Publications

Packed with valuable information, our publications help you stay in touch with the latest developments in the fields of law affecting you, whatever your sector of activity. Our professionals are committed to keeping you informed of breaking legal news through their analysis of recent judgments, amendments, laws, and regulations.

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  • 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 (lavery.ca) 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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  • 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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  • Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations: Impact on Businesses

    On June 20, 2022, the federal government registered regulations that, as the name implies, prohibit (or restrict, in some cases) the manufacture, import and sale of certain single-use plastics that pose a threat to the environment. The Regulations will come into force on December 20, 2022, with the exception of certain provisions taking effect in the following months.1 Manufacturing, importing and selling certain single-use plastic products made entirely or partially of plastic, such as foodservice ware, checkout bags and straws, will be soon be prohibited. This regulation is expected to affect more than 250,000 Canadian businesses that sell or provide single-use plastic products, primarily in the retail, food service, hospitality and healthcare industries. The following is a comprehensive list of items that will be prohibited: Single-use plastic ring carriers designed to hold and carry beverage containers together2; Single-use plastic stir sticks designed to stir or mix beverages or to prevent liquid from spilling from the lid of its container3; Single-use plastic foodservice ware (a) designed in the form of a clamshell container, lidded container, box, cup, plate or bowl, (b) designed to serve or transport ready-to-eat food or beverages without further preparation, and (c) made from certain materials4; Single-use plastic checkout bags designed to carry purchased goods from a business and (a) whose plastic is not a fabric, or (b) whose plastic is a fabric that will break or tear, as the case may be, (i) if it is used to carry 10 kg over a distance of 53 m 100 times; (ii) if it is washed in accordance with the washing procedures specified for a single domestic wash in the International Organization for Standardization standard ISO 6330, as amended from time to time5; Single-use plastic cutlery that is formed in the shape of a fork, knife, spoon, spork or chopstick that either (a) contains polystyrene or polyethylene, or (b) changes its physical properties after being run through an electrically operated household dishwasher 100 times6; Single-use plastic straws that either (a) contain polystyrene or polyethylene, or (b) change their physical properties after being run through an electrically operated household dishwasher 100 times7. The main exceptions Single-use flexible plastic straws Single-use flexible plastic straws, i.e. those with a corrugated section that allows the straw to bend and maintain its position at various angles,8 may be manufactured and imported9. These flexible straws may also be sold in any of the following circumstances:  The sale does not take place in a commercial, industrial, or institutional setting10. This exception means that individuals can sell these flexible straws. The sale is between businesses in packages of at least 20 straws.11 The sale is made by a retail store of a package of 20 or more straws to a customer who requests it without the package being displayed in a manner that permits the customer to view the package without the help of a store employee12; The sale of straws is between a retail store and a customer, if the straw is packaged together with a beverage container and the packaging was done at a location other than the retail store13; The sale is between a care facility, such as a hospital or long-term care facility, and its patients or residents14. The export of single-use plastic items - All the manufactured single-use plastic items listed above may be manufactured, imported or sold for export15. That said, any person who manufactures or imports such items for export will be required to keep a record of certain information and documents as appropriate for each type of plastic manufactured item16. Records of the information and documents will have to be kept for at least five years in Canada17. Conclusion: an opportunity to rethink common practices In the short term, businesses will need to start thinking about how they will replace the plastic manufactured items they use. To help businesses select alternatives to single-use plastic items, the federal government has released its Guidance for selecting alternatives to the single-use plastics in the proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations.18 According to this document, the aim should be to reduce plastics.  Businesses may begin by considering whether a single-use plastic should be replaced or no longer provided. Only products that perform essential functions should be replaced with non-plastic equivalents. Stir sticks and straws can be eliminated most of the time. Another way to reduce waste is to opt for reusable products and packaging. Businesses are invited to rethink their products and services to provide reusable options. Reusable container programs (i.e. offering customers the option of using their own reusable containers) are a reuse option that businesses may want to consider, in particular to reduce the amount of plastic food containers. Only where reusable products are not feasible should businesses substitute a single-use plastic product with a recyclable single-use alternative. Businesses in this situation are encouraged to contact local recycling facilities to ensure that they can successfully recycle products at their end of life. Ultimately, charging consumers for certain single-use substitutes (e.g. single-use wooden or moulded fibre cutlery) may also discourage their use. Ibid, s. 1 Ibid, s. 3 Ibid, s. 6 Polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, plastic containing black pigment produced through the partial or incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons or oxo-degradable plastic; Ibid. This standard is entitled Textiles – Domestic washing and drying procedures for textile testing; Ibid. Ibid. Ibid, ss. 4 and 5. Ibid, s. 1. Ibid, s. 4. Ibid, para. 5(2). Ibid, para. 5(3). Ibid, para. 5(4); According to Guidance for selecting alternatives to the single-use plastics in the proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations, the goal is to ensure that people with disabilities who need flexible single-use plastic straws continue to have access to them at home and can carry them to restaurants and other premises. Ibid, para. 5(5). Ibid, para. 5(6). Ibid, para. 2(2). Ibid., s. 8 Ibid, para. 9(1). https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/consultations/proposed-single-use-plastics-prohibition-regulations-consultation-document.html

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  • 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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  • A False Sense of Cybersecurity?

    Ransomware has wreaked so much havoc in recent years that many people forget about other cybersecurity risks. For some, not storing personal information makes them feeling immune to hackers and cyber incidents. For others, as long as their computers are working, they do not feel exposed to no malware. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. A new trend is emerging: malware is being released to collect confidential information, including trade secrets, and then such information is being sold to third parties or released to the public.1 The Pegasus software used to spy on journalists and political opponents around the world has been widely discussed in the media, to the point that U.S. authorities decided to include it on their trade blacklist.2 However, the use of spyware is not limited to the political sphere. Recently, a California court ordered a U.S. corporation, 24[7].ai, to pay $30 million to one of its competitors, Liveperson.3 This is because 24[7].ai installed competing technology on mutual client websites where LivePerson’s technology already is installed. Liveperson alleged in its lawsuit that 24[7].ai installed spyware that gathered confidential and proprietary information and data regarding Liveperson’s technology and client relationships. In addition, the software which 24[7].ai allegedly installed removed some features of Liveperson’s technology, including the “chat” button. In doing so, 24[7].ai interfered in the relationship between Liveperson and its clients. This legal saga is ongoing, as another trial is scheduled to take place regarding trade secrets related to a Liveperson client.4 This legal dispute illustrates that cybersecurity is not only about personal information, but also about trade secrets and even the proper functioning of business software. A number of precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of cybersecurity incidents. Robust internal policies at all levels of the business help maintain a safe framework for business operations. Combined with employee awareness of the legal and business issues surrounding cybersecurity, these policies can be important additions to IT best practices. In addition, employee awareness facilitates the adoption of best practices, including systematic investigations of performance anomalies and the use of programming methods that protect trade secrets. Moreover, it may be advisable to ensure that contracts with clients provide IT suppliers with sufficient access to conduct  the necessary monitoring for the security of both parties. Ultimately, it is important to remember that the board of directors must exercise its duty with care, diligence and skill while looking out for the best interests of the business. Directors could be held personally liable if they fail to meet their obligation to ensure that adequate measures are implemented to prevent cyber incidents or if they ignore the risks and are wilfully blind. Thus, board members must be vigilant, be trained in and aware of cybersecurity in order to integrate it into their risk management approach. In an era in which intellectual property has become a corporation’s most important asset, it goes without saying that it is essential to put in place not only the technological tools, but also the procedures and policies required to adequately protect it! Contact Lavery for advice on the legal aspects of cybersecurity. See Page, Carly, “This new Android spyware masquerades as legitimate apps,” Techcrunch, November 10, 2021. https://techcrunch.com/2021/11/10/android-spyware-legitimate-apps; Page, Carly, “FBI says ransomware groups are using private financial information to further extort victims,” Techcrunch, November 2, 2021. https://techcrunch.com/2021/11/02/fbi-ransomware-private-financial-extort. Gardner, Frank, “NSO Group: Israeli spyware company added to US trade blacklist,” BBC News, November 3, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-59149651. Claburn, Thomas, “Spyware, trade-secret theft, and $30m in damages: How two online support partners spectacularly fell out,” The Register,June 18, 2021. https://www.theregister.com/2021/06/18/liveperson_wins_30m_trade_secret. Brittain, Blake, “LivePerson wins $30 million from [24]7.ai in trade-secret verdict,”Reuters, June 17, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/liveperson-wins-30-million-247ai-trade-secret-verdict-2021-06-17.

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  • Adoption of Bill 64: what do public bodies need to know?

    Bill 64, also known as the Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, was adopted on September 21, 2021, by the National Assembly of Québec. This new bill amends some 20 laws relating to the protection of personal information, including the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information ("Access Act"), the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector (“ARPIPS”) and the Act to establish a legal framework for information technology (“AELFIT”). While these changes will affect both public bodies and private businesses, this article focuses exclusively on the new requirements for public bodies covered by the Access Act.  We have prepared an amended version of the Access Act in order to reflect the exact changes brought about by Bill 64. 1. Strengthening consent mechanisms and increasing individual control over personal information By way of Bill 64, some important changes were made to the notion of consent when disclosing personal information to public bodies. From now on, any time an individual’s consent is required by the Access Act, public bodies must ensure that the concerned individual’s consent is given separately from any other disclosed information (s. 53.1). Furthermore, any consent to the collection of sensitive personal information (e.g., health or financial information that gives rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy) will have to be expressly obtained from the data subject (s. 59). The amended Access Act now also provides that minors under the age of 14 must have a parent or a guardian consent to the collection of their personal information. For minors over the age of 14, consent can be given either directly by the minor or by their parent or guardian (s. 53.1). The right to data portability is one of the new rights enforced by Bill 64. These added provisions to the Access Act allow data subjects to obtain data that a public body holds on them in a structured and commonly used technological format and to demand that this data be released to a third party (s. 84). Whenever a public body renders a decision based exclusively on automated processing of personal information, the affected individual must be informed of this process. If the decision produces legal effects or otherwise affects the individual concerned, upon request, the public body must also disclose to the individual (i) the personal information used in reaching the decision, (ii) the reasons and main factors leading to the decision, and (iii) the individual’s right to have this personal information rectified (s. 65.2).  Furthermore, public bodies that use technology to identify, locate or profile an individual must now inform the affected individual of the use of such technology and the means that are available to them in order to disable such functions (s. 65.0.1). 2. New personal data protection mechanisms Public bodies will now be required to conduct a privacy impact assessment whenever they seek to implement or update any information system that involves the collection, use, disclosure, retention or destruction of personal data (s. 63.5). This obligation will effectively compel public bodies to consider the privacy and personal information protection risks involved in a certain project at its outset. In fact, the Access Act now states that every public body must create an access to information committee, whose responsibilities will include offering their observations in such circumstances. 3. Promoting transparency and accountability for public bodies The changes brought about by Bill 64 also aim to increase the transparency of processes employed by public bodies in collecting and using personal data, as well as placing an emphasis on accountability. As such, public bodies will now have to publish on their websites the rules that govern their handling of personal data in clear and simple language (s. 63.3). These rules may take the form of a policy, directive or guide and must set out the various responsibilities of staff members with respect to personal information. Training and awareness programs for staff should also be listed. Any public body that collects personal information through technological means will likewise be required to publish a privacy policy on their website. The policy will have to be drafted in clear and simple language (s. 63.4). The government may eventually adopt regulations to specify the required content of such privacy policies. Moving forward, public bodies will also have to inform data subjects of any personal data transfer outside of the province of Quebec (s. 65). Any such transfer will also need to undergo a privacy impact assessment, which will include an analysis of the legal framework applicable in the State where the personal information will be transferred (s. 70.1). Furthermore, any transfer of personal data outside of Quebec must be subject to a written agreement that takes into account, in particular, the results of the privacy impact assessment and, if applicable, the agreed-upon terms to mitigate the risks identified in the assessment (s. 70.1). A public body that wishes to entrust a person or body outside of Quebec with the task of collecting, using, communicating or retaining personal information on its behalf will have to undertake a similar exercise (s. 70.1 (3)). 4. Managing confidentiality incidents Where a public body has reason to believe that a confidentiality incident (which is defined in Bill 64 as the access, use, disclosure or loss of personal information) has occurred, public bodies will be required to take reasonable steps to mitigate the injury caused to the affected individuals and to reduce the risk of further confidentiality incidents occurring in the future (s. 63.7). In addition, where the confidentiality incident poses a risk of serious harm to the affected individuals, these individuals and the Commission d’accès à l’information (“CAI”) must be notified (unless doing so would interfere with an investigation to prevent, detect or suppress crime or violations of law) (s. 63.7). Public bodies must now also keep a register of confidentiality incidents (s. 63.10), a copy of which must be sent to the CAI upon request. 5. Increased powers for the CAI Bill 64 also grants the CAI an arsenal of new powers aiming to ensure that public bodies, as well as private companies, comply with privacy laws. For example, in the event of a confidentiality incident, the CAI may order any public body to take appropriate action to protect the rights of affected individuals, after allowing the public body to make representations (s. 127.2). Furthermore, the CAI now has the power to impose substantial administrative monetary penalties, the value of which may reach up to $150,000 for public bodies (s. 159). In the event of repeat offences, fines will be doubled (s. 164.1). 6. Coming into force The amendments made by Bill 64 will come into force in several stages. Most of the new provisions of the Access Act [DM1] will come into force two years after the date of assent, which was granted on September 22, 2021. However, some specific provisions will take effect one year after that date, including: The requirements regarding actions to be taken in response to confidentiality incidents (s. 63.7) and the powers of the CAI upon disclosure by an organization of a confidentiality incident (s. 137.2); and The exception to disclosure without consent for research purposes (s. 67.2.1). Conclusion The clock is now ticking for public bodies to implement the necessary changes in order to comply with the new privacy requirements outlined in Bill 64, which received official assent on September 22, 2021. We invite you to consult our privacy specialists to help ensure proper compliance with the new requirements of the updated Access Act. The Lavery team would be more than pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding the upcoming changes and the potential impacts on your org

