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Canada; Canada Trustco; Imperial Oil; Income Tax Act; Mathew; modern rule; Placer Dome; statutory interpretation


Canada Trustco, Mathew, Placer Dome and Imperial Oil are landmark decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in terms of their illumination on the principle of statutory interpretation. In these cases, the Court stated that the Income Tax Act should be interpreted in accordance with a "textual, contextual and purposive" approach. This amounts to a revival of the "modern rule" of statutory interpretation and a move away from the "plain meaning" approach previously adopted by the Court. This article argues that the steps taken by the Court in reviving the modern rule are merely baby steps, as many key questions remain inadequately addressed. The article first discusses the rise and fall of the modern rule in Canadian tax jurisprudence. It then analyzes each of the four decisions and highlights the contribution of each case to the development of the textual, contextual and purposive interpretation. The article concludes with some thoughts on the challenges facing the courts in establishing the "purpose" of provisions of the Act and offers some suggestions for moving forward.