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Statutory Interpretation - 'Modern Principle' [Text/Context/Purpose]


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Part 2


. Sapershteyn et al v. 1821317 Ontario Limited et al

In Sapershteyn et al v. 1821317 Ontario Limited et al (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court considered a recent SCC statutory interpretation case on ambiguity, La Presse v Quebec (SS, 2023):
x Analysis

[20] It is not contested that in interpreting legislation the modern approach governs. The Board correctly utilized the modern approach as was laid in Bell ExpressVu Ltd. Partnership v. Rex[16]. In Bell ExpressVu, the Supreme Court of Canada adopted Elmer Driedger’s formulation of the approach: “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.”[17]

[21] I do note that after the decision of the Board, the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed the law of statutory interpretation in La Presse inc. v. Quebec[18] in particular the confusion on what is meant by the formulation of the approach of Driedger. The Court stated:
[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 2023 SCC 22 (CanLII) 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 (emphasis in original) 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.).
[22] With these principles in mind, while I disagree with the Board’s characterization of the purpose of the section, the Board did not err in its interpretation of the meaning of the provision.

[23] In my view, there is no ambiguity in the meaning of s. 135.1. The purpose of the section is clear, it is a response to Price and to limit the availability to tenants to seek and obtain payment of illegal rent charged. The legislature, in its wisdom, determined that tenants cannot seek retroactive payment of illegal rent charged after one year and in the cases of an application brought before the legislative change, up to the date the change came into affect, July 21, 2020.

[24] It could be taken that the legislature was well aware that a fixed date will make it difficult if not impossible for some tenants to have their application finally determined by July 21, 2020. With the indication of a fixed date, it can be taken that the legislature intended that fixed date with no exceptions.

[25] Consequently, in my view, the Board’s characterization of the legislative purpose is not supported by the clear wording and grammar of the section. It is my view that the legislature exactly intended to deprive tenants of their right to recovery of illegal rents charged if there is no final determination by July 21, 2020.

[26] However, that does not mean the Board committed an error of law in its interpretation of the meaning of the provision. I do agree with the Board’s interpretation of “final determination,” that is, all issues arising from the application must be finally determined by July 21, 2020. This does not mean, as is the practice of the Board, that issues may be finally determined at different times during the application process. But as the Board found in this matter, all issues must be finally determined by July 21, 2020. Accordingly, I do not find that the Board erred in its interpretation of “finally determined by the Board.”
. R. v. Greater Sudbury (City)

In R. v. Greater Sudbury (City) (SCC, 2023) the Supreme Court of Canada, in an unusual case where the court issued a split decision (leaving the Court of Appeal ruling governing), regarding occupational health and safety. These quotes are from the four-judge ruling (Martin JA) that would have dismissed the appeal.

These quotes are from the court's 'text, context and purpose' review of OSHA s.25(1)(c) [SS: "Duties of Employers"], which provides a useful sample of the SCC's view of it's statutory interpretation doctrine:
(2) Proving the City Breached Section 25(1)(c) of the Act

[23] The duties imposed by the Act are numerous, varied and stated in precise, purposeful ways. In some cases, they are linked to a particular workplace or project (see, e.g., ss. 23(1) and 25(1)(c)) or to the workers (see, e.g., ss. 23(1)(c) and 25(2)(a)). In other cases, they are more broadly stated (see, e.g., s. 25(1)(a)). The relevant obligation in this case is tied to the workplace.

[24] The City is alleged to have breached s. 25(1)(c), which requires that an employer “shall ensure that . . . the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace”. This obligation applies to employers across all sectors. For employers in the construction industry, the relevant measures and procedures are prescribed in the Regulation. A review of s. 25(1)(c)’s text, context, and purpose reveals that control on the part of the accused is not an element of this duty. The Ministry does not need to prove that the City had control over the Interpaving workers or the workplace as part of the actus reus of the s. 25(1)(c) offence.

(a) Text

[25] The plain text of s. 25(1)(c) does not limit this duty to workers or workplaces over which the employer has control. The legislature could have written in an internal limitation akin to a control requirement in relation to this duty but chose not to. This is all the more important because, in contrast to s. 25(1)(c), it did precisely that in s. 25(2)(h), where the employer’s obligation to take precautions is limited to those precautions “reasonable in the circumstances”. That the legislature did not limit s. 25(1)(c), whether by reference to a control requirement or otherwise, reflects an intentional choice that this Court should not disturb.

[26] By comparison, other statutes express a different legislative choice. For example, in Canada Post Corp. v. Canadian Union of Postal Workers, 2019 SCC 67, [2019] 4 S.C.R. 900, the text of the duty at issue required the employer to inspect “every work place controlled by the employer” (para. 9, citing s. 125(1) of the Canada Labour Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. L‑2). Thus, Parliament explicitly decided that the employer’s duty should be triggered by the employer’s control over the workplace. Similarly, in R. v. Sault Ste. Marie, 1978 CanLII 11 (SCC), [1978] 2 S.C.R. 1299, the foundational case setting out the structure of regulatory offences, the relevant offence was discharging or depositing, or causing or permitting the discharge or deposit of, material of any kind into a water course. This Court interpreted the actus reus of the offence of “causing” the discharge of material as incorporating a control element (p. 1329). No similar language can be found in s. 25(1)(c). This indicates that a different legislative choice was made by the Ontario legislature.

[27] The language that the legislature chose to use in s. 25(1)(c) — namely, the use of the word “ensure” — also speaks to and supports the broad nature of this duty. In Wyssen, Blair J.A. noted that the dictionary definition of “ensure”, as it appeared in the predecessor to s. 25(1)(c), is to “make certain” (p. 198). This duty “puts an ‘employer’ virtually in the position of an insurer who must make certain that the prescribed regulations for safety in the workplace have been complied with before work is undertaken by either employees or independent contractors” (p. 198). This “sweeping”, “undeniably strict” and “non-delegable” duty “cannot be evaded by contracting out performance of the work to independent contractors” (p. 198).

[28] The strict nature of this duty also led the Court of Appeal to reject reading a mens rea requirement into s. 25(1)(c) (Timminco, at paras. 22-26). Clear language, like the words “wilfully”, “with intent”, “knowingly” or “intentionally”, would be necessary to view s. 25(1)(c) as a mens rea offence (Timminco, at para. 26). That the legislature instead used the word “ensure” “suggests that [it] intended to impose a strict duty on the employer to make certain that the prescribed safety standards were complied with at all material times” (Timminco, at para. 26). For the same reasons that reading in a mens rea element would be inappropriate, a control requirement cannot be read into s. 25(1)(c).

[29] This conclusion about the text of s. 25(1)(c) is further supported by this Court’s reasoning in West Fraser Mills Ltd. v. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal), 2018 SCC 22, [2018] 1 S.C.R. 635, which considered the interpretation of “employer” in s. 196(1) of British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 492. The workplace owner, West Fraser Mills, hired an independent contractor, and one of the contractor’s employees was killed in a workplace accident. The Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia determined that West Fraser Mills had breached its regulatory duty as an owner under s. 26.2(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, B.C. Reg. 296/97, by failing to ensure that “all activities of the forestry operation are both planned and conducted in a manner consistent with this Regulation and with safe work practices acceptable to the Board”. It then imposed a penalty under s. 196(1) of the enabling statute, which permits the Board to penalize an employer. West Fraser Mills was seen as an employer, in addition to being an owner, because it employed individuals to carry out the duties imposed by s. 26.2(1) of the regulation in relation to the worksite in question.

[30] On appeal, this Court determined that the Tribunal’s decision was not patently unreasonable (para. 32). The Tribunal had broadly interpreted West Fraser Mills’ duties as an employer under s. 196(1) as relating to the worksite at issue. An “actual connection to the specific accident at issue” existed between West Fraser Mills as the employer and the “worksite that led to the accident and injury”, even though there was no “employment relationship with the person injured” (para. 39 (emphasis in original)). This interpretation aligned with s. 196(1)’s text, which “focus[ed] not on the specific relationship between the impugned employer and the victim of a workplace accident, but on the relationship between the employer and the worksite that led to the accident and injury” (para. 45).

[31] As with s. 196(1) of the British Columbia statute, the text of s. 25(1)(c) of the Ontario Act concerns occupational health and safety measures present at a physical workplace location to which an employer may be connected by virtue of sending employees there or contracting with independent contractors to perform work there. It states that the measures prescribed in the Regulation must be followed at that location. It does not focus on the nature of the employer’s relationship with any particular individual. Crucially, it does not focus on whether that relationship is characterized by control. Because of its language, s. 25(1)(c) cannot be read as applying only when an employer has a degree of control over someone.

(b) Context

[32] The duty in s. 25(1)(c) must be understood in the context of the scheme of the Act, including other duties contained therein, the wide definition of “employer”, and the existence of a due diligence defence under s. 66(3)(b).

[33] To begin, and to state the obvious, s. 25 imposes various, differently worded duties on employers. Some are drafted narrowly. For example, ss. 25(1)(b) and 25(1)(d) create duties respecting “the equipment, materials, and protective devices provided by the employer”. Similarly, the duty on workers set out in s. 28(1)(b) to “use or wear” equipment, protective devices, or clothing is restricted to the items that the “worker’s employer requires to be used or worn”. This juxtaposition of narrow duties with the more broadly worded s. 25(1)(c) does not suggest that s. 25(1)(c)’s duty is implicitly narrow. Rather, the narrower provisions show that the legislature intentionally limited some duties (such as s. 25(1)(b) and (d)) to the relationship between an employer and a worker, whereas other duties, including s. 25(1)(c), were intentionally drafted broadly so as to focus on the employer’s connection to the workplace rather than any particular worker (R. Sullivan, The Construction of Statutes (7th ed. 2022), at pp. 249-52). The legislature’s choice ought to be respected, and there is no need to read down or read into s. 25(1)(c)’s explicitly expansive text.

[34] Second, the broad definition of “employer” is relevant context for interpreting s. 25(1)(c). The breadth of the employer’s duties and the broad scope of the definition of “employer” are mutually reinforcing. Narrowing s. 25(1)(c) by reading a control requirement into it runs contrary to Wyssen and the modern approach to statutory interpretation.

[35] Though my colleagues Rowe and O’Bonsawin JJ. and I agree that the City is an employer under the Act and that control is not relevant to the definition of “employer”, we diverge in our interpretation of s. 25(1)(c). They would read a control requirement into this duty, such that it only applies to employers where there is a “functional relationship between the measure and the employer” (para. 106), which they describe as “a nexus to the work which is under the employer’s control and performed through their workers” (para. 155). Incorporating control by requiring a “nexus” between an employer and activities under the employer’s control is inconsistent with the text, context, and purpose of the section and with Wyssen. While the interpretation of ss. 1(1) and 25(1)(c) raises separate questions, these sections should be read harmoniously as they are nonetheless related.

[36] In Wyssen, Blair J.A. observed that the breadth of the employer’s duties under what is now s. 25(1)(c) corroborated the breadth of the definition of “employer” (p. 198). The broad nature of one goes hand in hand with the broad nature of the other. Yet, while my colleagues purport to follow Wyssen by leaving the definition broad, in fact they depart from Wyssen by narrowing the employer’s duties. In doing so, they introduce an internal inconsistency into the Act by pairing a broad definition of “employer” with a narrow interpretation of s. 25(1)(c), rather than finding harmony between these provisions and treating them as mutually reinforcing as the legislature intended. Wyssen observed that the legislature expanded the definition of “employer” to capture employer-independent contractor relationships that are not characterized by control; reading control into s. 25(1)(c) thus creates a dissonance in the Act that undermines legislative intention by reintroducing a previously discarded control element into the new widely worded public welfare legislation.

[37] Third, the existence of the due diligence defence in s. 66(3)(b) of the Act is relevant context because it means that employers who breach s. 25(1)(c) will not be subject to penalties under the Act if they can show they took all reasonable steps to avoid the breach. Section 66(3)(b) therefore functions as a safety valve, in which the presence of control may be a factor in assessing due diligence. As a result, there is no justification for narrowing the offence under s. 25(1)(c) by overlaying a control requirement. Concerns about fairness are answered by the availability and content of this defence.

(c) Purpose

[38] Reading a control requirement into s. 25(1)(c) would also be inconsistent with the purpose of the Act. The Act, to repeat, is a public welfare statute. Its purpose is to maintain and promote a reasonable level of protection for the health and safety of workers in and about their workplace. This purpose is achieved through the imposition of shared and overlapping duties: the “belt and braces” regulatory strategy.

[39] A clear example of this approach is found in the overlap between a constructor’s and employer’s duties. Section 23(1)(a) requires constructors to ensure that “the measures and procedures prescribed by this Act and the regulations are carried out on the project”, mirroring the employer’s duty under s. 25(1)(c). This overlap is explicit and intentional. Indeed, s. 23(1)(b) requires constructors to ensure that “every employer . . . performing work on the project complies with this Act and the regulations”. It is entirely in keeping with the regulatory structure and strategy that the Act deploys to achieve worker safety for an employer to have duties that reciprocally overlap with the duties of a constructor irrespective of these entities’ respective degrees of control over a workplace or a hazard there. Similarly, the required expansive and generous interpretation of the Act means that there may also be more than one employer who is responsible for the safety of the workplace and workers.

[40] Concern that overlapping duties will create confusion because different actors may not coordinate with each other and may implement competing or inconsistent safety measures is unwarranted. Cooperation and communication between workplace actors is built into the Act’s scheme (United Independent Operators, at para. 55, citing the Ministry’s Guide to The Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1978, at p. 28; see also West Fraser Mills, at para. 43). The Act also incentivizes such behaviour: where actors fail to cooperate and communicate, it is less likely that they will be able to successfully mount a due diligence defence. For example, in London Excavators, a subcontractor on a construction project was unable to establish the due diligence defence because of its unreasonable reliance on a general contractor’s miscommunication about the location of a hazard (p. 40).

[41] However, reading in a control requirement could defeat the Act’s public welfare purpose of creating overlapping responsibility. Often, workplace actors will have varying degrees of control over a workplace. Some will have more control than others without having exclusive control (Director of Occupational Health and Safety v. Government of Yukon, William R. Cratty and P.S. Sidhu Trucking Ltd., 2012 YKSC 47, at para. 69 (CanLII)). This variance matters. Incorporating a control element into s. 25(1)(c) would essentially give workplace actors a tool for frustrating regulatory prosecutions at the outset, before the burden shifts to the accused to demonstrate due diligence under s. 66(3)(b), by arguing that they had no control over a hazard because other parties had greater comparative control over that hazard. We cannot ignore this practical, on-the‑ground reality, which, if permitted to prevail, would not be conducive to promoting workplace safety. Rather, it would undermine the “belt and braces” approach by turning prosecutions under the Act into a “finger pointing” exercise. As Gotlib J. explained in Structform, at para. 17:
The case law is clear that one employer cannot point a finger at another employer who might be closer to the situation. Every employer has a duty to see that the workplace is safe. And in the complexity of construction it is important that every employer use knowledge, due diligence, etc., to ensure that the workplace is safe. An employer is not entitled to say it is someone else’s responsibility.
[42] The point is not that it is prohibitively difficult for a court to ascertain whether control exists or to even assess comparative degrees of control. The point is that situating the assessment of control under the Ministry’s burden to prove the s. 25(1)(c) offence is incongruous with the Act’s public welfare objectives. The focus at the breach stage would move from safety, where it belongs, to parsing who actually controlled what. Creating a control requirement under s. 25(1)(c) is impractical as it is the employer, not the Ministry, who has the best knowledge and evidence about their level of control (Sault Ste. Marie, at p. 1325). It is also inefficient as requiring the Ministry to prove control defeats the objective of achieving administrative expediency through the use of strict liability regulatory offences (Sault Ste. Marie, at p. 1311). These problems are precisely what led the Court of Appeal to reject a mens rea requirement under s. 25(1)(c) (Timminco, at paras. 24-26).

[43] It is unnecessarily duplicative to situate an inquiry into the accused’s degree of control under both the Ministry’s burden and the accused’s burden of establishing due diligence. Even where the language of an offence in a public welfare statute makes control an explicit condition, “it is sometimes difficult to maintain the distinction between the actus reus and the defence of due diligence” (R. v. Dan Gamache Trucking Inc., 2005 BCSC 1487, 23 M.V.R. (5th) 305, at para. 13). Far from clarifying the role of control in prosecutions under the Act, actively reading it into an offence like s. 25(1)(c), whose text makes no mention of control, invites further confusion about the proper place of control and what analytical differences there are between the Ministry’s burden to prove control and the accused’s burden to prove a lack of control. Introducing this additional complexity into proceedings under the Act undercuts the goal of administrative efficiency. By contrast, considering control only under due diligence, where its relevance is entirely uncontroversial, indeed common, offers much-needed clarity and predictability. I return to the due diligence defence below.

