Thomas Telfer

Thomas Telfer

Academic Degrees:

BA (Hons) (Western) 1985; JD (With Distinction) (Western) 1988; LLM (Duke) 1992; SJD (Toronto) 1999; Member of Law Society of Ontario (1990)

Phone: 519 661-2111 ext. 88379
Office: LB 16

Thomas Telfer is a Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. He joined Western in 2002 from the University of Auckland where he taught for eight years. Professor Telfer’s research and teaching interests include bankruptcy law, commercial law, contracts, legal history and mindfulness.

In 2023, he was admitted as a member of the International Academy of Commercial and Consumer Law. The IACCL is focused on the global exchange of ideas and is composed of more than hundred specially selected leading scholars from throughout the world. The academy recognizes persons in various countries who have achieved renown in their fields through research, writing of books, major articles, teaching and law reform. Membership is accorded to these persons who have excelled and gained recognition nationally or even internationally.

He has been a visiting professor at the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Melbourne, Case Western Reserve University, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Adelaide and the University of Auckland.

Professor Telfer has published widely in the areas of insolvency law and legal history.

He has a major interest in the intersection of history and bankruptcy law and is the author of Ruin and Redemption: A Struggle for Canadian Bankruptcy Law, 1867-1919 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2014).  

He is also the co-author (with Virginia Torrie) of: Debt and Federalism: Landmark Cases in Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law, 1894-1937 (UBC Press, 2022).

He is the co-editor of the Canadian Business Law Journal and the Journal of the Insolvency Institute of Canada. He is a member of the Editorial Board for the New Zealand Law Review.

From 2018-2022 he held the position of Teaching Fellow from the Centre for Teaching and Learning. The purpose of the Fellowship was to  develop mindfulness and mental health initiatives. In 2017, he introduced mindfulness as an optional first year course and in 2018 received a Leadership in Wellness Award of Recognition from Western for mindfulness education. From 2019-2023 he offered an upper year credit course: Mindfulness and the Legal Profession.

Professor Telfer is currently working on a project that examines the legal history of bankruptcy law and federalism in Canada.

Seeking graduate students in the following areas: Bankruptcy and insolvency, legal history, mindfulness and the legal profession.

Research Highlights


Thomas Telfer & Virginia Torrie, Debt and Federalism: Landmark Cases in Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law, 1894-1937 (UBC Press, 2021).

Ruin and Redemption: A Struggle for Canadian Bankruptcy Law, 1867-1919 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2014).  

Stephanie Ben-Ishai & Thomas GW Telfer eds, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law in Canada: Cases, Materials, and Problems (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2019).

David Brown and Thomas Telfer, Personal and Corporate Insolvency Legislation:  Guide and Commentary to the 2006 Amendments, 2nd ed. (Wellington:  LexisNexis Butterworths New Zealand, 2013)  (commentary 150 pp).

Charles E.F. Rickett & Thomas G.W. Telfer eds., International Perspectives on Consumers’ Access to Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2003) (440 pp).


Thomas Telfer & Virginia Torrie, “An Historical Account of the Orderly Payment of Debts Act Reference: Limiting Provincial Efforts to Protect Insolvent Debtors” (2023) 46:2 Dalhousie Law Journal 707-739.

Jassmine Girgis & Thomas Telfer, "Do Securities Commission Debts Survive a Bankruptcy Discharge? An Analysis of Poonian v British Columbia (Securities Commission) (2023)" 67:3 Canadian Business Law Journal 438-457.

Thomas Telfer & Virginia Torrie, “Debt Postponement, Debtor Protection, and Creditor Interests: The Role of the Saskatchewan Moratorium Act Reference Case in Reinforcing the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Power” (2023) 86 Saskatchewan Law Review 41-82.

Jassmine Girgis and Thomas GW Telfer, The Fraudulent Misrepresentation and False Pretences Exception to the Bankruptcy Discharge: Balancing the Debtor’s Fresh Start with Confidence in the Credit System, [2022] Annual Review of Insolvency Law, 2022 CanLIIDocs 4295

Virginia Torrie & Thomas GW Telfer, "Bankruptcy and Insolvency as an Expanding Field: A Historical Analysis of Reference Re Debt Adjustment Act, 1937 (Alta.)" (2022) 59:4 Alberta Law Review 807-832.

Equitable Subordination Redux? Section 183 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and Respecting the ‘Legislative Will’ of Parliament” (2021) 64:3 Canadian Business Law Journal 316-341. 

The New Bankruptcy ‘Detective Agency’? The Origins of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Great Depression Canada” (2020) 64:1 Canadian Business Law Journal 22-45.

“Rediscovering the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Power: Political and Constitutional Challenges to the Bankruptcy Act, 1919-1929” (2017) 80:1 Saskatchewan Law Review 37-70.

“Repeat Bankruptcies and the Integrity of the Canadian Bankruptcy Process” (2014) 55 Canadian Business Law Journal 231-262.

“Ideas, Interests and Institutions and the History of Canadian Bankruptcy Law 1867-1880” (2010) 60 University of Toronto Law Journal 603-621.

Thomas Telfer & Bruce Welling, “The Winding-Up and Restructuring Act: Realigning Insolvency Law’s Orphan to the Modern Insolvency Law Process” (2008) 24 Banking & Finance Law Review 235-270.

“Transplanting Equitable Subordination:  The New ‘Free-Wheeling’ Equitable Discretion in Canadian Insolvency Law?” (2001) 36 Canadian Business Law Journal 36-88.

“Risk and Insolvent Trading” in C. Rickett and R. Grantham (eds.) Corporate Personality in the 20th Century (Oxford:  Hart Publishing, 1998) pp 127-148.

Book Reviews

Review of Barry E.C. Boothman, Corporate Cataclysm: Abitibi Power & Paper and the Collapse of the Newsprint Industry, 1912-1946 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020) (2022) 39:4 Law and History Review 877-879.

Review of Wounded Feelings: Litigating Emotions in Quebec, 1870-1950 (University of Toronto Press, 2019) (2021) 90:3 University of Toronto Quarterly 448-450.