Unclaimed Property in Canada – Canada is woefully behind all other major developed countries when it comes to consumer protective unclaimed property legislation. Some of the US states and other countries around the world have had such legislation in place for 50+ years.
Only 2 provinces in Canada (Alberta and Quebec) have comprehensive unclaimed property legislation in place and provide searchable databases. BC has a voluntary, less comprehensive system in place.
Under Canadian federal law, chartered banks are required to remit unclaimed Canadian dollar bank accounts and financial instruments to the Bank of Canada after a 10 year dormancy period. This is good for Canadians and brings forth about $1 billion in unclaimed property at any given time. However, Canadian banks do significantly benefit from not remitting all other types of dormant assets such as accounts or instruments denominated in foreign currencies, insurance and brokerage assets.
Experts estimate that there is an additional $1 billion or as high as $5 billion in dormant financial assets in Canada that are not being made publicly available for the benefit of the asset owners or their heirs, or being transferred to government for custody on behalf of owners. Unfortunately for consumers these assets remain with the holding corporations such as insurance companies, brokerage firms, banks, retailers, and even some government agencies. These billions of dollars in assets belonging to Canadian consumers and small businesses will never be collected by rightful owners until comprehensive unclaimed property law is introduced in the remaining provinces.
Ontario is by far the largest economy in Canada, and with many corporations and most corporate head offices located in the Greater Toronto area, this is the location of the majority of unclaimed property in Canada. Unclaimed property legislation for Ontario was drafted in 1989 but never enacted into law. Recent attempts to introduce a more modern Unclaimed Property law for Ontario has unfortunately stalled and has been mysteriously “pending” for years, due to the suspected aggressive lobbying of the Ontario government, by those same companies and industry associations who benefit most from holding the dormant assets.
When will Ontario and the remaining Canadian provinces enact this consumer protective legislation to protect hardworking Canadians from losing their money forever?