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Portrait of Dr. Virginia Torrie beside her new book Reinventing Bankruptcy law

Dr. Torrie publishes first book, “exploding” conventional wisdom

Timely book on Bankruptcy Law is essential reading for insolvency community and beyond

June 5, 2020 — 

Who knew a book about historical bankruptcy law could be so exciting and controversial? Hot off the University of Toronto Press, Reinventing Bankruptcy Law: A History of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act by Robson Hall’s Assistant Professor Dr. Virginia Torrie, exposes the errors in recent case law to devastating effect and argues that courts and the legislature have switched roles – leading to the conclusion that contemporary CCAA courts function like a modern-day Court of Chancery. This book is essential reading for the Canadian insolvency community as well as those interested in Canadian institutions, legal history, and the dynamics of change.

‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’ – Sir Winston Churchill, 1948

In this present moment of global economic uncertainty, the Churchill quote concisely explains why Torrie’s book is particularly relevant and timely. Canadian courts have tended to interpret corporate restructuring legislation in a very flexible, creative and pragmatic way – and the book traces the factors that have led to this approach. Right now is a significant moment for a book on this topic, with so many Canadian companies in the precarious financial position of potentially needing to declare bankruptcy as a result of financial losses suffered from measures taken to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

As periods of legal change in the bankruptcy sphere tend to occur during or just after economic recessions, this book is timely from the perspective of evaluating the bankruptcy system and, any changes to it, more broadly.

The book has already received favourable reviews from both Canadian and American academics including Stephen Lubben, Harvey Washington Wiley Chair in Corporate Governance & Business Ethics at Seton Hall School of Law, and Adrian Walters, Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology. Anthony Duggan, who currently holds the Hon. Frank H. Iacobucci Chair at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and is an expert in Canadian insolvency law, called Torrie’s book a “tour de force” that on one level, “has important things to say about the evolution in methods of statutory interpretation, judicial method, and the relationship between courts and the legislature.” On a second level, he said Torrie uses history as a vehicle for exploring the dynamics of legal change of the CCAA.

Torrie recently shared some insights with Robson Hall about her first book published as a professor, researcher and academic.

Robson Hall: How did this book come about?
Dr. Virginia Torrie: The book grew out of my PhD thesis. It is a restructured, enhanced and distilled version of the argument I advanced in my PhD thesis.

RH: Do you know if it will be used as a text book?
VT: This will probably not be used as a textbook per se. However, the book, or excerpts of it, would be well-suited to seminar courses on legal history, legal theory and methodology, as well as courses on corporate restructuring. Excerpts of the book appear in the new textbook  by Stephanie Ben-Ishai & Thomas GW Telfer, eds, Bankruptcy and Insolvency in Canada (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2019).

RH: Would it be used as a reference tool for practitioners and the Judiciary?
VT: Absolutely. As stated by one reviewer, Vern W. DaRe, the book is bound to be persuasive in any court. [DaRe’s full endorsement appears on the back cover of the book and on the UTP website under the ‘reviews’ tab where he says it offers the busy practitioner insight into the history of the CCAA, including the evolution of filling “gaps” and advancing the broader public interest – RH]

RH: Have you or will you teach any of the ideas in this book to your classes and if so, which ones?
VT: Yes. For the past two years I have been teaching some of the theoretical aspects of the book to the Graduate Seminar, at the invitation of Associate Dean Donn Short. At its broadest level, the book is about the evolution of ideas and the dynamics of change. While these concepts are explored in the context of corporate restructuring, the theoretical dimensions lend portability to the concepts and insights that the book offers. The book is also prime material for a unit on corporate restructuring in both Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law and Canadian Legal History.

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2 comments on “Dr. Torrie publishes first book, “exploding” conventional wisdom

  1. Laetitia Lubenow

    Congratulations Virginia! While not especially surprising- (haha), this is such an impressive achievement! How wonderful your hard work will have a timely impact on the academic community and policy at a such a challenging moment in history! Your future is so bright!
    Can’t wait to see you again.
    Many Hugs

  2. Elsa De Jaegher

    Wow – an amazing and detailed book on the history of Canadian bankruptcy has long been awaited! Thank you Dr. Torrie

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