Canadian regulators eye framework to cover crypto trading platforms

TORONTO — The regulatory bodies that oversee Canada's stock markets are seeking feedback on what requirements are appropriate for platforms that trade cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.

The provincial regulators represented by the Canadian Securities Administrators and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada published their proposed framework on Thursday.

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"Regulators around the world are currently considering important issues surrounding the regulation of crypto assets including the appropriate regulation of platforms," the CSA-IIROC consultation paper said.

The paper adds that "at least some crypto assets, such as bitcoin, "are not currently in and of themselves, securities or derivatives."

"Instead, they have certain features that are analogous to existing commodities such as currencies and precious metals," the paper says.

It adds that there are no platforms currently recognized as a securities exchange or otherwise authorized to operate as a marketplace or dealer in Canada.

"As such, the CSA has urged Canadians to be cautious when buying crypto assets."

The consultation paper doesn't deal with any particular trading platform but its release follows the highly publicized problems at QuadrigaCX, formerly one of Canada's largest cryptocurrency trading platforms.

QuadrigaCX and its affiliates were granted creditor protection in Nova Scotia last month after the company's CEO and sole director, 30-year-old Gerald Cotten of Fall River, N.S., died suddenly in December while travelling in India.

According to court documents, Cotten was the only person who had the encrypted pass codes needed to access $190 million in missing Bitcoins and other cryptocurrency locked in QuadrigaCX's offline digital wallets.

According to the documents, another $70 million in cash is owed to QuadrigaCX users, much of it tied up in bank drafts held by third-party payment processors.

Pat Chaukos — an official with the Ontario Securities Commission, a CSA member — said she couldn't comment on whether QuadrigaCX would have been subject to the regulatory framework that's under consideration.

But she said an undisclosed number of companies approached the OSC and other CSA members for guidance last year.

"They've told us that a regulatory framework is welcome because they're seeking to build consumer confidence and expand their businesses across Canada and, in some cases, globally," Chaukos said.

Chaukos — the deputy director of OSC LaunchPad, which engages with financial technology businesses — said regulators want to provide clarity for these businesses.

They also want to create greater market integrity and address the investor protection risks, she said.

Regulators in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, Europe and Asia have taken a variety of approaches to crypto trading platforms.

"That's one of the areas where we're actually seeking input in the consultation, in terms of global approaches," Chaukos said. "Are there any we should be considering here in Canada?"

— with files from Brett Bundale in Halifax.

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