CLAUSE 8 OF BILL S-4:
AMENDING THE INTERPRETATION ACT

By Henry L. Molot, Senior General Counsel
Constitutional and Administrative Law Section,
Department of Justice Canada

Ruth Sullivan summed up the challenge of bijuralism in Canada:

"Federal legislation in Canada is not only bilingual, but also bijuridical in the sense that it is applicable to persons, places and relations that are subject to the civil law in Quebec and to the common law in the rest of Canada… Although Quebec is the only province with a civil law system, the French version of federal legislation is meant to operate in all the provinces. This makes it impossible simply to reserve the English version of legislation for application in the common law provinces and the French version for application in Quebec".[1]

As that text noted in reflecting upon this constitutional and drafting challenge,

"This wealth of possibility creates a difficult challenge for federal drafters, and for interpreters of federal legislation".

One theoretical drafting response to this challenge would be to ensure that the French and English versions of every federal enactment are capable of operating equally in every province and territory throughout Canada statutory provisions. New legislation would be drafted accordingly. Existing legislation would be assessed against this standard and amended if found wanting. In support of, but not as an alternative, to this first approach, a second strategy might be a more general or universal one of proceeding by way of amendment to the federal Interpretation Act.

1. Constitutional Foundations

Federal law is not "an island unto itself". Some federal enactments are fully comprehensive and self-contained. Others, however, can only be fully understood and comprehended if reference is made to extrinsic legal sources. In most instances, those external sources are composed of provincial law. While the content of provincial law may vary from province to province, the validity of any such provincial law, in large measure, depends of s. 92 of the Constitution Act 1867.[2]

The principal source of provincial jurisdiction under s. 92 is the power conferred by head 13 to legislate in relation to "Property and Civil Rights in the Province". "Property and civil rights" has a colonial lineage that, in Canada at least, begins with s. 8 of the Quebec Act 1774 [3] which provided in part:

"… in all Matters of Controversy, relative to Property and Civil Rights, Resort shall be had to the Laws of Canada…"

In contrast, "the Criminal Law of England" was to continue to be "administered, and shall be observed as Law in the Province of Quebec".[4] A clear division was therefore drawn between civil law and criminal law.

However, that division was not directly imported into the Constitution Act 1791,[5] dividing Quebec into the separate provinces of Lower and Upper Canada. Under the 1791 Act, each province was given comprehensive legislative power "to make Laws for the Peace, Welfare, and good Government thereof",[6] but in the meantime all current laws were to remain in force in each province unless repealed or varied by the 1791 Act or by an enactment of the provincial legislature.[7] The civil/criminal law division was preserved by virtue of colonial legislation enacted pursuant to the 1791 Act. For example, Upper Canada immediately enacted a law that:

"… in all matters of controversy relative to property and civil rights, resort shall be had to the laws of England as the rule of the decision of the same".[8]

Eight years later, the province enacted a similar statute constituting English criminal law as of 1792 as the law of the province.[9] This dual "property and civil rights"/"criminal law" regime was preserved by ss. 3 and 46 of the Act of Union 1840.[10] Little pre-Confederation legislation limited the scope and meaning of the phrase "property and civil rights". As a result, the province retained wide legislative jurisdiction to regulate private law, including the establishment of administrative schemes to regulate private law matters.[11]

However, in the new Constitution Act 1867, "property and civil rights" appeared in simply one paragraph amongst many.[12] First, within s. 92 itself, head 13 was one of sixteen paragraphs cataloguing a wide range of subject-matter. Secondly, "the phrase now appeared in the context of a federal system in which extensive powers had been accorded to a new central Parliament" under s. 91 of the 1867 Act.[13] As Hogg noted,

"The enumerated list of federal heads of legislative power in s. 91 included a number of matters which would otherwise have come within property and civil rights in the province, for example, trade and commerce (subs. 91(2)), banking (subs. 91(15)), bills of exchange and promissory notes (subs. 91(18)), interest (subs. 91(19)), bankruptcy and insolvency (subs. 91(21)), patents of invention and discovery (subs. 91(22)), copyrights (subs. 91(23)), and marriage and divorce (subs. 91(28)). These federal classes of subjects were withdrawn from property and civil rights by their exclusive vesting in the federal Parliament".[14]

