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Statutory Interpretation - General (3)

. Township of Oro-Medonte v. Oro-Medonte Association for Responsible STRS

In Township of Oro-Medonte v. Oro-Medonte Association for Responsible STRS (Div Court, 2024) the Divisional Court dismissed an appeal (filed with leave) of a ruling of the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), which itself repealed an amending bylaw to a municipality's zoning by-law. The issue of concern was "disruptive short-term rentals" (Airbnbs).

Here the court sets out basics of statutory interpretation:
G. Was the Tribunal Correct in its Interpretation of By-law 2020-073?

[31] Statutory interpretation is a question of law. The question for this court is whether the Tribunal was correct in finding that the 2015 definition did not prohibit all rentals in residential dwellings notwithstanding the position taken by the Township and, as a result, By-law 2020-073 created a new land use prohibition on rentals of 28 days or less.

[32] The basic rule of statutory interpretation is that the words of the by-law must be read in their entire context, in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the By-law, the object of the by-law, and Council’s intention: Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 21, R. Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes (5th ed. 2008), at p. 1, citing E. A. Driedger, The Construction of Statutes (1974), at p. 67. If the language of the by-law is ambiguous, the court may undertake a contextual and purposive approach to interpretation to find meaning that harmonizes the wording, object, spirit and purpose of the provision: Canada Trustco Mortgage Co. v. Canada, 2005 SCC 54, [2005] 2 S.C.R. 601, at para. 47. In the context of a zoning by-law, the purpose of the provision must be consistent with the Planning Act as well as provincial and local planning documents.
. French v. Canada (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)

In French v. Canada (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) (Fed CA, 2024) the Federal Court of Appeal sets out basics of statutory interpretation:
[2] The principles applicable to statutory interpretation are well known, and have been discussed in many court decisions. The Supreme Court of Canada stated as follows in Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65, [2019] 4 S.C.R. 653 at paras. 117–18:
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”: 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: see, e.g., Interpretation Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21.

This Court has adopted the “modern principle” 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 Ruth, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed (Markham, Ont: LexisNexis, 2014 at 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 ...
. La Presse inc. v. Quebec

In La Presse inc. v. Quebec (SCC, 2023) the Supreme Court of Canada reviews principles of statutory interpretation, including the role of 'ambiguity':
A. Principles of Statutory Interpretation

[22] It is well established that, under the modern approach to statutory interpretation, “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” (E. A. Driedger, Construction of Statutes (2nd ed. 1983), at p. 87). Confusion as to what this might entail in practice endures, despite the apparent simplicity of Driedger’s influential words. For the sake of clarity, I will restate two principles that seem to be at the heart of this confusion.

[23] First, the plain meaning of the text is not in itself determinative and must be tested against the other indicators of legislative meaning — context, purpose, and relevant legal norms (R. v. Alex, 2017 SCC 37, [2017] 1 S.C.R. 967, at para. 31). The apparent clarity of the words taken separately does not suffice because they “may in fact prove to be ambiguous once placed in their context. The possibility of the context revealing a latent ambiguity such as this is a logical result of the modern approach to interpretation” (Montréal (City) v. 2952-1366 Québec Inc., 2005 SCC 62, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 141, at para. 10).

[24] Second, a provision is only “ambiguous” in the sense contemplated in Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 559, if its words can reasonably be interpreted in more than one way after due consideration of the context in which they appear and of the purpose of the provision (paras. 29-30). This is to say that there is a “real” ambiguity — one that calls for the use of external interpretive aids like the principle of strict construction of penal laws or the presumption of conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — only if differing readings of the same provision cannot be decisively resolved through the contextual and purposive approach set out by Driedger (ibid.).
. Egan v. Kincardine Golf & Country Club

