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Statutory Interpretation - General (2)

. R. v. Breault

In R. v. Breault (SCC, 2023) the Supreme Court of Canada considers an issue of statutory interpretation, and walks-through it's 'text/context/purpose' application in a criminal case:
[25] Every statutory interpretation exercise involves reading the words of a provision “in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament” (Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 21, quoting E. A. Driedger, Construction of Statutes (2nd ed. 1983), at p. 87; Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559, at para. 26; see also R. v. J.D., 2022 SCC 15, at para. 21).

[26] Courts therefore have to interpret the “text through which the legislature seeks to achieve [its] objective”, because “the goal of the interpretative exercise is to find harmony between the words of the statute and the intended objective, not to achieve the objective ‘at all costs’” (MediaQMI inc. v. Kamel, 2021 SCC 23, at para. 39, quoting Sun Indalex Finance, LLC v. United Steelworkers, 2013 SCC 6, [2013] 1 S.C.R. 271, at para. 174). Consequently, as laudable and important as the fight against impaired driving may be, it is not permissible, in the pursuit of that objective, to distort the meaning to be given to the text of s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. in the statutory interpretation exercise.

[27] Finally, in interpreting a criminal law provision like s. 254(2)(b), courts must be careful not to create uncertainty, for “[i]t is a fundamental requirement of the rule of law that a person should be able to predict whether a particular act constitutes a crime at the time he commits the act” (R. v. Mabior, 2012 SCC 47, [2012] 2 S.C.R. 584, at para. 14; see also R. v. Kelly, 1992 CanLII 62 (SCC), [1992] 2 S.C.R. 170, at p. 203; R. v. Levkovic, 2013 SCC 25, [2013] 2 S.C.R. 204, at para. 1; Reference re ss. 193 and 195.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code (Man.), 1990 CanLII 105 (SCC), [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1123, at p. 1155).

[28] I turn now to the interpretation of s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C.

B. Section 254(2)(b) Cr. C.

(1) Text

[29] It is important to consider the meaning of two words found in this provision: “provide” and “forthwith”. “Provide” means to “supply” something to someone (Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed. 2004), at p. 1245). “Forthwith” means “immediately” or “without delay” (Woods, at para. 13, quoting Canadian Oxford Dictionary, at p. 585; see also R. v. Grant, 1991 CanLII 38 (SCC), [1991] 3 S.C.R. 139, at p. 150).

[30] According to the grammatical and ordinary meaning of these words, a driver detained under s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. must “supply” a breath sample to the peace officer “immediately” or “without delay”. In addition, the provision states that the sample “will enable a proper analysis to be made” by means of an ASD.

[31] Therefore, and contrary to what the Crown argues, the word “forthwith” qualifies the demand that drivers must obey. Stopped drivers “are bound by s. 254(2) to comply immediately” (Woods, at para. 45). They are not free to provide a sample when they see fit.

[32] It is true that operational time is implicit in the word “forthwith”, because the officer “has to ready the equipment and instruct the suspect on what to do” (Bernshaw, at para. 64). However, what is in issue in this case is not operational time, but rather the time needed for a device to be delivered to the scene.

(2) Context

[33] The power conferred by s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. relates to an investigative procedure. It is the first step in a two‑step detection and enforcement procedure, the second being the breathalyzer test that is generally administered at the police station and that requires the peace officer to have reasonable grounds to believe that the driver’s blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit (Woods, at para. 6).

[34] The constitutionality of s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. depends on an interpretation of the word “forthwith” that is consistent with its ordinary meaning:
Section 254(2) authorizes roadside testing for alcohol consumption, under pain of criminal prosecution, in violation of ss. 8, 9 and 10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But for its requirement of immediacy, s. 254(2) would not pass constitutional muster. That requirement cannot be expanded to cover the nature and extent of the delay that occurred here.