In view of the breadth and importance of "property and civil rights" as a provincial head of power, it is not surprising that most of the important constitutional cases "have turned on the competition between one or more of the federal heads of power, on the one hand, and property and civil rights, on the other".[15]

Two important conclusions flow from the following. First, outside of the context of the Constitution Act 1867, the phrase "property and civil rights" has a very broad and comprehensive meaning that may well extend to all non-criminal matters. Secondly, in the context of the Constitution Act 1867, while many federal heads of jurisdiction under s. 91 have been "withdrawn" or subtracted from the field of property and civil rights, the provisions of federal legislation enacted pursuant to any such jurisdictional head may not be completely impervious to and sealed off from provincial law. The exclusive nature of Parliament's jurisdiction to make laws in relation to matters falling within s. 91 of the Constitution Act 1867 means that it is entirely within the hands of Parliament to determine the relationship, if any, between a federal enactment and provincial law. At one end of the spectrum, federal legislation may rely heavily on provincial law; at the other end of the spectrum, a federal law may be entirely self-contained, that is, reliant for its scope and meaning only on the enactment itself and other federal legislation.

2. Federal Legislation: Role of Provincial Law

What then is the relationship between federal legislation and provincial law?

Federal legislation, by avoiding any reference to or reliance on rules, principles, terminology or concepts having their source in provincial law, may be independent of and unaffected by provincial law for its scope and meaning. For example, to the extent that federal legislation governing bills of exchange, patents and copyright were to establish complete, comprehensive and self-contained regimes for these s. 91 matters, no room would be left for the operation of provincial law. But these federal enactments are not sealed off entirely from provincial law. Promissory notes and bills of exchange depend on contract as an essential conceptual underpinning; and a patent is not only a form of property but a patent licence is based on contract.

Then again, a term or concept may be a special term of art having no special association with subs. 92(13) or with other heads of provincial legislative jurisdiction. For example, a term like "ecological integrity"/"intégrité écologique"[16] appears to be constitutionally neutral and independent of provincial law.

But even if federal legislation is clear that a statutory definition is meant to be comprehensive and self-contained (x "means"), it does not follow that provincial law is excluded. For example, under s. 3(1) of the Canada Labour Code,[17] paragraph (a) of the definition of "dependent contractor" provides that that term "means the owner, purchaser or lessee of a vehicle… who is a party to a contract, oral or in writing…" In the French version, "entrepreneur dépendant" is defined as "le propriétaire, l'acheteur ou le locataire d'un véhicule… qui est partie à un contrat, verbal ou écrit…". The Code does not clothe any of these words with special meaning. Where then does one discover what is meant by "owner, purchaser or lessee of a vehicle"/"le propriétaire, l'acheteur ou le locataire d'un véhicule" and "party to a contract, oral or in writing"/"partie à un contrat, verbal ou écrit"? The sale, lease and ownership of property and contracts are an integral part of property and civil rights and hence governed by provincial law. To assess whether someone is a "dependent contractor" under paragraph (a) of the definition therefore requires an application of provincial law to the circumstances in question. In principle, therefore, the actual legal principle or law governing whether someone is the "owner, purchaser or lessee of a vehicle"/"le propriétaire, l'acheteur ou le locataire d'un véhicule" may be identical in all of the provinces or vary from province to province.

Proceeding further along the spectrum, the dispositive provisions of federal legislation may refer to, but leave undefined, principles and terminology that ordinarily fall within property and civil rights. For example, s. 189(1) of the Canada Labour Code regulates successor employers, where a federal work, undertaking or business is "by sale, lease, merger or otherwise, transferred from one employer to another employer"/"en cas de cession d'un employeur à un autre — notamment par vente, bail ou fusion…" The sale, lease and other forms of transfer/"vente, bail ou fusion" of a business are matters that, generally speaking, are governed by provincial laws based on property and civil rights. It is to such laws that one must turn in order to understand and apply this federal provision.

Beyond the implicit application of provincial law to federal legislation, a clearer intention may be expressed to apply provincial law to the interpretation and application of a federal enactment. For example, under s. 3 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act,[18] the Crown "is liable in tort for the damages for which, if it were a private person of full age and capacity, it would be liable" for the torts of employees of the Crown[19] and for the breach of a duty relating to ownership, occupation, possession or control of property.[20] The French version of s. 3 provides:

En matière de responsabilité civile délictuelle, l'État est assimilé à une personne physique, majeure et capable, pour :

  • a) les délits civils commis par ses préposés;
  • b) les manquements aux obligations liées à la propriété, à l'occupation, à la possession ou à la garde de biens.

Liability in tort of a private person of full age and capacity for the torts of that person's employees is a matter intended to be entirely governed by provincial law. There is no federal law of torts. Consequently, while the reference in s. 3 to provincial law is not explicit, there can be no doubt of its necessarily implicit intention that the Crown's liability in tort or "responsabilité civile délictuelle" is to be found in the tort/"délits" regime of each province.

Of course, the incorporation of provincial law by a federal statute may be framed in more express language. For example, under subs. 31(1) of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, generally speaking, "the laws relating to prejudgment interest in proceedings between subject and subject that are in force in a province apply to any procceedings against the Crown"/"les règles de droit en matière d'intérêt avant jugement qui, dans une province, régissent les rapports entre particuliers s'appliquent à toute instance visant l'État ". In the case of proceedings against the Crown, therefore, not only does subs. 31(1) make the Crown liable for prejudgment interest but it explicitly makes the applicable law that of the relevant province.

3. Applying Provincial Law Elements of Federal Law

How is provincial law incorporated into or made to apply to the interpretation of federal legislation? In a sense, in applying or interpreting federal legislation a common law or civil law lawyer or judge may be required to "think outside" his or her normal professional range of experience. As illustrated by some of the examples described above, that cerebral process depends principally on legal concepts and language. For example, to find the relevant provincial law governing the transfer or cession of a business for purposes of the application of s. 189(1) of the Canada Labour Code may seem quite straightforward. A common law lawyer may feel quite confident of finding the applicable law of a particular common law province. But would that lawyer be equally assured if the province in question were the civil law jurisdiction of Quebec? Are civil law concepts the same as common law ones? How are those concepts expressed in French? in English? Where should that lawyer look for the applicable law? Is the matter governed by the Civil Code or by special legislation? These are only some of the issues that our common law lawyer may have to confront. And, of course, a civil law lawyer researching this s. 189(1) question in relation to a common law province would be faced with comparable problems.

But law does not stand still. The descriptive label and the content or substance of a legal concept can change. Federal legislation that, when enacted, contained English and French provisions accurately referring to or describing a particular concept may years later no longer do so. For example, as noted above, s. 3 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act refers to the legal concepts of "tort" and "les délits civils". Since that Act was enacted, the concept of "tort" remains an accurate way of referring to the civil wrongs in question for which liability may be imposed at common law. The French version's "délit civil" and "délictuelle" were certainly appropriate when the Act was first enacted. Under the former Civil Code, chapter III of Title Third had the heading "Des délits et quasi-délits".

However, under Quebec's new Civil Code, that terminology is nowhere to be found; it has been replaced by "De la responsabilité civile".[21] Consequently, a contemporary application of s. 3 to a situation in Quebec would turn on the application of art. 1457 to 1481 of the new Civil Code. It would be quickly discovered, however, that certain critical elements of s. 3—"tort" (English version) and "délits civils" (French version)—are nowhere to be found in the new Code. It is true that s. 3, like the new Code, does refer to "responsabilité civile", but it qualifies this with the now obsolescent "délictuelle". Moreover, the transitional provisions applicable to the new Code[22] also have to be factored into the analysis. In the end, the question remains: how is a provision like s. 3 of the federal legislation to be properly interpreted and applied?

First, in the absence of any new or amending legislation, it may be necessary to interpret and reconcile the current applicable provisions of the federal Act and of the Code on the basis of principles of statutory interpretation, including the "shared or common meaning rule" applicable to bilingual legislation.[23]

A second approach would be to restore the congruence between the language of s. 3 and the terminology of Quebec's new Civil Code by amending s. 3 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act. This has indeed been proposed: cl. 34 of Bill S-4[24] would, in effect, replace "délit ou quasi-délit" with "la responsabilité civile extracontractuelle".

Thirdly, in the absence of specific legislation, the more general provisions of the Interpretation Act provide a possible means by which to clarify matters. It was with that objective in mind that cl. 8 was included in Bill S-4.

