New grant project explores Canadian fiduciary relationships

Erika ChamberlainProfessor Erika Chamberlain has been awarded a Western Strategic Support for SSHRC Success Bridge grant for her project "Canada's Unique Conception of Fiduciary Relationships". Only 9 out of 17 projects were chosen for funding in this competition.

Fiduciary relationships are those that require one party to act with utmost loyalty and good faith toward another.

Chamberlain’s project will analyze Canada's unique approach to recognizing fiduciary relationships, and assess whether it can be explained on the basis of social, policy or other considerations that distinguish Canada from other Commonwealth jurisdictions.

“In most Commonwealth jurisdictions, fiduciary relationships are limited to the protection of economic or property interests,” says Chamberlain. 

“However, the Canadian courts have taken a more expansive approach, and have recognized fiduciary relationships that protect psychological and sexual integrity, privacy, and minority rights.”

The Canadian courts have also imposed fiduciary obligations on the Crown, both in the special situation of Aboriginal peoples and with respect to other "vulnerable" groups (eg disabled veterans and minority language groups).

Chamberlain’s proposed research will explore whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or other constitutional principles have influenced the Canadian courts' decisions to recognize unconventional fiduciary relationships in order to promote certain social goals.

“The long-term objective of my research is to develop an overarching theory that explains the recognition of new fiduciary relationships in Canada in terms of the underlying values that such relationships are meant to uphold,” Chamberlain says.

 As part of this project, Chamberlain presented "Revisiting Canada's Approach to Fiduciary Relationships" at the Seventh Biennial Conference on the Law of Obligations at Hong Kong University in July 2014. This paper was selected for inclusion in the conference volume, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2015.