Interpretation Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-21)
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Act current to 2023-05-17 and last amended on 2021-08-03. Previous Versions
R.S.C., 1985, c. I-21
An Act respecting the interpretation of statutes and regulations
Marginal note:Short title
1 This Act may be cited as the Interpretation Act.
- R.S., c. I-23, s. 1
2 (1) In this Act,
Act means an Act of Parliament; (loi)
enact includes to issue, make or establish; (Version anglaise seulement)
enactment means an Act or regulation or any portion of an Act or regulation; (texte)
- public officer
public officer includes any person in the federal public administration who is authorized by or under an enactment to do or enforce the doing of an act or thing or to exercise a power, or on whom a duty is imposed by or under an enactment; (fonctionnaire public)
regulation includes an order, regulation, rule, rule of court, form, tariff of costs or fees, letters patent, commission, warrant, proclamation, by-law, resolution or other instrument issued, made or established
(a) in the execution of a power conferred by or under the authority of an Act, or
(b) by or under the authority of the Governor in Council; (règlement)
repeal includes revoke or cancel. (Version anglaise seulement)
Marginal note:Expired and replaced enactments
(2) For the purposes of this Act, an enactment that has been replaced is repealed and an enactment that has expired, lapsed or otherwise ceased to have effect is deemed to have been repealed.
- R.S., 1985, c. I-21, s. 2
- 1993, c. 34, s. 88
- 1999, c. 31, s. 146
- 2003, c. 22, s. 224(E)
3 (1) Every provision of this Act applies, unless a contrary intention appears, to every enactment, whether enacted before or after the commencement of this Act.
Marginal note:Application to this Act
(2) The provisions of this Act apply to the interpretation of this Act.
Marginal note:Rules of construction not excluded
(3) Nothing in this Act excludes the application to an enactment of a rule of construction applicable to that enactment and not inconsistent with this Act.
- R.S., c. I-23, s. 3
Enacting Clause of Acts
Marginal note:Enacting clause
4 (1) The enacting clause of an Act may be in the following form:
“Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:”.
Marginal note:Order of clauses
(2) The enacting clause of an Act shall follow the preamble, if any, and the various provisions within the purview or body of the Act shall follow in a concise and enunciative form.
- R.S., c. I-23, s. 4
Marginal note:Royal assent
5 (1) The Clerk of the Parliaments shall endorse on every Act, immediately after its title, the day, month and year when the Act was assented to in Her Majesty’s name and the endorsement shall be a part of the Act.
Marginal note:Date of commencement
(2) If no date of commencement is provided for in an Act, the date of commencement of that Act is the date of assent to the Act.
Marginal note:Commencement provision
(3) Where an Act contains a provision that the Act or any portion thereof is to come into force on a day later than the date of assent to the Act, that provision is deemed to have come into force on the date of assent to the Act.
Marginal note:Commencement when no date fixed
(4) Where an Act provides that certain provisions thereof are to come or are deemed to have come into force on a day other than the date of assent to the Act, the remaining provisions of the Act are deemed to have come into force on the date of assent to the Act.
- R.S., c. I-23, s. 5
Day Fixed for Commencement or Repeal
Marginal note:Operation when date fixed for commencement or repeal
6 (1) Where an enactment is expressed to come into force on a particular day, it shall be construed as coming into force on the expiration of the previous day, and where an enactment is expressed to expire, lapse or otherwise cease to have effect on a particular day, it shall be construed as ceasing to have effect on the commencement of the following day.
Marginal note:When no date fixed
(2) Every enactment that is not expressed to come into force on a particular day shall be construed as coming into force
(a) in the case of an Act, on the expiration of the day immediately before the day the Act was assented to in Her Majesty’s name; and
(b) in the case of a regulation, on the expiration of the day immediately before the day the regulation was registered pursuant to section 6 of the Statutory Instruments Act or, if the regulation is of a class that is exempted from the application of subsection 5(1) of that Act, on the expiration of the day immediately before the day the regulation was made.
Marginal note:Judicial notice
(3) Judicial notice shall be taken of a day for the coming into force of an enactment that is fixed by a regulation that has been published in the Canada Gazette.
- R.S., 1985, c. I-21, s. 6
- 1992, c. 1, s. 87
Regulation Prior to Commencement
Marginal note:Preliminary proceedings
7 Where an enactment is not in force and it contains provisions conferring power to make regulations or do any other thing, that power may, for the purpose of making the enactment effective on its commencement, be exercised at any time before its commencement, but a regulation so made or a thing so done has no effect until the commencement of the enactment, except in so far as may be necessary to make the enactment effective on its commencement.
- R.S., c. I-23, s. 7
Marginal note:Territorial operation
8 (1) Every enactment applies to the whole of Canada, unless a contrary intention is expressed in the enactment.
Marginal note:Amending enactment
(2) Where an enactment that does not apply to the whole of Canada is amended, no provision in the amending enactment applies to any part of Canada to which the amended enactment does not apply, unless it is provided in the amending enactment that it applies to that part of Canada or to the whole of Canada.
Marginal note:Exclusive economic zone of Canada
(2.1) Every enactment that applies in respect of exploring or exploiting, conserving or managing natural resources, whether living or non-living, applies, in addition to its application to Canada, to the exclusive economic zone of Canada, unless a contrary intention is expressed in the enactment.
Marginal note:Continental shelf of Canada
(2.2) Every enactment that applies in respect of exploring or exploiting natural resources that are
(a) mineral or other non-living resources of the seabed or subsoil, or
(b) living organisms belonging to sedentary species, that is to say, organisms that, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the seabed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the seabed or subsoil
applies, in addition to its application to Canada, to the continental shelf of Canada, unless a contrary intention is expressed in the enactment.
Marginal note:Extra-territorial operation
(3) Every Act now in force enacted prior to December 11, 1931 that expressly or by necessary or reasonable implication was intended, as to the whole or any part thereof, to have extra-territorial operation shall be construed as if, at the date of its enactment, the Parliament of Canada had full power to make laws having extra-territorial operation as provided by the Statute of Westminster, 1931.
- R.S., 1985, c. I-21, s. 8
- 1996, c. 31, s. 86
Rules of Construction
Property and Civil Rights
Marginal note:Duality of legal traditions and application of provincial law
8.1 Both the common law and the civil law are equally authoritative and recognized sources of the law of property and civil rights in Canada and, unless otherwise provided by law, if in interpreting an enactment it is necessary to refer to a province’s rules, principles or concepts forming part of the law of property and civil rights, reference must be made to the rules, principles and concepts in force in the province at the time the enactment is being applied.
- 2001, c. 4, s. 8
8.2 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
Marginal note:Provisions in private Acts
9 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
10 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”
11 The expression “shall” is to be construed as imperative and the expression “may” as permissive.
- R.S., c. I-23, s. 28
Marginal note:Enactments deemed remedial
12 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
13 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
14 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
15 (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
16 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
Marginal note:Her Majesty not bound or affected unless stated
17 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
18 (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
19 (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
20 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
21 (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
- Date modified: