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Bankruptcy in Canada
Bankruptcy is a legally declared inability or impairment of ability of an individual or organizations to pay their creditors. Creditors may file a bankruptcy petition against a debtor ("involuntary bankruptcy") in an effort to recoup a portion of what they are owed. In the majority of cases, however, bankruptcy is initiated by the debtor (a "voluntary bankruptcy" that is filed by the bankrupt individual or organization).
The primary purpose of bankruptcy is: (1) to give an honest debtor a "fresh start" in life by relieving the debtor of most debts, and (2) to repay creditors in an orderly manner to the extent that the debtor has the means available for payment. Bankruptcy allows debtors to be discharged from the legal obligation to pay most debts by submitting their non-exempt assets, if any, to the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court for eventual distribution among their creditors. There are two common forms of bankruptcy: a reorganization bankruptcy and a liquidation bankruptcy.
A reorganization bankruptcy is a bankruptcy in which the debtor may reorganize their assets and debts to allow the debtor to carry on with the core of its endeavor while partially satisfying creditor claims. In a liquidation bankruptcy, the assets are sold off to satisfy creditor claims. Reorganization bankruptcy may include plans for individuals and for businesses.
Businesses may enter a reorganization bankruptcy in order to survive insolvency due to creditor claims exceeding the ability of the business to satisfy them. The basic process involves a business reducing each creditor's claims to allow partial payment in order for the business to carry on with its daily commercial activity.
Individuals may enter a reorganization bankruptcy in order to retain assets and pay off reduced creditor claims out of the individual's income. A married couple may be treated as an individual under some circumstances in some jurisdictions.
During the pendency of a bankruptcy proceeding the debtor is protected from most non-bankruptcy legal action by creditors through a legally imposed stay. Creditors cannot pursue lawsuits, garnish wages, or attempt to compel payment.
Bankruptcy in Canada
Bankruptcy in Canada is set out by federal law, in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and is applicable to businesses and individuals. The office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, a federal agency, is responsible for ensuring that bankruptcies are administered in a fair and orderly manner. Trustees in bankruptcy administer bankruptcy estates.
Duties of Trustees
Some of the duties of the trustee in bankruptcy are to:
Creditors become involved by attending creditors' meetings. The trustee calls the first meeting of creditors for the following purposes:
Consumer proposals - an alternative to personal bankruptcy
In Canada, a person can file a consumer proposal as an alternative to bankruptcy. A consumer proposal is a negotiated settlement between a debtor and their creditors.
A typical proposal would involve a debtor making monthly payments for a maximum of five years, with the funds distributed to their creditors. Even though most proposals call for payments of less than the full amount of the debt owing, in most cases the creditors will accept the deal, because if they don’t, the next alternative may be personal bankruptcy, where the creditors will get even less money.
The creditors have 45 days to accept or reject the consumer proposal. Once the proposal is accepted the debtor makes the payments to the Proposal Administrator each month, and the creditors are prevented from taking any further legal or collection action. If the proposal is rejected, the debtor may have no alternative but to declare personal bankruptcy.
A consumer proposal can only be made by a debtor with debts in excess of $5,000 to a maximum of $75,000 (not including the mortgage on their principal residence). If debts are greater than $75,000, the proposal must be filed under Division 1 of Part III of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
The assistance of a Proposal Administrator is required. A Proposal Administrator is generally a licensed trustee in bankruptcy, although the Superintendent of Bankruptcy may appoint other people to serve as administrators.
In 2006, there were 98,450 personal insolvency filings in Canada: 79,218 bankruptcies and 19,232 consumer proposals.
In the Old Testament of the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures, Moses' Laws prescribed that one "Holy Year" or "Jubilee Year" should take place every half century, when all debts are eliminated among Jews and all debt-slaves are freed, due to the heavenly command.
Moreover, the Hebrew (or Jewish) law of debt forgiveness can be found in the Bible at Deuteronomy 15:1–2 which instructs a release of debt every seven years.
In ancient Greece, bankruptcy did not exist. If a father owed (since only locally born adult males could be citizens, it was fathers who were legal owners of property) and he could not pay, his entire family of wife, children and servants were forced into "debt slavery", until the creditor recouped losses via their physical labour. Many city-states in ancient Greece limited debt slavery to a period of five years and debt slaves had protection of life and limb, which regular slaves did not enjoy. However, servants of the debtor could be retained beyond that deadline by the creditor and were often forced to serve their new lord for a lifetime, usually under significantly harsher conditions.
The word bankruptcy is formed from the ancient Latin bancus (a bench or table), and ruptus (broken). A "bank" originally referred to a bench, which the first bankers had in the public places, in markets, fairs, etc. on which they tolled their money, wrote their bills of exchange, etc. Hence, when a banker failed, he broke his bank, to advertise to the public that the person to whom the bank belonged was no longer in a condition to continue his business. As this practice was very frequent in Italy, it is said the term bankrupt is derived from the Italian banco rotto, broken bank. Others choose rather to deduce the word from the French banque, "table", and route, "vestigium, trace", by metaphor from the sign left in the ground, of a table once fastened to it and now gone. On this principle they trace the origin of bankrupts from the ancient Roman mensarii or argentarii, who had their tabernae or mensae in certain public places; and who, when they fled, or made off with the money that had been entrusted to them, left only the sign or shadow of their former station behind them.
Bankruptcy is also documented in the Far East. According to al-Maqrizi, the Yassa of Genghis Khan contained a provision that mandated the death penalty for anyone who became bankrupt three times.
The characteristic discharge of debts was introduced to Anglo-American bankruptcy with the statute of 4 Anne ch. 17 in 1705, where the discharge of unpayable debts was offered as a reward to bankrupts who cooperated in the gathering of assets to pay what could be paid.