The Gospel of Statutory Rules Requiring Liberal Interpretation According to St Peter's

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University of Toronto Law Journal. Volume 35 (1985), p. 113-153.


This paper does not evaluate the overall effectiveness of this technique, but rather focuses on one particular way in which the legislature has attempted to control judicial interpretation, the command to interpret statutes liberally and purposively. Typical of such a direction in section 10 of Ontario’s Interpretation Act. This essay proceeds historically. In the first section It examines the common law antecedent to section 10 of the Interpretation Act, the rule in Heydon’s Case. Although this is a judicial not a legislative attempt to define the conventions of interpretation, the disputes over statutory interpretation during that period provide a foundation upon which we can build when analyzing subsequent legislative attempts at reform. In the second section it examines the case law interpreting and applying section 10 from its original enactment in 1840 to 1973. It then examines a series of cases that arose in the Ontario courts beginning in 1980 that culminated in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in RE Trustees of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and City of Ottawa in which an attempt to redeploy section 10 and its federal equivalent, section 11, was defeated. In the final section 1 reviews the implications of the preceding analysis.

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