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  • Amendments to Privacy Laws: What Businesses Need to Know

    Bill 64, also known as the Act to modernize legislative provisions respecting the protection of personal information, was adopted on September 21, 2021, by the National Assembly of Québec. It amends some 20 laws relating to the protection of personal information, including the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies ("Access Act"), the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector ("Private Sector Act") and the Act respecting the legal framework for information technology. While the changes will affect both public bodies and private businesses, this publication will focus on providing an overview of the new requirements for private businesses covered by the Private Sector Act. We have prepared an amended version of the Private Sector Act in order to reflect the exact changes brought about by Bill 64. Essentially, the amended Private Sector Act aims to give individuals greater control over their personal information and promote the protection of personal information by making businesses more accountable and introducing new mechanisms to ensure compliance with Québec’s privacy rules. The following is a summary of the main amendments adopted by the legislator and the new requirements imposed on businesses in this area. It is important to note that, for the most part, the new privacy regime will come into effect in two years. 1. Increasing transparency and individual control over personal information The new Private Sector Act establishes the right of individuals to access information about themselves collected by businesses in a structured and commonly used technological format. Data subjects will now also be able to require a business to disclose such information to a third party, as long as the information was not “created or inferred” by the business (s. 27). This right is commonly referred to as the “right to data portability.” Businesses now have an obligation to destroy personal information once the purposes for which it was collected or used have been fulfilled. Alternatively, businesses may anonymize personal information in accordance with generally accepted best practices in order to use it for meaningful and legitimate purposes (s. 23). However, it is important that the identity of concerned individuals can never again be inferred from the retained information. This is a significant change for private businesses which, under the current law, can still retain personal information that has lapsed. In addition, Bill 64 provides individuals with a right to “de-indexation.” In other words, businesses will now have to de-index any hyperlink that leads to an individual’s personal information where dissemination of such personal information goes against the law or a court order (s. 28.1). Additionally, whenever a business uses personal information to render a decision based exclusively on an automated processing of such information, it must inform the concerned individual of the process at the latest when the decision is made (s. 12.1). The individual must likewise be made aware of their right to have the information rectified (s. 12.1). Bill 64 provides that the release and use of nominative lists by a private company for commercial or philanthropic prospecting purposes are now subject to the consent of concerned data subjects. Furthermore, in an effort to increase transparency, businesses will now be required to publish their rules of governance with respect to personal information in simple and clear terms on their website (s. 3.2). These rules may take the form of a policy, directive or guide and must, among other things, set out the various responsibilities of staff members with respect to personal information. In addition, businesses that collect personal information through technology will also be required to adopt and publish a privacy policy in plain language on their website when they collect personal information (s. 8.2). The amended Private Sector Act further provides that businesses that refuse access to information requests, in addition to giving reasons for their refusal and indicating the relevant sections of the Act, must now assist applicants in understanding why their request was denied when asked to (s. 34). 2. Promoting privacy and corporate accountability Bill 64 aims to make businesses more accountable for the protection of personal information, as exemplified by the new requirement for businesses to appoint a Chief Privacy Officer within their organization. By default, the role will fall upon the most senior person in the organization (s. 3.1). In addition, businesses will be required to conduct privacy impact assessments (“PIA”) for any information system acquisition, development or redesign project involving the collection, use, disclosure, retention or destruction of personal information (s. 3.3). This obligation forces businesses to consider the privacy and personal information protection risks involved in a project at its outset. The PIA must be proportionate to the sensitivity of the information involved, the purpose for which it is to be used, its quantity, distribution and medium (s. 3.3). Businesses will likewise be required to conduct a PIA when they intend to disclose personal information outside Québec. In these cases, the purpose of the PIA will be to determine whether the information will be adequately protected in accordance with generally accepted privacy principles (s. 17). The extra-provincial release of personal information must also be subject to a written agreement that takes into account, among other things, the results of the PIA and, if applicable, the terms and conditions agreed to in order to mitigate identified risks (s. 17(2)). The disclosure of personal information by businesses for study, research or statistical purposes is also subject to a PIA (s. 21). The law is substantially modified in this regard, in that a third party wishing to use personal information for such purposes must submit a written request to the Commission d'accès à l'information (“CAI”), attach a detailed description of their research activities and disclose a list of all persons and organizations to which it has made similar requests (s. 21.01.1 and 21.01.02). Businesses may also disclose personal information to a third party, without the consent of the individual, in the course of performing a service or for the purposes of a business contract. The mandate must be set out in a written contract, which must include the privacy safeguards to be followed by the agent or service provider (s. 18.3). The release of personal information without the consent of concerned individuals as part of a commercial transaction between private companies is subject to certain specific requirements (s. 18.4). The amended Private Sector Act now defines a business transaction as “the sale or lease of all or part of an enterprise or its assets, a change in its legal structure by merger or otherwise, the obtaining of a loan or other form of financing by it, or the taking of a security interest to secure an obligation of the enterprise” (s. 18.4). Bill 64 enshrines the concept of “privacy by default,” which means that businesses that collect personal information by offering a technological product or service to the public with various privacy settings must ensure that these settings provide the highest level of privacy by default, without any intervention on behalf of their users (s. 9.1). This does not apply to cookies. Where a business has reason to believe that a privacy incident has occurred, it must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of harm and the reoccurrence of similar incidents (s. 3.5). A privacy incident is defined as “the access, use, disclosure or loss of personal information” (s. 3.6). In addition, businesses are required to notify concerned individuals and the CAI for each incident that presents a serious risk of harm, which is assessed in light of the sensitivity of the concerned information, the apprehended consequences of its use and the likelihood that it will be used for a harmful purpose (s. 3.7). Companies will furthermore be required to keep a confidentiality incident log that must be made available to the CAI upon request (s. 3.8). 