Friday, November 7, 2014


When buying or selling your home, it’s a good idea to get your lawyer involved as early as possible. You’ll probably find yourself asking “Who should officially own the property?” or “What kind of mortgage should you get?” It’s important to know all the legal issues involved in buying your home. It’s also important that all these issues are properly handled.

Although real estate transactions can be fairly complex, I've tried to simplify the process to three main steps. The first, of course, is for you (as the client) to sell your home, buy a home, or both. There are many things to consider when you buy a home, which I've addressed in my previous blog, so please have a read.

After you've bought/sold a property, the agreement is known as the "Agreement of Purchase and Sale". This is a legally binding contract! It lists all the important information about the relevant property, including price and any conditions.

Third, your lawyer will perform relevant searches and other administrative matters, such as: Title-related matters, including insurance and deed registration; closing funds and closing adjustments; tax issues; and mortgages, including transfers, discharges, and registrations.

Whether buying or selling, you will need to meet with your lawyer at closing. If you are buying, you should get your keys. If you are selling, you may want to ask for a reporting letter from your lawyer.


Some basic information you may want to discuss with your lawyer (if he or she does not provide it) include:

·        The names of the lawyer responsible for your matter and anyone else working on the file, along with their functions and confirmation that the lawyer will supervise all non-lawyers;

·        Your marital status and residency;

·        Joint retainer issues (if applicable);

·        Differences between 'joint tenancy' and 'tenancy-in-common';

·        Methods of assuring Title (and the client's selection);

·        Closing adjustments (confirm a detailed review before closing to ensure you're only paying your share of taxes/utility/fuel, and other pre-paid costs);

·        Property insurance as a requirement;

·        Proposed mortgage financing;

·        Surveys (their importance and if one exists);

·        (Condo) Extent of review of the Status Certificate;

·        (NEW home) Tarion inspection, HST, New Home Rebate;

·        Instructions about arranging utility and other service accounts;

·        Fees and disbursements estimate, and land transfer tax;

·        Required closing funds (certified cheque/bank draft); and,

·        How and when keys will be available.


Most agreements are made using the OREA (Ontario Real Estate Association) standard form with the assistance of real estate agents. Don't forget that an offer to purchase is a legally binding contract. Once accepted, it is the binding contract that sets out the legal rights and obligations of the buyer and seller.

An unfortunate yet common misperception is that many believe all Agreements are, in fact, standard. However, each real estate transaction is unique so both parties

An unfortunate yet common misperception is that many believe all Agreements are, in fact, standard. However, each real estate transaction is unique so both parties should seek legal advice prior to entering into a binding Agreement. That being said, most people do not consult a lawyer before signing an APS. If you do consult one before signing, you can discuss the points listed above as well as: your intended or future use of the property, survey issues, financing, due diligence, relevant searches, and deadlines.


As part of title-related duties and responsibilities, a lawyer usually will check that the seller has a right to sell the property, and no one else has a claim to it or a lien on it. He or she will also consider survey-related issues such as encroachments. The local municipality and utilities are also contacted to ensure no liens against the property because of unpaid bills. If the home is being rented, note that tenants may have rights affecting your ownership.

If there are problems that could affect title to your property, your lawyer could take steps to fix the matter (often working with the vendor’s lawyer). If it cannot be corrected, your lawyer will explain to you the risks of taking title without resolving the problem.

There are three main approaches to assure good title. It will be up to you and your lawyer to decide which is most appropriate in your situation. No matter which option you choose, your lawyer will conduct searches & inquiries to find out if there are any title-related problems with the home you plan to buy.

·        Option 1: Lawyer’s Opinion on Title – A lawyer will provide you with a Letter of Opinion that states the lawyer’s view of whether or not you have good and marketable title to your property. However, if a problem is identified after closing, seeking compensation may be difficult;

·        Option 2: Title Insurance – An insurance policy helps to protect your investment in your property if there is a problem with title. It also protects you against the loss you suffer because of many title-related problems. Most title policies also cover your legal costs if your title is challenged;

·        Option 3: TitlePLUS – This option includes both an insurance policy and an 'e-process' that collects data from lawyers who apply for a TitlePLUS policy as they go through the steps in a residential real estate transaction. The policy provides protection for both the title-related aspects of buying a home and the legal services provided by your lawyer. It also automatically provides you and the lender with coverage.

In closing, seeing a lawyer before you sign that offer can help avoid difficulties later on and ensure your best interests are protected. For example, the inclusion of escape clauses; a request for warranty of conformation to all by-laws, zoning regulations, etc.; exact listing of accessories expected to buy with home, and so on. As you can see, there are many details and issues to address - both great and small. If you take them one step at a time, the task won't seem so daunting. And remember: your lawyer is always there to help!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Buying and/or selling a home can be exciting and scary at the same time. Some feel nervous or anxious during the process, while others may feel more motivated or eager. No matter what category you fall in, there are certain steps and tips you can follow to make the entire transaction as safe, smooth, and profitable as possible.  

A house or condominium is usually the most expensive purchase you will have to make in your life. It’s also usually the most valuable investment you’ll make! There are many important areas of a residential real estate transaction to discuss so I've endeavoured to create a series of blogs on Real Estate topics.

This blog will deal with everyone’s favourite topic – ‘Tax Issues’, such as municipal and property taxes  and the Land Transfer Tax  – while future blogs will include ‘Mortgage Issues’, ‘What to Ask and Expect from Your Lawyer’, ‘Title Insurance’, and ‘the Purchase & Sale Agreement’.

Before deciding what house to buy, you have to first decide where you’re going to live. As an example, I've decided to look at the west side of the GTA, including Brampton, Mississauga, Oakville, Milton, and Toronto. You may prefer to buy a new home, or you may wish to buy a home in an established neighbourhood. Whatever your choice, taxes are inescapable.

Property taxes are usually one of the larger annual costs associated with home ownership. Brampton seems to have a reputation as having a high tax rate compared with its neighbours while Milton and Oakville have long been heralded for their low rates. Using an assessed value of $500,000.00 I have compiled a comparison sample of tax rates for 5 local cities and towns, below.  

2014 Tax Statistics (figures taken from each city’s official website)
Region Tax Rate
City Tax Rate
Total Tax Rate
2014 Taxes for $500,000 home

Based on the above figures, Brampton clearly has the highest taxes of the five municipalities: nearly $1100 more than second-place Mississauga. Oakville taxes are about $170 less than Mississauga, while Milton taxes are $1750 less than Brampton’s. Surprisingly, Toronto has the lowest of the five – almost $280 less than Milton and over $2000 less than Brampton.

Property and municipal taxes are not the only consideration in selecting where to live, however. You also have to take into account the city services your tax dollars (ideally) fund, including community centres and libraries, infrastructure and other such expenditures.

Whenever you purchase a property in Ontario, the Provincial Land Transfer Tax (LTT) is applied. Toronto charges a separate and additional Municipal LTT to properties purchased in the City. The Provincial LTT is slightly lower for new homes purchased from the builder. The LTT is calculated on the purchase price and is payable by the Purchaser upon registration of a Transfer/Deed of Land in the Ontario Land Registry Office on closing. Here is the formula to calculate Provincial LTT:
  • 0.5% on the first $55,000 of the purchase price;
  • 1.0% above $55,000 up to and including $250,000;
  • 1.5% above $250,000 up to and including $400,000;
  • 2% above $400,000.

Using our assessed value of $500,000, the LTT is $6475 for each city. Toronto home-buyers have to pay an additional Municipal LTT in the amount of $5725, or $12,200 total!

A note on HST: As you may or may not know, the HST only applies to the purchase of new homes. Resale homes are exempt from the HST. Does the purchase price include HST or is it payable upon closing? You may be eligible for an HST rebate if you buy your new (or substantially renovated) home from a builder. You can apply for the rebate either: immediately after closing if you move into the home as your primary residence, or; after you have rented it out for at least one year. If you re-sell the new home without moving in, you must pay the full HST amount when you purchase from the builder and cannot apply for a rebate.

New home buyers can apply for a 36% rebate of the federal portion of HST applicable (5%) up to $6,300 for homes costing $350,000 or less. If the price is between $350,000 and $450,000 (before tax), the rebate reduces proportionately. For homes $350,000 and under the GST paid reduces from 5% to 3.5%. There is no rebate for homes priced over $450,000. Claiming the rebate requires you to fill out Form GST190 and file it with your personal income tax. You can also apply for a 75% rebate of the provincial portion of HST applicable (8%) up to $24,000.

I hope this blog has been informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post! If you need any legal help with a real estate matter, I’d be more than happy to help.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to Incorporate in Ontario; How to Federally Incorporate

How to Incorporate in Ontario; How to Federally Incorporate
PLEASE NOTE: The following is not meant as specific legal advice but rather general information. This article considers businesses that sell goods or services in Canada only.
5 Basic Steps
   Ø  Step 1 – INTRO: Consider general incorporation issues
   Ø  Step 2 – NAME & NUANS SEARCH: Establish that the desired name is permitted
   Ø  Step 3 – PREPARE & FILE Corporate documents and the Articles of Incorporation
   Ø  Step 4 – ORGANIZATION: Corporate organization (By-Laws, etc.)

Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a for-profit business. Are you going to incorporate your business? When you incorporate your business, it’s considered to be a legal entity that’s separate from the owners (and shareholders). As an owner of a corporation, you will not be personally liable for its acts, debts, or obligations.  Incorporation is not necessary for every business or company. Alternative corporate vehicles such as a sole proprietorship or partnership may be appropriate, given the circumstances.
Accordingly, your first step is to actually think about the best vehicle for your business. Next, you need to name your business. You will then have to prepare the relevant applications and other required forms and documents. Lastly, you will need to prepare your company’s by-laws and other corporate documents.
The first table below lists some of the main advantages and disadvantages of incorporation, both pro and con. The table that follows compares federal vs. provincial incorporation.

-  Limited liability;
-  Transferable ownership;
-  Continuous existence;
-  Separate legal entity;
-  Easier to raise capital;
-  Possibly lower taxes for incorporated businesses, which could translate to tax advantages.
-   Corporations are closely regulated;
-   Costlier than a partnership or sole proprietorship;
-   Extensive corporate records required (e.g. shareholder and director meetings, annual government filings, etc.);
- Risk of conflict between shareholders & directors;
-   *Residency requirements for directors (25% of directors must be Canadian residents).



-   The corporation may carry on business in all provinces & territories (requires additional  provincial registration)
-   Able to use the same corporate name in each province or territory, even if another company is already doing business under a similar name.
-   Enhanced corporate name protection, second only to trademark protection. The corporate name is generally reserved for use anywhere in Canada (excepting Quebec).
-   Can operate cross-country as of right, subject to provincial extra-provincial filing requirements.
-   Incorporator's responsibility to ensure that proposed corporate name is available for use.
-   Names not usually rejected, unless they conflict with another confusingly similar name already in use.

-   Higher initial set-up costs (federal incorporation costs and extra-provincial registration fee(s)). Federal corporations in Ontario & Prince Edward Island may register for free;
-   Much more annual paperwork: filings required by Federal Director, plus all provincially required filings.
-   Federal Name Granting Guidelines are very strict and many proposed names are rejected.
-   Incorporation Fee: $200.00
- Corporate name only protected in province or territory of incorporation
-   Can only operate within the province of incorporation as of right.
-   Must register extra-provincially if operating in other provinces.
-   Incorporation Fee (varies; ON $300.00)

Choosing a corporate or business name is more difficult than choosing a name for a sole proprietorship or partnership because incorporation calls for stricter name requirements. A corporate or business name must identify the corporation and its activities, and include a title such as “Ltd.”, “Inc.”, or “Corp.”

In Canada, corporate names can be in English, French or both. You may also use a separate, equivalent English and French name. For example, "Target Market Inc." (English form)/"Marché Cible Inc." (French form). Before it grants approval, the Provincial Registrar (or federal Corporations Directorate) must decide whether your proposed corporate name is not identical or similar to any other existing company names.

When choosing a corporate name you cannot use words or phrases that are vulgar, obscene or objectionable (in any language). Also prohibited are words with restricted use under federal or provincial laws (think copyright or trademark). You can’t use a person’s name unless that person has or had a material interest in the business and has given written permission. If the person is not living and the name is used within 30 years of the date of death, written consent of the estate is required.

You cannot use words that imply your business is associated with the Crown or government – federal, provincial, or municipal – without its written consent.  Likewise, a private post-secondary institution cannot use the words "college," "institute" or "university" without the written consent of the Ministry of Education.

Business names must be registered in the Roman alphabet (e.g. English, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, etc.) but may contain numerals. Other alphabets must be translated and registered in a language using the Roman alphabet. If you wish to market or advertise in a foreign language or alphabet, you may do so as long as you display your business name in a Roman alphabet (i.e., English or French).  Interestingly enough, the following marks may be used in the name, but not as the first character:
! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . / : ; > = < ? [ ] \ ^ ` .

As a final note, if the corporation intends to carry on business using a name other than its actual corporate name, the business name must be registered under the Business Names Act.

No matter where in Canada you incorporate, a name search needs to be done. A name search is a report required by the federal and most provincial/territorial governments when granting new corporate names for use. The report lists similar and existing corporate names, trademarks, and the availability of the proposed name. This search is known as a NUANS (Newly Updated Automated Name Search) report. It is a computer-printed search report that shows existing corporate names, business names, and trademarks that are similar to your proposed corporate name. The NUANS report is valid for 90 days from the date it was obtained. This is a link to a list of vendors that provide NUANS searches in Ontario.

The NUANS report is not necessary if you are incorporating a numbered company. Note that the number is automatically selected by the government. The incorporation process for a numbered company is quicker than that for a named one; it’s also possible to first incorporate a numbered company quickly, and then later apply for a NUANS report and change the status of the company from a numbered to a named corporation.

In some provinces, such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia, a name search is performed after you’ve submitted a Name Approval Request or Name Reservation Request Form. If the results of the search are acceptable and your name is approved, it is then reserved for a set number of days during which you must complete the incorporation process or restart the procedure all over again.

STEP 3 – PREPARE AND FILE YOUR CORPORATE DOCUMENTS (i.e., Articles of Incorporation)
Be careful when completing this step! Preparing your corporate documents requires a little attention to detail, as a corporation’s ability to exercise power and carry on business is limited by it articles of incorporation. Your documents should address the following:
  • *The minimum and maximum number of directors;
  • The nature of the corporation's business;
  • The issuance of shares, including any attached rights, privileges, conditions and restrictions;
  • Shareholder rights, including voting rights;
  • Borrowing and mortgaging powers.

Most people usually find this step to be confusing and complicated. Generally, to incorporate your business in Ontario, you’ll need to prepare the following documents:
      ·         The Memorandum (sets out the Company’s rules of conduct);
      ·         The Articles of Incorporation (sets out the rules and regulations that will govern the conduct of the          
             company’s members and directors);
      ·         The Notice of Directors (states required information on directors. You must also submit a federally-
             based NUANS report) (federal incorporation only).
You may be able to find sample templates of these documents online, or visit the business section of your local library.

You can now incorporate your business on the websites of the Federal Corporations Directorate and most provincial registries. You may also submit your application (forms and fees) for incorporation by snail-mail to the Registrar. You’ll receive a Certificate of Incorporation after you’ve successfully registered your new corporation. There are many obvious advantages to filing online, such as convenience and speed. You will receive an immediate acknowledgement when you file online – it’s also $50 cheaper.

If the corporation will have a word name rather than a number name, a NUANS name search report must be submitted with the articles of incorporation. The NUANS name search report is a seven-page, computer-printed search report consisting of existing corporate names, business names and trademarks that are similar to the proposed corporate name. The NUANS name search is valid for 90 days from the date on which it was obtained. The NUANS name search report is not necessary if incorporating a corporation with a number name.

