Legal Word of the Day: “Consistent Expression”

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“Consistent Expression” — In statutory interpretation, the principle that the same word in different parts of the statute necessarily expresses the same idea. (“expressio unius est exclusio alterius“)

This maxim is examined in a recent Ontario Court of Appeal case, R. v. Summers, 2013 ONCA 147 (CanLII), regarding sentencing. Justice Cronk found:

The use of limiting language in relation to the word “circumstances” in some sections of the Code, in contrast to the legislator’s choice of language in s. 719(3.1), triggers the presumption of consistent expression. Under this rule of statutory interpretation, it is presumed that Parliament “uses language carefully and consistently so that within a statute or other legislative instrument the same words have the same meaning and different words have different meanings”: Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 5th ed. (Markham: LexusNexis, 2008) at pp. 214-5.

Like all interpretive presumptions, this rule may be displaced, or attract reduced weight, depending on the circumstances.

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