3. Strengthening the consent regime Bill 64 modifies the Private Sector Act to ensure that any consent provided for in the Act is clear, free and informed and given for specific purposes. This means that consent must be requested for each of the purposes of the collection, in simple and clear terms and in a clearly distinct manner, to avoid consent being obtained through complex terms of use that are difficult for individuals to understand (art. 14). The amended Private Sector Act now provides that minors under the age of 14 must have a parent or a guardian consent to the collection of their personal information. For minors over the age of 14, consent can be given either directly by the minor or by their parent or guardian (s. 14). Within an organization, consent to the disclosure of sensitive personal information (e.g., health or other intimate information) must be expressly given by individuals (s. 12). 4. Ensuring better compliance The Private Sector Act has likewise been amended by adding new mechanisms to ensure that businesses subject to the Private Sector Act comply with its requirements. Firstly, the CAI is given the power to impose hefty dissuasive administrative monetary penalties on offenders, which can be as high as $10,000,000 or 2% of the company's worldwide turnover (s. 90.12). In the event of a repeat offence, the fine will be doubled (s. 92.1). In addition, when a confidentiality incident occurs within a company, the CAI may order it to take measures to protect the rights of affected individuals, after allowing the company to make observations (s. 81.3). Secondly, new criminal offences are added to the Private Sector Act, which may also lead to the imposition of severe fines. For offending companies, such fines can reach up to $25,000,000 or 4% of their worldwide turnover (s. 91). Finally, Bill 64 creates a new private right of action. Essentially, it provides that when an unlawful infringement of a right conferred by the Private Sector Act or by articles 35 to 40 of the Civil Code of Québec results in prejudice and the infringement is intentional or the result of gross negligence, the courts may award punitive damages of at least $1,000 (s. 93.1). 5. Coming into force The amendments made by Bill 64 will come into force in several stages. Most of the new provisions of the Private Sector Act will come into force two years after the date of assent, which was granted on September 22, 2021. However, some specific provisions will take effect one year after that date, including: The requirement for businesses to designate a Chief Privacy Officer (s. 3.1); The obligation to report privacy incidents (s. 3.5 to 3.8); The exception for disclosure of personal information in the course of a commercial transaction (s. 18.4); and The exception to disclosure of personal information for study or research purposes (s. 21 to 21.0.2). Finally, the provision enshrining the right to portability of personal information (s. 27) will come into force three years after the date of official assent. The Lavery team would be more than pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding the upcoming changes and the potential impact of Bill 64 on your business. The information and comments contained in this document do not constitute legal advice. They are intended solely for the use of the reader, who assumes full responsibility for its content, for their own purposes.

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  • Bill 78 and the notion of ultimate beneficiary

    Bill 78 was introduced in December 2020 by Minister Jean Boulet and given assent on June 8, 2021. It amends the Act respecting the legal publicity of enterprises (the “Act”) and its regulation, the Regulation respecting the application of the Act respecting the legal publicity of enterprises (the “Regulation”). This legislative amendment is part of a process to prevent and fight tax evasion, money laundering and corruption, and will now require registrants to disclose more of their information. Disclosure of information relating to ultimate beneficiaries The amendments set out new requirements for corporate transparency and now require registrants to disclose information about the natural persons who are their ultimate beneficiaries, including their names, domiciles and dates of birth, in order to prevent the use of nominees for tax evasion, among other things. It should be noted that the obligation to disclose the ultimate beneficiary’s domicile can be circumvented by disclosing a professional address instead. New section 35.2 of the Bill provides that “a registrant who must declare the domicile of a natural person under a provision of this Bill may also declare a professional address for the natural person.” If such an address is declared, the information relating to the domicile of that person may not be consulted. Under the Bill, a “registrant” means a person or group of persons registered voluntarily or any person, trust or partnership required to be registered. The Bill specifies that “ultimate beneficiary” means a natural person who meets any of the following conditions in respect of a registrant1: Is the holder, even indirectly, or beneficiary of a number of shares or units of the registrant, conferring on the person the power to exercise 25% or more of the voting rights attached to the shares or units; Is the holder, even indirectly, or beneficiary of a number of shares or units the value of which corresponds to 25% or more of the fair market value of all the shares or units issued by the registrant; Exercises control in fact of the registrant; or Is a general partner of a limited partnership. The Bill also provides that where natural persons holding shares or units of the registrant have agreed to jointly exercise the voting rights attached to the shares or units and the agreement confers on them, together, the power to exercise 25% or more of those voting rights, each of those natural persons is considered to be an ultimate beneficiary of the registrant. Lastly, it provides that a natural person operating a sole proprietorship is presumed to be the only ultimate beneficiary of the sole proprietorship, unless he or she declares otherwise. Notwithstanding this definition of ultimate beneficiary, it is important to note that the government may make regulations determining other conditions according to which a natural person is considered to be an ultimate beneficiary. Search by name of an ultimate beneficiary The Bill provides that a natural person’s name may be part of a compilation of information or serve as the basis for a compilation, and may be used as a search term for the purposes of a search in the enterprise register. This will allow the public to identify all corporations with which a natural person is associated, where such a person has been named the ultimate beneficiary of a registrant. However, information that may not be consulted may not be part of such a compilation or serve as the basis for one. It should be noted that the Bill also allows the government to make regulations determining the information contained in the enterprise register that may not be consulted. Conclusion This legislative amendment, particularly with the addition of the notion of ultimate beneficiary, will considerably increase disclosure requirements for corporations that are already required to communicate certain types of information to the Registraire des entreprises du Québec. We can only hope that at the end of this legislative process, the government will implement a clear and effective information disclosure system, making it easier for registrants and their advisors to manage the information that they disclose. The new section 0.3 will now be part of the new Chapter 0.1 “Purposes and definitions.”

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  • Entrepreneurs and Intellectual Property: Avoid These Thirteen Mistakes to Protect Yourself (Part 2 of 3)

    In the second entry of this three-part article series, we share with you the next set of intellectual property (IP)–related mistakes (mistakes #6 to #9) that we regularly see with startups. We hope you will find it useful for your business. Please be sure to read our first entry in this series, where we go over mistakes #1 to #5. Happy reading! Part 2 of 3: Mistakes concerning trademarks, industrial designs, copyrights, and trade secrets Mistake #6: Launching your product on the market without having verified the availability of your trademark Choosing a trademark can be a long and expensive process. People sometimes focus on the attractive qualities of a trademark, forgetting that its primary function is to distinguish a company’s products or services from those of others. To properly fulfil this function, the trademark must not be confusing with other trademarks, trade names, and domain names. In order to avoid conflicts with existing rights, an availability search should be conducted prior to a trademark’s adoption and the launch of a new product, service, or business. Furthermore, it may not be possible to register a trademark if it doesn’t have certain necessary intrinsic qualities, and a trademark may not be usable if it conflicts with the rights of third parties. A search will make it possible to determine where your desired trademark stands in terms of these two aspects; if necessary, a different mark may need to be adopted. Conducting a pre-adoption trademark search may prevent you from having to change trademarks after sales have begun or after the marketing development of your products or services is underway. Redesigning your advertising campaign; modifying your documentation, website, and packaging; and developing a new marketing strategy to transfer and retain the goodwill surrounding your initial trademark will be an expensive task, taking up time that could have been invested elsewhere. Such a process also carries the risk of tarnishing your reputation or losing your goodwill. Mistake #7: Not having your software or graphic designer sign a copyright assignment Many people think that a copyright is intended to protect a work with exceptional artistic qualities. However, such thinking is erroneous. As long as a text, drawing, graphic design or computer program is a creation that required a certain amount of effort and is not a copy of an existing work, it constitutes a “work” and is automatically protected by copyright. As a general rule, in Canada, the author is the first copyright owner; thus, just because the work was created in exchange for remuneration doesn’t mean that its copyright was transferred. For a startup business owner to ensure that they own a copyright, they should ask the artist or author to sign a written transfer of copyrights, thereby ensuring that the business can publish and use the work as it sees fit. It is also important to have the author of a work sign a waiver of moral rights or to outline the terms and conditions that will apply to the work’s authorship and integrity. If these steps are omitted, you’ll be limited in the use of such works. They won’t be part of your assets and will therefore not increase the value of your portfolio. In addition, you’ll be dependent on the consent of the actual holders of the rights to commence actions for infringement, should that ever be necessary. Mistake #8: Not having your employees, officers, and contractors sign confidentiality agreements (before entering into a business relationship) The sooner the better! Your company should see to having an agreement intended to preserve the confidentiality of its information signed by all those whom it mandates to perform work that is significant for its development, including its employees. The type of information that can be protected is virtually unlimited; at a minimum, it includes information related to R&D, market studies, prototypes, ongoing negotiations, marketing research of any kind, and lists of target customers. Ideally, in an employer-employee relationship, when an employee or officer leaves, a company should make sure to remind them of the confidentiality obligations that will continue to apply despite the end of the relationship. Applying these principles reduces the risk that an employee or partner will publicly share or independently use your strategic information at your company’s expense. Mistake #9: Not protecting your original products’ shapes and ornamentation within the prescribed time limit Many are unaware of the benefits of protecting an object’s shape, form, and ornamentation through the Industrial Design Act, or they learn of such benefits too late. In Canada, such protection has two key requirements: The industrial design must not have been published more than one year before the date on which an application for registration is filed; and The protection must be acquired by registration to exist. This type of protection is more effective than one might think and should not be overlooked. For example, a search of the industrial design register will reveal how many industrial designs tech giants have obtained. Some industrial designs have even been the subject of high-profile disputes, including one between Apple and Samsung over the shape of tablets. Apple Inc. uses such protection to prevent the presence of competing products that copy its designs on the market. As an example, in Canada, the shape of the headphones shown below was protected in 2021 and the shape of the phone shown below was protected in late 2020. For more detail on the protection of each of these articles, see Registration 190073 and Registration 188401. Conclusion Lavery’s intellectual property team would be happy to help you with any questions you may have regarding the above or any other IP issues. Why don’t you take a look at our Go Inc. start-up program? It aims to provide you with the legal tools you need as an entrepreneur so you can start your company on the right foot! Click on the following links to read the two previous parts. Part 1 | Part 3

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  • Entrepreneurs and Intellectual Property: Avoid These Thirteen Mistakes to Protect Yourself (Part 1 of 3)

    In this three-part article series, we will share with you the intellectual property (IP)–related mistakes that we regularly see with startups. We hope you will find it useful for your business. Happy reading! Part 1 of 3: Mistakes concerning IP in general Mistake #1:                 Believing that IP issues don’t affect you Some companies don’t put too much thought into intellectual property considerations, either because they feel they don’t have any intellectual property worth protecting, or because they simply don’t want to go through the trouble of obtaining such protection. While refraining from obtaining IP protection might, in rare instances, be a viable business decision, that does not mean that your company should ignore IP considerations altogether. This is because of the existence of third-party intellectual property rights. As an example, if your business sells or uses technology that has already been patented by a competitor, or your business uses a trademark that is confusingly similar to that of a competitor, then said competitor may be able to sue you for infringement, regardless of whether or not said infringement was deliberate. This is why it is always important to consider third-party IP rights, regardless of the nature of your business activities, and regardless of whether you intend on obtaining IP protection. Mistake #2:                 Believing that IP will cost you too much Many business owners think that intellectual property is too expensive to warrant spending money on when their company is just starting out.  However, while obtaining intellectual property rights can sometimes be an expensive process, it is important to remember that investing in your company’s IP rights is just that: an investment, one that can result in the creation of a valuable asset for your company. This can include a trademark registration for a brand that, over the years, will become incredibly popular, or a patent for a highly sought-after piece of technology. In fact, if properly protected, a company’s intellectual property assets can easily become more valuable than any physical asset. And just like any other valuable asset, it will increase your company’s worth and make your business all the more appealing for potential investors.   Mistake #3:                 Hoping for the intervention of the “IP police” Some entrepreneurs believe that once they have obtained an IP right, the government will be the one to enforce it with their competitors. This is unfortunately not the case. It is up to you, as an IP owner, to monitor the market and ensure that your competitors don’t infringe your rights. Should you fail to do so, you’ll be leaving the door wide open to those who would wish to imitate your products and services. In addition, you even risk losing some of your previously acquired rights. For example, your trademark could become non-distinctive—meaning you would no longer be able to protect it—if you were to fail to react and let a third party copy it. Reacting to every single situation isn’t necessarily called for, but each case should be examined in order to determine what consequences third-party use might have on your rights as a holder. Should you discover, in your market monitoring, that a third party is imitating your intellectual property, talk to your IP advisor or lawyer. They can help you decide on an effective first approach to take, either on your own or through them. Said approach might involve asking the third party to cease its activities, claiming compensation for prejudice caused, requiring that certain modifications be made to the use, and/or negotiating a coexistence agreement or a license with or without royalties. Mistake #4:                 Believing that you won’t be able to “defend your IP” We sometimes hear entrepreneurs say that securing IP rights isn’t worth their while, as they won’t be able to “defend their IP.” They essentially believe that the only purpose of holding IP rights is to sue competitors who imitate their products and services, which they necessarily believe is very expensive. The result is that they fail to protect their innovations and let their competitors appropriate their products and services. Without IP rights, it is true that they have little recourse. In reality, a lawsuit is usually the last option to use against competitors. Many other steps can be taken before resorting to a lawsuit. As is the case for other IP owners, holding IP rights may allow you to: -          Significantly discourage competitors from imitating your products and services by clearly indicating that you hold IP rights; and -          Negotiate agreements with your competitors who would like to imitate or who are already imitating your products and services. Remember that only a small minority of IP disputes are resolved in court; all other disputes are resolved out of court quickly and at relatively little cost. Mistake #5:                 Launching your product or service on the market and waiting to see if it will be a success before obtaining IP protection Some entrepreneurs, preoccupied with saving money, launch their new products or services on the market and wait to see if they are successful before protecting them with IP rights. This constitutes a serious mistake, because some IP rights may no longer be available. More specifically, once a product or service is launched, the possibility of protecting it by patent or industrial design is no more. Note that some exceptions apply, particularly in some jurisdictions that allow grace periods. If you are considering protecting one of your products or services by patent or industrial design, you should start the protection process before you launch your innovation on the market. However, said protection process doesn’t need to be completed in order to begin marketing your product or service. Conclusion Lavery’s intellectual property team would be happy to help you with any questions you may have regarding the above or any other IP issues. Why don’t you take a look at our Go Inc. start-up program? It aims to provide you with the legal tools you need as an entrepreneur so you can start your company on the right foot! Click on the following links to read the two previous parts. Part 2 | Part 3

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  • Pre‑ruling Consultation with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA): a little‑known yet practical service

    Canada’s tax system is very complex and tends to become more complex over time. Amendments to tax laws in recent years have not simplified our tax system, quite the contrary. The introduction of various intention tests in tax laws has also further increased tax authorities’ discretion as to the application of such laws. In this context, it is often a good idea to obtain the Canada Revenue Agency’s (“CRA”) advice on the application of tax laws to proposed transactions. Given that the CRA is responsible for applying the Income Tax Act (the “ITA”) and other legislation, some Canadian taxpayers would be well advised to ensure that the CRA will agree with their interpretation of the ITA in the context of a proposed tax plan or transaction. Getting the CRA’s opinion will help to steer clear of differences in opinion that could lead to lengthy and costly debates. The CRA has long offered Canadian taxpayers the opportunity to consult it before proceeding with tax plans or transactions. The two best known mechanisms for doing so are requests for a Technical Interpretation and requests for a Ruling. As a request for a Technical Interpretation is made anonymously, the resulting interpretation as to the application of the ITA is not binding on the CRA, and it requires a considerable amount of time to obtain. A request for a Ruling, on the other hand, requires identification of the parties and details of the proposed tax plan or transaction, and the resulting Ruling will bind the CRA to certain conditions. It is also faster to obtain. The CRA charges a fee to render a Ruling, but does not charge one for a Technical Interpretation. There is, however, a third, lesser-known mechanism available to taxpayers: a Pre-ruling Consultation. Some of its advantages include: Faster feedback for taxpayers as to the likelihood that the CRA will render the Ruling sought. Lesser preparation costs, as a Pre-ruling Consultation request requires less information than a request for a Ruling. Lower fees to be paid to the CRA in cases where the CRA believes that it cannot render the Ruling a taxpayer is seeking. The use of the Pre-ruling Consultation service will often be the best way to begin the request for a Ruling process. By using the service, taxpayers can quickly determine, at a relatively low cost, whether they should engage in the request for a Ruling process. The service isn’t a substitute for obtaining such a Ruling, however, as a Ruling has the advantage of binding the CRA with respect to the tax consequences of a proposed tax plan or transaction.   Our taxation team can guide you and answer your questions regarding the services that the CRA offers in connection with tax compliance.