4. Interpretation Act: Scope And Purposes

The provisions of cl. 8 raise a number of issues relating to the role of a general statute like the Interpretation Act in integrating into federal legislation the terminology and concepts of Quebec civil law, on the one hand, and of the common law of the other provinces, on the other. Before considering cl. 8 in detail, however, it may be useful to examine some of the purposes which a general enactment like the federal Interpretation Act is intended to serve.

The last general revision of the federal Interpretation Act in 1967[25] was initiated by Bill S-9. When the Bill was before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, it was introduced by D.S. Thorson, Associate Deputy Minister of Justice, as follows:

"…The fact that an Interpretation Act was the very first act passed by the new Parliament of Canada after Confederation is perhaps some indication of the importance that the first Parliament attached to this kind of statute. The importance of the act over the years has not diminished and, if anything, the extent and scope of today's statute law makes a measure of this kind significantly more important today than in 1867.

The purpose of an interpretation act is to facilitate the drafting and understanding of statutes and other legal instruments. By establishing uniform definitions and expressions, and thereby eliminating the need for their constant repetition in the law, the drafting of statutes is simplified and their interpretation is facilitated. An interpretation act also serves the purpose of consolidating in one place rules of construction and interpretation that have been developed over the years both by the courts and by Parliament itself.

[…]

Finally, I should like to point out that this legislation is intended to be of benefit not only to parliamentarians but also to the courts and, indeed, to all persons who must be concerned with the understanding and interpreting of statutes and regulations made by or under the authority of Parliament…"[26]

The purposes of an Interpretation Act, according to Mr. Thorson, may be summed up as follows:

  • establish uniform definitions and expressions in legislation;
  • eliminate the need for constant repetition in the law;
  • simplify the drafting of legislation;
  • facilitate interpretation of legislation;
  • consolidate in one place rules of legislative construction and interpretation;
  • benefit parliamentarians, the courts and all persons concerned with understanding and interpreting legislation.

 These purposes or rationales are not, however, as limited as they seem. The Act is more than just an extended definition or "short form" provision. Provisions dealing with such matters as the territorial operation of legislation,[27] the form of the enacting clause of an Act,[28] the general form of an Act,[29] Royal assent and an Act's commencement date,[30] quorums[31] and the admissibility of certain documentary evidence[32] are not strictly limited to the interpretation of legislative language. Moreover, some provisions of the Act, whether or not couched in language of interpretation, appear to have a constitutional flavour: for example, enactments that apply "to the whole of Canada";[33] "no enactment is binding on Her Majesty…";[34] authorization to issue a proclamation, whether conferred at large or on the Governor General, means a proclamation issued by the Governor in Council;[35] and effect of demise of the Crown.[36]

The Interpretation Act also contains power-granting provisions. Some of these may be thought analogous to what in Canadian constitutional law is labelled as the "double aspect doctrine". For example, in the case of subs. 24(1), it is provided that "words authorizing the appointment of a public officer to hold office during pleasure include… the power to (a) terminate the appointment or remove or suspend the public officer…"[37] This provision is framed in definitional language: language that authorizes an at pleasure appointment is extended in meaning to include the power to remove or suspend. Therefore, the first aspect of the provision is that it simply defines the authority to appoint to include the power to remove or suspend. The second way of characterizing the provision is that it is the source of additional powers which, but for par. 24(1)(a), would not have been available to the appointing authority.

A more interesting illustration of this phenomenon is to be found in par. 24(2)(d) of the Act which provides:

Words directing or empowering a minister of the Crown to do an act or thing… include…

(d) … a person appointed to serve, in the department or ministry of state over which the minister presides, in a capacity appropriate to the doing of the act or thing, or to the words so applying.

Par. (d) is intended to overcome some judicial limitations imposed on the application in Canada of the so-called Carltona doctrine.[38] Inasmuch as this doctrine is no more than a special exception to the application of the delegatus non potest delegare principle where administrative powers are conferred on a Minister of the Crown, a provision like par. (d), that expands the range of persons who are authorized to exercise a Minister's discretionary authority, confers power on persons who would not otherwise have it.

These two examples may be considered rather exceptional. They are, however, far from unique. Some provisions, as has already been noted, employ definitional language to confer powers,[39] whereas others do not even attempt to camouflage that they are conferring authority that would not otherwise exist.[40]

The Interpretation Act generally eschews enunciating the more general principles of statutory interpretation, preferring instead to prescribe relatively narrow rules to govern specific situations. One exception is to be found in s. 12 under which

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.

That legislation should be given a "liberal… interpretation as best ensures the attainment of its objects" reflects the more current purposive approach to statutory interpretation. This approach is neither new nor novel. As Canadian texts explain,[41] the "purposive" approach is associated with the so-called "mischief rule" and the judgment of Lord Coke in Heydon's Case.[42] The present analytical framework for interpreting legislation was very recently described as follows in Re Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd.:

"Although much has been written about the interpretation of legislation (see, e.g., Ruth Sullivan, Statutory Interpretation (1997); Ruth Sullivan, Driedger on the Construction of Statutes (3rd ed. 1994) (hereinafter "Construction of Statutes"; Pierre-André Côté, The Interpretation of Legislation in Canada (2nd ed. 1991), Elmer Driedger in Construction of Statutes (2nd ed. 1983) best encapsulates the approach upon which I prefer to rely. He recognizes that statutory interpretation cannot be founded on the wording of the legislation alone. At p. 87 he states:

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".[43]

The current resurrection of a purposive approach to statutory interpretation may itself qualify as an example of the benefits derived by Canada from its mixed system of common and civil law. Both Driedger and Côté point to

"the influence of civil law training in Quebec. The civilian approach to interpretation tends to be functional and purposive, emphasizing the spirit over the letter. This approach has been used in interpreting Quebec's Codes. Generally speaking, the civilian judges on the Supreme Court of Canada have played an important role in developing the court's current approach to interpretation".[44]

That Driedger can also refer to the "influence of American case law, in which purposive analysis is a well established practice"[45] indicates that this approach is not unique to civil law systems.

If the provisions 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", it is particularly important to uncover and locate the "object of the Act" and "the intention of Parliament". While ordinarily that object and intention will be disclosed by the words of the enactment, further assistance in resolving and clarifying uncertainty about the meaning of statutory language and its application to a particular set of circumstances may be forthcoming if those construing the legislation are made aware of its purposes and why it was enacted.

The primary source of legislative intention is usually to be found in the enactment itself. It is no longer uncommon for federal legislation to be introduced by a preamble or a "purpose clause" which may identify the "mischief" or problem which the Act seeks to remedy or set out the object and purpose of the legislation. A perhaps extreme example of this is the recently enacted Canadian Environmental Protection Act,[46] which contains a "declaration" of "primary purpose", a preamble setting forth a long list of general goals and duties, and a provision that details the general "administrative duties" of the Government of Canada in the administration of the Act.[47] More modest examples, but having the same overall general objective of identifying the rationales and goals of the legislation, are to be found in the recently enacted Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act;[48] and Nisga'a Final Agreement Act.[49]

However, the purpose or object expressed in an Act may not be limited in scope to that particular statute but may be intended to apply to other legislation. For example, the purpose clause contained in s. 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act,[50] is not limited to the operation of that Act but "is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect" to the principles of the Act. Moreover, in the case of the Canadian Bill of Rights,[51] the opening provisions of s. 2 require as a general matter that "every law of Canada… be so construed and applied as not to abrogate, abridge or infringe or to authorize the abrogation, abridgement or infringement of any of the rights or freedoms herein recognized and declared…"

Consequently, on the basis of statutory provisions that, in one way or another, require all or a specified class of enactments to be construed in accordance with those provisions or to be subject to the principles or purposes of those provisions, the principles, norms and requirements of one statute may be imported into and be made to apply to another enactment. This technique, as has already been noted, is a common one in the Interpretation Act. Moreover, as will be discussed below, that technique is available to facilitate the integration of civil and common law concepts and terminology into federal law.

5. Interpretation Act: Applying Provincial Law Elements

As a matter of principle, therefore, in order to ensure the proper interpretation and application of federal law throughout the length and breadth of Canada, there should be integrated and incorporated into that law, where applicable, the terminology and concepts of Quebec civil law and of the common law of the other provinces. The second, more practical, issue relates to how this substantive goal can be achieved. It is this latter question that will occupy the remainder of this paper.