(Woods, at para. 15)
[35] Although a stopped driver is being detained at the first step of the detection procedure, the driver has no right to counsel; this right exists only at the second step (Woods, at para. 31). This is the case because the word “forthwith” implicitly limits the right to counsel guaranteed by s. 10(b) of the Charter. This is a condition for the application of s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C.; since the detained driver must provide a breath sample forthwith, the driver may not consult counsel before doing so. The Court has recognized that this limit on s. 10(b) of the Charter is justified under s. 1 (Thomsen, at p. 653; Woods, at para. 30) precisely because the detention is of very brief duration (Bernshaw, at para. 23). The more flexibly the word “forthwith” is interpreted, the less the recognized justification for limiting the right to counsel holds up.

[36] Furthermore, as I said above, a driver who refuses or fails to comply with a demand is subject to criminal sanctions under s. 254(5) Cr. C. It is therefore not an offence to express an intention to refuse once the ASD arrives at the scene; refusing without reasonable excuse to provide forthwith a sample is what constitutes the offence (Woods, at paras. 14 and 45). This suggests that compliance must actually be physically possible.

[37] Finally, in both its written and its oral submissions, the Crown invited this Court to interpret s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. in light of the new scheme that came into force in 2018. I would decline the invitation, for the following reasons.

(a) New Impaired Driving Detection Scheme

[38] On June 21, 2018, the Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, S.C. 2018, c. 21, received royal assent. Through that Act, Parliament repealed ss. 249 to 261 of the Criminal Code and introduced ss. 320.11 to 320.4, which came into force on December 18, 2018.

[39] The wording of s. 320.27(1)(b) Cr. C. is substantially similar to that of s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. Section 320.27(1)(b) Cr. C. provides that if a peace officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person has alcohol in their body and that the person has operated a conveyance within the preceding three hours, the peace officer may, by demand, require the person to immediately provide the samples of breath that, in the peace officer’s opinion, are necessary to enable a proper analysis to be made by means of an ASD. Under s. 320.15(1) Cr. C., everyone who fails or refuses to comply, without reasonable excuse, with such a demand is subject to criminal sanctions.

[40] One of the distinctions between the new scheme and the former one is s. 320.27(2) Cr. C., which authorizes the random screening of drivers by peace officers who have an ASD in their possession and who are acting in the course of the lawful exercise of their powers, even if there are no reasonable grounds to suspect that a stopped driver has alcohol in their body.

[41] According to the Crown’s argument, because s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. does not expressly require peace officers to have an ASD in their possession when they make a demand, the word “forthwith” must not be interpreted as creating such an obligation in practice. At the hearing of the appeal, the appellant urged the Court to see in the new scheme an “indication” that Parliament took notice of and did not wish to repudiate the jurisprudence of certain appellate courts in this country allowing delays of several minutes. In my view, this argument must be rejected, for two reasons.

[42] First, subsequent legislative history, that is, the amendments made to the version of a provision in force at the relevant time, “can cast no light on the intention of the enacting Parliament or Legislature” with respect to that version predating the amendments (United States of America v. Dynar, 1997 CanLII 359 (SCC), [1997] 2 S.C.R. 462, at para. 45; see also Bank of Montreal v. Marcotte, 2014 SCC 55, [2014] 2 S.C.R. 725, at para. 78). As stated by s. 45(3) of the Interpretation Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I‑21, “[t]he repeal or amendment of an enactment in whole or in part shall not be deemed to be or to involve any declaration as to the previous state of the law.” In the same vein, s. 45(4) of the Interpretation Act adds that “[a] re‑enactment, revision, consolidation or amendment of an enactment shall not be deemed to be or to involve an adoption of the construction that has by judicial decision or otherwise been placed on the language used in the enactment or on similar language.”