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  • Teleworking: What are the allowable expenses for employees and tax impacts for employers?

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Canadian workplaces. For many organizations, the pandemic and its containment measures have fast-tracked the shift to teleworking.  In this context, the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) and the Agence du Revenu du Québec (the“ARQ”) have published administrative positions regarding deductible expenses for employees working from home as well as for their employers. Eligible expenses for an EMPLOYEE The first condition for claiming employment expenses related to teleworking involves being obliged to work from home. The CRA has announced some flexibility in this regard, to the effect that if an employer did not require an employee to work from home but gave them the option to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRA will consider the employee to have worked from home as a result of the pandemic. Temporary flat rate method: Federal and Quebec deduction of $2 per day without Form T2200 On December 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that employees who worked from home more than 50% of the time for at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 will be able to deduct $2 from their incomefor each day worked during that period and for each additional day worked outside that period, for a maximum of $400. The temporary flat rate method only applies to the 2020 taxation year. To qualify, the employee must only deduct only home office expenses and no other employment expenses. Details of expenses incurred for with teleworking or Form T2200 will not be required to claim this deduction. On December 16, 2020, the Government of Quebec followed the Government of Canada’s lead by announcing that taxpayers would be allowed to deduct $2 per day for each day worked from home, up to a maximum of $400, without supporting documents or a TP-64.3 form. Detailed method In general, an employee (whether a tenant or a homeowner) may deduct reasonable expenses directly related to the use of space in the home for work if and only if at least one of the following two conditions is met: (i)             The space devoted to work in the home is “the place where the individual principally (interpreted by the courts to be more than 50% of the time) performs the office or employment duties”; or  (ii)            The workspace in the home is “used exclusively [...] to earn income from the office or employment and, on a regular and continuous basis, for meeting customers or other persons in the ordinary course of performing the office or employment duties.”[1] The period used to assess eligibility criteria for 2020 must be at least four consecutive weeks. This period may last more than a month. If the workspace is part of a residence rented by the individual, a reasonable portion of the rent may be deductible. However, an individual may not claim any deduction for the rental value of the workspace in a home owned by the individual or for amortization, taxes, insurance or mortgage interest in respect of that home. Notwithstanding the above restrictions, the Income Tax Act provides that employees remunerated by commissions may deduct a reasonable portion of the taxes and insurance paid for the home they own, if one of the above criteria is met. It is important to note that these expenses are eligible only to the extent that they are not otherwise reimbursed by the employer. In order to determine the amount that can be deducted in this way, it is important to use a reasonable basis for calculation.For example, the calculation can be based on the area of the workspace in proportion to the total area of the home. Other possible uses of space must also be considered. The use of 100% compared to 75% of the space by an employee is an important factor in the calculation. For example, a kitchen table used as office space by an employee will have mixed use, which will have a direct impact on the amount of deductible expenses. Eligible expenses(salaried employees and those remunerated by commission) Electricity Heating Water Utility portion (electricity, heat and water) of the employee’s condominium fees Home internet service costs Maintenance and minor repair costs Rent paid for the house or apartment where the employee lives Eligible expenses(employees remunerated by commission only) Home insurance Property taxes   Rental of a cell phone, computer, laptop, tablet, fax machine, etc. that is reasonably related to commission income Ineligible expenses(salaried employees and those remunerated by commission) Mortgage interest Mortgage payments Internet connection fees Furniture Capital expenses (replacement of windows, floors, furnace, etc.) Wall decorations Note that if an employee can deduct an expense in calculating taxable income for income tax purposes, they may also qualify for a refund of the Goods and Services Tax / Quebec Sales Tax (“GST/QST”) paid. GST and QST refunds are taxable and must be included in the employee’s income tax return the following year. It is also important for the employee to keep supporting documents. The CRA recently developed an expense calculator to simplify calculating eligible expenses. An employee will have to complete the following forms to deduct expenses and obtain GST and QST refunds: a)    T777 – Statement of Employment Expenses; b)    TP-59 – Employment Expenses of Salaried Employees; c)     GST370 – GST/HST Rebate Application; and d)    VD-358 – QST Rebate for Employees. In order to deduct employment expenses from income, including certain expenses related to space devoted to working from home, the employee must have received two forms from the employer: a)    Form T2200 - Declaration of Conditions of Employment (“T2200”); and b)    Form TP-64.3 General Employment Conditions (“TP-64.3”) (Quebec employee only). Considerations for the employer On December 15, 2020, the CRA announced the launch of a simplified process to claim home office expenses for the 2020 tax year. Accordingly, a simplified version of Form T2200 was made available as Form T2200S. The form may be found here. In order for an employee to be able to deduct the expenses described above, Form T2200S must indicate: If the employee worked at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic; If the employer reimbursed or will reimburse the employee for some of the home office expenses; and If the amount was included on the employee’s T4 slip. Finally, the employer will have to certify that “this employee worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19, and was required to pay some or all their own home office expenses used directly in their work while carrying out their duties of employment during that period.” It is expected that a large number of employees will meet the criteria for this deduction, at least as long as the workplace access restrictions attributable to COVID-19 remain in place. The ARQ, for its part, has announced that, exceptionally, an electronic signature of the employer on the TP-64.3 form would be permitted. In addition, on December 16, 2020, the Government of Quebec announced that it will launch, in early 2021, an online service for generating a large number of TP-64.3 forms to be sent to teleworkers. This service aims to reduce the administrative burden on medium and large companies. More information on the online platform is expected in 2021. Other eligible expenses for an employee An employee will also be able to deduct certain expenses for supplies consumed directly in the course of their duties to the extent that they are not reimbursed by the employer, such as: a)    Paper, pencils and ink cartridges; b)    Internet costs, if they are charged based on usage. To this end, the CRA has announced that for the 2020 taxation year, it will exceptionally accept monthly residential internet service costs (the cost of the plan must be reasonable). Expenses reimbursed by an employer Normally, an amount received from an employer to reimburse an expense is considered a benefit to the employee and must be added to the employee’s employment income, unless such expenses are necessary for the performance of the employee’s duties. Employees may not deduct reimbursed expenses. In addition, in the current context, the CRA and the ARQ have announced that the reimbursement of $500 by an employer to an employee to offset the cost of acquiring personal computer equipment or office equipment required for telework does not constitute a taxable benefit to the employee. For example, if the purchase is a $1,000 desk, the taxable benefit included in the employee’s income will be $500. The CRA has recently announced that this amount will not be increased. Allowance paid by an employer Some employers will prefer to pay an allowance directly to their employees who are teleworking to cover the additional costs they incur. In this context, the employer will be able to deduct this allowance in the calculation of its taxable income, provided that it is a reasonable amount. Normally, the amount of this allowance will be treated as a taxable benefit to the employee and will have to be included in employment income for the taxation year in which the employee receives it, except in the situation covered by the exception mentioned above. Other considerations for the employer It is also important for the employer to consider the tax implications—particularly with respect to source deductions—of the location where the employee primarily works during the pandemic if it differs from the location of the employer’s establishment where they normally report for work.  The CRA and the ARQ have announced relief in this respect for the 2020 taxation year. For example, the province of work will not change for employees who work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The province for the purpose of calculating source deductions will continue to be the province of the normal place of work. However, if the employee performs their work in a foreign country, certain tax implications for both the employee and the employer should be considered. Lavery’s tax law team can guide you and answer your questions regarding your company’s tax compliance. Technical interpretation IT-352R2.

