Posted: March 10, 2010
Written by: Brant Harvey
We’ve all heard of a “paperless workplace environment” and many of us would argue that it’s easier said than done. However, the potential cost savings, workflow efficiencies, and positive impact on the environment of converting to using electronic documents are a few reasons why some businesses are making the move. This is a trend that will continue, but until the use of electronic documents is universal, it is still relevant to ask: “Are electronic documents as valid as an original?”
The majority of Canadian jurisdictions have passed legislation based on the Uniform Law Conference of Canada’s Model Uniform Electronic Commerce Act (the “Model Act”) to address the question. The Model Act provides that information shall not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form. Most Canadian jurisdictions have “functional equivalence” provisions that explicitly state that electronic documents are every bit as valid as an original.
Currently, Manitoba is one jurisdiction that is a bit of an exception. The functional equivalence provisions in the Electronic Commerce and Information Act (Manitoba) (the “ECIA”) are not as detailed as the Model Act and while not prohibiting their use, the ECIA does not explicitly state that electronic documents are as valid as an original. In the absence of laws that expressly state that electronic documents are functionally equivalent to original documents, if the validity of an electronic document was ever challenged, it would ultimately be up to a court to decide whether functional equivalence standards that exist in other provinces are also the law in Manitoba.