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Interpretation Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-21)

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Act current to 2021-09-11 and last amended on 2021-08-03. Previous Versions

Rules of Construction (continued)

Property and Civil Rights (continued)

Marginal note:Terminology

 Unless otherwise provided by law, when an enactment contains both civil law and common law terminology, or terminology that has a different meaning in the civil law and the common law, the civil law terminology or meaning is to be adopted in the Province of Quebec and the common law terminology or meaning is to be adopted in the other provinces.

  • 2001, c. 4, s. 8

Private Acts

Marginal note:Provisions in private Acts

 No provision in a private Act affects the rights of any person, except as therein mentioned or referred to.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 9

Law Always Speaking

Marginal note:Law always speaking

 The law shall be considered as always speaking, and where a matter or thing is expressed in the present tense, it shall be applied to the circumstances as they arise, so that effect may be given to the enactment according to its true spirit, intent and meaning.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 10

Imperative and Permissive Construction

Marginal note:“Shall” and “may”

 The expression “shall” is to be construed as imperative and the expression “may” as permissive.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 28

Enactments Remedial

Marginal note:Enactments deemed remedial

 Every enactment is deemed remedial, and shall be given such fair, large and liberal construction and interpretation as best ensures the attainment of its objects.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 11

Preambles and Marginal Notes

Marginal note:Preamble

 The preamble of an enactment shall be read as a part of the enactment intended to assist in explaining its purport and object.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 12

Marginal note:Marginal notes and historical references

 Marginal notes and references to former enactments that appear after the end of a section or other division in an enactment form no part of the enactment, but are inserted for convenience of reference only.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 13

Application of Interpretation Provisions

Marginal note:Application of definitions and interpretation rules

  •  (1) Definitions or rules of interpretation in an enactment apply to all the provisions of the enactment, including the provisions that contain those definitions or rules of interpretation.

  • Marginal note:Interpretation sections subject to exceptions

    (2) Where an enactment contains an interpretation section or provision, it shall be read and construed

    • (a) as being applicable only if a contrary intention does not appear; and

    • (b) as being applicable to all other enactments relating to the same subject-matter unless a contrary intention appears.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 14

Marginal note:Words in regulations

 Where an enactment confers power to make regulations, expressions used in the regulations have the same respective meanings as in the enactment conferring the power.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 15

Her Majesty

Marginal note:Her Majesty not bound or affected unless stated

 No enactment is binding on Her Majesty or affects Her Majesty or Her Majesty’s rights or prerogatives in any manner, except as mentioned or referred to in the enactment.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 16


Marginal note:Proclamation

  •  (1) Where an enactment authorizes the issue of a proclamation, the proclamation shall be understood to be a proclamation of the Governor in Council.

  • Marginal note:Proclamation to be issued on advice

    (2) Where the Governor General is authorized to issue a proclamation, the proclamation shall be understood to be a proclamation issued under an order of the Governor in Council, but it is not necessary to mention in the proclamation that it is issued under such an order.

  • Marginal note:Effective day of proclamations

    (3) A proclamation that is issued under an order of the Governor in Council may purport to have been issued on the day of the order or on any subsequent day and, if so, takes effect on that day.

  • (4) [Repealed, 1992, c. 1, s. 88]

  • R.S., 1985, c. I-21, s. 18
  • 1992, c. 1, s. 88


Marginal note:Administration of oaths

  •  (1) Where, by an enactment or by a rule of the Senate or House of Commons, evidence under oath is authorized or required to be taken, or an oath is authorized or directed to be made, taken or administered, the oath may be administered, and a certificate of its having been made, taken or administered may be given by

    • (a) any person authorized by the enactment or rule to take the evidence; or

    • (b) a judge of any court, a notary public, a justice of the peace or a commissioner for taking affidavits, having authority or jurisdiction within the place where the oath is administered.

  • Marginal note:Where justice of peace empowered

    (2) Where power is conferred on a justice of the peace to administer an oath or solemn affirmation or to take an affidavit or declaration, the power may be exercised by a notary public or a commissioner for taking oaths.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 18

Reports to Parliament

Marginal note:Reports to Parliament

 Where an Act requires a report or other document to be laid before Parliament and, in compliance with the Act, a particular report or document has been laid before Parliament at a session thereof, nothing in the Act shall be construed as requiring the same report or document to be laid before Parliament at any subsequent session.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 19


Marginal note:Powers vested in corporations

  •  (1) Words establishing a corporation shall be construed

    • (a) as vesting in the corporation power to sue and be sued, to contract and be contracted with by its corporate name, to have a common seal and to alter or change it at pleasure, to have perpetual succession, to acquire and hold personal property for the purposes for which the corporation is established and to alienate that property at pleasure;

    • (b) in the case of a corporation having a name consisting of an English and a French form or a combined English and French form, as vesting in the corporation power to use either the English or the French form of its name or both forms and to show on its seal both the English and French forms of its name or have two seals, one showing the English and the other showing the French form of its name;

    • (c) as vesting in a majority of the members of the corporation the power to bind the others by their acts; and

    • (d) as exempting from personal liability for its debts, obligations or acts individual members of the corporation who do not contravene the provisions of the enactment establishing the corporation.

  • Marginal note:Corporate name

    (2) Where an enactment establishes a corporation and in each of the English and French versions of the enactment the name of the corporation is in the form only of the language of that version, the name of the corporation shall consist of the form of its name in each of the versions of the enactment.

  • Marginal note:Banking business

    (3) No corporation is deemed to be authorized to carry on the business of banking unless that power is expressly conferred on it by the enactment establishing the corporation.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 20

Majority and Quorum

Marginal note:Majorities

  •  (1) Where an enactment requires or authorizes more than two persons to do an act or thing, a majority of them may do it.

  • Marginal note:Quorum of board, court, commission, etc.

    (2) Where an enactment establishes a board, court, commission or other body consisting of three or more members, in this section called an “association”,

    • (a) at a meeting of the association, a number of members of the association equal to,

      • (i) if the number of members provided for by the enactment is a fixed number, at least one-half of the number of members, and

      • (ii) if the number of members provided for by the enactment is not a fixed number but is within a range having a maximum or minimum, at least one-half of the number of members in office if that number is within the range,

      constitutes a quorum;

    • (b) an act or thing done by a majority of the members of the association present at a meeting, if the members present constitute a quorum, is deemed to have been done by the association; and

    • (c) a vacancy in the membership of the association does not invalidate the constitution of the association or impair the right of the members in office to act, if the number of members in office is not less than a quorum.

  • R.S., c. I-23, s. 21
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