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by on in Email Marketing

Canada’s new anti-spam law includes very specific definitions for the types of relationships that qualify contacts for exemption of CASL’s regulations and that define who you may communicate with online. There are four types of relationships commonly referred to. They are:

  • Business relationships
  • Non-business relationships
  • Personal relationships
  • Family relationships


Business Relationships

An existing business relationship exists when someone has purchased or leased products, goods, services, or land from you within the past two years. It also exists if someone has accepted a business opportunity from you, an investment or a “gaming” opportunity. The relationship exists whether the transaction involved cash or a barter arrangement of some kind.

You can also claim a business relationship with people with whom you have a contract, or have had a contract within the past two years. And with people who, in the past six months, have inquired about any of these things.


Non-Business Relationships

A non-business relationship exists when someone has made a donation or gift to your charity, political party or political candidacy for public office within the past two years. Volunteer work or attending a meeting for any of these organizations is also considered a non-business relationship.

You are also considered to have a non-business relationship with an organization, if you a member of that organization or have held a membership within the past two years. This is restricted to clubs, associations, and voluntary organizations.


Personal Relationship

The definition proposed in the regulations from Industry Canada states that a personal relationship exists any time two people have previously exchanged voluntary communication, and it would be reasonable to conclude that the relationship is personal, as long as the recipient of the CEM has never opted out of commercial messages.

2 (b) “personal relationship” means the relationship between an individual who sends a message and the individual to whom the message is sent, if those individuals have had direct, voluntary, two-way communications and it would be reasonable to conclude that they have a personal relationship, taking into consideration any relevant factors such as the sharing of interests, experiences, opinions, and information evidenced in the communications, the frequency of communication, the length of time since the parties communicated or whether the parties have met in person.

This seems to imply that your friends on social media are not personal relationships if you have never actually met. And could prevent businesses from sending CEMs to their social media followers, as these individuals may not qualify as having either a business or a personal relationship as defined in the regulations.


Family Relationship

In the regulations, Industry Canada proposes that family relationships be based on the definition provided in the income tax act. This definition requires that in order to claim a family relationship, you must be:

  • a direct blood relative – this means grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, and children.
  • a “collateral” descendant – this means you share grandparents. In other words, your aunts, uncles, cousins, and their children.
  • you are married.
  • you are living common law.
  • the other person is a blood relative of your spouse as defined above.
  • you have been adopted into a family, as defined above.
2 (a) “family relationship” means the relationship between an individual who sends a message and the individual to whom the message is sent if those individuals are related to one another through a marriage, common-law partnership or any legal parent-child relationship and those individuals have had direct, voluntary, two-way communication.


Note that the definition of family relationship remains very narrow and doesn’t account for the connection that exists between extended family members. For example, your great aunt and your second cousins do not share your grandparents, and as such would not qualify. It would be illegal to contact your second cousin‘s teenage daughter to ask her to babysit for you.

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