Untamed Tribunal: The Purpose Clause as Dynamic Statutory Interpretation or Political Control?

Sara Slinn, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University

This article was subsequently published as an article in the UBC Law Review and can be found here.


This study examines the use of the purpose clause in labour legislation as a means for the legislature to exert control over the decision-making of a labour relations board. It examines the history of the purpose clause in British Columbia labour legislation, assesses its effectiveness as an instrument of control and, finally, draws on legislative theory to consider whether this is an instance of a "rogue" board defying the will of the Legislature, or of an administrative tribunal fulfilling its legitimate function. The article concludes that, rather than tribunal misconduct, a fairer interpretation of the BC Labour Board's treatment of the purpose clause is that of an administrative tribunal fulfilling its role by exercising its discretion to reflect its own narrative, understanding and history of the statute and labour relations system as a whole, in its decisions to dynamically interpret the new Purpose Clause.