Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Agent Definition:

A person who has received the power to act on behalf of another, binding that other person as if he or she were themselves making the decisions.

Related Terms: Principal, Ratification, Agency, Fiduciary, Literary Agent

The concept originated in Roman law as represented by the maxim qui facit per alium, facit per se (he who acts through another, acts as if directly himself).

The person who is being represented by the agent is referred to as the principal.

Statutes have used the word and then given a very unique meaning. For example, a person may be entitled to be represented or assisted in Court or before a tribunal by an agent. Alberta's Provincial Court Act says, at ¶62:

"A person is entitled to be represented by a barrister and solicitor, or an agent."

Similarly, Canada's Criminal Code, at ¶802 provides that for summary conviction offences:

"A defendant may appear personally or by counsel or agent...."

An agent is not necessarily an employee. In the context of employment law, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench adopted these words in Brokers Marine & Sport Ltd. v Grauman:

"The term agent can best be used to denote a relationship that is very different from that existing between a master and his servant, or an employer and his independent contractor.

"Although servants and independent contractors are parties to relationships in which one person acts for another, and thereby possesses the capacity to involve that other in liability, yet the nature of the relationship and the kind of acts in question are sufficiently different to justify the exclusion of servants and independent contractors from the law relating to agency, unless at any given time a servant or independent contractor is being employed as an agent, when he should be called such. In other words, the term agent should be restricted to one who has the power of affecting the legal position of his principal by the making of contracts or the disposition of property: but who may, incidentally, affect the legal position of his principal in other ways."


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