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  • COVID-19: Support for Agriculture and Agri-Food Businesses in Quebec and Canada

    It goes without saying that the economic upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are posing countless challenges for all companies, whether or not they are pursuing their activities within the limits imposed by the governments of Canada and Quebec. Food producers such as agricultural and food processing businesses, considered by the Quebec government to be essential services, are not exempt from this harsh reality. In this context, different levels of government and certain key economic actors have taken critical measures to support and protect businesses in the agriculture and agri-food industry, which are vital to both the health of individuals and that of the Canadian and Quebec economies. This bulletin presents the various support measures specific to agri-food industry businesses, which may also be eligible for general tax and economic support measures announced in response to COVID-19, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Canadian measures Recruitment support Many food producers depend on the additional input of foreign labour during the summer months. To offset the impact of the mandatory 14-day isolation period for anyone arriving from abroad, the Canadian government is providing financial assistance of $1,500 to such producers for each temporary foreign agricultural worker arriving in Canada to work. This financial assistance is conditional on compliance with the mandatory isolation period or other public health guidelines. Financial support The Government of Canada has also increased Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) capital base by $5 billion in order to increase its lending capacity for agribusinesses and food producers and processors. For existing borrowers, FCC offers: Deferral of principal and interest payments for up to 6 months or deferral of principal payments for up to 12 months; and Access to an additional secured line of credit up to a maximum of $500,000 (for Quebec borrowers only). FCC offers term loans of up to $2.5 million,with no fees, to any Canadian agriculture and agri-food business whose working capital or production is impacted by COVID-19. Borrowers have the option of paying interest only for 18 months and benefit from a 10-year amortization period. The Government of Canada additionally announced support measures for farm producers, agri-food businesses and the food supply chain, which consist of the following: A sum of $77.5 million to help food processors purchase protective equipment and adapt work areas; A $125 million injection into the AgriRecovery program to cover additional costs to meat producers; A budget of $50 million to buy back certain surpluses, including potatoes and poultry; An increase of $200 million in the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit to support temporary storage costs for butter and cheese; Financial assistance of $62.5 million for the fish and seafood processing industry; and Income support for fishers who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, in the form of benefits and subsidies. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy On May 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced its intention to amend the legislation on the CEWS to include measures to increase support for employers that hire seasonal employees. These new provisions, once they are passed, will give employers that are eligible for the CEWS two options for the calculation of their eligible employees’ average “baseline remuneration”: (1) the period from January 1 to March 15, 2020, or (2) the period from March 1 to May 31, 2019. In both cases, any period lasting seven days or more without remuneration will be excluded from the calculation. To be eligible, the employees must not be residents of Canada. Quebec measures The reality of COVID-19 is demonstrating that the success of the agriculture and agri-food industry is one of the Government of Quebec’s top priorities, as it is for the population in general. Recruitment support On April 17, 2020, the Government of Quebec announced that it will pay a premium of $100 per week to anyone taking on work for farmers between April 15 and October 31, 2020. As of April 22, 2020, close to 2,300 Quebecers had applied for such positions, the government’s goal being to encourage 8,500 people to get involved. Financial support La Financière agricole du Québec (FAQ), a government organization serving the agricultural and agri-food industry, has also implemented exceptional measures: Loans of up to $50,000 to support farm producers experiencing liquidity problems related to COVID-19; A six-month moratorium on loan repayments; Interim payments increased to 75% under the AgriStability program to ensure that program benefits are quickly available; Notices of assessment for the Farm Income Stabilization Insurance Program deferred to July 1, 2020; Deadline to enrol in the Crop Insurance Program extended from April 30 to May 21, 2020. Deadline to apply for the Agristability Program extended from April 30 to July 3, 2020. Notices of assessment for the Crop Insurance Program deferred from June 1 to July 1, 2020;  Investment grant payments under many FAQ programs moved up from June1 to May 1, 2020. Finally, the investment company Fondaction, whose mission is to practice socially responsible development, has undertaken to allocate $40 million to Quebec SMEs in the agricultural and agri-food industry over the next year. In addition, Fondaction has made its financing offer more flexible in order to provide support to industry businesses that are solid and growing, provided that they were profitable before COVID-19. Such businesses can apply for assistance from Fondaction to finance any project of $500,000 or more requiring development capital.   The Lavery team is committed to supporting your agricultural and agri-food business. We are available to answer all your questions regarding the announced measures, how they affect your business and any aspect relating thereto. The information and comments contained herein do not constitute legal advice. They are intended solely to enable readers, who assume full responsibility, to use them for their own purposes. The information and comments contained in this document are limited to measures in Quebec or Canada announced or made public on or before June 4, 2020.

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