[43] Even if the retention of the word “immédiatement” in the French version of s. 320.27(1) Cr. C. (“forthwith” has been replaced by “immediately” in the English version) could be seen as confirmation of the interpretation given to this word by the courts (which Parliament is presumed to know), that body of jurisprudence consists primarily of this Court’s decisions in Thomsen, Grant, Bernshaw and Woods, in which this word was interpreted in a manner consistent with its ordinary meaning, except in unusual circumstances (C.A. reasons, at para. 67 in fine). As Doyon J.A. properly noted in his reasons, if Parliament had wished to depart from that interpretation, it was free to use other words — such as [translation] “as soon as reasonably possible” or “as soon as practicable” (para. 68). Yet it did not do so.

[44] Second, and more importantly, there is a conceptual difference between the possession requirement in s. 320.27(2) Cr. C. and the immediacy requirement, which relates to temporality. Indeed, the word “immediately” is also used in s. 320.27(2) Cr. C. It follows that the guidance provided by this judgment on the interpretation of the immediacy requirement in s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. applies to the interpretation of the word “immediately” in s. 320.27(1)(b) Cr. C.

(3) Purpose

[45] The detection procedure of which s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C. forms a part has a purpose with both a preventive aspect and a remedial aspect, namely to combat the menace of impaired driving. First, with regard to the preventive aspect, the procedure increases the risk of detection in the minds of impaired drivers, with a view to deterring them from getting behind the wheel. Then, with regard to the remedial aspect, the procedure is intended to detect dangerous drivers quickly and get them off the road (Woods, at paras. 6 and 30; Thomsen, at p. 655).

[46] In the pursuit of this purpose, Parliament also sought to strike a balance “between the public interest in eradicating driver impairment and the need to safeguard individual Charter rights” (Woods, at para. 29). The Court must keep this balance in mind when interpreting s. 254(2)(b) Cr. C.
. Toronto (City) v. Craft Kingsmen Rail Corp.

In Toronto (City) v. Craft Kingsmen Rail Corp. (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court cites a Vavilov-based doctrine of statutory interpretation:
[36] I begin my analysis with the principles of statutory interpretation recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Vavilov, at para. 117:
A court interpreting a statutory provision does so by applying the “modern principle” of statutory interpretation, that is, that the words of a statute must be read “in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament... Parliament and the provincial legislatures have also provided guidance by way of statutory rules that explicitly govern the interpretation of statutes and regulations. [Citations omitted.]
[37] Consistent with this statement, s. 64(1) of the Ontario Legislation Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sched. F (which replaced the former Interpretation Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.I-11), provides:
Rule of liberal interpretation

64 (1) An Act shall be interpreted as being remedial and shall be given such fair, large and liberal interpretation as best ensures the attainment of its objects.
[38] Another principle of statutory interpretation identified by the Court in Vavilov is the presumption that the same word has the same meaning when used within a statute or across statutes. The Court stated, at para. 44:
More generally, there is no convincing reason to presume that legislatures mean something entirely different when they use the word “appeal” in an administrative law statute than they do in, for example, a criminal or commercial law context. Accepting that the word “appeal” refers to the same type of procedure in all these contexts also accords with the presumption of consistent expression, according to which the legislature is presumed to use language such that the same words have the same meaning both within a statute and across statutes ... [Emphasis added, citations omitted.]
[39] The presumption of consistent expression is intended to ensure coherence and consistency between rules dealing with the same thing: Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 7th ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2022), at §8.04.
. Peace River Hydro Partners v. Petrowest Corp.

