Lindsay Bell

Canada is Set to Become a Spam Free Zone

By: Lindsay Bell | May 14, 2014 | 
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Canada is Set to Become a Spam Free ZoneBy Lindsay Bell-Wheeler

Canada is about to throw down the gauntlet.

As of July 1st (Canada Day, in these fair parts), what some are calling the world’s toughest anti-spam law is going to finally take effect.

And y’all think Canadians are so nice, saying sorry all the time, and stuff.

Not when it comes to spam we aren’t, though we did take our sweet time getting here!

The Anti-Spam Backstory

The Task Force on Spam for Canada was established in 2004, and after spending a year interviewing Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast, by May 2005 they had issued an official report.

Titled Stopping Spam: Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet, its chapters included Drawing the Line, Clarifying the Rules, Restoring Confidence in Email, and Addressing a Global Problem.

Having worked for the Canadian government, I’m fairly certain it makes for some dry reading.

But, it set the ball rolling. After much debate and gnashing of teeth, on November 28, 2013, my all time favorite – and Canada’s savviest social media using – elected official, Treasury Board of Canada President Tony Clement, approved the final Industry Canada regulations.

New Anti-Spam Laws Take Effect July 1st

The regulations are hard core. Mess around, or ignore “silly little Canada’s silly new laws,” and you could face fines of up to one million dollars for an individual, and 10 million dollars for an organization.

Not chump change, especially with our weaker loonie!

According to a very detailed article I read by Robert Burko on the email marketing blog, EliteEmail.com, (italics mine),

The new regulation doesn’t only effect Canadian organizations, it effects anyone who sends a commercial electronic message (CEM) that is accessed from a device in Canada….The CRTC (in Canada) will be working closely with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the USA to enforce the new laws. So, playing the “but I’m in America” card, will not work!

Burko has been on top of this issue and the upcoming changes for quite awhile now, and he previously penned a great piece, laid out in layman’s terms, that you should go and read if you want some quick answers.

Are You Exempt?

The only way to be sure you are exempt from the July 1st law is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your company have a presence in Canada?
  • Is your email service provider based in Canada?
  • Do you have Canadian subscribers?

If you answered no to all of them, you’re basically in the clear (caveat: I am not a lawyer, nor am I a specialist in government policy).

And it’s not like you should cut ties with all of your Canadian friends and family either, in fact you don’t even have to cut ties with your Canadian customers or clients.

There are exemptions, clearly laid out in this handy ebook from whatcounts.com (who are American!).

For example:

  • Non-commercial messages – purely informational and educational. No advertising or promotion whatsoever.
  • Quotes or estimates on products or services.
  • Transactional emails such as order confirmations, shipping notices, shipping confirmations.
  • Warranty, safety, or recall information.
  • Ongoing subscription, membership, or loan notifications.
  • Messages directly delivering a product, good or service

So, you can freely email your mom and dad, sister, or brother. You can also safely email anyone you’ve already had prior voluntary email contact with, as well as any organizations already on your lists.

Educate Yourself

There are many other exemptions (oh look – political parties are exempt – what a surprise!), and the rest of the details are far too complicated for little ol’ me to break down for you. But you need to be aware, and make sure your practices comply.

I’ve shared tons of quality information with you here today. It is my duty as the only Canuck on the Spin Sucks team!

So dig in, read up, and make sure your email marketing efforts fall within the parameters of this new, very tough anti-spam legislation.

The new law definitely has its detractors. And I’m fairly sure it’s not perfect, but I’m pretty proud of it.

I think we all get harassed enough every day in this wild digital world.

It will be interesting to watch how it all shakes down, and if other countries take our lead, and enact their own, stronger, anti-spam policies.

About Lindsay Bell


Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.