[44] Finally, it advances the Act’s purpose to impose an employer’s duties on the owner of a construction project even if that owner has divested control to a constructor. My colleagues Rowe and O’Bonsawin JJ. argue that the Act intentionally leaves owners who hire constructors with limited responsibilities (paras. 100‑102 and 119‑25). But, while s. 29(1) imposes duties on owners of workplaces that are not projects, this provision does not suggest that project owners are absolved of statutory duties if they devolve control to a constructor. These duties simply do not apply to project owners; however, project owner duties set out in s. 30 do apply to the project owner regardless of whether they hire a constructor. Moreover, a constructor under s. 1(1) is defined as including “an owner who undertakes all or part of a project by himself”. It is thus not the case that on every construction project an independent contractor is the constructor with overall safety responsibility; the constructor may simply be the owner, if the owner undertakes a project alone.

[45] Most importantly, even where an owner gives up control to a constructor, that same owner can have duties as an employer that may at times overlap with the constructor’s duties. While s. 1(3) prevents an owner who sends inspectors to a worksite from becoming a constructor, it does not prevent the owner from being an employer. And, there is “a connection between increased remedies against owners who hold duties as employers for given workplaces and increased occupational health and safety. The general scheme of the Act is to hold both owners and employers responsible in an overlapping and cooperative way for ensuring worksite safety” (West Fraser Mills, at para. 43). This conclusion does not undermine the fact that the Act places overall authority with a constructor. Indeed, guidelines published by the Ministry provide that, even though a constructor is the party with the greatest control over a construction project, “[h]ealth and safety at a project are a shared responsibility [such that] each employer at a project has significant responsibilities for the health and safety of their workers” (Constructor guideline, February 11, 2022 (online)). Occupational health and safety legislation does not create distinct “silos of responsibility” for different actors, nor for different sectors or industries (West Fraser Mills, at para. 15), and this sharing of responsibilities is simply another manifestation of the “belt and braces” approach.
. Amendola v. Law Society of Ontario

In Amendola v. Law Society of Ontario (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court considered a JR of Law Society Tribunal's decisions that the applicant had misrepresented facts on their paralegal application [under By-law 4, Part 2, s.8(2) - the same applies to lawyers], leading to the refusal of their application when re-assessed.

In these quotes the court sets out a general test for statutory interpretation:
A. Principles of statutory interpretation

[50] In Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 21, the Supreme Court concisely set out the modern principle of statutory interpretation (as previously formulated in Elmer A. Driedger, Construction of Statutes, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1983), at p. 87), as follows:
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.
[51] In R. v. Del Mastro, 2017 ONCA 711, 416 D.L.R. (4th) 726, at para. 61, after stating that principle, the Court of Appeal went on to state as follows:
[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.
[52] In Blue Star Trailer Rentals Inc. v. 407 ETR Concession Company Limited, 2008 ONCA 561, 91 O.R. (3d) 321, at paras. 23-25, after stating the principle set out in Rizzo, 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.]
[53] In Rizzo, at para. 27, the Supreme Court provided additional guidance as follows:
It is a well established principle of statutory interpretation that the legislature does not intend to produce absurd consequences…. [A]n interpretation can be considered absurd if it leads to ridiculous or frivolous consequences, if it is extremely unreasonable or inequitable, if it is illogical or incoherent, or if it is incompatible with other provisions or with the object of the legislative enactment [Citations omitted.]
. Canada v. Bezan Cattle Corporation

In Canada v. Bezan Cattle Corporation (Fed CA, 2023) the Federal Court of Appeal characterizes the 'context' element of the text/context/purpose 'modern principle' of statutory interpretation doctrine:
[61] Context includes not only the surrounding language (i.e., the language of the specific provision) but also the broader context of the related provisions and the statute as a whole.
. Canada v. Bezan Cattle Corporation

In Canada v. Bezan Cattle Corporation (Fed CA, 2023) the Federal Court of Appeal cites the 'modern principle' of statutory interpretation:
A. Principles of Statutory Interpretation

[49] The words of a statute must be read in their entire context and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the legislation, its object, and the intention of the legislators: Canada Trustco Mortgage Co. v. Canada, 2005 SCC 54 at para. 10 [Canada Trustco]. Saskatchewan has codified this principle in section 2-10 of The Legislation Act.

[50] The relative effects of ordinary meaning, context and purpose in the interpretive process vary. When the words of a provision are precise and unequivocal, their ordinary meaning may play a dominant role. On the other hand, where the words are capable of supporting more than one reasonable meaning, the ordinary meaning of the words will play a lesser role: Canada Trustco at para. 10.

[51] As the Supreme Court recently stated in Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65:
[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”: 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.

[118] 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: [R. Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes (6th ed. 2014)], 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.




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Last modified: 03-01-24
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