Federal incorporation online
To federally incorporate online, file the following documents in the prescribed form with Corporations Canada using its Online Filing Centre:
·         Form 1, Articles of Incorporation (Original signatures of the incorporator(s) are not required. However, retain signed copies of the original documents in the corporate records).
·         *Form 2, Initial Registered Office Address and First Board of Directors (Original signatures of the incorporator(s) are not required. However, retain signed copies of the original documents in the corporate records).

In this step, you’ll take care of a number of corporate house-keeping matters. You will prepare “By-Law No. 1”, which deals with general operating matters (e.g. meetings, notice, quorum, officers, proxies, execution of documents, etc.). You will also need to prepare any other required by-law, such as by-law No. 2 (addresses the borrowing and pledging of a corporation’s assets as security).

You may also need to draft the initial written resolutions of the directors (or minutes for any meeting held), which addresses how to pass by-laws, allot and issue shares, appoint officers, approve a sample share certificate, approve the corporate seal (if any), determine the fiscal year end, and pass any other necessary or appropriate resolutions. Also, you may have to draft the initial written resolutions of the shareholders (or prepare minutes if a meeting is held) to ratify by-laws, elect permanent directors, appoint auditors or accountants (as the case may be) and pass any other shareholder's resolutions that may be necessary or appropriate.

If you incorporate in Ontario, you must file a Form 1 (Initial Return) with the Ministry of Government Services. If a federal corporation is formed, you must register in any province where the corporation will carry on business.

I hope this helps you get started! As always, feel free to post any comments or questions.

*A Note on Directors and Officers

There are a few important requirements to mention. Firstly, there must be at least 1 director (over the age of 18). You can choose a set number or range for the number of Directors, who can only be individuals. You must provide the details of each Director's residential address and their Canadian residency status (25% of directors must be Canadian, or if less than 4 directors, at least one must be a Canadian resident). Directors can also be shareholders and officers of the same company. The Officers consist of a company's senior management (e.g. President, Secretary and Treasurer). Each company must appoint a President and a Secretary. You must provide the date on which the officer or officers were elected and appointed. One person can be President/Secretary/shareholder/Director of the company. Officers need not be Canadian residents.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Family Class – Spousal Sponsorship Applications

Family Class – Spousal Sponsorship Applications
A spousal sponsorship application can be a confusing and complicated experience. In addition to the numerous forms required from both the sponsor and the principal applicant (the sponsored person, applying to become a Permanent Resident), there are also many supporting documents and evidence that you must include in your application.
It may take some time to properly prepare the application, but it is very important to do so, as incomplete applications may be returned to you, delaying your application. It can take as little as a couple of weeks to as long as several months to prepare an application, depending on the documents needed and the time required to obtain them. Client cooperation is another major factor!
Eligibility criteria for sponsors are relatively broad. However, per Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) website, you may not be eligible if you: failed to meet the terms of a previous sponsorship agreement; did not follow a court order as it relates to alimony or child support; receive government financial help for reasons other than being disabled; or were convicted of a violent crime. Current imprisonment and declared bankruptcies (that you have not yet been released from) are also bars to sponsorship.
Your starting point will be the guides CIC provides for sponsorship applications, including country-specific guides for the principal applicant. The Document Checklist (IMM 5491) is also a good place to begin. This article is meant only as an overview of a typical Family Class (spouse) sponsorship application. It is not meant to replace the guides as a source of information and instructions on how to complete the application. You must follow the instructions as listed in the application forms and guides.
The Document Checklist is extensive, and the fine print means a great deal of patience is required to read it. A simplified breakdown of the main forms and documents required for sponsors and principal applicants is as follows:      
                        I.            SPONSOR
Forms (all original and signed, except Receipt)
(1)    Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking (IMM 1344)
(2)    Sponsorship Evaluation (IMM 5481) or Financial Evaluation (IMM 1283)
(3)    Use of a Representative (IMM 5476), if applicable
(4)    Statutory Declaration of Common Law Union (IMM 5409), if applicable (co-signor is CL)
(5)    Sponsor Questionnaire (IMM 5540)
(6)    Copy 2 of Receipt (IMM 5401) (stamped if paid at FI)
Supporting Documents (photocopies)
(1)   PR Card (if not issued, Record of Landing (IMM 1000)) or Confirmation of PR (IMM 5292/ 5688), or; Canadian Citizenship Card, or; Canadian birth certificate, or; Canadian passport, or; Citizenship Certificate without photo, issued before Feb. 15, 1977.
(2)   Marriage certificate only if you have a co-signer and he/she is your spouse.
(3)   If your spouse or common-law partner is a co-signer, see (1)
(4)   If you had previous marriages or CL relationships: proof that you are separated (income tax forms, legal docs), if you are separated; Divorce cert., if you are divorced; Annulment cert., if marriage was annulled; Death cert., if former spouse/CL partner is deceased; Declaration of severance of CL relationship.
Supporting Docs, Sponsor and Co-Signer (if applicable)
(1)    Original “Option C Printout” of last Notice of Assessment for most recent taxation year (contact CRA for this printout free of charge@1-800-959-8281)
(2)    Original letter from your current employer stating your period of employment, salary, and regular hours per week, AND/OR:
a.       For the 12 months preceding the date of your sponsorship, if you are the sole owner(s) of, or partners in an unincorporated business, provide evidence of self-employment income (statement of business activities)
b.      If you received interest on income earned, provide evidence (bank statement showing rate of interest, deposit amount and length of time deposit held)
(3)    If you must meet Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) requirement and you are not producing an Option C printout, or if the total income reported on the printout is less than the MNI, provide a photocopy of the following documents:
a.       Evidence of employment income (pay stubs) over the 12 months preceding the date of your sponsorship application, if employed
b.      Evidence of self-employment income (statement of business activities) over the 12 months preceding the date of your sponsorship application, if you and your co-signer are the sole owners of or partners in an unincorporated business
c.       Evidence of interest income (bank statement showing rate of interest, deposit amount and length of time deposit held), over the 12 months preceding the date of your sponsorship application, if you and your co-signer received interest
d.      Evidence of: interest income (e.g. dividends), rental income (e.g. statement of real estate rentals), pension income, special benefits income (cert. delivered by HRDC confirming payment of maternity, parental, or sickness benefits), other income received over the 12 months preceding the date of your sponsorship application, if you and your co-signer received such income.
(4)    Canadian citizens living exclusively outside Canada must include proof of an intention to live in Canada with your spouse, CL partner or conjugal partner and/or children once they become PRs of Canada
(5)   Medical Condition Statement, if a dependent child included in the application is your adopted son or daughter.
                   II.            APPLICANT
Forms (all original and signed, except Receipt)
(1)    Generic Application Form for Canada (IMM 0008)
(2)    Additional Dependents / Declaration (IMM 0008DEP), if applicable
(3)    Schedule A – Background / Declaration (IMM 5669), for sponsored person and each family member 18 years of age or over
(4)    Spouse / Partner Questionnaire (IMM 5490)
(5)    Additional Family Information (IMM 5406), for sponsored person and each family member 18 years of age or over
(6)    Use of a Representative (IMM 5476), if applicable
Supporting Documents (photocopies)
(1)    Identity and civil status documents (see country-specific guide)
(2)    Children information (see country-specific guide)
(3)    Travel documents and passports (see country-specific guide)
(4)    Police Certificates and clearances (see country-specific guide)
(5)    Proof of medical exam for sponsored person and each of his/her dependents (Copy 1 of Client Biodata and Summary (IMM 1017), signed and provided by panel physician)
Forms and Documents as required by Country-Specific Guide/Instructions
(1)    Supplementary Information Form (Details of Foreign Travel) (Appendix A of Guide)
(2)    Proof of Relationship to Sponsor
                    III.            SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS & EVIDENCE
(1)    Proof of Relationship to sponsor
a.    Proof of sponsor’s visit, including airline tickets, boarding passes, copies of pages of passport showing entry/exit stamps
b.   Wedding photos showing all rituals of a traditional wedding
c.    Wedding reception and post-wedding photographs
d.   Evidence of continued contact w/ Sponsor such as phone bills, letters, emails
e.   Marriage certificate issued by Registrar of Marriages
f.     If you are CL or conjugal partner, provide evidence: that your relationship is genuine and continuing; has existed for at least 12 months prior to your application; details of the history of your relationship, and; at least two statutory declarations from individuals with personal knowledge of your relationship supporting your claims.
(2)    Six (6) recent photos of yourself according to Appendix B: Photograph Specifications

Although the entire process may still seem a bit perplexing to you, I hope this article helped explain or clarify a few points. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Urban Farming and the Right to Raise Chickens

Though ‘urban farming’ is gaining in popularity and credibility from consumers, citizens, food and industry watchdogs alike, it seems municipal governments and many residents are less than thrilled with the idea.

Urban farming may seem fairly self-explanatory, but it should be noted that the phrase encompasses community gardening (or even a garden on your balcony), composting (in your backyard, city, or community), bee keeping, and keeping chickens. It should also be noted that none of the above raises more concern than keeping chickens in one’s backyard.

Currently, keeping chickens is outlawed in the City of Toronto. Despite the law, there is a rather large number of “underground” chicken farmers in the City (read here for more). It is also outlawed in Hamilton and Barrie, though there is a growing call for those municipalities to update their by-laws on the issue.

To the west of Toronto, in the County of Peel (Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga), backyard chicken coops are both legal and illegal – depending on which county and area you reside in. It is banned in the City of Mississauga and Caledon, unless the chickens are located on property zoned for agricultural purposes. Brampton, however, is one of the few municipalities in Ontario that permit chicken coops in residential areas. As far as I know, Guelph and Niagara Falls are the only other major towns or cities in the province that allow backyard hens.

In Mississauga, Port Credit resident Marianne Kalich has been fighting the City for over two years for her right to keep chickens in her backyard. Ms. Kalich started a petition, which you can view and sign if you want here. Some of her reasons for wanting to raise backyard hens include:  the desire to have pesticide-free organic food; for concerns related to animal cruelty and the conditions of slaughterhouses and abattoirs; and to use waste from the chickens as fertilizer.

These concerns appear to be grounded in reality. A recent study found that nearly half the organic fresh fruits and vegetables tested across Canada in the past two years contained pesticide residue, according to a CBC News analysis of data supplied by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). According to The David Suzuki Foundation website, the safety of genetically modified foods is unproven, while a growing body of research connects these foods with health concerns and environmental damage. The website also adds that for this reason, most developed nations have policies requiring mandatory labeling of such foods at the very least, and some have issued bans on genetically modified food production and imports. This is not the case in Canada, however.

In 2008, Maple Leaf Foods was the source of a listeria outbreak. More recently, XL Foods was the source of an e-coli outbreak. Based on this and countless recent meat and food recalls, it is understandable that reasonable Canadians may have a lack of trust towards food companies and even the CFIA. For many, the debacle involving the CFIA and XL Foods was the last straw, so to speak. As the story unfolded, alarming details were made public, including the fact that XL Foods was warned by the CFIA at least 6 times over sanitation and food processing concerns.

Moreover, based on recent indications, the federal government does not seem to fully appreciate the importance of this issue, or at least do not have a grasp on it. After months of insisting that the Canadian food safety system does not need more inspectors, it appears the federal government has suddenly changed its mind. When it released its budget on February 11, 2014, the government said that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will hire 200 more federal food safety inspectors over the next 5 years.

The ethical treatment of animals and prevention of animal cruelty is another reason why more people are becoming interested in raising their own chickens. “The Earthlings” is a recent documentary on the conditions of animals raised for the meat (and by-products such as eggs) and the conditions of the abattoirs themselves. The film can be viewed here, though I must warn you that it contains graphic and disturbing scenes. In a recent article, Ms. Kalich has stated that urban farming is a “more nutritious and humane” alternative to factory farming. She also claims that “chickens are much more likely to carry disease when they’re hatched in a factory…where they’re extremely stressed”.

While researching this topic, I came across a lot of comments that said hens stop laying eggs after a year or two and, thus, many fear what would happen to the chickens after they are no longer useful. Unsurprisingly, there is a fair amount of misinformation out there. According to, chickens tend to lay fewer eggs as they get older, but most breeds can lay more or less productively for five or seven years. It is standard practice for factory farms to slaughter hens at a year old or so because they might lay a couple fewer eggs a week. Laying one or two fewer eggs per week in a backyard or domestic setting does not cause fiscal concern, but a commercial entity such as a factory farm sees "financial sense" in killing all their one- or two-year-olds and bringing in fresh chattel. Furthermore, there are many farms and other types of chicken farms that accept older hens.

Doubtless, there are many who simply do not want chickens in their residential neighbourhood. Many believe chickens should properly belong on a farm or other agricultural area. “People get very stressed when they have raccoons, rats, skunks and opossums in their neighbourhood, all of which are attracted to chickens and eggs,” says Barry MacKay, director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, in an article in the Mississauga News. Mr. MacKay’s group has lobbied against urban coops in the GTA. But don’t Mr. MacKay’s fears regarding these scavenging animals apply equally to garbage left at curbside, which is in fact a weekly occurrence in neighbourhoods all across the GTA?

In the same article, Councillor Jim Tovey, of Ward 1 in Mississauga, said, “there is also some concern about chickens flying the coop…flying over fences and scaring children.” It should be noted that Councillor Tovey had initially supported the idea of backyard chicken coops as recent as August 2013, where he stated that he wondered why the City allows snakes, lizards and ferrets, but no chickens. “People want to grow local and eat local and this is a way to get fresh eggs,” he said.

The concern about chickens flying the coop and scaring children is a rather weak argument. If harming children is the concern, then a strong argument can be made that dogs are a bigger threat. In a story featured in the Hamilton Spectator’s website, Mississauga recently witnessed a sharp spike in dog bites, but it is highly unlikely that the City would consider banning dogs. Instead, leash laws would be cited. The idea is that reasonable restrictions to animal ownership are in place and are intended to be followed by the animal owner.

Ms. Kalich says she discards significantly less food waste because she feeds most of her scraps to her chickens, which also provide her with “chemical free” fertilizer for her plants. In fact, the waste created by hens serves as an excellent nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Noise concerns are also fairly prominent. Most noise would be attributed to roosters; however, roosters are not required for chickens to lay eggs – only to fertilize them. A neighbour’s barking dog could make more noise than cooped hens in a neighbour’s backyard.

There was a Mississauga council meeting in November 2013 where some wards expressed interest in possibly hosting a pilot project. Ward 1 Councillor Tovey said any such project in his ward would have to wait until at least 2015 and said that he’s looking at how other municipalities have ruled on the keeping of urban chickens. Councillor Tovey need look no further than another member of the County of Peel; The City of Brampton.

The City of Brampton’s By-Laws explain the circumstances in which a Brampton resident may keep chickens in her backyard. By-Law 13 contains the rules regarding owning 2 or less hens. The by-law provides for hens to be kept in an animal quarter (i.e., chicken coop) that is at least 8 metres (25 feet) from any dwelling, school, store or shop, and at least 2 metres (6 feet) from each boundary of the property on which it is located. The coop must be constructed to prevent the escape of hens and properly maintained. All equipment and materials must be kept within a building or structure (such as a shed). The coop must also be screened from the view of the general public – which may necessitate plants, hedges, or a fence to be erected as a screen. The hens’ food, as well as their waste, must be contained in airtight containers to prevent odours and disposed of in a manner that will not create a public nuisance or health hazard. The City of Mississauga By-Laws prohibit the keeping of chickens on one’s residentially zoned property.

The underground urban chicken farmer movement is growing. Those that keep chickens claim hens have therapeutic benefits, as they are good pets and companions. They also claim that since the eggs are fresher, they are healthier and better tasting. More and more are keeping urban hens, but until Mississauga legislation is changed, these people are running fowl of the law.