Osgoode Hall Law Journal


Larissa Lucas

Document Type

Book Note


BANKRUPTCY—A LEGAL PROCESS DESIGNED to relieve honest but unfortunate debtors of their debts—allows for “a statutory exception to the common law and interferes with the ordinary relations between debtors and creditors.”2 While modern bankruptcy scholarship recognizes that bankruptcy law is a commercial necessity, the debate in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Canada focused on whether it should exist at all.3 Why did Canada enact bankruptcy legislation after Confederation and repeal it in 1880? After repeal, why did Parliament take nearly forty years to enact the Bankruptcy Act of 1919? These are the central questions that Thomas GW Telfer answers in Ruin and Redemption, the first full-length study of the origins of Canadian bankruptcy law. Telfer argues that the law was shaped by conflict over the morality of release from debts and by the divergence of interests between local and distant creditors. In chapter one, Telfer outlines the two fundamental policy goals that “lie at the heart of all bankruptcy statutes.”4 First, bankruptcy is concerned with the equitable distribution of assets among creditors. Second, bankruptcy entitles the debtor to a “fresh start” and a release of his or her debts through the order of a discharge.

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