In Egan v. Kincardine Golf & Country Club (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court set out some basics of statutory interpretation:
[14] In Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 21, the Supreme Court set out the modern principle of statutory interpretation thusly:
Today there is only one principle or approach, namely, 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.
[15] In R. v. Del Mastro, 2017 ONCA 711, 416 D.L.R. (4th) 726, at para. 61 the Court of Appeal reviewed that principle and stated:
[S]tatutory interpretation is a multi-dimensional exercise and requires a court to consider whether a particular interpretation complies with the legislative text, promotes the intention of the legislature, and produces a result that is reasonable and just, in compliance with accepted legal norms: Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed. (Markham: LexisNexis, 2014), at pp. 7-10.
[16] In Blue Star Trailer Rentals Inc. v. 407 ETR Concession Company Limited, 2008 ONCA 561, 91 O.R. (3d) 321, at paras. 23-25, the Court of Appeal provided the following further guidance:
This approach to statutory interpretation – sometimes referred to as the textual, contextual or purposive approach – requires an examination of three factors: the language of the provision, the context in which the language is used and the purpose of the legislation or statutory scheme in which the language is found.

When applying this approach, it makes sense to start by examining the ordinary meaning or meanings of the words being interpreted. The ordinary meaning is “the natural meaning which appears when the provision is simply read through….”

After considering the ordinary meaning of the language involved, the court should consider the context in which the language is found as well as the purpose of the legislation or the statutory scheme. If this analytical approach yields a plausible interpretation then the court need go no further and should adopt that interpretation. It is only when there remains genuine ambiguity between reasonable interpretations that the court should resort to other principles of statutory interpretation. [Citations omitted]
. Hiawatha First Nation v. Cowie

In Hiawatha First Nation v. Cowie (Ont CA, 2023) the Court of Appeal considered, and allowed, an appeal against a permanent injunction obtained by a native band council against development - pending completion of a 'Land Code and Comprehensive Community Plan'.

In this quote the court briefly considers basics of statutory interpretation:
(a) The general principles of statutory interpretation

[25] In Vavilov, the Supreme Court identified a legal expectation that is critical in statutory interpretation: “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”.[3] This draws on the “modern approach” to interpretation, which “requires that the words of a statute 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’”.[4] To analyze the issues the court must consider the text of the legislation, the context within which it operates, and the particular purpose for the provisions at issue.
. Emergis Inc. v. Canada

In Emergis Inc. v. Canada (Fed CA, 2023) the Federal Court of Appeal considers the weight to be accorded the 'text/context/purpose' factors in statutory interpretation, here in an income tax context:
[22] The focus in this appeal is on the interpretation of the exception contained in subsection 20(12) of the ITA. Questions of statutory interpretation are to be decided based on a textual, contextual, and purposive analysis.

[23] As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada v. Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., 2021 SCC 51:
[41] This narrow question of statutory interpretation requires us to draw upon the well-established framework that “statutory interpretation entails discerning legislative intent by examining statutory text in its entire context and in its grammatical and ordinary sense, in harmony with the statute's scheme and objects” (Michel v. Graydon, 2020 SCC 24, at para. 21). Where the rubber hits the road is in determining the relative weight to be afforded to the text, context and purpose. Where the words of a statute are “precise and unequivocal”, their ordinary meaning will play a dominant role (Canada Trustco Mortgage Co. v. Canada, 2005 SCC 54, [2005] 2 S.C.R. 601, at para. 10). In the taxation context, a “unified textual, contextual and purposive” approach continues to apply (Placer Dome Canada Ltd. v. Ontario (Minister of Finance), 2006 SCC 20, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 715, at para. 22, quoting Canada Trustco, at para. 47). In applying this unified approach, however, the particularity and detail of many tax provisions along with the Duke of Westminster principle (that taxpayers are entitled to arrange their affairs to minimize the amount of tax payable) lead us to focus carefully on the text and context in assessing the broader purpose of the scheme (Placer Dome, at para. 21; Canada Trustco, at para. 11). This approach is particularly apposite in this case, where the provision at issue is part of the highly detailed and precise FAPI regime. I must emphasize again that this is not a case involving a general anti-avoidance rule. The provision at issue is part of an exception to the definition of “investment business” within the highly intricate, highly defined FAPI regime. If taxpayers are to act with any degree of certainty under such a regime, then full effect should be given to Parliament's precise and unequivocal words.



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Last modified: 28-03-24
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