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Dec 17, 2019

Statutory interpretation and ‘ordinary meaning’ of words

By Marco P. Falco
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The Lawyer's Daily View original

One of the ways in which Canadian courts interpret legislation is to analyze the “ordinary meaning” of words. Reference is made to the reader’s first impression of the language, i.e. the meaning that at once comes to mind.

However, the modern approach to statutory interpretation involves more than considering the plain and ordinary meaning of words. Under the “contextual and purposive” method, courts look to the context in which the legislation operates, Parliament’s intention in enacting the statute, the object of the Act and its history.

A recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Oakville (Town) v. Clublink Corp., ULC 2019 ONCA 826, affirms that textual literalism, i.e. an analysis of the ordinary meaning of the text of an Act, is only one aspect of statutory interpretation.

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