In Peace River Hydro Partners v. Petrowest Corp. (SCC, 2022) the Supreme Court of Canada cites a principle of statutory interpretation, here that statutes must be interpreted harmoniously, especially when they are topically related:
[114] The second principle is that statutes such as the Arbitration Act and the ICAA must be interpreted harmoniously. As Gonthier J. held in Therrien (Re), 2001 SCC 35, [2001] 2 S.C.R. 3, “[i]nterpretations favouring harmony between the various statutes enacted by the same government should indeed prevail. This presumption is even stronger when the statutes relate to the same subject matter” (para. 121; see also Sullivan, at §13.04).
. Aviva Insurance Company of Canada v. Spence

In Aviva Insurance Company of Canada v. Spence (Div Court, 2022) the Divisional Court held that the same principles of statutory interpretation applied to both statute and regulation interpretation:
[19] The issue before the Tribunal was one of statutory interpretation. As the adjudicator correctly held, the modern approach to statutory interpretation requires that "the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context, in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament": Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27; Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65, at paras. 117-118. This approach applies both to the interpretation of regulations such as the Schedule and to the legislation under which they are enacted: Ayr Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Wright, 2016 ONCA 789, at para. 27. ....
. TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. v. Ontario (Minister of Finance)

In TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. v. Ontario (Minister of Finance) (Div Court, 2022) the Divisional Court considered a principle of statutory interpretation, here in an ultra vires challenge to a regulation:
[25] There is a presumption that the Legislature does not mean to depart from the general purpose of the law without clearly expressing its intentions to do so: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. of Canada v. T. Eaton Co., 1956 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1956] SCR 610 at 614; Parry Sound (District) Social Service Administration Board v. OPSEU, Local 324, 2003 SCC 42 at para. 39. ....
. R. v. Kirkpatrick

In R. v. Kirkpatrick (SCC, 2022) the Supreme Court of Canada re-affirms the holistic approach to statutory interpretation:
[46] Principles of statutory interpretation require that the text of provisions must be read as a whole and harmoniously. It is presumed that provisions are intended to work together as parts of a functioning whole to form a rational, internally consistent framework (R. Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes (6th ed. 2014), at §11.2; R. v. L.T.H., 2008 SCC 49, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 739, at para. 47). ...
. Intact Insurance Company v. Zurich Insurance Company Ltd.

In Intact Insurance Company v. Zurich Insurance Company Ltd. (Ont CA, 2022) the Court of Appeal considered the basic statutory interpretation analysis:
[33] Whether Intact’s claim comes within s. 99(2)(a) involves a question of statutory interpretation, requiring a “textual, contextual and purposive analysis to find a meaning that is harmonious with the Act as a whole”: Canada Trustco Mortgage Co. v. Canada, 2005 SCC 54, [2005] 2 S.C.R. 601, at para. 10.
. R. v. Bondfield Construction Company Limited

In R. v. Bondfield Construction Company Limited (Ont CA, 2022) the Court of Appeal considered basic principles of statutory interpretation:
(1) The Principles of Interpretation

[56] The proper approach to the interpretation of legislation is well-known and summarized in Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 21: “the words of the Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act and the intention of Parliament”. This approach applies to any question of statutory or regulatory interpretation, including in respect of the OHSA and its regulations: see, e.g., R. v. Dofasco Inc., 2007 ONCA 769, 87 O.R. (3d) 161, at para. 12, leave to appeal refused, [2008] S.C.C.A. No. 24; Blue Mountain Resorts Ltd. v. Ontario (Labour), 2013 ONCA 75, 114 O.R. (3d) 321, at para. 45. However, these interpretive factors “need not be canvassed separately in every case, and in any event are closely related and interdependent”: Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559, at para. 31.

[57] Although all of the interpretive principles must be kept in mind when approaching the interpretive exercise, the starting point for analyzing questions of statutory interpretation is to examine the words of the provision in their grammatical and ordinary sense: R. v. Conception, 2014 SCC 60, [2014] 3 S.C.R. 82, at para. 14. Sources for the meaning of particular terms may include both dictionary and judicially constructed definitions: see R. v. C.D.; R. v. C.D.K., 2005 SCC 78, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 668, at para. 28.

