Parliamentary Debates in Statutory Interpretation: A Question of Admissibility or of Weight?

38 Pages Posted: 8 May 2017

See all articles by Stephane Beaulac

Stephane Beaulac

University of Montreal - Faculty of Law; Dentons Canada LLP

Date Written: 1998


The exclusionary rule which prohibits references to parliamentary materials as an aid to statutory interpretation has been applied for decades in most common law jurisdictions. The House of Lords handed down its fundamental decision in Pepper v. Hart which allowed reference to parliamentary debates in limited circumstances. The author first examines the English origins of the exclusionary rule as well as its application in other common law jurisdictions, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. The author also comments on the situation prevailing in Quebec's civil law system. The exclusion of parliamentary debates is then considered in the broader context of the methods and principles of statutory construction. The author contends that the issue of parliamentary debates in statutory interpretation is a question of weight and not of admissibility. To support this position, the rationales underlying the exclusionary rule are analysed and, for the most part, refuted. After demonstrating that parliamentary debates should play a role as an interpretative aid to ascertain legislative intent, the author concludes by suggesting factors to consider in determining their persuasive force.

Suggested Citation

Beaulac, Stephane, Parliamentary Debates in Statutory Interpretation: A Question of Admissibility or of Weight? (1998). 43 Revue de droit de McGill 287-324, Available at SSRN:

Stephane Beaulac (Contact Author)

University of Montreal - Faculty of Law ( email )

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