Driedger's Modern Principle at the Supreme Court of Canada: Interpretation, Justification, Legitimization

40 Revue juridique Thémis 131-172, 2006

42 Pages Posted: 18 May 2007 Last revised: 5 May 2017

See all articles by Stephane Beaulac

Stephane Beaulac

University of Montreal - Faculty of Law; Dentons Canada LLP

Pierre-André Côté

University of Montreal

Date Written: 2006

Abstract

In the last 20 years, Elmer Driedger's modern principle has emerged as THE expression of the Supreme Court of Canada's preferred approach to statutory interpretation. The authors examine this fundamental development in Canadian law, including the variable relations between Driedger's quote and the Court's use of it, the different circumstances in which the principle is invoked and its influence on the caselaw of other superior courts in the country.

Follows an appraisal of the impact of the modern principle on Canadian law. The principle is shown to serve three clearly different functions. It is used in the interpretation of statutes, it provides judges with a justification framework for interpretative decisions, and it is also instrumental in the legitimization of the judicial function in statutory interpretation.

No doubt, the modern principle has brought about some advances in the law relating to statutory interpretation in Canada. However, the authors reckon that it constitutes an over-simplified reflection of the actual practice of Canadian jurists, including judges. As a result, Driedger's principle provides neither a valid method for interpreting statutes nor a suitable structure for the courts' justification of interpretative decisions. One should not see in it more than a good starting point for statutory interpretation.

Keywords: Statutory Interpretation, Common Law, Canada

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Beaulac, Stephane and Côté, Pierre-André, Driedger's Modern Principle at the Supreme Court of Canada: Interpretation, Justification, Legitimization (2006). 40 Revue juridique Thémis 131-172, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=987199

Stephane Beaulac (Contact Author)

University of Montreal - Faculty of Law ( email )

P.O.Box 6128
Stn. Centre-Ville
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7
Canada
514-343-7211 (Phone)
514-343-2199 (Fax)

Dentons Canada LLP ( email )

1 Place Ville Marie
Montreal, Québec H3B 4M7
Canada

Pierre-André Côté

University of Montreal ( email )

C.P. 6128 succursale Centre-ville
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7
Canada

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