Cinderella at the Ball: Legislative Intent in Canadian Courts

Cinderella at the Ball: Legislative Intent in Canadian Courts

This article explores a very specific kind of legal research – finding the intent of a legislature or parliament. Following a review of the history of legislative intent in Canadian courts, the exclusionary rule and an important Canadian case, Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd, the authors explore what developments in this area of law, statutory interpretation and, legislative intent research, might mean for parliamentary and legislative libraries in Canada. Based on research for their forthcoming Irwin Law book Researching Legislative Intent: A Practical Guide, this revised article was first presented to the Association of Parliamentary Libraries in Canada/ L’Association des bibliothèques parlementaires au Canada (APLIC/ABPAC) on July 4, 2013, in Ottawa, Ontario.

American statutory interpretation guru William Eskridge once referred to statutory interpretration as “the Cinderella of legal scholarship. Once scorned and neglected, confined to the kitchen, it now dances in the ballroom.”1 Cited in a 1999 article by Stephen Ross, an American law professor who encourages Canadian legal scholars to devote more time to teaching statutory interpretation,2 this quote perfectly captures the explosion of statutory interpretation scholarship that Ross sees happening in Canada. A fascinating area of legal research – which includes legislative intent – statutory interpretation also has a very important and practical use in courts. When the outcome of a case hinges on the meaning of a few words in a statute, interpreting the meaning of those few words will affect someone’s life and rights, one way or another.