[58] The purpose of the legislation is also central to the interpretive exercise. The OHSA is public welfare legislation “intended to guarantee a minimum level of protection for the health and safety of workers”: Dofasco, at para. 16. As such, provisions of the OHSA and its regulations must be interpreted generously and “[n]arrow or technical interpretations that would interfere with or frustrate the attainment of the legislature’s public welfare objectives are to be avoided”: Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. Hamilton (City) (2002), 2002 CanLII 16893 (ON CA), 58 O.R. (3d) 37 (C.A.), at para. 16, leave to appeal refused, [2002] S.C.C.A. No. 146; see also Ontario (Labour) v. Quinton Steel (Wellington) Limited, 2017 ONCA 1006, at para. 19.

[59] A generous interpretation, however, should not be confused with a limitless one: Blue Mountain Resorts Ltd., at para. 26. While the OHSA aims to protect workers from both deliberate and inadvertent conduct, including accidents that result when workers make mistakes or are careless or reckless, it is important to remember that the OHSA seeks to achieve a reasonable level of worker protection, not an entirely risk-free work environment: Dofasco, at paras. 24-26; Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. Sheehan’s Truck Centre Inc., 2011 ONCA 645, 107 O.R. (3d) 763, at para. 30.
. Reflection Productions v. Ontario Media Dev. Corp.

In Reflection Productions v. Ontario Media Dev. Corp. (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court cited doctrine applicable to statutory interpretation:
[37] The Court of Appeal for Ontario recently reiterated the approach to be taken when engaging in statutory interpretation in R. v. Walsh, 2021 ONCA 43 at paras. 59 and 60:
It is trite law that the modern approach to statutory interpretation requires that "the words of an Act must be read in their entire context, in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament": Bell ExpressVu Ltd. Partnership v. Rex, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559, [2002] S.C.J. No. 43, 2002 SCC 42, at para. 26.

The starting point is to determine the ordinary meaning of the text: R. v. Wookey, [2016] O.J. No. 4158, 2016 ONCA 611, 351 O.A.C. 14, at para. 24. At para. 25 of Wookey, quoting from Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed. (Markham, Ont.: LexisNexis Canada, 2014), Pharmascience Inc. v. Binet, [2006] 2 S.C.R. 513, [2006] S.C.J. No. 48, 2006 SCC 48, at para. 30, and Canadian Pacific Air Lines Ltd. v. Canadian Air Line Pilots Assn., 1993 CanLII 31 (SCC), [1993] 3 S.C.R. 724, [1993] S.C.J. No. 114, at p. 735 S.C.R., this court states that ordinary meaning "refers to the reader's first impression meaning, the understanding that spontaneously comes to mind when words are read in their immediate context" and is "the natural meaning which appears when the provision is simply read through". In other words, the "plain" or "ordinary" meaning of a word is not dictated by its dictionary meaning nor is it frozen in time.
. Powerhouse Corporation v. Registrar of Alcohol, Gaming and Racing

In Powerhouse Corporation v. Registrar of Alcohol, Gaming and Racing (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court quoted authorities on statutory interpretation:
[51] The modern rule of statutory interpretation requires that “the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament”: Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 21; ATCO Gas & Pipelines Ltd. v. Alberta, 2006 SCC 4, at para. 37. This rule does not extend to the ability to disregard the clear words of a provision in a statute in favour of a tortured construction, on the basis that the consequences of following the words of the statute would lead to absurdity: Bedwell v. McGill, 2008 BCCA 526, at para. 31; R. v. McIntosh, 1995 CanLII 124 (SCC), [1995] 1 S.C.R. 686, at para. 34. Rather, every word in a statutory provision is to be given meaning, and should be interpreted in a way that does not frustrate the plain meaning of the legislator: Young Men’s Christian Assn. of Greater Toronto v. Municipal Property Assessment Corp., 2015 ONCA 130, at para. 14. In my view, the focus and meaning of the words in s. 6(2)(h) is clear.
. Fratarcangeli v. North Blenheim Mutual Insurance Company

In Fratarcangeli v. North Blenheim Mutual Insurance Company (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court considered basic rules of statutory interpretation:
Rules of Statutory Interpretation

[28] A court interpreting a statutory provision must apply the “modern principle” of statutory interpretation. Words of a statute must be read “in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament”: Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27 at para. 21, and Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559 at para. 26, both quoting E. Driedger, Construction of Statutes (2nd ed., 1983) at p. 87. Parliament and the provincial legislatures have also provided guidance by way of statutory rules that explicitly govern the interpretation of statutes and regulations: Vavilov at para. 117.

[29] This “modern principle” has been adopted as the proper approach to statutory interpretation because legislative intent can be understood only by reading the language chosen by the legislature in light of the purpose of the provision and the entire relevant context: Sullivan at pp. 7-8. Those who draft and enact statutes expect that questions about their meaning will be resolved by an analysis that has regard to the text, context and purpose, regardless of whether the entity tasked with interpreting the law is a court or an administrative decision maker. Those who interpret the law – whether courts or administrative decision makers – must do so in a manner consistent with this principle of interpretation: Vavilov at para. 118.
. Di Sarra v. Ontario Association of Architects

In Di Sarra v. Ontario Association of Architects (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court considered that the term 'or' may not imply an alternative meaning:
[32] Typically, the use of the word “or” between two other words indicates alternative meanings. However, depending on the context, this is not always the case.[6] I agree with the appellant that the words “tender or bid” in s. 43(1)(f) of the Regulation at issue here, is one of those situations in which the word “or” actually means “otherwise known as” – the words “tender” and “bid” mean the same thing. This interpretation is supported by the plain and ordinary meaning of the words “tender” and “bid,” as well as by the use of these words interchangeably in the case law. For example, Roget’s Thesaurus[7] lists “tender” as a synonym for “bid.” The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines “tender” as “invite bids for (a contract)”. Similarly, it defines “bid” as “offer to do work (etc.) for a stated price”.[8] A review of the case law also shows that “tender” and “bid” are used interchangeably in the context of construction law. Ron Engineering is one example. Chippewas of Mnjikaning First Nation is another.
. Woods (Re)

In Woods (Re) (Ont CA, 2021) the Court of Appeal considers some basics of statutory interpretation:
[37] Whether the Board failed to observe a mandatory provision of the Criminal Code is a question of statutory interpretation. In Canada, it is trite law that the modern approach to statutory interpretation requires that “the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament”: Bell ExpressVu Ltd. Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559, at para. 26.

[38] The starting point is to determine the ordinary meaning of the text. The ordinary meaning refers to “the understanding that spontaneously comes to mind when words are read in their immediate context” and is “the natural meaning which appears when the provision is simply read through”: R. v. Wookey, 2016 ONCA 611, 531 O.A.C. 13, at para. 25; Pharmascience Inc. v. Binet, 2006 SCC 48, [2006] 2 S.C.R. 513, at para. 30; and Canadian Pacific Air Lines Ltd. v. Canadian Air Line Pilots Assn., 1993 CanLII 31 (SCC), [1993] 3 S.C.R. 724, at p. 735.

[39] After establishing an initial impression, the court must consider and draw inferences from the Act as a whole. This includes related provisions and the overall scheme. It is presumed that the legislature is competent and well informed, that it uses language consistently, and that the provisions in the Act collectively form a coherent scheme: Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan and Dreidger on the Construction of Statutes, 4th ed. (Markham: Butterworths, 2002), at pp. 162-63 and 186-87; Ordon Estate v. Grail, 1998 CanLII 771 (SCC), [1998] 3 S.C.R. 437, at para. 60.

[40] There is also a presumption against tautology: R. v. Gallone, 2019 ONCA 663, 147 O.R. (3d) 225, at para. 31. That presumption instructs “that the legislature avoids superfluous or meaningless words, that it does not pointlessly repeat itself or speak in vain”: Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed. (Markham: LexisNexis, 2014), (“Sullivan”), at p. 211, citing Attorney General of Quebec v. Carrières Ste-Thérèse Ltée, 1985 CanLII 35 (SCC), [1985] 1 S.C.R. 831, at p. 838. Instead, “[e]very word in a statute is presumed to make sense and to have a specific role to play in advancing the legislative purpose”: Sullivan, at p. 211.

