Statutory Interpretation

Cases can have many legal strands. Sometimes the cases can be resolved simply on the basis of case law. But other times statutes or regulations also apply and must be interpreted. The final decision may combine various legal strands to arrive at the conclusions on the issues argued.

Caselaw confirms that statutory interpretation can’t be based solely on the wording of the legislation alone. Instead the approach that should be followed was highlighted by Elmer Driedger in his work Construction of Statutes (2nd ed, 1983) 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.

Accordingly, statutory interpretation requires a view through various lenses not just the words of the Act. This rounds out perspective on the interpretive issues at hand. The above highlighted approach to statutory interpretation recognizes the important role that context assumes when courts interpret the words of a Statute.

In R. v. Stipo 2019 ONCA 3 at para. 176, the Ontario Court of Appeal stated:

“..No statutory provision is an island in itself. Its words take their colour from their surroundings. All issues of statutory interpretation involve the key question of what Parliament intended. To discover what Parliament intended , we look at the words of the provision, informed by its history, context and purpose…”

So to resolve a case, we may have to not only review and analyze caselaw but also effectively interpret relevant statutes and use our analysis on both fronts to marshal persuasive arguments.*

William Poulos, Barrister
* This blog is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require legal advice, a lawyer should be consulted to provide advice on the specific circumstances of your case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *