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McMaster University


The purpose of the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is to more carefully control the use of spam (ie. unwanted Commercial Electronic Messages or CEMs) in electronic messaging. CASL came into effect on July 1, 2014. CASL applies to the majority of organizations in Canada, including McMaster University. All faculty and staff are expected to comply with CASL.

Guidance in complying with CASL is provided in the McMaster CASL Tool-kit and is also available from the contacts listed below.

The penalties for failing to comply with CASL are significant: up to $10 million for an organization and up to $1 million for an individual.

Commercial Electronic Messages "CEM"

Basic Rule

The principal CASL rule is that, subject to certain exemptions, a CEM cannot be sent to an electronic address unless:

1. the sender has obtained consent from the recipient of the message; and

2. the message contains the sender's contact information and an unsubscribe mechanism.

What is a CEM?

To fit the definition of a CEM, and be subject to CASL, a message must:

  • be in the form of an email, text message or instant message
  • be sent from a computer system in Canada or accessed by a computer system in Canada
  • relate to a transaction, act or conduct that has a commercial character such as:
    • purchasing, selling, bartering or leasing products, goods, services or land;
    • providing a business, investment or gaming opportunity; or
    • advertising or promoting any of these activities.
  • not relate to any University charitable fundraising activities
  • not relate to McMaster’s “core activities” which are, in general, the academic, research and related administrative activities which are central to McMaster’s operations as a University (a full definition of McMaster’s “core activities” can be found in the sections of The McMaster University Act, 1976 which outline the various powers of the Board of Governors and Senate).

Messages that mix a commercial purpose with a non-commercial purpose are also considered to be CEMs.


CASL does not apply to the following:

  • messages between McMaster employees relating to core activities
  • responses to a request, inquiry, complaint or application
  • communications relating to a legal obligation or to enforce a legal right
  • organization to organization communications related to their core activities

The following communications do not require consent but should include the name, contact and unsubscribe information noted under Content Requirements”

  • messages which facilitate, complete or confirm a commercial transaction
  • warranty or product safety communications
  • messages providing information about ongoing:
    • purchases
    • loans
    • subscriptions
    • memberships (e.g. McMaster Alumni Association)
    • accounts
    • employment relations
    • employee benefit plans
    • product updates