September 5, 2017

What do you think – a rose by any other name? Are you stigmatized by the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act or by the term “Bankruptcy”?

The CAIRP, the professional association that provides academic training for prospective trustees as well the “CIRP” designation, has recently petitioned the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy to change the name of a “Licensed Trustee in Bankruptcy” to that of a “Licensed Insolvency and Restructuring Practitioner”.

Before getting further into the discussion let’s qualify that not all trustees are CIRPs and not all CIRPs are trustees.  Some CIRPs have completed the course work but have not successfully obtained a trustee license and some trustees chose not to maintain membership in the CAIRP.

In any event, the idea that the committee has put forward is that people are averse to speaking with bankruptcy trustees because of the stigma associated with the term “bankruptcy”.  They feel that changing the name removes the stigma and will encourage people to seek out the assistance of a trustee when they are experiencing financial difficulties instead, presumably, of seeking out unlicensed debt consultants.

In order to support their petition the association surveyed their membership of about 981 trustees as well as another 20 (+/-) CIRP designates who are non-trustees. The association reports that 572 members responded to the survey – apparently 98% of whom are licensed trustees. There are currently 1072 licensed trustees in Canada.

The association reported that, of those surveyed, 80% voted in favour of a name change.  A number which translates to approximately 46% of CAIRP’s membership, or 42% of all licensed trustees in Canada.

We are not convinced that changing the name from “Trustee in Bankruptcy” to “Insolvency and Restructuring Practitioner” would be advantageous to the profession.  However, the proposed name change would undoubtedly elevate the status of “Insolvency Practitioners” who have the CIRP designation but have not been successful in obtaining a trustee license.

We would rather see the association spend its energies, and money, on improving the quality of the delivery of the trustee training programme and promoting the profession to the public.  The stigma, associated with the word “bankruptcy” seems to arise from a lack of public education and understanding of the benefits provided to debtors under the statute.