Corporate Governance


Corporate directors have lost their immunity to prosecution, and rules and requirements governing their actions are becoming increasingly stringent.

Drawing on their many years of experience, extensive documentation, and conclusive data, Lavery’s lawyers can help you ensure sound corporate governance, transparency, integrity, and accountability.


  • Audit and assessment of your current practices
  • Formulation and implementation of required changes
  • Training of directors
  • Compliance with laws, rules, and guidelines
  • Preparation of the necessary opinions and reports
  1. Competition Act amendments are about to come into force – What businesses need to know following the release of the official Enforcement Guidelines

    On June 23, 2023, major amendments to section 45 of the Competition Act1 (the “Act”) are set to come into force. Adopted in 2022 by the Parliament of Canada, these amendments are primarily designed to harmonize Canadian non-competition law with legislation in various other countries, particularly the U.S., which restricts certain business practices regarded as harmful to workers. The amendments to the Act will have an impact on employers across Canada, whether or not they operate in an area of federal or provincial jurisdiction. Beginning on June 23, 2023, the Act will prohibit “unaffiliated” employers from entering into agreements aimed at: i) fixing wages or employment conditions; or ii) restricting the job mobility of employees by means of reciprocal non-solicitation and no-poaching agreements. In this regard, it should be noted that agreements between affiliated companies (e.g., controlled by the same parent company) do not violate the Act. This bulletin seeks to provide a summary of various amendments of interest to employers in light of the official version of the related enforcement guidelines (the “Guidelines”), which were published by the Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) on May 30, 2023.2 Although the Guidelines do not have the force of law, they set out the Bureau’s approach when interpreting applicable prohibitions and defences. AGREEMENTS FIXING WAGES AND EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS Paragraph 45 (1.1) (a) of the Act prohibits agreements between unaffiliated employers aimed at fixing, maintaining, decreasing or controlling wages and other employment conditions. In this regard, the Bureau’s Guidelines state that “terms and conditions of employment” typically refer to any condition that could affect a person’s decision to enter into, or remain in, an employment contract. This may include “job descriptions, allowances such as per diem and mileage reimbursements, non-monetary compensation, working hours, location and non-compete clauses, or other directives that may restrict an individual’s job opportunities”. Citing an example of a problematic case in light of the Act’s new provisions, the Bureau describes a situation in which two unaffiliated employers hold a lunch meeting during which they agree to limit the annual bonuses of their employees to 5% of their gross salary. This type of agreement would, in all likelihood, be prohibited under the Act. NON-POACHING AND NON-SOLICITATION AGREEMENTS Paragraph (1.1) (b) of the Act also prohibits agreements between unaffiliated employers that could limit the prospects of their employees being hired by the other employer. This new provision concerns reciprocal non-solicitation and non-poaching agreements between employers. These agreements are found fairly frequently in commercial contracts covering mergers/acquisitions, joint ventures, partnerships, sales, procurement/supplies of goods and services, franchises, recruitment and personnel placement, etc. However, as discussed below, it should be noted that these types of agreement would only violate the Act if the parties had reciprocal non-poaching obligations in place. In other words, if the obligation is only “one-way”, i.e., only one of the parties is subject to the obligation not to solicit or poach the employees of the other employer, there is no infraction. POTENTIAL EXEMPTIONS AND DEFENCES The main defence against proceedings initiated under subsection 45 (1.1) is based on the ancillary restraints defence (“ARD”). To use it, employers must demonstrate that: The restraint is ancillary to a broader or separate agreement between the parties; The restraint is directly related to and reasonably necessary for achieving the objective of the broader or separate agreement; and The broader or separate agreement does not otherwise violate subsection 45 (1.1) of the Act (when considered without the restraint). For example, it is reasonable to expect that an agency specializing in temporarily placing personnel with its clients would want to prevent its clients from hiring said personnel for the duration of their agreement. In that case, the ARD defence could be used. The agreement, however, must be carefully drafted so the employer can demonstrate that it was reasonably necessary for achieving the desired objective. In this regard, the Bureau notes that the  duration, objective and geographical scope of the restraint, among other factors, will be examined when determining whether the agreement is in fact “reasonably necessary”. The Guidelines states that the Bureau “will generally not assess wage-fixing or no-poaching clauses that are ancillary to merger transactions, joint ventures or strategic alliances under the criminal provisions”. However, the Bureau “may start an investigation under subsection 45(1.1), where those clauses are clearly broader than necessary in terms of duration or affected employees, or where the business agreement or arrangement is a sham.” Other exemptions and defences may also apply, such as the defence based on regulated conduct3 or the exemption with respect to collective bargaining.4 APPLICABLE SANCTIONS Violations of the new subsection 45 (1.1) could lead to criminal charges. A person found guilty of an offence could be subjected to a fine at the discretion of the court or may be imprisoned for up to 14 years, or both. In addition, under section 36 of the Act,individuals (in all likelihood workers) who suffer losses or damages due to violations of provisions of the Act, including section 45 (thus including the new subsection 45 (1.1)), can claim from the person engaging in such misconduct (in this case, the employer) a sum corresponding to the amount of the losses or damages suffered. Therefore, violations of these provisions could lead to civil suits and possibly, in certain cases, to a class action suit. SPECIFICATIONS REGARDING EXISTING AGREEMENTS AND NEXT STEPS The Guidelines specify that the prohibitions set in out subsection 45(1.1) apply not only to agreements entered into on or after June 23, 2023, but also to conduct that reaffirms or implements agreements that were entered into before that date. In this respect, at least two of the parties to these prior agreements must reaffirm or implement the restraint. This may include, for example, the renewal by two or more parties of an agreement containing a prohibited undertaking. The Bureau also notes that it will be focusing on the intent of the parties on or after June 23, 2023. In that context, companies are advised to review their contract templates and to update their pre-existing agreements in the normal course of business. We therefore recommend that all companies, whether operating in an area of provincial or federal jurisdiction, examine the contracts currently in effect to which they are party and identify any clauses that might constitute violations under the new provisions of the Act. Various strategies or corrective measures aimed at limiting business risks could then be evaluated and implemented depending on the necessity and reasonableness of the undertakings in question are (e.g., renegotiating an undertaking or adopting a directive confirming that the employer will not apply an undertaking on or after June 23, 2023, etc.). Please feel free to contact the members of our teams for further details or for ad R.S.C. 1985 c. C-34, as amended by Bill C-19, Budget Implementation Act 2022, No. 1, S.C. 2022, c. 10. Competition Bureau. Enforcement guidelines on wage-fixing and no-poaching agreements on line, May 30, 2023. Subsection 45(7) of the Act. Section 4 of the Act.

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  2. Cybersecurity and the dangers of the Internet of Things

    While the Canadian government has said it intends to pass legislation dealing with cybersecurity (see Bill C-26 to enact the Critical Cyber Systems Protection Act), many companies have already taken significant steps to protect their IT infrastructure. However, the Internet of Things is too often overlooked in this process. This is in spite of the fact that many devices are directly connected to the most important IT infrastructure for businesses. Industrial robots, devices that control production equipment in factories, and devices that help drivers make deliveries are just a few examples of vulnerable equipment. Operating systems and a range of applications are installed on these devices, and the basic operations of many businesses and the security of personal information depend on the security of the devices and their software. For example: An attack could target the manufacturing equipment control systems on the factory floor and result in an interruption of the company’s production and significant recovery costs and production delays. By targeting production equipment and industrial robots, an attacker could steal the blueprints and manufacturing parameters for various processes, which could jeopardize a company’s trade secrets. Barcode scanners used for package delivery could be infected and transmit information to hackers, including personal information. The non-profit Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has released a list of the top ten security risks for the Internet of Things.1 Leaders of companies that use this kind of equipment must be aware of these issues and take measures to manage these risks. We would like to comment on some of the risks which require appropriate policies and good company governance to mitigate them. Weak or unchangeable passwords: Some devices are sold with common or weak initial passwords. It is important to ensure that passwords are changed as soon as devices are set up and to keep tight control over them. Only designated IT personnel should know the passwords for configuring these devices. You should also avoid acquiring equipment that does not allow for password management (for example, a device with an unchangeable password). Lack of updates: The Internet of Things often relies on computers with operating systems that are not updated during their lifetime. As a result, some devices are vulnerable because they use operating systems and software with known vulnerabilities. Good governance includes ensuring that such devices are updated and acquiring only devices that make it easy to perform regular updates. Poor management of the fleet of connected devices: Some companies do not have a clear picture of the Internet of Things deployed in their company. It is crucial to have an inventory of these devices with their role in the company, the type of information they contain and the parameters that are essential to their security. Lack of physical security: Wherever possible, access to these devices should be protected. Too often, devices are left unattended in places where they are accessible to the public. Clear guidelines should be provided to employees to ensure safe practices, especially for equipment that is used on the road. A company’s board of directors plays a key role in cybersecurity. In fact, the failure of directors to monitor risks and to ensure that an adequate system of controls is in place can expose them to liability. Here are some elements of good governance that companies should consider practising: Review the composition of the board of directors and the skills matrix to ensure that the team has the required skills. Provide training to all board members to develop their cyber vigilance and equip them to fulfill their duties as directors. Assess cybersecurity risks, including those associated with connected devices, and establish ways to mitigate those risks. The Act to modernize legislative provisions respecting the protection of personal information sets out a number of obligations for the board of directors, including appointing a person in charge of the protection of personal information, having a management plan and maintaining a register of confidentiality incidents. For more information, you can read the following bulletin: Amendments to Privacy Laws: What Businesses Need to Know ( Lastly, a company must at all times ensure that the supplier credentials, passwords and authorizations that make it possible for IT staff to respond are not in the hands of a single person or supplier. This would put the company in a vulnerable position if the relationship with that person or supplier were to deteriorate. See OWASP top 10

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  3. Ten things you should know about the amendments to Quebec’s Charter of the French language

    Quebec recently enacted Bill 96, entitled An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, which aims to overhaul the Charter of the French language. Here are 10 key changes in this law that will impose significant obligations on businesses: As of June 1, 2025, businesses employing more than 25 people (currently the threshold is 50 people) for at least six months will be required to comply with various “francization”1 obligations. Businesses with between 25 and 99 employees may also be ordered by the Office québécois de la langue française (the OQLF)2 to form a francization committee. In addition, at the request of the OQLF, businesses may have to provide a francization program for review within three months. As of June 1, 2025, only trademarks registered in a language other than French (and for which no French version has been filed or registered) will be accepted as an exception to the general principle that trademarks must be translated into French. Unregistered trademarks that are not in French must be accompanied by their French equivalent. The rule is the same for products as well as their labelling and packaging; any writing must be in French. The French text may be accompanied by a translation or translations, but no text in another language may be given greater prominence than the text in French or be made available on more favourable terms. However, as of June 1, 2025, generic or descriptive terms included in a trademark registered in a language other than French (for which no French version has been registered) must be translated into French. In addition, as of June 1, 2025, on public signs and posters visible from outside the premises, (i) French must be markedly predominant (rather than being sufficiently present) and (ii) the display of trademarks that are not in French (for which no French version has been registered) will be limited to registered trademarks. As of June 1, 2022, businesses that offer goods or services to consumers must respect their right to be informed and served in French. In the event of breaches of this obligation, consumers have the right to file a complaint with the OQLF or to request an injunction unless the business has fewer than five employees. In addition, any legal person or company that provides services to the civil administration3 will be required to provide these services in French, including when the services are intended for the public. As of June 1, 2022, subject to certain criteria provided for in the bill, employers are required to draw up the following written documents in French: individual employment contracts4 and communications addressed to a worker or to an association of workers, including communications following the end of the employment relationship with an employee. In addition, other documents such as job application forms, documents relating to working conditions and training documents must be made available in French.5 As of June 1, 2022, employers who wish to require employees to have a certain level of proficiency in a language other than French in order to obtain a position must demonstrate that this requirement is necessary for the performance of the duties related to the position, that it is impossible to proceed using internal resources and that they have made efforts to limit the number of positions in their company requiring knowledge of a language other than French as much as possible. As of June 1, 2023, parties wishing to enter into a consumer contract in a language other than French, or, subject to various exceptions,6 a contract of adhesion that is not a consumer contract, must have received a French version of the contract before agreeing to it. Otherwise, a party can demand that the contract be cancelled without it being necessary to prove harm. As of June 1, 2023, the civil administration will be prohibited from entering into a contract with or granting a subsidy to a business that employs 25 or more people and that does not comply with the following obligations on the use of the French language: obtaining a certificate of registration, sending the OQLF an analysis of the language situation in the business within the time prescribed, or obtaining an attestation of implementation of a francization program or a francization certificate, depending on the case. As of June 1, 2023, all contracts and agreements entered into by the civil administration, as well as all written documents sent to an agency of the civil administration by a legal person or by a business to obtain a permit, an authorization or a subsidy or other form of financial assistance must be drawn up exclusively in French. As of September 1, 2022, a certified French translation must be attached to motions and other pleadings drawn up in English that emanate from a business or legal person that is a party to a pleading in Quebec. The legal person will bear the translation costs. The application of the provisions imposing this obligation has, however, been suspended for the time being by the Superior Court.7 As of September 1, 2022, registrations in the Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights and in the Land Registry Office, in particular registrations of securities, deeds of sale, leases and various other rights, must be made in French. Note that declarations of co-ownership must be filed at the Land Registry Office in French as of June 1, 2022. The lawyers at Lavery know Quebec’s language laws and can help you understand the impact of Bill 96 on your business, as well as inform you of the steps to take to meet these new obligations. Please do not hesitate to contact one of the Lavery team members named in this article for assistance. We invite you to consult the other articles concerning the modifications made to Quebec’s Charter of the French language: Trademarks and Charter of the French language: What can you expect from Bill 96? Amendments to the Charter of the French Language: Impacts on the Insurance Sector “Francization” refers to a process established by the Charter of the French language to ensure the generalized use of French in businesses. The OQLF is the regulatory body responsible for enforcing the Charter of the French language. The civil administration in this law includes any public body in the broad sense of the term. An employee who signed an individual employment contract before June 1, 2022, will have until June 1, 2023, to ask their employer to provide them with a French translation if the employee so wishes. If the individual employment contract is a fixed-term employment contract that ends before June 1, 2024, the employer is not obliged to have it translated into French at the request of the employee. Employers have until June 1, 2023, to have job application forms, documents related to work conditions and training documents translated into French if these are not already available to employees in French. Among these exceptions are employment contracts, loan contracts and contracts used in “relations with persons outside Quebec.” There seems to be a contradiction in the law with regard to individual employment contracts which are contracts of adhesion and for which the obligation to provide a French translation nevertheless seems to apply. Mitchell c. Procureur général du Québec, 2022 QCCS 2983.

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  4. Bill C-18 (Online News Act): Canada looking to create a level playing field for news media

    Earlier this month, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez introduced Bill C-18 (Online News Act) in Parliament. This bill, which was largely inspired by similar legislation in Australia, aims to reduce bargaining imbalances between online platforms and Canadian news outlets in terms of how these “digital news intermediaries” allow news content to be accessed and shared on their platforms. If passed, the Online News Act would, among other things, require these digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to enter into fair commercial agreements with news organizations for the use and dissemination of news related content on their platforms. Bill C-18, which was introduced on April 5, 2022, has a very broad scope, and covers all Canadian journalistic organizations, regardless of the type of media (online, print, etc.), if they meet certain eligibility criteria. With respect to the “digital news intermediaries” on which the journalistic content is shared, Bill C-18 specifically targets online communication platforms such as search engines or social media networks through which news content is made available to Canadian users and which, due to their size, have a significant bargaining imbalance with news media organizations. The bill proposes certain criteria by which this situation of bargaining imbalance can be determined, including the size of the digital platform, whether the platform operates in a market that provides a strategic advantage over news organizations and whether the platform occupies a prominent position within its market. These are clearly very subjective criteria which make it difficult to precisely identify these “digital news intermediaries.” Bill C-18 also currently provides that the intermediaries themselves will be required to notify the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) of the fact that the Act applies to them. The mandatory negotiation process is really the heart of Bill C-18. If passed in its current form, digital platform operators will be required to negotiate in good faith with Canadian media organizations to reach fair revenue sharing agreements. If the parties fail to reach an agreement at the end of the negotiation and mediation process provided for in the legislation, a panel of three arbitrators may be called upon to select the final offer made by one of the parties. For the purposes of enforceability, the arbitration panel’s decision is then deemed, to constitute an agreement entered into by the parties. Finally, Bill C-18 provides digital platforms the possibility of applying to the CRTC for an exemption from mandatory arbitration provided that their revenue sharing agreements meet the following criteria: Provide fair compensation to the news businesses for news content that is made available on their platforms; Ensure that an appropriate portion of the compensation would be used by the news businesses to support the production of local, regional and national news content; Do not allow corporate influence to undermine the freedom of expression and journalistic independence enjoyed by news outlets; Contribute to the sustainability of Canada’s digital news marketplace; Ensure support for independent local news businesses, and ensure that a significant portion of independent local news businesses benefit from the deals; and Reflect the diversity of the Canadian news marketplace, including diversity with respect to language, racialized groups, Indigenous communities, local news and business models. A bill of this scope will certainly be studied very closely by the members of Parliament, and it would not be surprising if significant amendments were made during this process. We believe that some clarifications would be welcome, particularly as to the precise identity of businesses that will be considered “digital information intermediaries” for the purposes of the Online News Act.

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  1. Lavery announces appointment of Paul Martel, a leading expert in corporate law

    Mr. Martel is recognized for his ability to provide pragmatic, innovative solutions to the most complex legal issues in corporate law. He was a law professor for over 25 years and has contributed to most major corporate law journals, including La Revue du Barreau du Québec. “I’m so pleased and excited to be starting the fifth chapter of my professional career at Lavery, a firm I hold in high esteem. I look forward to putting my expertise to good use with the firm’s clients, as well as helping to consolidate the multidisciplinary service offering for which Lavery is renowned in the legal and business markets,” said Paul Martel, partner at Lavery. As a leading expert in corporate law, and a respected teacher, lecturer and author, he regularly advises government authorities on major legislative changes, including those to the Civil Code of Québec, Quebec’s Companies Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Act respecting the legal publicity of enterprises. He has also acted as a consultant to the Minister of Finance of Quebec in developing and drafting the new Business Corporations Act, and to the Agence du Revenu du Québec in updating the Quebec Enterprise Register. “Paul Martel has authored several landmark legal works on corporate law, and his outstanding track record and extensive expertise in the legal and business industries of Quebec, Canada and the United States will further strengthen the quality of Lavery’s services in this area of practice. He will certainly be a great inspiration to us all, and his presence at the firm will have a major impact on our teams, as he assists our Business Law group,” concluded René Branchaud, Head of practice of Lavery’s Business Law group.

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  2. Guillaume Lavoie participates in a McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA panel on governance

    On June 13, Guillaume Lavoie, partner and head of the Lavery CAPITAL and Mergers and Acquisitions groups, will participate in a panel on governance organized by McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA being held at the HEC Montréal. Entitled Les défis et enjeux de la gouvernance, the panel will address the various issues and challenges faced by different industries and types of organizations to stimulate a discussion on governance based on concrete examples experienced by the panelists. The panel will also include Louise St-Pierre, former CEO of Cogeco Connexion, Josée Duplessis, Chief of Staff for the Federal Minister of Family, Children and Social Development and Ginette Mailhot, founder of Capital Humain Plus and a director of Anges Québec. All profits will be donated to Women in Governance and its president and co-founder, Caroline Codsi, will moderate. Click here to register.

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