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Canada is keeping an eye on virtual currency, but doesn't yet recognize Bitcoin as legal tender

Canada is keeping an eye on virtual currency, but doesn't yet recognize Bitcoin as legal tender

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Bitcoin went mainstream in a big way in 2013, with banks and countries alike trying to figure out where the online cryptocurrency fits into the financial landscape. Canada is the latest country to make a formal statement, though the country doesn't sound like it quite knows what to do with Bitcoin just yet. "Only Canadian bank notes and coins are recognized as legal tender in Canada," said an official from Canada's finance department in a statement sent to The Wall Street Journal. "Bitcoin digital 'currency' is not legal tender in Canada."

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that Canada doesn't recognize it as a potentially legitimate payment system worthy of regulation. The Canadian government also said that it would continue monitoring developments in virtual currency, and a spokesperson for the Bank of Canada said it could take a greater interest in Bitcoin going forward. "Smaller, stand-alone payment systems for which there are many substitutes — like Bitcoin — should generally require much less intensive oversight and regulation because they pose much less risk to the Canadian financial system as a whole," said spokesperson Alexandre Deslongchamps.

The short-term effect on Bitcoin in Canada remains to be seen — as it is, businesses cannot be required to accept it, nor can Canadians pay taxes with it, but Canadians using it to pay for goods online should likely be able to continue doing so. The fate of Vancouver's Bitcoin ATM, however, is less clear, though we don't imagine government officials will be going out of their way to shut it down immediately.

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