Overview of federal organizations and interests

The following provides a brief overview of federal organizations and interests. With exception to parliamentary entities, which are not government entities, the Financial Administration Act (FAA) groups most federal organizations under schedules I, I.1, II and III.Footnote 1

  • Ministerial departments—FAA Schedule I entities;
  • Departmental agencies—FAA Schedule I.1 entities (including Agents of Parliament);
  • Departmental corporations—FAA Schedule II entities (including Service agencies);and
  • Parent Crown corporations—FAA, Schedule III (as well as nine Footnote 2 additional parent Crown corporations whose governance is primarily dictated by constituent legislation and, to a lesser extent, by the FAA, Part X).

Special operating agencies, while not listed in the above schedules, are subject to the FAA through the legislative framework of their host department or agency.

Interests, while not formally part of the federal government, are organizations in which the government holds an interest or participates in its oversight. These include:

  • Mixed enterprises;
  • Joint enterprises;
  • International organizations;
  • Shared-governance corporations; and
  • Corporations under the terms of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA).

Ministerial departments

Ministerial departments are established through legislation and included under Schedule I of the FAA. Their mandate typically covers a broad area of public policy (e.g., industry, justice, and health) assigned to one or more responsible Ministers, who are members of the Cabinet. Ministerial departments are financed through parliamentary appropriations and are organized in different ways to meet various policy and administrative needs.

Departmental agencies

Departmental agencies are entities listed under Schedule I.1 of the FAA. They have more narrowly defined mandates than ministerial departments, which are generally specified in their enabling instrument. Their specific functions differ widely and they operate with varying degrees of independence.

Agents of Parliament

Agents of Parliament are a unique group of departmental agencies led by independent statutory officers who scrutinize the activities of government. Reporting directly to Parliament, Agents of Parliament support  the Parliament in its oversight role. To maintain independence, their institutional heads are typically appointed through special resolution of the House of Commons and of the Senate and Agents of Parliament operate at arm's length from the executive branch of government.

Departmental corporations

Departmental corporations are specialized entities established through legislation and included under Schedule II of the FAA. They are financed largely through parliamentary appropriations (and some user fees) and typically have a governing council or other form of management board.

Service agencies

Service agencies are a specialized form of departmental corporations established through tailored legislation to perform a highly operational function or service for which there is usually no private sector competition. Service agencies are financed through parliamentary appropriations and user fees. Each service agency's governing management boards and individual organizational arrangements and responsibilities are prescribed by its legislation and, as a consequence, each has varying levels of autonomy.

Crown corporations

Crown corporations are government organizations that operate following a private sector model, but usually have a mixture of commercial and public policy objectives. Crown corporations are directly owned by the Government of Canada and are established through legislation, letters patent, or articles of incorporation under the Canada Business Corporations Act.

Agent Crown corporations

Agent Crown corporations, as defined by Part X of the FAA, are Crown corporations that are expressly declared by, or pursuant to, any other Act of Parliament to be agents of the Crown. Agency status is generally intended to confer the privileges and immunities of the Crown. For example, agent Crown corporations are free from provincial and municipal taxing statutes and charges.

Subsidiaries of Crown corporations

Subsidiaries are corporate entities that are owned, in whole or in part, by one or more parent Crown corporations and incorporated through provincial or federal legislation. All subsidiaries are managed by their parent Crown corporation(s). They report to their parent Crown corporation(s) and other shareholders, and not directly to the government, with the exception of wholly owned subsidiaries that have been directed by the government to report as a parent Crown corporation.

Special operating agencies

Special operating agencies are units within a department or agency that have some management flexibility, independence and separate accountability. They function within a framework agreement approved by the departmental deputy minister, the minister responsible and the Treasury Board, without legislation. These agencies have a clear mandate, provide services that are readily available and identifiable, and form part of the departmental legislative framework. They are considered part of the host department and not separate legal entities.

Parliamentary entities

Organizations that support the legislative branch of Canada, notably:

  • House of Commons
  • Library of Parliament
  • Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
  • Parliamentary Protective Service
  • Senate
  • Senate Ethics Officer


Interests are entities in which the federal government holds an interest (via share ownership) or participates in oversight (via the right to appoint or nominate a member of the organization's governing body).

Mixed enterprises

Mixed enterprises are corporate entities whose shares are partially owned by the Government of Canada with the balance of shares owned by private sector parties. A minister represents the government as a shareholder, executing the corresponding rights and responsibilities.

Joint enterprises

Joint enterprises are corporate entities whose shares are partially owned by the Government of Canada with the balance of shares owned by another level of government. A minister represents the federal government as a shareholder, executing the corresponding rights and responsibilities.

International organizations

International organizations are corporate entities created pursuant to international agreements under which Canada either holds shares or has a right to appoint or elect a number of members to a governing body. A minister represents the government in executing the rights and responsibilities accorded to Canada through the agreement.

Shared-governance corporations

Shared-governance corporations are corporate entities without share capital for which Canada, either directly or through a Crown corporation, has a right to appoint or nominate one or more members to a governing body.

Corporations held under the terms of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

Pursuant to section 147 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA), each time a trustee in bankruptcy makes a payment to a creditor in response to a claim against a bankrupt private sector corporation, the Superintendent of Bankruptcy is paid a levy.

A trustee in bankruptcy is a person appointed by the bankruptcy court to oversee the distribution of the assets of a bankrupt corporation to its creditors.

Although the levy is typically a percentage of each claim in dollars (fixed by the BIA), in rare cases, shares are provided in lieu of a cash payment. The Superintendent of Bankruptcy holds these shares on behalf of the Crown until all restrictions on their sale have expired and the shares are either sold for cash, transferred, or are deemed worthless.

Most of the shares the Superintendent receives as a levy do not produce revenue for the Crown. Nevertheless, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada maintains records for all shares received in this capacity.

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