The first possible technique is to do nothing legislatively, but to leave the matter to be determined in the usual manner on the basis of principles of statutory interpretation. That this approach has worked well and without significant problems or difficulties since Confederation is a strong argument for maintaining the statu quo. Moreover, since 1867, the courts have become increasingly sensitive to the interpretation and application of bilingual federal legislation in Quebec and the common law provinces. This is reflected in such principles as the "shared or common meaning rule" and the Supreme Court of Canada's flexible, purposive approach, 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".

All of this strongly suggests that Canadian courts would experience little or no difficulty in interpreting and applying the private law aspects of federal legislation in an appropriate and proper manner in Quebec and the common law provinces.

Whether to adopt this more evolutionary manner of tackling the issue would not, strictly speaking, imply a choice between a common law tradition of judge-made law and a civil law one of codification and general legislation. For example, common law jurisdictions judges were unprepared to liberate the law of sovereign or state immunity from the shackles of the absolute immunity doctrine until well into the 1970s when international legal developments and conventions adopting the principle of restrictive immunity finally led to statutory reforms adopting principles which the courts of some of the civil law jurisdictions of Western Europe had accepted before World War II or, in some cases, in the last century. As was noted by Molot and Jewett:

"A long time before these major common law jurisdictions changed direction by legislative means, their civil law counterparts in Western Europe had already done so by means of the judicial process. It surely must be counted an ironical twist that jurisdictions priding themselves on codes of law, on the one hand, and judge-made common law, on the other, should have adopted the other's technique for incorporating restrictive immunity into their law".[52]

The principal alternative to reliance on judge-made law would be clarifying legislation intended to establish or fashion a bridge between private law references in federal legislation and the applicable civil law and common law of the provinces. But what form would such legislation take? Such a clarifying provision might be included in every federal statute in which it was considered applicable. As has already been noted, it is not uncommon for a federal statute to include a special purpose clause or to prescribe special rules of interpretation for that Act. For example, s. 2 of the Pension Act[53] provides:

"The provisions of this Act shall be liberally construed and interpreted to the end that the recognized obligation of the people and Government of Canada to provide compensation to those members of the forces who have been disabled or have died as a result of military service, and to their dependants, may be fulfilled".

However, adopting this approach would be impractical. In what Acts would such a provision be included? To proceed in this way assumes a reasonable degree of certainty and predictability in identifying federal enactments that require the application of the principles contained in such a provision. And yet, even the Criminal Code contains provisions that cannot be interpreted and applied without reference to provincial law. For example, although s. 202(1)(b) makes it an offence to "buy, sell, rent, lease, hire… any device or apparatus" for gambling or betting purposes, one must turn to provincial law to determine if there has been a lawful transaction to "buy, sell, rent, lease, hire… any device or apparatus". Again, under s. 290, while it is an element of the offence of bigamy that a person go "through a form of marriage with another person", the element of "form of marriage" is governed by provincial law. This would seem to suggest that few federal statutes would not, explicitly or implicitly, incorporate or reference provincial law.

A more sensible technique may therefore be to treat any such clarifying provision as one of general, if not universal, application. But should it then be included in a special enactment that regulated, for example, the harmonization and integration of federal and provincial laws? That would require the provision be included in the substantive provisions of Part I of Bill S-4 instead of in the Interpretation Act. The difficulty is that the provision would be inconsistent with the current title of Bill S-4 and with Part I which is the only part that does not simply amend other enactments and is intended to remain as a stand-alone Act. The Bill's short title is "the Federal Law-Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1" and Part I is entitled "Federal Law and Civil Law of the Province of Quebec". Both describe a limited purpose that "aims to integrate Quebec civil law terminology, notions and concepts in federal legislation". And yet, the proposed Interpretation Act amendment goes beyond this limited one-province objective to encompass integrating the terminology, notions and concepts of both Quebec civil law and the common law of the other provinces into federal legislation.

Another problem with this approach is the more practical one. In a few years and with the passage of time, only those very familiar with federal legislation would likely remain aware of the provision. Any such special statute would not have the continuing notoriety of quasi‑constitutional legislation, like the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Moreover, the wide application of the provision to the whole range of federal legislation makes it a particularly well-suited candidate for inclusion in a statute of general application that is as familiar and well-known as the Interpretation Act.

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