Canada: Ejusdem Generis: Why Latin Still Matters In Statutory Interpretation

Last Updated: June 22 2018
Article by Marco P. Falco

As much as Canadian lawyers embrace "modern" principles of statutory interpretation, old habits die hard. A recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Ontario Ombudsman v. Hamilton (City), 2018 ONCA 502, illustrates that the Latin maxims of yesteryear still have resonance and application when interpreting legislation. In particular, Ontario Ombudsman breathes life into the Roman principle, ejusdem generis, meaning "of the same kind or nature".

What is a "Local Board" under the Municipal Act, 2001?

Ontario Ombudsman involved the issue of whether the Ombudsman of Ontario has jurisdiction under its governing statute to investigate if the City of Hamilton's Election Compliance Audit Committee (the "Audit Committee") and the Property Standards Committee (the "Standards Committee") failed to comply with an "open meeting" requirement under the Ontario Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c.25.

The appeal turned on whether the Audit and Standards Committees met the definition of "local board" under section 1(1) of the Municipal Act.

Section 239(1) of the Municipal Act requires that "all meetings" shall be open to the public", subject to certain exceptions. Any person has the power to request an investigation into whether a "municipality or local board" has complied with this public meeting requirement pursuant to section 239.1(b).

Section 14.1 of the Ombudsman Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.O.6 operates in conjunction with section 239.1(b) of the Municipal Act. The effect is that the Ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints regarding a failure to comply with the public meeting requirement set out in section 239 of the Municipal Act.

In particular, the Ombudsman can investigate and report any conclusions and the reasons for the conclusions to the municipality or local board with respect to an alleged violation of the open meeting principle. However, the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to investigate applies only to municipalities or "local boards".

A "local board" is defined under section 1(1) of the Municipal Act as:

'Local board' means a municipal service board, transportation commission, public library board, board of health, police services board, planning board, or any other board, commission, committee, body or local authority established or exercising any power under any Act with respect to the affairs or purposes of one or more municipalities, excluding a school board and a conservation authority. [emphasis added]

At issue was whether the Audit and Standards Committee met the definition of "local board" above, such that the Ombudsperson would have the power to investigate an alleged violation of the open meeting principle under the Municipal Act.

The Audit Committee was created to "enforce provincially enacted laws relating to municipal election campaign funding". The Standards Committee is an "adjudicative body", charged with deciding disputes between individuals and municipal officers who enforce property standard bylaws.

General Wording is Restricted To Things of the Same Type

The Court of Appeal ultimately decided that neither the Audit nor the Standards Committee met the definition of a local board under the Municipal Act.

In reaching this conclusion, the Court applied the statutory interpretation principle, ejusdem generis:

"Where a class of things is modified by general wording that expands the class, the general wording is usually restricted to things of the same type as the listed items".

Applying this maxim, the Court rejected the Ombudsperson's argument that both committees exercise power under legislation "with respect to the affairs or purposes of one or more municipalities", thereby meeting the definition of local boards.

Looking at the specifically-named entities under the definition of "local board", such as the public library board and the board of health, the Court concluded that all of the entities which constituted local boards under the statute "provide services which are integral to the day-to-day operation of the business of municipalities".

Neither the Audit Committee nor the Standards Committee provide the same type of services as a library board or board of health.

The Court held:

Applying ejusdem generis to the definition of "local board", we are satisfied that the general language at the end of the definition does not include entities which cannot be said to carry on the operations of the municipality. The functions of the Audit Committee and the Standards Committee do not fall within that descriptor. They are not local boards...

On this basis, the Court concluded that the Ombudsman lacked the jurisdiction to investigate the alleged violation by the Audit and Standard Committees of the open meeting requirement.

The Value of Ejusdem Generis

There is good reason ejusdem generis has survived thousands of years of jurisprudential thought.

The concept that general language in a statutory provision is limited to the specific examples that precede it brings consistency and certainty to the exercise of statutory interpretation.

It limits the application of legislation to circumstances and contexts "of the same kind or nature".

In this way, esjudem generis ensures that a statutory provision is not bent out of its conceptual shape and remains true to the Legislature's intent.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Marco P. Falco
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions