service date of such a notice. Failing to perfect a lien within the applicable time limit extinguishes the right to maintain a builders’ lien although the underlying debt claim still exists without the additional relief and benefits that flow from a lien.

In Toska after the 21-day notice was served the contractor filed a Supreme Court action in time but did not file a CPL in time due to confusion created with the Land Title Office and COVID-19 protocols put in place. As part of an apparent effort to protect its lien claim, the contractor filed a second lien in July 2020.

In analyzing its analysis, the court noted that there was not good evidence before it about the underlying project costs and details. The issuance of the occupancy permit did not determine whether the first lien was filed within the time requirements of the BLA and the parties continued to negotiate about the project through to April, 2020. In the circumstances, the Court found that the first lien was filed in time.

In analyzing the failure of the contractor to perfect its claims per the 21-day notice, the Court held that the first lien remained valid because the service address for the 21-day notice did not match address for service in the first lien. As such, the first lien would have been struck for failing to file a CPL in time, but the 21-day notice was defective and did not trigger the requirement to perfect the builders’ lien early. Since there was no effective 21-day notice and the one-year ordinary perfection period had not passed, the first lien remained valid.

On the second lien, the court found that, whether nor not the period in which a valid builders’ lien could be filed had expired, the filing of a second lien to attempt to recover from a failure to perfect another lien was not tolerable. The filing of a second lien was found to be an abuse of process and was ordered cancelled along with any CPL filed further to same.

The Toska Woodworking Inc. v Balazadeh-Nayeri is an example of how easy it is for both claimants and defendants in builders’ lien disputes to make minor errors which can have significant impacts on the rights and remedies available to them. Had the owners in the case served a proper 21-day notice, they could have cleared their title from any builders’ lien claim and CPL. Similarly, the builder exposed itself to potentially substantial cost and other consequences for trying to salvage its failure to perfect its lien as required by what it thought was a 21-day notice by filing a second lien. Timely legal advice respecting builders lien concerns is always a prudent course of action.

On December 1, 2020 the TSX Venture Exchange (the “Exchange”) announced long awaited changes to its Capital Pool Company (“CPC”) program. The revised program is intended to increase the flexibility of the CPC program, reduce regulatory burdens and improve the economics for CPC participants.

Below is a summary of the key changes to the program.  For a comprehensive list of all changes please see this link.

  1. Increase in Capital Raising Thresholds.
  2. Capital limits have been increased from $500,000 to $1,000,000 in respect of seed capital raised below the IPO price and from $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 in aggregate funding.  The increased limits should give CPCs more flexibility when pursuing targets.

  3. Removal of the 24 Month Timeframe for Completing a Qualifying Transaction.
  4. Under existing CPC program, issuers that fail to complete a Qualifying Transaction within 24 months are downgraded to the NEX board of the Exchange.  This 24 month window has been eliminated under the new CPC policy.

  5. Easing of residency restrictions for Directors and Officers.
  6. The new CPC policy eases residency restrictions on directors and officers, allowing for the inclusion of international directors, as long as the majority of the management team is from Canada or the United States.

  7. Reduced Escrow Restrictions on Founders.
  8. The new CPC policy has reduced the escrow restrictions on founders and seed capital investors from a 36 month restriction to an 18 month restriction.

  9. Reduced Minimum Distribution Requirements

The new CPC policy provides for reduced minimum requirements for share distributions. Specifically, CPCs will now only need a public float of at least 500,000 shares (compared to 1,000,000 previously) and a minimum of 150 shareholders (compared to 200 previously).

Transitional Provisions

The revised CPC Program will take effect on January 1, 2021, however existing CPCs can take advantage of certain provisions of the program depending on where they are at in their lifecycle and subject to complying with certain transitional requirements.

If you are interested in learning more about Capital Pool Companies, taking your existing company public, or if you have other questions concerning your company’s compliance with securities laws, please contact Keith Inman at inman@pushormitchell.com or by phone at 250-869-1195 or Brendan Bachewich at bachewich@pushormitchell.com or by phone at 250-869-1122

Keith Inman is a securities and M&A lawyer with broad experience in capital markets. Keith regularly advises individuals and companies with respect to capital raises, securities reporting and compliance matters, purchases and sales of businesses and other corporate/commercial matters. Keith has advised numerous emerging and growth companies through the go-public process (including IPOs and RTOs) and has been a founder and director of multiple Capital Pool Companies.

An Executor/Trustee has a wide range of obligations and responsibilities to fulfill. When doing your Estate Planning and choosing an Executor/Trustee, you have a number of important considerations to keep in mind. In a nutshell, the choices available are: Corporate Trustee (like a Bank or Trust Company), a family member/friend (or more than one, named as Co-Trustees), or another willing professional you know, such as your Accountant or Lawyer. (A Bank, Trust Company, Accountant and Lawyer are referred to hereafter simply as “Professional Trustee”.)

The first thing you should do, if you are in the process of making such important decisions, is to contact an estate planning lawyer to discuss the various issues involved. A good estate planning lawyer is worth more than the documents they create. Your answers to the questions asked by your estate planning lawyer, and your decision making process triggered by those questions, documented by a careful lawyer, will make all the difference in the world to your actual written plan. The planning behind the documents is what gets you the results you desire.

The entity you choose to fill this role will have a big job to do. If it is a Professional Trustee, you will meet with them to go through your Estate and sign Compensation Agreements. If you are choosing a family member/friend, it is a very good idea to make them aware that you have chosen them and ensure that they are willing, comfortable and able to fill that role.

Whether you are choosing an inexperienced family member/friend or a Professional Trustee, that person will be working with your beneficiaries for a significant amount of time (sometimes well over a year) as they administer your Estate and deal with your assets. It is very important that you consider the myriad of issues when deciding who your Executor/Trustee will be, a few of which are as follows:

  • Is the job of looking after your Estate going to be very hard on a loved one who has just lost YOU? This can be overwhelming to deal with, coupled with grieving, even though they may feel duty bound when you ask them to take on that role;
  • What about compensation? Compensating a loved one to do this job is often frowned upon by other beneficiaries who are not privy to what the role involves. They simply sit back and wait for their inheritance to come through. Considering the level of responsibility that an Executor/Trustee takes on, shouldn’t your loved one be compensated? It is highly likely that the role of Executor/Trustee will take away from the usual way your loved one makes a living. I have seen family members take on this role, only to fight with their siblings over the details, grow weary of trying to maintain family harmony, grow tired of trying to sustain their own family life/job while serving your Estate, yet deny themselves compensation. They eventually grow irritated, bitter and resentful over the thankless hours they have spent accounting and documenting and gathering your assets, that they end up losing their sibling (or other) relationships. Family harmony is extremely difficult to maintain without an objective perspective;
  • If you don’t want to burden family members/friends with this job, or you simply don’t feel that you have anyone appropriate to appoint, and your Estate is of a certain value to warrant hiring a Professional Trustee, then a Professional Trustee is a very good option for you. Their experience and objectiveness is of huge value to Estates. Each Professional Trustee will have a fee structure that you should carefully review. Their fees may be charged monthly, quarterly or annually based upon the value and type of the assets they are managing in a Trust or Estate. Some Professional Trustees also charge hourly fees or flat fees for certain activities or situations. It is very important to closely review the Professional Trustee’s fee schedule so that you understand how and what fees will be charged to your Estate. If the assets in your Estate do not warrant the level of fees to be charged, then obviously this is not a good option for you.

All of the above should be discussed with your estate planning lawyer as you embark on the estate planning process. Their guidance on the above will be invaluable to your Estate, and your beneficiaries, who will ultimately be the ones left behind and thus dealing with your choice of Executor/Trustee.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com   Vanessa practices in the area of Wills & Estates and Real Estate at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna would be more than happy to assist you.

Gathering evidence immediately after a car crash is often crucial to the success of your personal injury claim.

One increasingly important piece of evidence is a car’s event data recorder (EDR) or “black box”.

This device comes standard on most passenger vehicles manufactured in the past decade.

It records and stores information about airbag deployment, speed, brakes and even seatbelt use in the moments directly preceding a crash.

This information can help prove fault in car accident cases, ensuring you get the compensation you deserve.

This information is particularly useful in the moments leading up to the collision, as very often there is no physical evidence that can be used to establish what the driver was doing.

For example, a detailed accident reconstruction by an accident reconstruction engineer can often determine the speed of the vehicle with good precision at impact, however it is often not known whether that vehicle was accelerating, coasting, or braking in the seconds leading up to the crash.

With “black box” data, a history of up to twenty-five seconds can establish these parameters.


A car’s black box does not record information about your driving habits, identity or location. Instead, it stores data about the vehicle’s function in the seconds before and during a crash.

EDRs may differ depending on the make and model of your car, since there currently is no industry standards and regulations.

However, most record data on a continuous loop, rewriting approximately 5 to 10 seconds of information until a crash. Then, the data leading up to that collision is stored for a certain period of time.

An EDR can record data such as:

  • The forward and lateral crash force.
  • The crash event duration.
  • vehicle speed for many seconds prior to impact
  • Accelerator position.
  • Engine rpm.
  • Brake application and antilock brake activation.
  • Steering wheel angle.
  • Stability control engagement.
  • Vehicle roll angle, in case of a rollover.
  • Number of times the vehicle has been started.
  • Driver and front-passenger safety belt engagement, and pretensioner or force limiter engagement.
  • Air bag deployment, speed, and faults for all air bags.
  • Front seat positions.
  • Occupant size.
  • Number of crashes (one or more impacts during the final crash event).

Usually the download of the CDR data is relatively straight forward, however there are some circumstances where evidence spoliation can occur if the “black box” is improperly accessed.


Where fault of an accident is in issue, it is important you retain a lawyer who has experience obtaining the black box data AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

One of the biggest challenges of any car accident claim is proving what actually happened. Most often, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will question your version of events and will usually try to blame you instead.

Black box data can help prove what circumstances led to the car crash. This information helps eliminate guesswork, and is a powerful tool to help refute false claims by the at-fault driver or their insurance company, and help prove your case.

However black box information must be retrieved quickly after a crash.

It is crucially important to get access to the black box before the car is salvaged or destroyed, or the data is written over.

Most EDRs store crash data for 200 ignition cycles, which typically means only six to eight weeks after an accident.

If a vehicle is repaired after a crash, the EDR may be replaced or lost.

Therefore, the sooner you contact an accident lawyer, the better the chances that EDR information can help your claim.

The lawyer will immediately retain an engineer to properly download and analyze the data.

Usually the black box from the other vehicle is also required. The lawyer will have to obtain access to the other vehicle as soon as possible. This will require either an agreement from the other drivers insurance company, or a court order.

We consider the crash data a “supplement” to a proper accident reconstruction. Typically, the downloaded information corroborates previous findings with respect to impact speed, Delta-V/Severity, seatbelt use and pre-crash behavior, but in many cases it is conclusive and makes your case.


I have had to extract black box evidence in over 30 cases.

In many cases the evidence was crucial in proving our case against the other driver.

Here are two examples where we would have not been successful without the black box evidence.

Case 1

In this case, our client was a passenger in a vehicle that lost control and slid into the oncoming lane.

The oncoming car collided with the vehicle and our client sustained serious injuries, including a very severe brain injury.

The insurance limits in the vehicle he was a passenger in was insufficient to cover his substantial claim for income loss and care costs.

We had a good case against the driver of the vehicle he was a passenger in, but to get full compensation for his severe injuries we had to somehow prove the oncoming driver was also partially at fault.

The driver in the oncoming car said she was driving the speed limit, and her insurer denied any fault entirely.

We immediately retained an engineer to do an accident reconstruction, including retaining the black box in her vehicle to determine her actual speed.

The black box showed conclusively she was in fact speeding about 15 k over the speed limit.

Our engineer was able to show that had she been travelling the speed limit when the car our client was a passenger in came into her lane, she could have avoided the collision completely by braking in time, and our client would not have received any injures whatsoever.

At mediation her insurer agreed to pay a significant portion of our clients damage claim.

Case 2

Our young preteen client was riding a bicycle and swerved into traffic.

The car that was coming up behind her struck her and she sustained a serious brain injury.

There were no independent witnesses.

The driver of the car insisted he was going the  speed limit, and could not avoid colliding with our client on her bike.

His insurer denied he was at all at fault accordingly.

We immediately retained an accident reconstruction engineer who has extensive experience with black boxes, and had the black box data examined.

It showed conclusively that the driver was speeding 20 k over the speed limit.

Our engineer convincingly proved that the driver could have avoided the collision completely had he been going the  speed limit.

The case was settled at mediation, with the drivers insurer agreeing he was at fault for a significant portion of our clients claim, sharing responsibility for the accident with our client.

In summary, if you are in an accident where fault is disputed, make sure you immediately consult a lawyer familiar with EDR’s to determine if an examination of the black box data may assist your case, and obtain the EDR data before it is destroyed.

Sometimes it is the only tool to prove the other driver was at fault.

Paul’s practice is limited to serious personal injury claims.

In his personal injury practice, he acts only on behalf of the injured, with an emphasis on brain injury claims, spinal injuries, death claims, and medical malpractice claims.

He has considerable experience in obtaining and using black box and EDR information to prove fault in car crash claims .

Paul may be reached at mitchell@pushormitchell.com, or his direct line at 250-869-1115

Corporate interest holders in British Columbia are now likely familiar with the recently introduced disclosure requirements implemented by the province for all BC companies. A similar disclosure will now be required as it relates to real property in British Columbia This is the result of new legislation known as the Land Owner Transparency Act, SBC 2019, c 23 and supplementing Land Owner Transparency Regulation (collectively, “LOTA”) which will come into force on November 30, 2020.

What is LOTA?

LOTA is legislation that is designed to enhance disclosure and transparency of ownership in real estate in British Columbia. The key essence of LOTA is the creation of the Land Owner Transparency Registry which will be administered by the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (“LTSA”).

What is the Land Owner Transparency Registry?

The Land Owner Transparency Registry will result in mandatory reporting about indirect ownership of real property. The information that is obtained via the reporting requirements will be publicly accessible. Beginning on November 30, 2020, any person who applies to the LTSA to register an “interest in land” (in practical terms, whenever a land transfer occurs) will be required to file a transparency declaration as part of their registration.

What is a Transparency Declaration?

A transparency declaration will contain information about whether a transferee in a real estate transaction is a “reporting body” as defined in LOTA. There are three types of reporting bodies:

  1. relevant Corporations, being all corporations and limited liability corporations;
  2. relevant Trusts, being all forms of trusts; and
  3. relevant Partnerships, being all types of partnerships including general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, professional partnerships, foreign partnerships, prescribed partnerships, or a legal relationship, created in another jurisdiction.

LOTA does contain some exclusions on the above categories, but for the most part these are all encompassing definitions.

If a transferee is deemed to be a “reporting body” they must further disclose identifying information about themselves and all indirect owners of the interest in land. LOTA considers these entities to be “interest holders”. Interest holders may be one of the following:

  1. Beneficial Owners, defined as an individual who:
    • is a beneficial interest in land other than an interest that is contingent on the death of another individual;
    • has the power to revoke the relevant trust and receive the interest in land; or
    • is a corporate interest holder in respect of a relevant corporation and has a beneficial interest in land or the power to revoke the relevant trust and receive the interest in land.
  2. Corporate Interest Holders, defined as an individual who:
    • has a beneficial or registered interest in a significant amount of shares of a corporation (defined as 10% or more of outstanding shares or 10% or more of the voting rights in a corporation); or
    • has the rights or ability to directly or indirectly appoint the majority of the board of directors in a corporation or has the ability to significantly control an individual with the rights or ability to appoint or remove a majority of directors; or
    • through jointly held interests, rights or abilities, meets the criteria set out in (a) or (b).
  3. Partnership Interest Holders, defined as an individual who:
    • is a partner in a relevant partnership; or
    • is a corporate interest holder in a relevant corporation which is a partner in a relevant partnership.

When is a Transparency Declaration Required?

As of November 30, 2020, there will be three situations where a transparency declaration will need to be filed:

  1. the registration of a new interest in land with the LTSA (a land transfer);
  2. pre-existing interests in land; and
  3. changes in interest holdings in land.

When registering a land transfer, the transferee must file a transparency declaration to disclose whether or not the transferee is a reporting body, and if so, which type of reporting body.  If the transferee is considered a reporting body the transparency declaration must contain information on the interest holders.

If, immediately before November 30, 2020, a reporting body is a registered owner of an interest in land, that owner must file a Transparency Report by November 30, 2021 (one year after LOTA comes into force). If any owner of a pre-existing registered interest in land is not a reporting body they will not need to file a transparency declaration.

What information must be disclosed?

Reporting bodies and interest holders will need to disclose the following information:

Interest Holders must disclose primary identification information (full name, citizenship status, location of principal residence, etc.), last known address, SIN number, tax number (if applicable), residency status for tax purposes, and a description of how they are an interest holder.

Relevant Corporations must disclose the information described above for all of its interest holders. In addition, the relevant corporation’s business number, if any, within the meaning of the Income Tax Act (Canada), the incorporation, continuation, amalgamation or other identifying numbers given to the corporation by the jurisdiction in which they were incorporated, and the parcel identifier assigned to the land to which the transparency report relates.

Relevant Trusts must disclose the information required above (for interest holders) for each of the settlors of the relevant trust as well as the parcel identifier assigned to the land to which the report relates. In addition, the reference number of any relevant trust instruments must be disclosed.

Relevant Partnerships must disclose the partnership’s primary identification information; business number under the Income Tax Act (Canada), and the identifying number, if any, issued to the partnership by the jurisdiction in which it was formed.

What information will be available on the public registry?

The Land Owner Transparency Registry will be maintained by the LTSA and will disclose primary identification information in respect of interest holders and reporting bodies. The implementation of certain provisions of LOTA that deal primarily with inspection rights and searches of the Land Owner Transparency Registry do not come into force until April 30, 2021. As a result, it is likely that the Land Owner Transparency Registry will not be available for inspection until such time.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

If a party improperly submits or fails to submit the appropriate documents, the LTSA has the authority to refuse registration of an interest in land. In addition, administrative penalties can also be enforced.

Moving Forward

The scope of the reporting obligations under LOTA is widely encompassing. LOTA will have ramifications for all property owners (both residential and commercial) who use companies, trusts and partnerships for holding interests in land. Given the complexity and novelty of LOTA, along with the rigorous disclosure requirements, it will be crucial for purchasers, land owners, and developers to obtain legal advice and understand the requirements of LOTA moving forward.

This article is provided as information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a lawyer to provide you with advice specific to your own situation. For more information, please contact Patrick Bobyn by calling (250) 869-1286 or by email at bobyn@pushormitchell.com.

Patrick Bobyn is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law, and real estate. His real estate practice involves assisting both residential and commercial clients with purchases, sales, financing and leasing.

The McDermott case McDermott v. McDermott, 2013 BCSC 534 (CanLII) provides an example where the court in a family law case will order production of communications between lawyer and client despite a claim of solicitor-client privilege.

Solicitor-client privilege is a privilege the court recognizes that communications between solicitor and client for legal purposes, and intended to be confidential, cannot be forced to be disclosed.  The privilege belongs to the client, and allows the client to safely disclose all the facts, no matter how bad, to their lawyer so the lawyer can provide legal advice.

Lawyers cannot provide complete legal advice unless they have complete facts.  If the client fears that they tell their lawyer is not confidential and can be ordered disclosed then the client will likely be reluctant to tell the lawyer any ‘bad’ facts although required by the lawyer to give legal advice.  To help ensure people get good legal advice, communications between solicitor and client are generally confidential because of the privilege.

However, the privilege is not absolute.  There are exceptions to the privilege.  For example, communications that are to facilitate the commission of a crime or fraud are not protected by solicitor-client privilege.  This exception to solicitor-client privilege is known as the “future crimes exception”.  Privilege never attaches to these types of communications.

The “future crimes exception” is broad and includes wrongful acts that are not necessarily criminal.  It applies to negligence and other unlawful acts including abuse of the court process.  Therefore, communications between a lawyer and client who deliberately uses a lawyer to facilitate any unlawful conduct does not attract solicitor-client privilege, and can be ordered disclosed.

To make out the “future crimes exception” three elements must be met:

  1. The communication must refer to future conduct;
  • the client must be seeking to do something which the client knows or should know is unlawful; and
  • the wrongful conduct being contemplated must be clearly wrong.

It does not matter whether the lawyer is aware of the unlawful intent of the client or not.  The key consideration is the intention and state of mind of the client at the time the advice was obtained.

The burden of proof of establishing solicitor-privilege is on the person who claims the privilege.  Once privilege is established then it is on the party seeking to overcome the privilege to establish that the communications should be disclosed.

Therefore, in order to make a “future crimes exception” claim, the applicant must first make out a prima facie case.  There must be some clear and convincing evidence to give ‘colour’ to the allegation that the client had communicated with their lawyer with the intention of committing an unlawful act, and that the client knew or ought to have known that the intended conduct was unlawful.  Once a prima facie case is established, the court then reviews the documents in question to determine whether the exception or privilege applies.

In McDermott, the parents lived in different provinces and were involved in an ongoing guardianship and access dispute lasting years.  Parental alienation was suspected.  The father inadvertently discovered emails between the mother and her sister about a plan developed by the mother with her lawyer to delay trial.  The plan was to purposely lose an interim application and then appeal the ruling although knowing the appeal would fail.  The father requested access to all other emails and documents regarding the mother’s plan.  The mother claimed solicitor-client privilege.

In this case the court found the mother was trying to abuse the court process by deceiving the court to delay justice.  Abuse of court process is an unlawful act, and the court decided the “future crimes exception” to solicitor-client privilege applied.  Further, the court found the father had presented more than just a prima facie case, and deemed it unnecessary to review the questionable emails before making its decision.  The court ordered the mother to produce all documents including emails, notes, and memoranda relating to the mother’s plan.

The future crimes exception is only one exception to solicitor client privilege.  Other exceptions include disclosing information to prevent imminent harm to a person, or when innocence is at stake, for example, to help free the wrongfully convicted.  Further, because the privilege belongs to the client, the client can waive the privilege either on purpose or inadvertently.  For the privilege to apply there must be in expectation of privacy and confidentiality.  Disclosing to other people what your lawyer has advised can be construed as a waiver of solicitor-client privilege.

The Family Law team at Pushor Mitchell understands solicitor client privilege, and the importance of confidentiality when working with their clients.

Over the past few months there has been a substantial increase in real estate activity. In line with the rise in development of new homes in the surrounding area, many real estate transactions consist of purchasers buying vacant lots with the intention of building a new home after closing. While the purchase and sale contract will contemplate the mechanism of transferring the subject property, it is the construction contract which will contemplate the actual building of the new home. For both builders and new landowners alike, there are benefits to having a well drafted and clear construction contract in place to contemplate the entire timeline of the build. Much like how every real estate transaction is unique, so to is the actual construction of a new home. Below is a summary of a few key considerations that every construction contract should address:

Builder’s Lien Holdback

The Builders Lien Act allows contractors, sub-contractors, workers and suppliers to file a lien against the title to a property where they supply work or materials. The lien is intended to provide a level of security for the claimant to ensure they get paid for services rendered. Liens can be filed at any time up to 45 days after the work has been completed. Landowners can protect themselves from the potential of a lien by holding back a portion of any payment made under a construction contract until the lien period has expired. The holdback can be used to pay out the lien claimant or paid into court to discharge the lien if it is registered. There is an entire payment and holdback mechanism under the Builders Lien Act which should be properly contemplated in the construction contract. Builders and landowners need to be aware that parties cannot contract out of the provisions of the Builder’s Lien Act. Therefore, a construction contract should properly refer to and address these provisions.

Deficiency List and Walkthrough

A deficiency walk-through is a chance for a landowner to walk through the newly built home (with the builder) to ensure that everything has been completed in accordance with the terms of the construction contract. In addition, a deficiency walk-through provides an opportunity to identify anything that has been damaged or still requires repair. Any deficiencies which are agreed upon can then be addressed. A deficiency walk-through is beneficial for the builder as well, as it can result in documented evidence that the landowner has accepted the quality of the newly built home, subject to any deficiencies that are discovered during the walk-through.

Scheduling and Timelines

The construction contract should state a start and/or completion date, or at the very least provide an estimation. There are always exceptions to providing clear timelines, such as certain conditions which have to be met (by either the builder or landowner) or the approval of third parties such as municipalities and regional districts. However, these considerations should be clearly stated in the construction contract. A construction contract should also specify what happens if timelines are missed. For example, does the landowner have the ability to terminate the contract for a missed deadline, or seek damages for any costs incurred as a result of the delay? A builder will want protection in this regard, especially for things that are out of their control (such as bad weather and labour and material shortages). It is easier to deal with delays when they have been contemplated in the contract.


There is no easier way for disputes to arise then for ambiguity or disagreement on costs. Construction contracts are usually “fixed” or “cost plus”. Under a fixed contract, the costs for construction are clearly set and are all encompassing. A builder under a fixed contract will want to ensure that they have fully considered the costs of construction so that they do not go over the budget during the build (and thus incur these costs directly). For a cost-plus contract, there is usually a set cost payable by the landowner, plus additional costs for such things as installation and hookup of utilities, connection of appliances, the cost of the new home warranty and fees for permits. A landowner will want to know exactly what additional costs they are responsible for. Tied into costs is the concept of change orders, where a landowner may want to make changes to the home during construction. How are these changed approved between the parties (usually in the form of an amendment to the contract), and how do the parties address any increase in costs because of a change order (builders will typically want these costs paid upon approval of the change order)?

Dispute Resolution

While ideally the construction of the new home goes smoothly, disputes can arise. A dispute resolution mechanism (such as mediation or arbitration) can direct parties towards a resolution without having to incur additional legal and court fees.

The above considerations address a few of the key terms which should be included in any construction contract. Before, signing any construction contract, both parties should ensure the contract has been approved by their lawyer. A well-drafted construction contract will go a long way in ensuring the building of the home goes according to plan.

This article is provided as information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a lawyer to provide you with advice specific to your own situation. For more information, please contact Patrick Bobyn by calling (250) 869-1286 or by email at bobyn@pushormitchell.com.

Patrick Bobyn is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law, real estate, estate planning and estate administration. His real estate experience includes assisting both builders and owners with reviewing and revising construction contracts, as well as assisting clients with purchasing and selling real property, financing, and providing general advice as it relates to real estate law.

When a strata issues fines or fees against owners, it often seeks legal assistance in doing so. The recent decision of 625536 B.C. Ltd. v The Owners, Strata Plan LMS4385, 2020 BCSC 633 (CanLII) reviews when a strata is or is not entitled to recover part or all of those legal fees.

In the case, three owners in a commercial strata had all received letters demanding payment of strata fees which were in arrears. The strata had obtained legal advice and in its original demands demanded the strata fees which were in arrears plus legal fees. The legal fees were not specified.

One of the owners provided a cheque for the arrears, but no amount for legal fees. The strata rejected the cheque and clarified that it claimed $800 in legal fees. It later changed this mount to $620. The two amounts claimed came without explanation to the owner.

The questions before the court was whether the strata could unilaterally charge an owner for legal expenses in the circumstances, being outside of any legal proceedings, and whether there was any right to claim for legal expenses when the strata made a demand for payment of arrears and payment was offered without the need to lien the owner or commence any legal action.

The Court noted The Owners Strata Plan KAS2428 v. Baettig2017 BCCA 377 in which it was held that s. 118 of the Strata Property Act does allow a strata to add the actual reasonable legal costs of registering and enforcing a lien to the amount of the lien. The Court further noted that The Owners Strata Plan KAS2428 v. Baettig made it clear that legal costs cannot be claimed or recovered under the related sections of the Strata Property Act in the situation of pre-lien efforts to collect.

The Court noted that legal costs claimable on a lien is subject to an assessment process whereby the reasonableness of the legal costs claimed can be assessed. No such mechanism exists for legal costs claimed without a lien. S. 112 of the Strata Property Act clearly provides that before a claim to the Civil Resolution Tribunal can be made or a lien can be filed, owners have two weeks to respond to a demand for payment. In other words, the legislation provides a two-week period where payment can be made before any process in which legal costs for a demand could be claimed.

The Court concluded that strata was required to accept payment of the arrears and was not entitled to claim legal fees or reject such payment because it did not include legal fees. The ability to claim legal fees did not arise unless and until:

  • the strata gave notice under s. 112 of the Strata Property Act;
  • the owner failed to make payment of an amount properly demanded; and
  • the strata properly filed a lien against the debtor-owner.

625536 B.C. Ltd. v The Owners, Strata Plan LMS4385 is a reminder to both strata corporations and tenants to carefully think about the proper process for collecting amounts owed to the strata. Legal fees are not recoverable as a matter of course on the initial demand. The ability to recover legal fees is provided for in the Strata Property Act in specific circumstances after specific actions have occurred.

The Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) released its written decision in the case of Michel v. Graydon, 2020 SCC 24. This was a case that involved the interpretation and application of section 152 of the Family Law Act, S.B.C. 2011, c. 25 (the “FLA”). In a unanimous decision, the SCC upheld a decision made at the Provincial Court of BC level which found that section 152 of the FLA permitted an order for child support to be granted retroactively even if the application was made when the child at issue was no longer under the age of majority or a child as defined by the legislation.

The brief facts of the case involved a couple who had a child together and, after they separated they entered into an agreement which was documented by a Consent Order whereby the child would reside primarily with her mother and the father was to pay child support to the mother. The father continued to pay the same amount without adjusting it from 2004 until 2012 when his obligation to pay child support was terminated by a Court order in April 2012.

What transpired over the years was that the parties, for various and important reasons, did not review and adjust child support as they had agreed to do in their original agreement. When the child was over the age of majority, the mother made an application under section 152 of the FLA seeking child support for her daughter retroactively. The Provincial Court judge heard the matter at trial including testimony from the child herself who was an adult at that time and found that section 152 did not prohibit an application to be brought for child support retroactively if the child entitled to support was no longer a child as defined by the legislation. The judge found the father owed retroactive child support in the amount of approximately $23,000.00 and relied on the test for retroactivity that had been established and followed in an earlier and foundational SCC case known as D.B.S. v. S.R.G., 2006 SCC 37. (“DBS”)

DBS involved an interpretation of the provisions in the Divorce Act addressing child support including section 15 which address initial applications for child support.

In deciding a case on retroactive child support the Court must apply a two part test:

  1. Does the Court have authority to order retroactive child support?
  2. If so – should it? When answering this question the Court weighs the following a factors:
    • Reasons for the applicant’s delay in bringing the application;
    • Whether or not there was blameworthy conduct by payor parent; and
    • Circumstances of the Child.
    • Whether Hardship would result from an award for retroactive support

In addition to this test, which has since been applied regularly by lower Courts deciding retroactive cases,  the SCC in DBS also made reference to the concept that section 15 of the Divorce Act cannot be used when the application is being made at a time when the child is no longer a child of the marriage as defined by the Divorce Act based on its interpretation of wording found in the Divorce Act.

Since DBS, Courts have generally interpreted, with some exceptions, this to mean that a Court is prohibited or without authority to make an order for child support retroactively if the child is no longer a child of the marriage at the time that the application is brought.

Importantly, the wording in section 152 of the FLA is different and was found not to have the narrow constraints as to the age of the child in its language.

As mentioned, the BC Provincial Court in Michel v. Graydon found that section 152 did not prohibit an order to be granted if the application was made when the child was no longer a child as defined by the FLA. The father in Michel appealed this decision to the British Columbia Supreme Court who overturned the lower Courts decision citing both DBS and another case out of BC, Dring v. Gheyle, 2018 BCCA 435 for the proposition that the Court does not have authority to grant an order for retroactive child support when the child is no longer a child. This Supreme Court of BC finding was appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal who relied on its earlier decisions in Dring v. Gheyle, 2018 BCCA 435 to uphold the BCSC’s decision. The appellant appealed to the SCC.

In its decision the SCC provided eloquent and thoughtful reasons that considered and spoke to the social importance of, and theory and intention behind, the payment of child support which is a fundamental and altruistic wish to see children of separated household benefit from the income available to both parents albeit in different households.

The SCC found that, if it were to interpret section 152 of the FLA narrowly, it would have an ongoing detrimental impact on the goal of ensuring that children are adequately and properly provided for by both of their parents after they separate.

The SCC expressed concern that the decision in DBS had been applied in a manner that resulted in the further feminization of poverty finding that women and children are disproportionately impoverished post separation than men.

In applying the test in DBS, the SCC found that s. 152 did provide authority to the Court to make an order for retroactive support. It then moved to discussing and applying the four factors in determining whether or not it was appropriate to make such an order.

The SCC found that there are many reasons that the recipients of child support may delay an application to seek more including, violence, lack of funds and focus of resources on child rearing responsibilities. As well, the SCC stated that the payor of support ought not to benefit from skirting an established obligation on the basis that the child was older, when the true obligation was up for determination by the Court. Instead the SCC found that a payor is in the best position to know what his or her income is and, if it has increased, he or she ought to ensure that he or she has adjusted the  amount of child support being paid.

The Court stated that the circumstances of the child should be viewed more broadly and not simply,” is the child ok and can the child now meet his or her needs,” but rather review the overall impact that the lack of proper support has had on the child.

Finally, the Court found that the hardship on the payor of having to pay a retroactive child support order should be viewed in context with the benefits that the payor received over time by under paying and conversely the hardship that was endured by the recipient and children who did not receive the benefit of proper child support.

This case illustrates the importance of child support for the health and well being of families moving forward after separation and the crucial need to ensure that there are no systemic judicial prohibitions on ensuring that the children and the primary caregiving parent receive the support that he or she deserves.

While all employees owe a duty of fidelity to their employers, certain employees owe an elevated fiduciary duty. The significance of distinguishing non-fiduciary employees from fiduciary employees is that the duty owed by a fiduciary to an employer is more exacting. The remedies available to the employer may be broader when a fiduciary employee competes, solicits customers, or misuses confidential information. The consequence of finding that an employee is a fiduciary is that non-fiduciary employees are generally only liable for the damages suffered by their employer resulting from their misconduct. Fiduciaries are potentially liable for either the damages suffered by the employer or the profit the fiduciary gained from the misconduct.

In the employment law context, there are two categories of fiduciaries: “per se” fiduciaries and ad hoc fiduciaries. “Per se” fiduciaries are persons who owe fiduciary obligations by nature of their position (e.g., directors and officers of a company). Ad hoc fiduciaries are persons who are not fiduciaries by the nature of their position but who owe a fiduciary obligation for circumstantial reasons (e.g, persons in senior management-type roles).

Vulnerability was the paramount consideration when establishing an ad hoc fiduciary relationship for many years. The emphasis on vulnerability was the product of the following three-part test enumerated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Frame v. Smith, [1987] 2 S.C.R. 99:

  • Does the fiduciary have scope for the exercise of some discretion or power?
  • Can the fiduciary unilaterally exercise that power or discretion so as to affect the beneficiary’s legal or practical interests? and
  • Is the beneficiary peculiarly vulnerable to or at the mercy of the fiduciary holding the discretion or power?

Although the Supreme Court of Canada has since clarified that vulnerability alone is insufficient to establish an ad hoc fiduciary relationship, vulnerability still plays a vital role in the assessment.

In Barton Insurance Brokers Ltd. v. Irwin, our Court of Appeal cautioned against expanding the reach of fiduciary obligations to non-senior employees, noting:

…the general interest of the public in free competition and the consideration that in general citizens should be free to pursue new opportunities, in my opinion, requires courts to exercise caution in imposing restrictive duties on former employees in less than clear circumstances. Generally speaking…the law favours the granting of freedom to individuals to pursue economic advantage through mobility in employment.

Notwithstanding this caution, courts across Canada have found that lower level/non-management employees may owe fiduciary duties to their employers. In Boehmer Box L.P. v. Ellis Packaging Limited et al., the Ontario Superior Court of Justice summarized decisions where courts affirmed the existence of a fiduciary duty on non-management/key employees. Some of the cases are striking and include relatively low-level employees. Examples of where courts found that non-senior employees owe a fiduciary duty include:

  • A placement director of a personnel agency who had the exclusive right to deal with particular clients;
  • A sales manager, who had exclusive contact with customers and had access to employer’s confidential information about the customers;
  • A senior employee who placed consultants with clients.  She had the exclusive right to place particular consultants, but no exclusive right to deal with any client.  The employee had access to confidential information about consultants;
  • A salesmen who played a key role in the day-to-day operations of the business and who formed part of a leadership team that coordinated the activities of other employees; and
  • A salesman who had responsibility for all clients within a geographic area and independent authority for decisions, including type of payment and choice of manufacturer, and who had access to all information relating to customers in the particular area.

Whether an employee owes a fiduciary duty is not cut and dry. Ad hoc fiduciary relationships are established on a case-by-case basis. As the above decision shows, relationships that do not appear fiduciary on their face, may give rise to fiduciary relationships. Many employees are under the mistaken assumption that they can freely compete against their former employers or solicit customers in the absence of a non-competition or non-solicitation agreement. Given the above, employees who seek to do so should exercise caution as they may expose themselves to personal liability.

When looking at buying a business, buyers will often request that the sellers refrain from competing with the business for a period of time after completion of the sale. We often include these type of provisions in purchase agreements or as stand-alone agreements for our clients.

These provisions must be reasonable to be enforceable. This is because they are a restriction on trade which is contrary to a free market and public policy. Courts will consider them reasonable if they meet certain criteria including that they are not overly broad in terms of either the geographic area that they cover or their duration.

If they are found to be overly broad, the courts often simply strike them down meaning they become unenforceable. That is great if the seller wants to go out and carry on a similar business but can be detrimental to a purchaser who may now find that they are competing with someone who has a stellar reputation and numerous contacts in the industry – something they specifically tried to avoid when they negotiated the terms of their business purchase.

A recent case from the Alberta Court of Appeal sheds new light on an old legal principal that takes a more precise approach than simply striking down the entire non-competition provision or agreement.

In the case of City Wide Towing and Recovery Service Ltd v Poole, 2020 ABCA 305, the court severed the portion of the non-competition agreement that was overly broad so that the parties were still bound by the non-competition provision, but in its modified version.

The non-competition agreement in this case included a provision that specifically stated that the parties agreed that a court could sever the portions of the agreement necessary to make it valid. However, it is not clear whether the court relied on this provision in coming to its decision.

The take-away for buyers wanting non-competition agreements to be enforceable is to always make sure that the provision is as reasonable as possible and focus on the business that is being purchased when looking at the criteria of geographic and temporal scope. It may also be beneficial to request the inclusion of a provision stating that the parties agree that a court should sever any provisions necessary to keep the rest of the agreement valid.

For a seller of a business, it may be worth pushing back on any provision that states that the parties agree that a court may sever offending provisions. Thus, if the parties end up in a court battle the seller may have a stronger argument that the court should default to the generally accepted practice that the entire non-competition agreement should be found unenforceable rather than request that a court try to save a portion of it.

At the end of the day, the City Wide case does not change the general state of the law, nor the advice that parties should try to come to a reasonable solution when negotiating the terms of any business transaction. However, you should be alert to the fact that a Canadian appeal’s court has recently opted to modify an unenforceable provision in a non-competition agreement rather than determine that the entire agreement is unenforceable.

Paul Tonita is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law, real estate, estate planning and estate administration.  His business experience includes assisting clients right from the beginning by discussing the different business structures, incorporating, buying and selling businesses, assisting with lending or financing needs, drafting and advising on contracts, and providing general advice to business owners.

His real estate practice involves assisting both residential and commercial clients with purchases, sales, financing and leasing.

Paul also helps clients plan for their future with estate and incapacity planning. He guides executors through the legal challenges that are unknown to many when they agree to take on the executor’s role. This may involve determining whether a grant of probate is required and applying for one if necessary, calling in assets, paying out debts, transferring real estate to surviving joint tenants and determining whether additional steps may be required in order to wind up an estate and transfer the balance of assets to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

For more information please contact Paul Tonita at 250-869-1126 (direct line) or email him at tonita@pushormitchell.com.

When a loved one passes away, how do you know if they had a Will? Many people – even those close to us – can be very “cloak and dagger” about finances and personal matters. Estate Planning is certainly very personal, and oftentimes loved ones will not communicate with those closest to them about their Wills. Some people keep their original Wills at home, or in a safety deposit box, or (most commonly and highly recommended) at the office of the lawyer who drafted their Will. Those are all good places to check.

To find out the location of the Will, one thing you can do is search the Wills Registry with Vital Statistics. We file Wills Notices registering the location of the Will for every single Will we draft. If a Notice of the location of the Will has been filed with the Registry, the search Certificate from the Registry will show the location of the original Will (for example “Pushor Mitchell LLP Wills Vault located at…….for safekeeping”.) However, filing a Wills Notice, although highly recommended, is optional, so it’s possible the Will-maker didn’t file a Notice, or may have since moved the will or revoked it. So the Wills Registry search may not be conclusive evidence, but it is certainly a good place to start.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com Vanessa practices in the area of Wills and Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

There is frequent need for parties who obtain judgments in jurisdictions outside of BC to come to BC seeking to enforce their judgments against assets of judgment creditors held in BC. The general framework for doing so is found in the Court Order Enforcement Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 78 (the “COEA”). The COEA generally provides that the judgment be for a dollar amount from a reciprocating jurisdictions to be enforceable as though it were a judgment in BC. Such jurisdictions include all the provinces except Quebec, Australia, certain states in the US and certain European countries.

In the recent decision of Lanfer v Eilers, 2020 BCSC 1325 (CanLII) the court was called upon to enforce a judgment obtained in a reciprocating jurisdiction, Germany. The judgment in question held that certain property in British Columbia was entitled to be inherited by the plaintiffs through a so-described inheritance contract. The subject property was in foreclosure and the plaintiffs registered a certificate of pending litigation claiming an interest in the property.

The plaintiffs sought to have BC’s courts enforce the German order to transfer the property to the plaintiffs on payment of €21,864. The defendant resisted the application, relying on the long-standing principle that Canadian courts will not enforce foreign judgments relating to or affecting an interest in land.

The Court in Lanfer v Eilers explored the applicable law. It noted that, in addition to the COEA, the common law provides that foreign judgement can be recognized and enforced in Canada where such judgments:

  1. are for a debt or definite sum of money other than taxes, fines or penalties; and
  2. are final and conclusive;
  3. are rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction;
  4. are obtained without fraud;
  5. stem from proceedings that comply with the Canadian concept of natural justice; and
  6. are not be contrary to public policy.

While it was conceded that there were no issues with whether the German judgment was properly obtained or determined, the defendant argued and the Court agreed that that the plaintiffs sought to enforce a judgment which would require ordering parties to execute documents to facilitate the conveyance of the subject property and the Land Title Office to participate in same. The Court was not prepared to grant such a judgment.

The Court held that the principle that Canadian courts will not enforce foreign judgments relating to or affecting an interest in land could not be disturbed in the case before it or that there had been any evolution of that principle which opened the door to argue an exception to the principle. The Court’s views and the law were summarized in para. 46 as follows:

Judgments affecting the title to or possession of real property should stand on a different footing from judgments enforcing rights as between individuals. Each country is defined by reference to its geographical boundaries and the land within those boundaries. Each country is entitled to exclusive jurisdiction over the land within its boundaries and no other country is entitled to encroach on that jurisdiction. Therefore, it is logical to require that decisions affecting the title to or possession of real property be made in accordance with the laws of the country where the property is situate.

The Court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, cancelled their certificate of pending litigation and ordered costs against the plaintiffs.

Lanfer v Eilers is a reminder that enforcement of foreign judgments in British Columbia can be a complex process. Parties seeking to enforce foreign judgments should consider first whether their judgment is generally enforceable as one for cash and then considered whether the judgment meets all the other tests of enforceability. Timely legal advice can assist in such evaluations and other remedies available to enforce a foreign judgment once registered.

Employees can be an organization’s greatest asset but also – in the circumstances of a corporate transaction – its greatest liability. Depending on the nature of the transaction, the transaction itself may have the effect of terminating the employment of the vendor’s employees and trigger unforeseen severance obligations.

Corporate transactions take two forms: asset sales and share sales. In an asset sale, the vendor agrees to sell some or all its assets. The purchaser is not buying the company per se. It is purchasing its assets. In a share sale, the vendor sells its shares to the purchaser and (unless agreed to otherwise) the purchaser assumes all the assets and liabilities of the vendor. The distinction between the two types of transactions is important because employment contracts cannot be assigned without consent. An asset sale results in a termination of employment as the purchaser is not buying the shares of the vendor and employees cannot be purchased. A share sale does not result in the termination of employment.

Employees have an obligation to accept substantially similar offers of employment. As a result, the severance obligations of a vendor in an asset sale are generally satisfied if the purchaser agrees to offer new employment to the vendor’s employees. That said, the purchaser in an asset sale is not obliged to offer new employment to the vendor’s employees and a refusal to offer new employment to the vendor’s employees will likely increase a vendor’s severance obligations. The parties will also want to consider who is liable for severance payments if the purchaser hires the vendor’s employees but terminates them shortly after the closing date. Depending on the circumstances and the wording of the asset purchase agreement, the vendor (to its surprise) may be liable for severance payments despite not being involved in the decision to terminate the employees’ employment.

If a purchaser offers new employment to some or all of the vendor’s employees, the purchaser will want to strongly consider whether it will agree to recognize the employees’ prior years of service with the vendor and have employees execute a new employment agreement prior to the closing date.

Many parties to a corporate transaction are so focused on “getting the deal done” that they do not stop to consider the potential severance obligations resulting from an asset sale, including pay in lieu of reasonable notice, contractual severance pay, change in control provisions, termination pay and group termination pay. Vendors and purchasers both benefit from knowing the employment obligations and liabilities that flow from a corporate transaction. Failing to account for these may result in considerable unplanned costs.

The Canada Child Benefit is a tax-free monthly benefit provided to Canadian low and middle-income families which the Government of Canada introduced in 2016 (the “CCB”).

The CCB is determined based on your household income and the number of children. If you are separated from the other guardian of your child, CRA will take into consideration the custody arrangement.

CRA and the Income Tax Act uses the term “shared custody” to mean if the child resides with both parents on a “more or less equal basis.”

If you are in a primary custody arrangement regarding your child, this means the child resides with you the majority of the time (more than 60% of the time) and you have the primary responsibility for the care and upbringing of the child, then CRA will determine that you are entitled to receive the full amount of CCB based on your household income.

If you are in a shared custody arrangement with your child, which means for CCB purposes:

  • You are one of two parents (or guardians) who are not living in the same residence or as common law spouses of each other;
  • Your child resides with you and the other parent sharing equal or near equal time between households; and
  • When your child lives with you, you fulfill the responsibility for the care and upbringing of the child.

Therefore, if you have your child living with you close to half the time (40-60% of the time) then you and the other parent of your child should be reporting to CRA accurately that you are in a shared custody arrangement.  If your household qualifies on a household income basis, CCB will then be apportioned between the households.

This division of CCB does not mean that you and the other parent will necessarily receive the same amount of CCB as the amount is determined according to each household income.

Problems and disputes often arise between separated parents if:

  1. If they are not in agreement on whether the parenting arrangement is a primary custody or shared custody arrangement;
  2. when one party does not report accurately to CRA; or
  3. when there is a delay in the reporting to CRA in the event of a change in the custody arrangement.

It these circumstances, unfortunately sometimes the person who has been receiving the full CCB for some time will be required to repay a certain amount to CRA and the party who should have been receiving a portion of the CCB (sometimes for quite some time) could receive retroactive payment. This can then be a source of dispute between the parents.

It is important to consider this benefit when you separate and to be on the same page with the other parent on your reporting to CRA to ensure that there are no unexpected surprises that occur on either side. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to have clarity and a written agreement on the parenting arrangement to avoid any confusion or disputes on this issue.

If you have any further questions, we recommend that you have a discussion with your family lawyer and your tax accountant.  Please be advised that this information is subject to change as the CRA changes their benefits and qualification requirements.  This article is for informational purposes and is not specific legal advice, tax or accounting advice of any kind.

Sometimes, very unfortunately, loved ones go missing. They may never return from a hunting trip, or a hike in the mountains. How can we deal with their assets? Their bills while they are missing? What if they return home? Or worse……..what if they never return, when can we actually deem that they are deceased and start to deal with their Estate?

This is a complicated issue. It is hard enough to get closure when a loved one passes away, let alone if their body is never found. If there is “sufficient evidence” that a person is dead, you can try to apply to the Court for a Presumption of Death Order. “Sufficient evidence” is really evidence looked at in its totality regarding the circumstances relating to the disappearance of the missing person.

Strong evidence will include things like affidavit evidence from the police and other sources, in terms of searches undertaken over a period of time for the missing person, phone records and banking records showing no activity for months on the accounts etc. If there is insufficient evidence that someone is deceased, but where they have been missing for a certain period of time, with no contact with relatives or others that are usually in touch with them, the Court may appoint the Public Guardian and Trustee, or other suitable person on application to the Court, as custodian of the missing person’s property.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on incapacity planning/estate planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com Vanessa practices in the area of Wills and Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

Often times parties to a contract have a less than clear understanding of many of the principles of contractual law. Even if it is clear what the explicit terms of a contract are, parties may be unclear about implied or impugned terms, the interpretation of the contract or what remedies might follow when the other party breaches the contract. The recent decision of Munro v. James, 2020 BCSC 1348 (CanLII) is a case that contains many concise statements of the principles applicable to contractual law in addition to being an interesting and relatively unique dispute.

In Munro, the disputed contract concerned an agreement that the plaintiffs would pay Ms. James $100,000, take care of her farm and ponies for the remainder of Ms. James’ life and, in exchange, would be allowed to live at the Ms. James’ property, build a home on the property and be entitled to Ms. James’ estate when she passed (the “Contract”). Issues arose because Ms. James purported to terminate the Contract and she also executed a new will appointing another defendant, Ms. Brown, as her executor and sole beneficiary.

In its analysis, the Court first set out the standard for interpreting contracts in Canada, namely, “Words in a contract must be construed in their ordinary and natural sense. The intention of the parties with respect to the meaning of words in a contract must be determined objectively with reference to the surrounding circumstances at the time of signing the contract…” (para. 43). The Court went on to cite that the intention of the parties is not found by their actual state of mind, but how a party’s conduct would strike a reasonable person viewing the matter (para. 44).

Part of the defence advanced was premised on the argument that the Contract contained an implied term that it could be terminated by notice. The Court reviewed the law on implied terms and, more particularly, the principle that implied terms will only be read into a contract where such a term is necessary to give effect to the intention of the parties (para. 67). It went on to cite the following factors to be considered with respect to an alleged implied term (para. 68):

  • it must be reasonable and equitable;
  • it must be necessary to give business efficacy to the contract so that no term will be implied if the contract is effective without it;
  • it must be so obvious that “it goes without saying”;
  • it must be capable of clear expression; and
  • it must not contradict any express term of the contract.

The Court rejected that the alleged implied term existed, finding only a breach of the Contract could properly ground its termination. The Court rejected all arguments advanced as to the alleged ways in which the plaintiffs were alleged to have breached the Contract.

The Court analyzed whether Ms. James’ conduct amounted to anticipatory breach. It set out that an anticipatory breach is one where “…a party, by express language or conduct, or as a matter of implication from what he has said and done, repudiates his contractual obligation before they fall due…” and that such a breach requires the alleging party to establish that the conduct amounts to a total rejection of the obligations of a contract without justification (para. 182). The Court found Ms. James’ conduct to be such a breach without justification.

The Court went on to note that, in the face of an anticipatory breach, the plaintiffs had the option to either accept the breach, treat the Contract as ended and suing for damages or declining to accept the breach and seeking specific performance with such an election not being required until judgment (para. 186). The Court noted that specific performance does not need to be perfectly requested if the pleadings essentially plead what amounts to a request for specific performance. The plaintiffs were seeking specific performance.

Specific performance is the notion that a party will be ordered to perform a contract as agreed. As the Court noted, an order for specific performance is a discretionary remedy and the Court will substitute damages instead unless money is not an adequate remedy (para. 193). The Court noted that specific performance was historically more commonly available for contracts involving land (para. 195). The Court also noted that, while comparable properties may exist, the plaintiffs made the property in question their home and invested significant funds and energy into it.

Historically, a party seeking specific performance must perform their part of the contract (para. 221), but such a requirement, known as the doctrine of mutuality, has been more limited in application in more recent developments. The more modern approach required the Court to consider whether orders could be made for specific performance that would provide sufficient safeguards to Ms. James that the plaintiffs would perform their obligations under the Contract and, if so, specific performance could be ordered (para. 223). The Court ultimately found that the plaintiffs were entitled to specific performance, being an entitlement to receive Ms. James’ estate on her death.

Having found that the plaintiffs were entitled to the specific performance of the receipt of Ms. James’ estate on her death, the Court also found it necessary to make other orders which preserved the intention of the Contract including that the subject property could not be further encumbered or disposed of without consent of the plaintiffs or order of the Court. It also ordered its judgment and a related mortgage between the parties to be registered on title among other things.

Munro is a case worth reviewing as a refresher on many of the principles applicable in the interpretation of contracts and the remedies which might flow from a breach of a contract.

Other articles I have written which touch on some of the issues in this article include:

COVID-19 has posed great challenges for employers who are facing an interruption, modification, or perhaps even a closure of their businesses.  In an effort to survive, employers have terminated or laid off employees, or modified working conditions or wages.

These moves have exposed employers to claims under the Employment Standards Act and claims in the courts for constructive dismissal.  It is yet to be seen how these claims will be handled by the courts but there is no doubt that there will liability to employers in some cases for severance pay or damages for constructive dismissal.  (Constructive dismissal is explained here: Constructive Dismissal.)

The good news for employers is that uncertainty regarding the ability to lay-off or terminate in the event of a crisis like COVID-19 can be effectively mitigated in a properly drafted employment agreement. While these agreements cannot avoid the payment of statutory severance pay (unless the concept of frustration comes into play COVID-19 and Frustration of Contracts) the agreements can sanction modifications in working conditions and compensation and limit severance pay to the minimum standards in the Employment Standards Act.

An Executor/Administrator/Trustee (“Personal Representative”), must be ready at all times to account for the trust property. The Personal Representative has a stringent duty to keep detailed records of all capital, expense and income transactions with documents, invoices and receipts.

A “Passing of Accounts” is usually the final piece of the Estate process. It is the formal Court process to have the accounting of the Personal Representative approved by a Judge. The passing of accounts can be done formally through the Courts, or informally by the consent of all the beneficiaries. That being said, in those cases where there is a minor or incapable beneficiary, the passing of accounts cannot be waived and must go before the Court.

More often than not, the majority of accounts are approved and consented to in writing by the adult/capable beneficiaries. However, where beneficiaries are at odds, a formal Court passing of accounts is usually inevitable. If a Personal Representative anticipates controversy, it is usually recommended that they voluntarily submit their accounts to audit before the Court, by making an application for the formal passing of their accounts. If the accounts are approved by the Court, the Personal Representative is then absolved of any liability with respect to the accounts (unless there has been a fraud). A formal Court passing is also useful as it allows the Personal Representative to take his/her compensation if the beneficiaries are refusing to consent to same.

The function of the Court on a passing of accounts was well set out in the case of Estate of Fannie Cleverley 2000 BCSC 1454, “…the function of the court is to determine whether the executor has exercised his duties under the will properly and in accordance with the law.”

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

When you become the registered owner of real property in British Columbia that is free and clear of any financial encumbrances or agreements for sale, the Land Title Office has the ability to issue to you a “Duplicate Certificate of Title” (or more simply, a “Duplicate Title”) that prevents the majority of possible changes from being made to your Title.

In the past, the issuance of your Duplicate Title to a lender as a form of security for a loan was much more commonplace than it is today. The practical downside to the practice of issuing Duplicate Title is that it involves the physical delivery of a certificate that, if lost or destroyed, prevents the Land Title Office from making changes to a property’s Title meaning that it cannot be sold or mortgaged.

For clients who have owned their property for an extended period of time issues with Duplicate Title typically arise because at one point during their ownership there was a loan that they had with a major financial institution that required as part of their loan security that a duplicate indefeasible title certificate be provided to the bank. Then, even though the loan has since been repaid and all security was to be discharged, the Duplicate Title certificate was lost by the bank or was returned by the bank to the client who subsequently misplaced same without submitting same back to the land title office.

In either circumstance, the Duplicate Title was not returned to the Land Title Office and Title for the property shows that Duplicate Title  as issued and outstanding, preventing the client from completing fundamental rights associated with property ownership such as being able to transfer or secure loans against the property.

The solution to this problem of lost Duplicate Title certificate is to apply to the Land Title Office for the issuance of a provisional indefeasible title (a “PIT“) which can then be returned to the Land Title Office for cancellation pursuant to section 176 of the Land Title Act [RSBC 1996] Chapter 250 (the “Act“).

A PIT is very useful because, as per section 194 of the Act, a PIT can be used for all purposes and uses that the lost Duplicate Title certificate could have been used for and relates back to the date of registration or issuance of the lost Duplicate Title.

Section 193 of the Act specifically contemplates lost Duplicate Title certificates and the steps that clients must take in order to obtain a PIT are as follows:

  1. Electronically submit a PIT application to the land title office with proof of loss evidenced by an affidavit sworn by the registered owner(s) (the “Affidavit”).
  2. The Affidavit must contain the following:
    • the title number, legal description of the property, and the full legal name(s) of the registered owner(s).
    • the particulars as to:
    • – the delivery of the Duplicate Title from the time it was taken from the land title office to its receipt by the registered owner;
      – the circumstances of its loss; and
      – the efforts made to find it;

    • a statement that the registered owner(s) have been in uninterrupted legal possession of the land for X number of years without any adverse claim having been made against him/her/them;
    • a statement that the registered owner(s) have never pledged the duplicate indefeasible title or hypothecated it by way of security for a loan or otherwise except as set out in the Affidavit; and
    • the present market value of the property (land plus improvements).

  3. If a lender or other third party(ies) obtained or made use of the Duplicate Title certificate after its delivery form the land title office and before it was lost, the registered owner(s) should obtain sworn affidavits from such party(ies) in order to demonstrate continuity or a chain of events leading to its loss in order to provide comfort to the registrar that the Duplicate Title certificate could not have fallen into the hands of someone inappropriate.
  4. Once submitted to the Land Title Office, the application will undergo a review and if approved the Land Title Office will contact our office regarding advertising requirements about the issuance of a PIT and any further instructions they may have in connection with the application.
  5. With respect to advertisements, the Land Title Office may require an advertisement of the registrar’s intention to issue a PIT for whatever time period and in locations (including one or more newspapers, or the British Columbia Gazette, a Crown publication, or both) that the registrar considers necessary; however, discretion from the Land Title Office may be exercised deeming such advertisement not necessary in the circumstances.

If issued, the title for the property at issue will be updated to note the issuance of the PIT and the date of issue while also referring to the Affidavit filed as evidence of loss by its filing number.

Should you or someone you know require assistance with a lost Duplicate Title certificate, or any other real property related matter, please do not hesitate to contact Brian Stephenson at stephenson@pushormitchell.com.

When we do estate planning for clients with significant value in their estates, we often created spousal trusts for their spouse and separate trusts for each child.  This used to be advantageous from a tax standpoint, as each trust was taxed as a separate taxpayer, so each trust had the benefit of graduated marginal rates on income earned and left in the trust.  This benefit ended a few years ago when tax laws were changed to make income earned in most trusts taxed at the highest marginal rate.

If the sole purpose of the separate trusts in your will was the income splitting that was available from the former tax laws, the need for the separate trusts is now gone.  Simplifying your will to remove the separate trusts can be an advantage for ease of administration and reduced professional costs when you pass.

However, there can be other uses for separate trusts in your will, such as protection from creditors or partners, or for protection of the assets for a child who cannot handle money well.

If the trustee of the trust is a person or entity other than your child, and the beneficiaries of the trust include your child and their children or other beneficiaries, there can still be protective benefits from such a trust.

Speak to your estate planning lawyer to get advice on what makes sense in your situation.

Theresa Arsenault, Q.C. helps clients with estate planning and business and real estate matters.

One of the most frequent types of construction disputes centers on what is owed vs. what is charged for work. Whether due to poor contractual drafting, incomplete oral negotiations or parties failing to properly reach a meeting of the minds, what a contractor says is owed for its work is often far different from what an owner agrees is owed or is prepared to pay. Many of the issues which lead to such disputes were at the heart of the disagreements in Anway Construction Ltd. v Hunte, 2020 BCSC 601 (CanLII).

In the case the owners had hired a contractor to demolish a home and construct a new home. The owners put out a call for proposals and received several bids. The contractor’s bid was for a fix-price of $766,651.44 and described that price as the upper limit for construction. The parties went back and forth on details and the contractor provided a second quote described as “budget only” for $746,823 plus tax.

Further discussions and negotiations followed and eventually the parties entered into a cost-plus contract with a completion date of 10 months later and the fees to be costs of construction plus 10%. The original contract discussed a guaranteed maximum price (“GMP”) above which the contractor would not be entitled to payment but failed to detail what the GMP would be. To secure construction financing, a version of the contract with at $925,000 GMP was submitted to the owners’ bank. Whether the contractor agreed to this revision was a matter of dispute.

Construction began late for several reasons. As work progressed the contractor did provide ongoing costs of construction and comparisons to the original budget but did not provide information about how far along the project had progressed or provide a detailed construction schedule contemplated by the contract.

The parties began to have disputes about the budget, pricing, costs to complete, whether there was a GMP and whether the contractor exceeded the GMP. The owners’ bank caught wind of the disputes and refused to advance funds. The contractor and its suppliers and subcontractors stopped work and filed builders’ liens against the property.

As the dust settled, while there was some dispute about the numbers which was resolved by the Court, the contractor billed a total of $1,047,916.11, of which $924,54.56 was paid. The Contractor claimed $117,456.17 was owed in its lien. The owners took the position that the contractor was in breach of the contract including by exceeding the GMP. The owners had to re-finance and it cost near a million dollars to get their home to the point where they could move in.

The Court found that the GMP was in the contractor’s contemplation and communications before it was included in the revised contract. It went on to find that the construction contract was amended to include a GMP. Arguments about a lack of fresh consideration for the GMP amendment were rejected.

The Court also rejected that the contractor’s work varied significantly from the original plans such that claims for extras or changes to the scope of work were well-grounded. The court cited the well-known conditions of when extras are chargeable even where no change order is completed as detailed in Kei-Ron Holdings Ltd. v. Coquihalla Motor Inn Ltd. [1996] B.C.J. No. 1237 (S.C.):

  • the work performed was, in fact, “extra work” and not covered by the terms of the contract;
  • the work was in fact authorized by the owner;
  • the owner was aware that the extra work would increase the cost of the project; and
  • the owner waived the provision requiring changes to be made in writing or acquiesced in the fact that the parties were ignoring those provisions.

The Court found that the contractor failed to satisfy at least the last two conditions. Even if the GMP did not apply and the contract was cost plus, the contractor had submitted a budget and was obliged to notify the owners when costs where overrunning the budget (citing Infinity Construction Inc. v. Skyline Executive Acquisitions Inc.2020 ONSC 77), which the contractor failed to do. It was not until late in the construction that the contractor clearly indicated that construction could not be completed within the original budget, leaving the owners unable to do anything to get costs back under control.

The Court declined the owners’ arguments about misrepresentations made by the contractor.

Having found that there was a GMP, the court then turned to damages. The Court found that the owners were entitled to be placed in the position they would have been had the contractor properly performed the contract; more particularly, that work would have completed in 10 months for $925,000 plus GST.

The Court found there was insufficient evidence to explain why completion of the work increased so substantially once a second contractor was brought in to compete the work and, as such, did not make an award based on such increased costs. The Court awarded the following to the owners:

  • $505,591.56 being the costs to complete the contractor’s work based on the level of progress achieved and having already been paid roughly the GMP amount;
  • $153,135.26 being the amount to clear liens registered by the contractor and its suppliers and subcontractors;
  • $113,748.33 being the costs to find alternative accommodations after when work ought to have been completed;
  • $428.75 being a partial award of claimed moving costs;
  • $7,533.86 being a partial award of claimed storage costs;
  • $56,506.27 for additional interest and borrowing costs; or
  • $836,944.03 in total.

Anway Construction Ltd. v Hunte is a cautionary tale to both contractors and owners. Had the contractor properly kept the owners informers of what it said were changes to the costs of construction and got such changes approved or had proper change orders executed, it might have succeeded in its claims for payment in excess of the GMP and defended the claims against it. Similarly, the owners had significant exposure in the case as only a small number of findings on contested evidence resulted in the difference between their substantial judgment vs. being found liable to the contractor for a debt in excess of $100,000.

Parties to a construction contract are urged to keep in mind that a budget is generally material to the interpretation and performance of a construction contract whether the contract is fixed or cost plus. Similarly, if the scope of work might be changing, such changes should be well-documented both as to how the scope is changing and what the effects the change will have on price. If the parties wish to have a guaranteed maximum price, contractual clauses related to that should be carefully drafted and kept in mind. Lastly, the best protection to owners and contracts is to have well-informed and well documented discussions of the progress of work, the costs of work to date, the costs to complete work, whether any budget is anticipated to be exceeded and as to the overall progress of work.

For related articles on the subjects in this article, please consider:

On June 25, 2020, the province introduced regulatory amendments to allow temporary layoffs to continue for up to 24 weeks, or until August 30th, whichever comes first.  In connection with that initiative, the government indicated that the only avenue for any further extension to layoff periods would be through the variance process under section 72 of the Employment Standards Act.

Employers and workers who need to extend temporary layoffs due to COVID-19 can apply for a variance using the Employment Standards Branch’s new online application.

There are 5 steps involved in the joint application process.

  1. Before applying, employers must make sure the majority of affected employees are aware of the application and agree to continue to be temporarily laid-off from work. More than 50% of affected employees must approve the decision to apply for a variance.  If a majority decision is not reached, an employer cannot proceed with the application.
  2. Employers must provide documentary proof that more than 50% of affected employees approve the decision to apply for a variance. The Employment Standards Branch has designed a survey template to assist employers in this regard.
  3. Employers submit their online application through the Employment Standards Branch website.
  4. Employers will receive a notice from the Employment Standards Branch with respect to their variance application. If the variance is granted, employers will be emailed a copy of the variance decision.  If the variance is denied, a formal decision is sent by registered mail to both the employer and affected employees
  5. If the variance is granted, the conditions in the variance must be followed and a copy of the variance must be posted at the worksite.

Both employers and employees may benefit from an extension to a temporary layoff.  Employers may benefit by not having to terminate employees and provide termination pay.  Employees may benefit by remaining continuously employed with no interruption to rate of pay, vacation accrual, and years of service.

However, making the majority of affected employees aware of the application and having them agree to continue to be temporarily laid-off from work will pose challenges for some employers.  Employees may be unlikely to complete the survey and may not agree to continue to be laid-off beyond August 30, 2020.

In addition, employers are expected to have reasonable plans to recall employees by a specific date that falls after August 30, 2020.  The Employment Standards Branch does acknowledge that employers are facing uncertainty and determining a firm recall date for employees because of variables affecting BC’s Restart Plan may be difficult.

Applications should be submitted by no later than August 25, 2020 to receive a decision by August 30, 2020 to avoid layoffs being deemed terminations and potentially requiring the payment of termination pay.

Should you have any questions or require legal support, please contact any one of the Pushor Mitchell Employment team.

When an employee voluntarily resigns from their employment they cannot successfully sue their employer for wrongful dismissal. However, determining whether an employee has actually resigned is not always straightforward. In the recent BC Supreme Court decision, Coutlee v. Apex Granite & Tile Inc., 2020 BCSC 315, the Court had to determine whether an employee had resigned or been dismissed after he was asked to leave the job site.


The employer, Apex, provided tile and granite installation services in the construction sector. Apex employed Mr. Coutlee on several projects. There were a few incidents prior to August 17, 2018 when Mr. Coutlee had been suspended, but Mr. Coutlee himself, had never treated the suspensions as terminations.

On August 17, 2018 Mr. Coutlee refused to speak with the operations manager on site. The operations manager said he would have to suspend Mr. Coutlee if he refused to speak with him. Mr. Coutlee abruptly said, “Am I fired?” The operations manager said “No, I want to talk to you but if you won’t talk to me you are suspended and you can pack up your tools and get off the site.” Mr. Coutlee asked again if he had been fired and the operations manager said “No.” After the incident the operations manager directed a supervisor to prepare a “notice of non-compliance”. The operations manager assumed Mr. Coutlee would cool off and call for his next work assignment, but he never returned and a few weeks later when Mr. Coutlee called to ask for his ROE, the operations manager took this as an indication he had resigned.


The central issue in this case was whether the actions of Mr. Coutlee amounted to resignation, or whether the employer’s actions amounted to dismissal.

Analysis and Conclusion

The Court determined that Mr. Coutlee’s employment was not terminated. The test for dismissal, or termination is purely objective: “A finding of dismissal must be based on an objective test: whether the acts of the employer, objectively view, amount to dismissal.” The dispute on August 17, 2018 between the operations manager and Mr. Coutlee ended with a clear denial from the operations manager that Mr. Coutlee’s employment had been terminated. Mr. Coutlee did not meet the burden to prove that he had been dismissed.

The Court went on to analyze whether Mr. Coutlee had resigned. A resignation must be clear and unequivocal. As stated by our Court of Appeal in Beggs v. Westport Foods Ltd., 2011 BCCA 76, a finding of resignation involves a two-part analysis:

  • Did the employee intend to resign?; and
  • Did the employee’s words and acts, objectively viewed, support a finding that he or she resigned?

The court concluded that due to his past dealings with Apex, Mr. Coutlee’s request for a ROE was a clear and unequivocal expression of his voluntary intent to resign.

Ultimately, the Court dismissed Mr. Coutlee’s claim for wrongful dismissal.

Take-away for employers

Employers should be careful in their communications with employees who are asked to leave the job site (or leave in a huff), and make sure to keep good records of their dealings with the employee.

A life estate is the ownership of property/land for the duration of a person’s life. It is a tool that is commonly used in blended families, where one spouse comes to the second (or third) marriage with property that he/she wishes to preserve for his/her own children from a previous marriage. The owner of that property can grant a life estate in the property that ends upon the death of the surviving spouse, when the ownership of the property may pass to the testator’s own children via his/her Will.

An example of a common Will clause to this effect is as follows:

“Life estate in principal residence

If my wife, X, survives me, I direct my Trustees to hold whatever real property I may own and which X and I may be using as our principal residence as at the date of my death (the “Property”) as a home for X during her lifetime, or for such shorter period as X desires or as my Trustees in the exercise of an absolute discretion shall consider appropriate.  During such time that this Property is used as a home for X:

(a)         The utilities and any other amounts required for repairs and for the general upkeep of the Property shall be paid out of my Estate;

(b)         The taxes, insurance, mortgage payments and any other expenses related to the Property and not otherwise payable by X (the “Expenses”) shall be paid by my Estate; and

(c)          My Trustees shall set aside an amount of money (the “House Fund”) which, in their absolute discretion, is sufficient to pay these Expenses and shall pay these Expenses from this House Fund during the period of time that X continues to reside in the Property, after which time the remainder of the House Fund shall form part of the residue of my Estate.

Upon the death of X, or if at any time when in the exercise of an absolute discretion my Trustees consider it no longer appropriate to retain such Property as a home for X, my Trustees shall sell such Property and the proceeds of sale shall form part of the residue of my Estate.”

The life estate is a useful tool for spouses in a second marriage who want to ensure that when the property owner passes, the spouse has the ability to remain in their principal residence and not be disrupted or forced to move out. You will note that the above clause gives the Trustees a lot of discretion to potentially end the life estate if they “consider it no longer appropriate to retain such Property as a home for X”.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com  Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.


Recent changes under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia) as of June 30, 2020 have resulted in the formation of a new type of company know as a “benefit company”.

A benefit company is like a standard corporation in the sense that it is a for-profit entity. However, benefit companies have two additional requirements. A benefit company must be committed to conducting business in a “responsible and sustainable” way. Second, a benefit company must promote one or more “public benefits”. A public benefit is defined in the Business Corporations Act as a “positive effect” that benefits a class of persons other than the shareholders of the company. This is intended to be interpreted broadly, as a positive effect can include an effect on artistic, charitable, cultural, economic, educational, environmental, literary, medical, religious, scientific or technological groups.

The general provisions of the Business Corporations Act apply to benefit companies, and in this regard, they are no different than a normal company from a maintenance and organization perspective. Additional organization features of benefit companies include the following:

  • A benefit company must have a “benefit statement” in its notice of articles
  • A benefit company must include a “benefit provision” in the articles which states the public benefits that the company will promote, as well as the company’s intent and to conduct business in a responsible and sustainable manner
  • A benefit company must publish an annual benefit report that provides an assessment of the company’s performance against a third-party standard. A third-party standard means a standard for defining, reporting and assessing the performance of a benefit company in conducting its business in a responsible and sustainable manner and in relation to its public benefits.

There is also an additional requirement for directors and officers. For a standard company, directors and officers have a duty to act in the best interests of the company. Directors and officers of a benefit company have an additional duty to act honestly and in good faith with a view to conducting the business of the company in a responsible and sustainable manner, and promoting the public benefits of the company. This is very important, as directors and officers of a benefit company will have to balance the duty to act in the best interests of the company with this new benefit duty. In other words, directors and officers of benefit companies must consider broader stakeholders and goals than a normal company.

Why would a benefit company be beneficial (no pun intended)? Given society’s ever increasing intent to promote and emphasize key corporate concepts such as sustainability, social responsibility and good corporate governance, a benefit company may be popular for those who wish to emphasize these characteristics, or want to enhance community recognition as it relates to the company’s core values. This also may be desirable for a company when attracting key investors who are focused on these concepts and values as it relates to the greater community.

At present, there does not appear to be any tax advantages to being a benefit company.

This article is provided as information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a lawyer to provide you with advice specific to your own situation. For more information, please contact Patrick Bobyn by calling (250) 869-1286 or by email at bobyn@pushormitchell.com.

Patrick Bobyn is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law, real estate, estate planning and estate administration. His business experience includes assisting clients right from the beginning by discussing the different business structures, incorporating, buying and selling businesses, assisting with lending or financing needs, drafting and advising on contracts, and providing general advice to business owners.

The BC NDP are moving forward with proposed changes that claim to modernize the Workers’ Compensation Act.  These changes are being proposed as the BC NDP seek to provide better support to injured workers and their families and to enhance WorkSafeBC’s ability to investigate workplace incidents.

The proposed changes that are being pushed through include:

  • raising the maximum annual salary amount on which workers’ compensation benefits are based up to $100,000;
  • authorizing WorkSafeBC to provide preventative medical treatment before a claim is accepted;
  • allowing WorkSafeBC to correct or acknowledge obvious errors of a decision past the 75-day time limit for reconsideration;
  • giving WorkSafeBC the powers of search and seizure for workplace investigations (through judge-granted warrants) through the Workers’ Compensation Act, rather than the Offence Act. This could include: the ability to collect samples, search hard drives, seize or compel documents and obtain tele-warrants. This will provide WorkSafeBC with the power to investigate workplace safety infractions when prosecution is being considered; and
  • establishing liability on corporate directors for unpaid premiums or other amounts owed to WorkSafeBC.

In addition, the government is seeking to fast track the effective date of presumptions, if established by WorkSafeBC board of directors, for occupational diseases caused by viral pathogens. This includes COVID-19 and any future pandemic.  The presumption would simplify the process for workers who make a workers’ compensation claim if they contract viruses on the job. This essentially creates a system where those people that are perceived to be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 at work will have their claims automatically accepted.

Through the Employers’ Forum, many employers have strongly opposed the change in “presumptions” that a COVID-19 infection came from exposure at work. In a submission to WorkSafeBC, the Employers’ Forum states:

Insufficient scientific information and the nature of this pandemic means the workers’ compensation system can only effectively address claims on a case-by-case basis, much as public health officials are currently doing with the contact tracing process…This pandemic – like all pandemics – is a public health crisis, not a workplace health crisis.

In a system funded solely by employers, all of these changes will represent an increase in costs to employers through potentially more accepted claims, and greater costs of claims particularly for higher wage earners. This creates an additional financial and administrative burden on employers who are already facing loss of revenue due to COVID-19.

On the bright side, better WorkSafeBC coverage for high income earners may assist in keeping disability insurance premiums in check for those employers providing that benefit.

On January 21, 2014, Mr. and Ms. Schellenberg suffered losses when a building on their property was damaged by a fire. They submitted a claim to their insurer, Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company (“Wawanesa”). Wawanesa denied the claim on the basis that the insurance policy was voided because the Schellenbergs’ failed to inform Wawanesa of a material change in risk, being the construction of a licensed marijuana grow operation and related upgrades. The Schellenbergs brought a claim against Wawanesa for failing to make payment further to the policy coverage and against Hub International Canada West ULC (“HUB”), the insurance broker, for failing to secure adequate coverage.

At trial, the Schellenbergs were unsuccessful and they brought an appeal. That reasons from that appeal were recently published in Schellenberg v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, 2020 BCCA 22 (CanLII) and are a useful basis for discussion of some denial of coverage issues that might arise as a result of “material changes” for items covered by an insurance policy.

In the case Hub provided an annual renewal package to the Schellenbergs which included information about what the insurer considered a material change. The document defined a material change as “…something important enough to change the original agreement between the insurance company and the policyholder…” and provided the following examples of material changes:

  • starting a home-based business/farm use;
  • using an auxiliary wood heat source without the insurers’ knowledge;
  • renovations or alterations to the building; and
  • changes in occupancy.

The Schellenbergs denied reviewing the annual renewal package information.

The Court of Appeal noted s. 29 of the Insurance Act, R.S.B.C. 2012, c. 1 which sets out certain statutory conditions deemed to be part of every insurance contract. Condition four of those conditions includes the statutory definition of a material change which is as follows:

4.(1) The insured must promptly give notice in writing to the insurer or its agent of a change that is

(a) material to the risk, and

(b) within the control and knowledge of the insured.

(2) If an insurer or its agent is not promptly notified of a change under subparagraph (1) of this condition, the contract is void as to the part affected by the change.

The Court of appeal cited Henwood v. Prudential Insurance Co. of America, 1967 CanLII 17 (SCC), [1967] S.C.R. 720 at 726–727 for the common law definition of a material change which is: “ A change material to the risk is one that if disclosed would have caused a reasonable insurer to decline the risk or stipulate a higher premium.”

Wawanesa successfully argued at trial that the Schellenbergs’ policy was voided as a result of (1) there being a change material to risk; (2) the change being within the Schellenbergs’ control; (3) the Shcellenbergs having knowledge of the change and (4) the Schellenbergs did not notify Wawanesa or Hub of the change.

More specifically, the Court of Appeal noted the trial judge’s reasons which found that the Schellenbergs:

  • knew they were obliged to tell Hub or Wawanesa about significant changes to their property or its use;
  • did not inform Hub or Wawanesa about the grow operation or electrical upgrades related to it, took some time to plan and execute the upgrades including obtaining related licencing;
  • had multiple occasions to inform Hub or Wawanesa about the upgrades;
  • were alerted to the fact that the upgrades could be material because of the annual renewal documents; and
  • knew or ought to have known that the presence of a grow operation would have been relevant to the consideration of their insurance;

all of which lead the trial judge to conclude that the Schellenbergs misled Hub by failing to disclose the facility where the grow operation occurred and the operation itself.

The Court of Appeal noted authorities including Marche v. Halifax Insurance Co., 2005 SCC 6 which clearly reject the requirement for the insurer to causally tie the material non-disclosure to the loss suffered in order to void a policy. In other words, it does not matter if the material thing an insured does not tell its insurer about caused or is related to a loss, the simple act of non-disclosure is enough to potentially void a policy.

With respect to the claim against Hub, the trial judge and Court of Appeal noted that a broker’s duty of care is to provide advice to a customer about the coverage available to meet the customer’s needs, including gaps in coverage and how to protect against such gaps (citing Beck v. Johnston, Meier Insurance Agencies Ltd., 2011 BCCA 250, aff’g 2010 BCSC 719). The trial judge found that, in the circumstances, Hub had no reason to make inquiries as to whether the Schellenbergs upgraded their electrical system or started a marijuana grow operation nor necessarily any obligation to do so. Further, there were findings that the Schellenbergs did not volunteer any information which would have elicited such inquiries or intend to be forthright if specific inquiries about the grow operation had been made.

The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s findings and further noted that no expert evidence was submitted by the Schellenbergs to support the notion that Hub’s duty of care as a brokerage included undertaking an inquiry into whether the Schellenbergs upgraded their electrical system or started a marijuana grow operation.

As such, the Court of Appeal upheld the denial of the claims against Wawanesa and Hub.

Schellenberg v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company is a reminder that insurance policies, while generally being interpreted generously in favour of the insured, are still dependent on an insured making full, frank and proper disclosure of those facts which may be material  to the policy and to advise their insurer or broker of any material changes in the underlying risks of the policy when such changes occur. Failure to provide proper disclosure can void a policy from the moment of the failure to provide such disclosure. It is far better for insureds to provide proper disclosure and to explore additional, different or alternative insurance coverage rather than to have their policy voided in its entirety.

Schellenberg v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company can also serve as a reminder that insurers are looking for any way to avoid making payment under their policies. Insureds should not simply accept an insurer’s declaration that a policy has been voided or denied for an alleged failure to disclose material facts or material changes without careful consideration of whether such a position is solidly grounded in fact and law. Similarly, insureds should also consider whether any alleged failure to disclose material facts or material changes resulted from their own conduct or if such alleged failures resulted from their broker failing to properly record such information from an insured or communicate such information to the insurer.

If an insured finds themselves being denied coverage for an allegation of a failure to disclose material facts or material changes, legal advice should be sought on how to proceed next.

For additional information related the issues covered in this article, please consider my previous articles:

Many employers have been worried about the status of their employees who are still on temporary layoff. The original permitted layoff duration was 13 weeks. It was then extended to 16 weeks until June 25, 2020 at which time the time period was extended again to 24 weeks until August 30, 2020.

This is good news for employers assessing their potential exposure to severance pay claims of employees.

A word of caution though, as common law lay-offs can be considered to be a constructive dismissal no matter what the legislation provides. While the provinces approach to what a permissible temporary lay-off is, there is no guarantee the courts will find that COVID-19 caused temporary layoffs (of whatever duration) are not constructive dismissals. We feel that the Courts will likely provide considerable leeway to employers rights to layoff but we will have to wait and see to be sure.

Childcare is one of the most difficult areas to navigate for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and daycares were closed forcing many employees to balance working from home with childcare obligations. As restrictions gradually ease, businesses are ramping up and employees are returning to the physical workplace. In some instances, employers are facing resistance from employees who advise that they cannot return to work on account of childcare obligations. Employers must tread carefully when faced with such a situation.

The British Columbia Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of, amongst other things, physical disability and family status. The British Columbia Human Rights Commissioner confirmed that, in her opinion, the British Columbia Human Rights Code will apply to individuals who must care for children due to school and childcare closures. As a result, employers must take steps to accommodate employees who need time away from work to care for children up to the point of undue hardship. Undue hardship is contextual but may be established where the accommodation is inordinately expensive or creates a health and safety risk. In short, employers should be careful when disciplining employees unable to return to work due to childcare options.

All that said, employee rights are not unfettered. Employees must engage in the accommodation process. This means that employees should look for alternative childcare if they are unable to attend work due to childcare or school closures. Although not a COVID-19-related case, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal recently confirmed in Ziegler v. Pacific Blue Cross (No. 2), 2020 BCHRT 125, that parents must “explore the availability of [alternative] day care options that would meet [the parent’s] child’s daycare needs” as part of the accommodation process.

Employers will also want to be aware that (as previously discussed here) the Employment Standards Act was recently amended to include job-leave protections for individuals who are away from work due to COVID-19. This new leave expressly covers employees who “need to provide care to their minor child or a dependent adult who is their child or former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure.”

Employers should exercise caution when disciplining or terminating an employee given the above-noted protections. We see childcare protections becoming increasingly important moving forward. Sniffles, sneezes and coughs will arrive alongside the cold and flu season. Most childcare facilities have a strict rule prohibiting children from attending while displaying any symptoms of an illness. Childcare facilities are diligently following these rules as part of their occupational health and safety obligations arising from COVID-19. These rules will result in many children being unable to attend daycare come cold and flu season forcing parents to stay home with their children. Employers are wise to start to put a plan in place to identify how they will deal with these absences in the Fall and Winter.

This topic is substantial. This article only touches on one of the issues. Please note that there are potentially numerous tax issues on death and it is very important to discuss these implications with a lawyer and an accountant.

One of the first issues that I frequently see is the different types of property being gifted to say, adult children, on a parent’s death.  It is fundamental to take into account the different tax treatment of different assets because, whilst trying to be “fair”, a parent can actually be creating an injustice unknowingly.

A recurrent and simple example of this is a parent with two children decides to give one child their “estate” (which usually contains the principal residence only and some minimal cash – which seems right for that one child) meanwhile designating the other child as the beneficiary of their RRSP, which flows by beneficiary designation outside the estate. The parent believes this to be not only fair, but “equal” as those two assets are of similar value. However, it can be grossly unfair because the parent’s estate will bear the burden of the tax on the value of the RRSP proceeds, not the child who is inheriting them, and the child inheriting the “residue of the estate” may end up with far less value than the child inheriting the RRSP, because of the tax burden that is payable by the parent’s estate. This is obviously contrary to the parent’s wishes. The parent was simply trying to be “fair” but has created a very unequal result.

Legal and accounting advice during your estate planning is imperative.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis at dedominicis@pushormitchell.com or on 250-869-1140. Vanessa practices in the area of Wills and Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

The COVID-19 virus has created uncertainty in the financing for many construction projects. The virus’s impact has caused some lenders to reassess project viability and, in some instances, withdraw financing before or after construction has commenced. Such interruptions create uncertainty for everyone involved in the project. Below, we have set out some considerations for those involved in construction projects affected by financing issues.

From the Owner’s Perspective

  • The owner’s facility agreement may require the owner to provide information about the impact of the pandemic on the project. Owners should review their agreements to confirm the extent of those obligations and ensure compliance to avoid problems.
  • Most construction contracts contain clauses addressing delay, suspension or termination upon the occurrence of prescribed events. The owner should review these provisions and give all notices required. The extent to which the owner may be responsible to compensate the contractor may change depending upon whether work is delayed, suspended or terminated, so the owner should review these clauses and take advantage of the issuance of the most favourable notice or combination of notices possible.
  • Owners should be transparent about the reason for the delay or suspension of work. Under the Builders Lien Act, S.B.C. 1997, 45, “abandonment” of a project is deemed to occur when there has been no “work” done in connection with the project for 30 days. The presumption of abandonment may be rebutted by proof of an intention not to abandon. Assuming the owner wishes to proceed, it should communicate clearly to those involved in the project, in writing, about the reason for the suspension of work and confirm it has no intention to abandon the project. Otherwise, those involved in the project may become skittish and lien the project prematurely and further complicate financing efforts.
  • The owner’s contract may require the owner to notify the contractor of any material changes in the owner’s financial arrangements to fulfill the owner’s obligations under the contract. This requirement appears in many commonly used “CCDC” construction contracts. The owner’s failure to communicate such changes may constitute events of default under the contract and justify termination by the contractor.

From the contractor’s perspective:

  • The contract between owner and contractor may authorize the contractor to request financial information from the owner. The contractor should consider asking for such information and assess its ability to require this information from the owner under the contract. The failure of an owner to respond within an appropriate time frame may in and of itself constitute a breach of the agreement entitling the contractor to damages. For example, GC 7.2.5 of the commonly used CCDC 2 2008 Stipulated Price Subcontract entitles a contractor to be paid for all work performed including reasonable profit and other consequential damages if the contractor terminates its contract with the owner due to the owner’s failure to provide financial information.
  • Section 41 of the Builders Lien Act gives a lien holder (meaning someone entitled to lien the Project) or beneficiary of a trust under the Builders Lien Act a right to demand information from the owner regarding the particulars of:

    • the head contract and state of accounts between the owner and the head contractor;
    • the holdback account; and
    • the particulars of any labour and material payment bond posted with the owner by a contractor above the demanding party in the contractual hierarchy.

The owner’s failure to provide such information within 10 days of receipt of the demand entitles the demanding party to apply to court for production of the requested documents and seek costs of such an application against the owner.

  • The contractor’s entitlement to compensation is distinct from its ability to recover compensation. The pandemic is broadly affecting the construction industry and the economy, generally. It’s unlikely that most owners would make voluntary, timely payments in response to contractors’ claims for pandemic-related compensation. While contractors should do everything required by the contract to maximize their entitlement to compensation, they should also not have unrealistic expectations about obtaining immediate financial relief.

As was discussed in my previous article, Property, Parties, Price – How Far the Court Will Go to Insert the 3 P’s of Real Estate into a Contract, it is critical that parties to a contract of purchase and sale for real property take the time to properly document the terms of their contract and ensure that they have a clear and enforceable contract. Further, s. 59 of the Law and Equity Act (“s. 59”) further requires a contract of purchase and sale for real property to be in writing except in specific circumstances.

Whether a contract for purchase and sale was formed or if there were circumstances for a non-written contract for the purchase and sale of real property falling under the exceptions in s. 59 were at the heart of the dispute in the recent case 0827857 B.C. LTD v DNR Towing Inc., 2020 BCSC 717 (CanLII).

In the case 0827857 B.C. Ltd. (“0827857”) engaged in discussions with DNR Towing Inc. (“DNR”) to purchase its assets, including a specific piece of property. No written agreement was entered, but 0827857 took the position that negotiations resulted in an enforceable oral contract including for the sale of the property. DNR opposed this position on the basis that it was mutually understood that no legally binding agreement was in place until one was committed to writing.

In the Court’s analysis, it first made clear that parties agreeing to the 3 P’s of a contract (parties, property, price) did not mean that they had entered into a binding agreement; rather, the court was still required to find an intention to contract as would be clear to a reasonable, outside observer. On this reasoning, it rejected evidence from 0827857’s principal on what he understood was agreed to and considered what a reasonable objective observing considering all the circumstances would understand the parties to have agreed to or not.

The Court held that, considering all the circumstances, that the parties did not intend to be legally bound until they entered a written contract. In part, the court relied on the parties retaining counsel to provide substantial legal advice as to the proposed contract being negotiated and to commit agreed terms to writing.

Having rejected that an oral agreement had been reached, the court rejected 0827857’s claim for performance of the alleged agreement. The Court went on to examine the alternative arguments concerning s. 59 which reads in part:

59 (3) A contract respecting land or a disposition of land is not enforceable unless;

(a) there is, in a writing signed by the party to be charged or by that party’s agent, both an indication that it has been made and a reasonable indication of the subject matter,

(b) the party to be charged has done an act, or acquiesced in an act of the party alleging the contract or disposition, that indicates that a contract or disposition not inconsistent with that alleged has been made, or

(c) the person alleging the contract or disposition has, in reasonable reliance on it, so changed the person’s position that an inequitable result, having regard to both parties’ interests, can be avoided only by enforcing the contract or disposition.

The Court found that with no written contract being created or signed, 0827857 was required to show that DNR did an act or acquiesce to an act done by 0827857 that was consistent with the alleged contract or 0827857 plaintiff changed its position in reliance on the alleged contract.

0827857 relied on some steps to get an environmental audit and to secure financing to establish that it had satisfied the requirements of s. 59, which the Court rejected. Whether on the traditionally more stringent approach or the more flexible approach more recently developing in the common law, the Court was unsatisfied that 0827857’s acts were sufficiently connected with the alleged contract to bring it within the requirements of s. 59.

0827857 B.C. LTD v DNR Towing Inc. again underscores how critical it is for parties to commit any contractual terms to writing. If parties are in the midst of negotiating, they should be clear with each other that no binding agreement has been entered. If dealing with real property, it is especially crucial that any contractual agreement be committed to writing as attempting to prove that such an agreement has been reached by showing that a party did an act or acquiesced to an act done by the other that was consistent with the alleged contract or that a party changed its position in reasonable reliance on an alleged contract would be a time-consuming process that leaves a great deal of discretion to the Court to interpret circumstances.

In short, where parties have the opportunity to remove doubt about the terms of a contract or where they entered one, they should do so and with appropriate legal advice as is prudent or necessary.

For additional information related to parties’ failures to properly negotiate contractual terms and pricing and disputes related to those issues, please consider my previous articles:

On March 17, 2020, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, declared a public health emergency.  The following day, March 18, 2020, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, declared a provincial state of emergency to support a province wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This signaled the closing of many BC business and the resulting layoff of employees.

In an effort to ease the financial hardship on businesses and to keep employees connected with their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC government extended the temporary layoff period to 16 weeks for COVID-19 related reasons.

Under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) a temporary layoff longer than 16 weeks in any 20-week period is considered a permanent layoff.  With a permanent layoff, employers are required to provide employees with written working notice of termination and/or pay severance to qualifying employees, based on their length of service.

With many employees being laid off as of March 18, 2020 this brings us to Wednesday July 8, 2020 – 16 weeks after the provincial state of emergency was declared.  On this date, many BC employees will be deemed terminated triggering an employer’s obligation to pay out ESA termination pay based on length of service.  In addition, if 50 or more employees were laid off from one location, this will trigger the ESA group termination pay provisions requiring the employer to pay each employee their regular termination pay based on their length of service, plus group termination pay.

There is a potential exemption from paying termination pay in s. 65(1) (d) of the ESA where an employment contract “is impossible to perform due to an unforeseeable event or circumstance”, (See our article Employment Standards Severance May Not be Required as a Result of COVID-19.  However, with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, many BC businesses are reopening and recalling some employees therefore this exemption may not apply.  Furthermore, the exemption only applies to severance obligations that arise as a result of the ESA.  Common law and contractual severance obligations may remain.  However, employers may be able to argue frustration of contract if COVID-19 has resulted in curtailment or closure of their operations.

It is also important to note that officers and directors of a corporation need to be aware that s. 96 of the ESA makes each of them personally liable for up to two months’ wages for each employee in connection with individual and group termination pay entitlements. The only way to avoid this potential liability is if the Employer is subjected to insolvency proceedings.

As of June 23, 2020, the province is standing firm on not extending the temporary layoff period beyond the original 16-week stretch that will end in July, but added it is open to discuss possible solutions with business stakeholders.  Other jurisdictions have looked at or already extended the length of permissible temporary layoffs.

Employers should consult with legal advisors if they have layoffs that are approaching 16 weeks in length.

UPDATE – JUNE 25, 2020:  The Province of British Columbia has decided to extend the temporary layoff time period through August after outcry from businesses around the province, including multiple chambers of commerce in the Okanagan.  The 16-week period has been extended to 24 weeks.

Should you have any questions or require legal support, please contact any one of our Employment Team.

The Child Support Guidelines set the benchmark for calculating income for support purposes.  The Guideline’s objectives ensure recipients and payors of support in similar circumstances are treated similarly across Canada.

If a support payor earns foreign income then the income must be converted to Canadian gross income when determining support.  Converting foreign income to Canadian income is not just a straight application of currency exchange rates to gross foreign income.  There are a number of factors to be considered.[1]

For example, if the payor’s foreign tax rate is significantly higher or lower than Canadian tax rates then the Court can adjust the payor’s income to be in accord with Canadian tax rates.  If the foreign tax rate is lower, then the Court can impute additional income to the foreign payor so the payor’s after-tax income is similar to a Canadian payor’s after-tax income in similar circumstances.  If the foreign tax rate is significantly higher, then the Court can reduce the payor’s income to ensure equal footing with a Canadian payor in similar circumstances.

Also, whether or not the payor is entitled to claim a foreign tax credit in Canada must be considered.  Generally, Canadian residents who earn foreign income which is declared and taxed in Canada are allowed a tax credit if they had to pay foreign tax on the same income.  The purpose of the foreign tax credit is to avoid double taxation of the same income.

Whether or not spousal support is paid and its tax treatment is another factor to be considered when determining a foreign payor’s income for support purposes.  If the payor cannot claim a tax deduction for paying periodic spousal support, as allowed in Canada, then an adjustment may be required to bring the foreign payor’s after-tax income in-line with a similar Canadian payor’s after-tax income.  If the foreign payor cannot deduct spousal support payments in their home country it results in a higher amount of after-tax spousal support being paid than required by a Canadian payor.

Lastly, currency exchange rates are a factor.  Generally, the average annual exchange rate is used to ameliorate any widely fluctuating rates.

The usual practice when converting foreign income to Canadian income is to start by converting the foreign gross income to Canadian dollars using an average annual exchange rate, and then deduct the applicable foreign tax rate to calculate the payor’s after tax income in Canadian dollars.  Then determine what gross income is required to result in the same after-tax income at Canadian tax rates.  That is, the after-tax income is grossed-up using Canadian tax rates.

For example, assuming a foreign tax rate of 10%, a Canadian tax rate of 20%, an exchange rate of 1.35, and no available foreign tax credit (i.e. no foreign income declared in Canada) then:

$100 gross foreign income x 1.35 exchange rate = $135 gross Canadian income;

$135 gross Canadian income – 10% foreign tax rate = $121.50 after-tax Canadian income; and

$121.5 after-tax Canadian income + 20% Canadian tax rate = $145.80 gross Canadian income for calculating support.

Expert evidence is not necessary to show tax rates, etc. provided sufficient evidence is presented to allow the Court to perform the necessary mathematical calculations.

Further, it may be necessary to examine the services each government provides its citizens in exchange for their tax dollars.  For example, a country might have a higher tax rate than another, but provides its citizens with services not provided by the first country.  Expert evidence from tax specialists from each country is usually required to determine if extra income should be allocated to a payor because of the tax benefits they receive that are not available to the other spouse or parent.

While it is attractive to approach the conversion of foreign income by a straight application of exchange rates, other factors must be considered such as the foreign tax rates, entitlement to foreign tax credits, tax treatment of spousal support, and exchange rates to ensure dependents in Canada receive support appropriate to Canadian standards.

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (www.thelawyersdaily.ca), part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

[1] For reference see:  G. (E.B.) v. B. (S.M.), 2016 BCSC 2434, and Gonabady-Namadon v. Mohammadzadeh, 2009 BCCA 448.

Many of us take it for granted that we can meet with our lawyer in person to discuss and sign our estate planning documents which often include a will, power of attorney and representation agreement. One of the reasons that it is important to consult with a lawyer is that there are strict requirements in terms of how to prepare and sign estate planning documents that differ from province to province. These requirements are there to protect people as these documents reflect very important life decisions and should not be taken lightly.

Due to Covid-19, the BC Government announced a state of emergency on March 18, 2020. The duration of the state of emergency has been extended a number of times already and currently runs until June 9, 2020.

In the current climate with COVID-19 and the state of emergency, meeting with a lawyer to sign estate planning documents can be challenging for many reasons. Some individuals are ill or required to self-isolate. Others are trying to maintain distance and stay away from anyone unless absolutely necessary. Still others cannot get in to see their lawyer as law firms are shut down or operating with limited capacity.

Other provinces such as Ontario and Saskatchewan began taking steps to permit people to sign their estate planning documents without having to meet their lawyer in person. As of May 19, 2020, the BC Government followed suit with two ministerial orders.


Ministerial Order No. M161 (“M161”) permits individuals to sign their will while connected by videoconference with two witnesses. If signing under M161, at least one of the witnesses must be a lawyer or notary public. It is possible that two of the three people be in the same location while the third one is connected via videoconference. This permits a lawyer to be in an office with a second witness and for the two of them to connect via videoconference to the lawyer’s client who is the will maker. The will must include a statement that says it was signed and witnessed in accordance with M161.

Powers of Attorney

Ministerial Order No. M162 (“M162”) deals with two different documents. The first is powers of attorney. A power of attorney is a document where an individual appoints someone to make their legal and financial decisions. M162 allows individuals to sign their power of attorney by videoconference with their witness. If signing a power of attorney pursuant to M162, the witness must be a lawyer or notary public and the power of attorney must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with M162.

Before the person appointed under the power of attorney (the “attorney”) can act, he or she must also sign the power of attorney. If not able to meet in person with a lawyer or notary, the attorney may also follow the same process regarding using videoconference technology to connect with a lawyer or notary public.

