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Statutory Interpretation

1739061 Ontario Inc. v. Hamilton-Wentworth District (Ont CA, 2016)

In this expropriations case the Court of Appeal stated as follows on the application of strict construction of statutes:
[50] In support of its argument that the phrase, “the purposes of the expropriating authority”, in s. 41(1) of the Expropriations Act, “should be strictly construed” against the expropriating authority, the appellant relies heavily on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Toronto Area Transit Operating Authority v. Dell Holdings Ltd., 1997 CanLII 400 (SCC), [1997] 1 S.C.R. 32, at paras. 20-23. A majority of the court held:
The expropriation of property is one of the ultimate exercises of governmental authority. To take all or part of a person’s property constitutes a severe loss and a very significant interference with a citizen’s private property. It follows that the power of an expropriating authority should be strictly construed in favour of those whose rights have been effective. …

Further, since the Expropriations Act is a remedial statute, it must be given a broad and liberal interpretation consistent with its purpose. Substance, not form is the governing factor. …

The application of these principles has resulted in the presumption that whenever land is expropriated, compensation will be paid. This has been the consistent approach of this Court.

It follows that the Expropriations Act should be read in a broad and purposive manner in order to comply with the aim of the act to fully compensate a land owner whose property has been taken. [Internal citations omitted.]
[51] But the development of the law in recent decades has limited the application of the strict construction approach to situations where an irreducible ambiguity appears. No such ambiguity exists in this case. In Canada 3000 Inc. (Re); Inter-Canadian (1991) Inc. (Trust of), 2006 SCC 24 (CanLII), [2006] 1 S.C.R. 865, Binnie J. noted, at para. 84:
[O]nly if a provision is ambiguous (in that after full consideration of the context, multiple interpretations of the words arise that are equally consistent with Parliamentary intent), is it permissible to resort to interpretive presumptions such as "strict construction". The applicable principle is not "strict construction" but s. 12 of the Interpretation Act, which provides that every enactment "is deemed remedial, and shall be given such fair, large and liberal construction and interpretation as best ensures the attainment of its objects".
See also R. v. Dunn, 2013 ONCA 539 (CanLII), at paras. 36-39, Toronto Condominium Corporation No. 1908 v. Stefco Plumbing and Mechanical Contracting Inc., 2014 ONCA 4806, at para.37; Tyendinaga Mohawk Council v. Brant, 2014 ONCA 565 (CanLII), at para. 51; 1420041 Ontario Inc. v. 1 King West Inc., 2012 ONCA 249, at para. 32.

[52] The modern approach to statutory interpretation requires the court to consider the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words used, the broader context having regard to the scheme and objects of the Act, and the intention of the Legislature. There is no need to import a presumed intent when the actual intent is clear, and doing so in the absence of an irreducible ambiguity would be an error of law.





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