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Ruin and Redemption: The Struggle for a Canadian Bankruptcy Act, 1867-1919

Document Type


Publication Date



University of Toronto Press, Osgoode Society of Canadian Legal History

Place of Publication

Toronto, Ont.


In 1880 the federal Parliament of Canada repealed the Insolvent Act of 1875, leaving debtor-creditor matters to be regulated by the provinces. Almost forty years later, Parliament finally passed new bankruptcy legislation, recognizing that what was once considered a moral evil had become a commercial necessity. In Ruin and Redemption, Thomas GW Telfer analyses the ideas, interests, and institutions that shaped the evolution of Canadian bankruptcy law in this era. Examining the vigorous public debates over the idea of bankruptcy, 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. Ruin and Redemption is the first full-length study of the origins of Canadian bankruptcy law, thus making it an important contribution to the study of Canada’s commercial law.


  • Illustrations, Tables, Abbreviations, Preface

PART I 1867–1880

  • Chapter 1: Ideas, Interests, and Institutions
  • Chapter 2: The Constitutional and Legislative History 1867-1880
    • Chapter 3: The Rise and Fall of Bankruptcy Law 1867-1880: The Equitable Distribution of Assets
  • Chapter 4: The Repeal of Bankruptcy Law 1867-1880: The Discharge
  • Chapter 5: The Role of Institutions 1867-1880

PART II 1880–1903

  • Chapter 6: Living With Repeal and the Failure of Federal Reform: 1880-1903
  • Chapter 7: The Constitutional Question and the Impact of Federalism: 1880-1903
  • Chapter 8: The Bankruptcy Law Debates: 1880-1903

PART III 1903–1919

  • Chapter 9: Reform Achieved: The Bankruptcy Act of 1919
  • Chapter 10: Conclusion
  • Appendix to Chapter 6
  • Bibliography

Citation of this paper:

Ruin and Redemption: The Struggle for a Canadian Bankruptcy Act, 1867-1919 by Thomas G. W. Telfer. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2014.

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