What M162 does not address is that in order for a power of attorney to be used to deal with real estate, it must also be signed in accordance with the requirements set out in the Land Title Act. That adds another layer of complexity. Dealing with real estate is a common use under a power of attorney and absent a power of attorney, it can get very complicated and expensive to transfer real estate if one of the owners no longer has mental capacity to sign transfer documents. Given the requirements under the Land Title Act, in order for a power of attorney to be effective to transfer real estate, an additional affidavit must be prepared and signed that meets the requirements set out in section 49 of the Land Title Act. The process required to sign affidavits remotely for use in land title applications is set out in the Land Title and Survey Authority’s Practice Bulleting No. 01-20.

Representation Agreements

The second document that is covered by M162 is representation agreements. A representation agreement is a document where an individual appoints someone to make their personal and health care decisions. M162 allows individuals to sign their representation agreement by videoconference with their witness. If signing a representation agreement pursuant to M162, the witness must be a lawyer or notary public and the representation agreement must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with M162.

Before the person appointed under the representation agreement (the “representative”) may act, he or she must sign the representation agreement, but that signature does not need to be witnessed so there is no need to worry about the videoconference rules for the representative.

While the accommodation that the BC Government has made for remote witnessing of wills, powers of attorney and representation agreements is helpful, the signing requirements remain onerous. To ensure that you are compliant, we urge you to consult with your lawyer before making any changes to your estate planning documents. Please also note that the two ministerial orders discussed in this article only remain in force until the state of emergency in BC expired or is cancelled.

We at Pushor Mitchell remain open and available to assist our clients with all of their legal needs, including estate planning. Please reach out if you would like to discuss your estate plan.

Paul Tonita is a solicitor practicing in the areas of business law, real estate, estate planning and estate administration.  His business experience includes assisting clients right from the beginning by discussing the different business structures, incorporating, buying and selling businesses, assisting with lending or financing needs, drafting and advising on contracts, and providing general advice to business owners.

His real estate practice involves assisting both residential and commercial clients with purchases, sales, financing and leasing.

Paul also helps clients plan for their future with estate and incapacity planning. He guides executors through the legal challenges that are unknown to many when they agree to take on the executor’s role. This may involve determining whether a grant of probate is required and applying for one if necessary, calling in assets, paying out debts, transferring real estate to surviving joint tenants and determining whether additional steps may be required in order to wind up an estate and transfer the balance of assets to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

For more information please contact Paul Tonita at 250-869-1126 (direct line) or email him at tonita@pushormitchell.com.

Oftentimes, my clients will appoint joint Executors in their Wills. This means they are appointing two people to jointly administer their assets and apply for Probate. Usually it is their two adult children. They want to treat both children fairly and make sure that both are “included” and “know what’s going on”. These are totally valid reasons.

What happens though, when one co-Executor has different views to the other? What happens if these co-Executors are in different Provinces or perhaps don’t get along that well, if at all?

Co-Executors are supposed to make decisions jointly regarding the Estate assets. Neither has the legal right to act alone. Further, both co-Executors are “on the hook” to account to any other beneficiaries as well, so both need to be cognizant of their duties in relation to the assets of the deceased and each has a duty to protect and administer the Estate.

The Estate bank account should be set up so that all cheques or withdrawals need the signatures of both co-Executors. All Estate moneys should be put through there – this makes the Accounting much easier and allows for transparency.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com  Vanessa practices in the area of Wills/Estates and Real Estate at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.

As the court observed in its recent decision, All Out Contracting Ltd. v Gourlay, 2020 BCSC 481 (CanLII) (“All Out”), construction work begins before the owner(s) and contractor properly define their contractual relationship, if they ever do so. As was the case in All Out, this frequently leads to disputes and litigation as the parties’ differing expectations of the performance and price of the contract cause disputes.

In All Out the contractor gave an estimate for the tear down and replacement of a retaining wall for between $80,000 to $100,000. The estimate was signed and the work commenced. As work progressed, debris and unstable fill were discovered behind the existing wall and additional efforts were required to provide the existing house with vertical support resulting in work being more complicated than originally anticipated. The contractor invoiced ~$206,500 but the owners paid $140,000 and refused to pay any more.

The estimate explicitly provided that “The amount estimated to complete the job is an estimate only and the job is subject to increased costs based on the circumstances on the Premises and the nature of the job…”. The estimate also provided that the contract price would be a set price plus costs with the set contract rate listed under the contract price heading being between $80,000 to $100,000.

Part way through the work, a further estimate of the costs of the work done to date and remaining to be done was prepared by the contractor which totalled ~$162,500. When the work was completed and the ~$206,500 total was presented, the owners refused to pay more than the $140,000 they paid to date and took the position that the original $80,000 to $100,000 estimate capped the amounts the contractor could claim.

Relying on the seminal decision of Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp., 2014 SCC 53 at paras. 57-58, the court began the analysis of what the terms of the contract were gleaned from contract itself as informed by the surrounding circumstances.

The court held that the signed agreement was an estimate only with the parties having created the expectation of a cost-plus contract. Specific terms of the cost-plus arrangement were not agreed to. Having failed to negotiate the formula for compensation, the court was required to turn to the doctrine of quantum meruit, which can be briefly summarized as the notion that a party should receive fair compensation for work that is done in anticipation of compensation.

The court canvassed the law concerning quantum meruit including the notions that the remedy is flexible, contextual and will look to surrounding circumstances to determine what is fair and reasonable compensation, including the signed estimate. The court assessed 7% as a fair profit margin, adjusted claims for costs based on the facts and information before it and assessed that the amount claimable on a quantum meruit basis would be $162,194.50 leaving $22,194.50 plus court costs to be paid by the owners.

All Out underscores the importance of parties entering into clear and mutually understood contractual relations. It was no doubt a stressful and costly exercise to have the court essentially determine for the parties contractual terms they could have negotiated for themselves. It is never prudent to assume that a price or contractual terms can be agreed upon after work has commenced if they cannot be agreed upon prior.

For additional information on failures to properly negotiate contractual terms and pricing and disputes related to those issues, please consider my previous articles:

As you are no doubt aware, we are in Phase 2 of BC’s restart plan.  It needs to be acknowledged that not everyone is ready to reopen or transition back into the workplace.  Each business and organization is going to be in different stages of readiness and approach reopening differently to ensure the health and safety of their employees and clients.

There is no perfect solution to reopening.  This will be a process of evolution, learning, changing direction and implementing new ways of operating in our physical and virtual spaces.  There are some fundamentals that need to be considered when reopening.

Sick Leave

Sick leave and how employers treat ill employees has changed.  It is now a recommended best practice that employees self-screen each day before coming to work.  Any employee experiencing a combination of the following symptoms should not come to work:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Appetite

In addition, an employee experiencing a combination of the above symptoms should remain out of the workplace for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms or until the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.  During this time, if the employee is feeling well enough, there may be opportunities to have them work from home.

In cases where an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that the employee receive a negative test or be cleared by their physician prior to returning to the workplace.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  COVID-19 will naturally die on surfaces within hours to days depending on the surface.  Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight will reduce the time it takes for COVID-19 to naturally die.  Cleaning and sanitizing objects and surfaces, especially those that are frequently touched can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  When cleaning and sanitizing, consider the following:

  • Elevators
  • Washrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Tools
  • Photocopiers
  • Telephones
  • Common Areas and Lunchrooms
  • Reception and waiting areas

Don’t forget that the simplest things, hand washing, not touching your face, and proper cough and sneeze etiquette can have the most significant impact to protect you and those around you.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing, keeping a minimum of 2 meters (6 feet) away from one another, continues to be of primary significance in controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission and exposure.  As employees transition back into the workplace the following will need to be considered:

  • What is the maximum number of people you can have attend work and still maintain physical distancing?
  • How will you reconfigure workspaces to maintain appropriate distance between employees, and between employees and clients or visitors?
  • Will you need to install physical barriers between employees and between employees and clients or visitors;
  • How will you schedule appointments, organize waiting areas and address drop-ins to limit contact between employees and clients or visitors?
  • How will you screen employees, clients and visitors for flu-like symptoms and travel outside of Canada?


Recently, public health officials have recommended the use of masks or face coverings in public settings.  Costco Canada now recommends that all Costco members and guests wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose, at all times while on Costco premises. Expect to see most retailers and businesses institute similar policies relying on the advice of public health experts.

Public Health officials have also recommended that in certain situations such as transit where you cannot be assured that you’ll be able to guarantee that 2 metre or 6 foot distance, it is strongly recommended to use a facial covering, or mask to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others and to respect their space.

A cautionary note –  wearing a mask does not offer complete protection and is not a substitute for physical distancing.

These continue to be unprecedented times characterized by an ever-evolving landscape.  Communicating with employees and clients, taking extra measures, and working to keep the workplace clean and sanitized will help reduce anxiety and protect employees and clients.  Every day will be a new normal.

The BC Government has announced its phased approach to reopening businesses.  The BC Government has partnered with WorkSafeBC to develop resources and general guides to assist in the transition from virus-related lockdown to carefully restarting social and commercial life.

Employers are required to develop a reopening plan or transition plan when returning employees to the workplace and restarting operations.  When developing a reopening or transition plan, the goal is to control the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission to employees and others in the workplace.

Ill Employees and Clients

The first step in managing the risk is to control access to your workplace.  First and foremost, instituting policies where anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, fever, sneezing, or coughing are required to self-isolate at home for 10 days from onset of symptoms and not attend the workplace.  This applies equally to employees and clients.  In addition, if an employee is feeling unwell at work, they should be sent home until the extent of their symptoms is clear.

Working from Home

The next step to controlling access to your workplace is continuing to allow employees to work from home where feasible.  It is important to note that as employees continue to work from home and many more may work from home more regularly or transition permanently in the future, employers have a responsibility to ensure the employee’s health and safety.  Employers should consider:

  • Emergency protocols;
  • Safe workplace practices;
  • Ergonomics; and
  • Supervision.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing, keeping a minimum of 2 meters (six feet) away from one another, continues to be of primary significance in controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission and exposure.  As employees transition back into the workplace the following will need to be considered:

  • Reconfiguring workspaces to maintain appropriate distance between employees and clients;
  • The installation of physical barriers between employees and clients;
  • Modifying in-person meetings to incorporate the minimum distancing;
  • Incorporating video conferencing and conference calls;
  • Introducing policies with respect to scheduling appointments and waiting areas to limit contact between employees and clients; and
  • Limiting the number of employees in lunchrooms, break rooms and elevators.

Cleaning and Hygiene

An enhanced workplace sanitation, cleaning and hygiene plan and schedule are another step in controlling the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission.  It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.  Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  Anything that is touched often or located in a high traffic area needs to be cleaned often.  For example (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Door handles
  • Countertops
  • Desks
  • Phones
  • Keyboards
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Light Switches
  • Handrails
  • Elevators
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Photocopier/Printers
  • Shared Coffee and Water Stations

Communication and Training

It is crucial for workplaces to effectively manage the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission that Employers train employees on policies, practices and procedures introduced into the workplace.  Conduct a risk assessment, develop policies and procedures, and communicate regularly with employees.  Employers must also recognize that these are unprecedented times and the situation can change day to day, week to week.  Regular monitoring of the workplace and adjustment of policies and procedures, as Employer’s resume operations or transition employees back into the workplace, will be critical to ensuring a safe workplace for employees and clients.

Be sure to check the Provincial Health Officer Orders, Notices, and Guidance to stay apprised of any changes that apply to your workplace.

Click this link for additional information with respect to Returning to Work and Reopening your business in the wake of COVID-19.

Unprecedented times have called for unprecedented measures.  Now, we see a flicker of light at the end of tunnel as BC has released its plan for easing the restrictions in place to address the spread of COVID-19.

By mid-May the following services are expected to begin reopening:

  • Restoration of health services including elective surgeries, dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, chiropractors, physical therapy, and speech therapy.
  • The retail sector;
  • Hair salons, barbers, and other personal service establishments;
  • In-person counselling;
  • Restaurants, cafes, pubs, as long as there are sufficient distancing measures;
  • Museums, art galleries, libraries;
  • Office-based worksites;
  • Recreation and sports;
  • Parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces;
  • Transit services; and
  • Childcare.

With more businesses reopening and employees transitioning back into the workplace from working at home, some employees are anxious about going back to work.  They are worried their health could be at risk and wondering if they have any rights not to return.

There really is not a choice.  If the workplace is safe, the employee must go back to work.

As long as the employer has met the safety requirements and precautions that the provincial health authorities and WorkSafeBC have put forward, the employee is required to return.

That notion that many employees have that they can simply decide not to come into work is incorrect.

In cases where the workplace is safe and employers have implemented specific guidelines for keeping staff and clients safe, if an employee chooses not to go to work, the employer will be well within their rights to consider that a form of misconduct or a resignation.  As a result, the employee may lose their job and any benefit they are receiving from the government.

Employees should ask questions about the protections that will be provided.  Common protections include frequent cleaning, physical distancing measures, barriers and personal protective equipment, and reminding clients not to come in for services when sick and clear policies about not attending work when displaying symptoms of illness.

There is a formal process for an employee to refuse unsafe work.

  1. The employee must immediately report the unsafe condition to the employer.
    • The employer must investigate the report and either remedy the unsafe condition or determine that the report is not valid.
  2. If this does not resolve the matter, the employer must further investigate with:
    • An employee representative of the joint health and safety committee; or
    • An employee selected by the union; or
    • If there is no union and no joint health a safety committee, an employee selected by the employee making the report.
  3. If this does not resolve the matter, the employer and the employee must notify WorkSafeBC who will investigate the matter and determine if the report is valid or if the employer is required to take necessary steps to remedy the unsafe condition. The report by the WorkSafeBC investigator is binding on both the Employer and the employee.

During the process, the employee should be assigned temporary alternative work (i.e. working from home) until the matter is resolved.

One question that arises is, as an employer, can I refuse to take back an employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?  The short answer is no.  The current understanding of COVID-19 is that if an individual has been tested and diagnosed with COVID-19, fully recovers and tests negative, they are free of the virus and not a risk to transmit the disease to others.  In refusing to take back the employee, the employer is terminating the employment relationship.  In addition, to the extent possible, the employer must protect the identity of any employee that contracts COVID-19.

The government has said that different sectors will be responsible for preparing and submitting industry-specific guidelines for keeping employees and clients safe, with support from WorkSafeBC.  Individual businesses will also have to prove they can implement those guidelines before reopening.  This will include written policies and procedures, catered to the specific business, aimed at reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  What is required in an office environment will be very different than what is required in a restaurant.

We are on the horizon of the new normal.