Dalhousie Law Journal


Extrinsic Evidence, Statutory Interpretation, Judicial Discretion, Context, Supreme Court of Canada, Receptiveness, Anti-Inflation Reference, Appellate Courts, Prediction


... the Supreme Court of Canada recently signalled an increasing receptiveness to the use of extrinsic materials in the Anti-Inflation Reference. Accordingly, I expect that we will see an increasing use by appellate courts of extrinsic evidence. ' This prediction was made by the Honourable Brian Dickson, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, in an address in 1979. His statement concerns a problem that has haunted Canadian, English, and commonwealth courts for years, namely, how far beyond the actual words of the statute itself is it permissible for courts to roam in their efforts to interpret legislation? Put another way, what is the proper context in which to interpret legislative directives? It is a question that is unavoidably intertwined with the more general problem of the proper approach to statutory interpretation, which in turn raises questions about the proper constitutional function of a court and the exercise of judicial discretion. For example, if Justice Dickson is correct that the Supreme Court of Canada has indicated a new approach to the use of extrinsic materials in the interpretation of statutes, what is the reason for such a change and what is its significance in relation to some of the other questions mentioned above? Does a willingness to broaden the statutory context by consulting extrinsic materials mean that the Supreme Court is advocating a change in the courts' function vis-a-vis the legislature and the executive?

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