[41] Finally, a court must situate its interpretation within the purpose of the legislation. Insofar as the language of the text permits, courts should adopt interpretations that are consistent with the legislative purpose and avoid interpretations that defeat or undermine that purpose. It is presumed that the legislature does not intend absurd consequences: Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 27.
. Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada

In Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court considers basics of statutory interpretation:
[49] We agree with the Associate Chair’s approach to the statutory interpretation exercise in this case. It must always be remembered that the “rules” of statutory interpretation are not rules in the ordinary sense of having some binding force. They are aids to construction, presumptions or pointers. Not infrequently, one “rule” points in one direction, while another in a different direction. In each case one must look at all relevant circumstances. Different contexts may require different meanings: Bapoo v. Co-Operators General Insurance Company, (1997) 1997 CanLII 6320 (ON CA), 154 D.L.R. (4th) 385 (Ont. C.A.) at 396; Maunsell v. Olins, [1975] A.C. 373 (H.L. (Eng.)) at 382, per Lord Reid
. Pearce v. Canada (Staff of the Non-Public Funds, Canadian Forces)

In Pearce v. Canada (Staff of the Non-Public Funds, Canadian Forces) (Ont CA, 2021) the Court of Appeal reviewed basic principles of statutory interpretation:
[42] In Re Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd., 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, the Supreme Court adopted the “modern principle” of statutory interpretation as expressed by Elmer Driedger. That principle stipulates that the “words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament”: Rizzo, at para. 21; Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559, at para. 26. See also Ruth Sullivan, Statutory Interpretation, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2016), at pp. 44-45. In the federal legislative context, Driedger’s modern approach is supported by s. 12 of the Interpretation Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21, 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 Bell ExpressVu, at para. 26.

....

[60] The modern principle of statutory interpretation requires that the words of a statute be interpreted “harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament.” The legislative scheme includes the individual provisions, parts, and sections that work together to provide a plausible and coherent plan for the achievement of the statute’s intended purpose: Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada Inc., 2014), at §13.12. As described by Greshuk J. in Melnychuk v. Heard, 1963 CanLII 815 (Alta. S.C.), at p. 263:
The court must not only consider one section but all of the sections of an Act including the relation of one section to the other sections, the relation of a section to the general object intended to be secured by the Act, the importance of the section, the whole scope of the Act and the real intention of the enacting body.
[61] In some cases, the legislature may have enacted more than one statute on the same subject-matter or enacted a provision meant to be read alongside another statute. In Re Therrien, 2001 SCC 35, [2001] 2 S.C.R. 3, Gonthier J. explained, at para. 121, that “[i]nterpretations favouring harmony between the various statutes enacted by the same government should indeed prevail. This presumption is even stronger when the statutes relate to the same subject-matter.” The practice of considering multiple statutes in the interpretative exercise has also been codified in ss. 15(2)(b) of the federal Interpretation Act.

[62] An interpretation of the provision at issue that promotes the purpose is preferred over one that is not: Sullivan, Statutory Interpretation, at p. 53. As explained by Dickson J. in Covert v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Finance), 1980 CanLII 229 (SCC), [1980] 2 S.C.R. 774, at p. 807: “The correct approach, applicable to statutory construction generally, is to construe the legislation with reasonable regard to its object and purpose and to give it such interpretation as best ensures the attainment of such object and purpose.” The purposive analysis is a staple of modern statutory interpretation. It is not only used when the text under dispute is ambiguous, but “in every case and at every stage” of the interpretive exercise: Sullivan, Statutory Interpretation, at p. 185.


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Last modified: 13-04-23
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