LGST 553
Legislative Structure, Style and Limits (OCW)


LGST 553
Legislative Structure, Style and Limits (OCW)

Study Materials

Module 3: Section 2

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How do we work with Interpretation Acts?

Interpretation Acts are of paramount importance in drafting. They apply generally to the interpretation of statutes and subsidiary legislation in a particular jurisdiction. Although the usual title is Interpretation Act, in some jurisdictions they are called the General Clauses Act or they are part of more general legislation dealing with the enactment and operation of legislation, for example the Legislation Act of the Canadian Province of Ontario. Throughout these Materials refer to them as, “Interpretation Acts”.

Most features on Interpretation Acts have been devised by legislative counsel. Their overall purpose is to bring greater predictability to the interpretation of legislation. If legislation is drafted in accordance with an Interpretation Act, it will be given effect as intended. An Interpretation Act typically offers useful definitions and rules about the form, application and presentation of enactments, many of which enable you to produce a legislative text that is easier both to draft and to use.

You need to know the Interpretation Act thoroughly and have it at hand when you are drafting. In particular, you must be fully aware of all that it offers to legislative counsel.

Section Objectives

By the end of this Section, you should be able to do the following:

  • apply the drafting practices authorised by the Interpretation Act in your jurisdiction; and
  • work with its provisions as to the form, application and presentation of legislation.

Essential Questions

This Section is divided into three subsections organised in terms of the following questions:

    • Why are Interpretation Acts important to legislative counsel?
    • How are the benefits of Interpretation Acts to be obtained?
    • How well do users of legislation know Interpretation Acts?
    • What provisions do Interpretation Acts apply to?
    • How can the application of an Interpretation Act be excluded?
    • Form and application provisions
    • Commencement provisions
    • Standardised definitions
    • Standardised rules for a common legislative style
    • Resolution of interpretive uncertainties
    • Implied rules of substantive law.

Studying this Section

In studying this Section, you will need to refer constantly to the Interpretation Act in force in your jurisdiction (with all current amendments) and to the model Interpretation Act in the Resource Materials). Make sure that you have both available before you start work on this Section.

The aim of this Section is to make you familiar with the entire contents of the Interpretation Act in your jurisdiction and to allow you to work most effectively with it when you are drafting legislation. To do this we propose that you compare your Act with the model Interpretation Act, which has been drafted to draw attention to the rules most commonly found in this type of legislation. Commentary in this Section is directed to this model. By comparing the individual provisions of the legislation in your jurisdiction with the model in the light of the commentary, and by undertaking the activities and exercises, you will be able to develop a clear picture of how these matters affect drafting in your jurisdicĀ­tion. The Appendix to this Section contains a table of Interpretation Act provisions for you to complete as you work through this Section.

This Section warrants your closest attention. It probably includes many features that are new to you, especially what individual provisions enable legislative counsel to do. Concentrate on finding out what is in your jurisdiction’s legislation, and so what it permits you to do.

Various provisions of Interpretation Acts are referred to throughout these Materials. You will need to refer to the legislation on many occasions when working with them. Keep it handy whenever you are studying, and particularly when drafting. Constant recourse to it will increase your facility in using it. Study of this Section is designed to ensure that you are thoroughly at home with Interpretation Acts and that you are fully aware of its potential in drafting.

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