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Evidence - Extrinsic Evidence

. Reference re An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families

In Reference re An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (SCC, 2023) the Supreme Court of Canada considers 'extrinsic evidence' (here, Hansard), here in the course of determining the pith and substance of the FNIMCYFA for assessing it's constitutional validity [under s.91(24), Constitution Act, 1867 - 'Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians']:
(ii) Extrinsic Evidence

[48] The purpose identified from the intrinsic evidence is confirmed by the extrinsic evidence, including various excerpts from Hansard. These excerpts first point to the seriousness of the problem of overrepresentation of Indigenous children in child and family services systems, a problem that many described as a “humanitarian crisis” during the debates (House of Commons Debates, vol. 148, No. 392, 1st Sess., 42nd Parl., March 19, 2019, at p. 26135 (Hon. S. O’Regan); House of Commons Debates, vol. 148, No. 409, 1st Sess., 42nd Parl., May 3, 2019, at pp. 27325 (D. Vandal) and 27350 (A. Virani)). Indeed, at second reading of Bill C‑92, the Minister of Indigenous Services, referring to the fact that Indigenous children make up 52 percent of those in care in child welfare systems even though less than 8 percent of Canada’s population is Indigenous, said that this “statistic is horrifying [and] appalling” (House of Commons Debates, March 19, 2019, at p. 26135). We noted above that the preamble to the Act reflects a commitment to comprehensively reviewing the approach previously taken to child welfare. The Minister made comments to the same effect, noting that the “western and urban model” must be reconsidered, for otherwise “we will continue to cause serious harm to individuals and communities” (ibid.). In this respect, the extrinsic evidence confirms that the Act’s purpose is fundamentally directed at protecting the well‑being of Indigenous children, youth and families.

[49] The debates also clarify how the fundamental purpose of the Act — promoting the well‑being of Indigenous children, youth and families — is closely linked to the three aims identified from the intrinsic evidence.

[50] First, the Minister of Indigenous Services stated that the bill was intended to provide a “clear” affirmation of “the inherent right of first nations, Inuit and Métis to exercise their own jurisdiction in relation to child and family services” (House of Commons Debates, vol. 148, No. 425, 1st Sess., 42nd Parl., June 3, 2019, at p. 28448). He emphasized the importance of this affirmation, saying:
Now is the time to follow through on our promises to indigenous children, families and communities. Our promise is that the same old broken system that needlessly separates so many children from their families, that removes them from their culture, that cuts them off from their land and their language, not be allowed to continue and that we affirm and recognize that indigenous families know what is best for indigenous children.


... [Indigenous peoples] have always had this right, and now we are recognizing and affirming it. We are making it a reality and allowing them the opportunity to come up with effective, local, grassroots solutions to those problems. We know that they will be more effective. [Emphasis added.]

(ibid., at pp. 28449‑50)
[51] Second, with respect to the national standards sought by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its call to action No. 4, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services noted that the standards are meant to ensure that “all services for first nation, Inuit and Métis children are provided in a manner that takes into account the individual child’s needs, including the need to be raised with a strong connection to the child’s family, culture, language and community” (House of Commons Debates, May 3, 2019, at p. 27324). He also emphasized the fact that not only were the standards articulated during an extensive engagement process involving some 2,000 individuals and community, regional and national organizations, but they could be “built upon and adapted by [Indigenous] communities to meet their unique cultures as well as their unique traditions” (ibid.).

[52] Third, the extrinsic evidence also confirms that the Act was intended to implement certain aspects of the UNDRIP in Canadian law and that this implementation was seen as closely linked to both the affirmation of Indigenous peoples’ right of self‑government and the establishment of national standards for the provision of child and family services in relation to Indigenous children. For example, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions stated that the concept of “inherent jurisdiction” is “fundamental to . . . UNDRIP” (House of Commons Debates, May 3, 2019, at p. 27353). Likewise, at third reading of the bill, Member of Parliament Mike Bossio noted that the national standards are themselves “aligned with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (House of Commons Debates, June 3, 2019, at p. 28459).

[53] The extrinsic evidence thus reveals that the various elements of the Act’s purpose were considered to be interwoven. Affirming the legislative authority of Indigenous groups, communities and peoples and adopting national standards were viewed as an integral part of implementing aspects of the UNDRIP. Similarly, the affirmation of Indigenous legislative authority was also seen to sit comfortably alongside the national standards articulated by Parliament, because Indigenous communities had been participants in formulating the standards and were expected to be participants in implementing them thereafter. Thus, each of the three elements of the Act’s purpose set out in s. 8 is bound up in the other two. They are aims that are mutually reinforcing to protect the well‑being of Indigenous children, youth and families. The section that follows examines the legal and practical effects of the Act in the pursuit of these interwoven aims.
. Martin v. Wright Medical Technology Canada Ltd.

In Martin v. Wright Medical Technology Canada Ltd. (Ont CA, 2023) the Court of Appeal considers extrinsic legislative history, here a Law Reform Commission report in the context of resolving a statutory interpretation issue:
(ii) Context and purpose

[19] Legislative history can inform the court’s appreciation of the legislative intention in enacting the changes brought about by legislative amendments: Valilov, at paras. 167, 180, and 195.
. Reference re Impact Assessment Act

In Reference re Impact Assessment Act (SCC, 2023) the Supreme Court of Canada considered (and largely allowed) a constitutional division-of-powers challenge to the federal Impact Assessment Act.

In these quotes the court considers 'extrinsic evidence' (here, hansard) to identify the pith and substance of the IAA:
[89] This Court has observed that parliamentary debates should be approached with caution. In Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27, at para. 35, this Court noted that the “frailties of Hansard evidence are many”, though it recognized that such evidence “can play a limited role in the interpretation of legislation”. In Morgentaler, Sopinka J. noted the criticism that Hansard evidence “cannot represent the ‘intent’ of the legislature, an incorporeal body”, and cautioned that courts must remain “mindful of the limited reliability and weight of Hansard evidence” (p. 484). Courts must approach parliamentary debates with great care, acknowledging that the record will often be full of contradictory statements, that speakers may make inadvertent errors in presenting and discussing legislation and that it is bad practice to cherry-pick seemingly helpful passages from the record.
. Prairie Pride Natural Foods Ltd. v. Canada (Attorney General)

In Prairie Pride Natural Foods Ltd. v. Canada (Attorney General) (Fed CA, 2023) the Federal Court of Appeal considered a JR against a administrative monetary penalty (issued under the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act) that had been appealed unsuccessfully to the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal.

In the course of it's analysis the court considered a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements (RIAS) - issued under the authority of the Impact Assessment Act - which they appealed to as evidence of the statutory interpretation of a specific federal provision:
[28] With respect to the purpose of subsection 14(3), I have reviewed the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements (RIAS) concerning the relevant provision, in its current and earlier versions. The original version of subsection 14(3) had no fixed deadline and the RIAS did not discuss the purpose of the provision. Subsection 14(3) was amended in 2016 to provide for a fixed deadline. The relevant RIAS related to a number of amendments, including subsection 14(3), that were made to improve clarity and consistency of the Regulations. Subsection 14(3) was amended again in 2020 with the effect of slightly extending the deadline. The RIAS for this amendment stated that it was for clarity and consistency.

[29] Since the RIAS for the original version does not state the purpose of subsection 14(3), the RIAS’ as a whole may not provide much assistance in determining the purpose of the provision.

[30] I conclude that these considerations concerning the text, context and purpose of subsection 14(3) may impact the Decision and that if they had been considered by the Tribunal, it may have reached a different result. Accordingly, in accordance with the teaching in Vavilov, the Decision is unreasonable insofar as the Tribunal failed to take these considerations into account.
. Kustka v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

In Kustka v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court considered COVID RHPA judicial reviews, here 2 JR applications by a physician and 2 by patients. These reasons for decision are from a motion to quash all of them, which was granted in full.

In these quotes the court considered extrinsic evidence [regulations, policy documents and government health publication] as a basis for initially assessing risk for the appointment of RHPA investigators:
Reliance on Policy/Regulation

[39] Dr. Kustka’s submission that the Registrar and ICRC impermissibly relied on policy documents and a regulation is misconceived. When the Registrar concluded she had reasonable and probable grounds to appoint investigators and the ICRC approved the Registrar’s appointment of investigators, they had before them authoritative guidance from multiple sources regarding mask-wearing. These sources included O. Reg. 364/20, which provided that face masks should be worn in most indoor public areas, subject to limited exceptions for those with medical conditions. They also included guidance from the Ontario College of Family Physicians stating that very few conditions justified an exemption and from the Canadian Thoracic Society supporting mask-wearing and stating that there was no evidence that masks would exacerbate an underlying lung condition.

[40] With respect to ivermectin, the record before the Registrar and ICRC included guidance from Health Canada and the Ontario Science Table that ivermectin should not be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.

[41] The Registrar and ICRC’s reliance on these sources does not constitute an impermissible delegation of authority, as argued by Dr. Kustka. In J.N. v. C.G., 2023 ONCA 77, the Court of Appeal recently confirmed that it is appropriate to rely on guidance from Health Canada and other well-known medical organizations with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. See also A.V. v. C.V., 2023 ONSC 1634 (Div. Ct.) and Spencer v. Spencer, 2023 ONSC 1633 (Div. Ct.). There is no basis on which to intervene in the conclusion that these sources supported the existence of reasonable and probable grounds.
. Murray‑Hall v. Quebec (Attorney General)

In Murray‑Hall v. Quebec (Attorney General) (SCC, 2023) the Supreme Court of Canada casts doubt on the utility of extrinsic (here, Hansard) evidence on issues of legislative intent:
[91] It is true that, in everyday language and even in the speeches of some parliamentarians, the creation of exceptions or exemptions under a scheme of criminal offences is often described as a “legalization” effort. However, this way of speaking is incorrect and falsely suggests that positive rights authorizing particular conduct have been granted to the public. In this case, the statement by the federal Minister of Health that “limited home growing should be allowed” therefore cannot be seen as a clear expression of Parliament’s intent to confer a positive right to self‑cultivation (House of Commons Debates, vol. 148, No. 314, 1st Sess., 42nd Parl., June 13, 2018, at p. 20875). I would also point out that courts must be careful when relying on parliamentary debates as an expression of legislative intent. The use of this type of extrinsic evidence must be approached “with caution” given the fact that “statements by members of Parliament can be poor indicators of parliamentary purpose” (R. v. Sharma, 2022 SCC 39, at para. 89).
. Ontario v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company

In Ontario v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (Ont CA, 2023) the Court of Appeal considered the 'pleadings rule', which sets out limits on what is to be considered when resolving an insurance 'duty to defend' application (and an exception to that rule):
B. Did the Application Judge Err in considering Extrinsic Evidence?

[27] I would not find that the application judge erred, contrary to the “pleadings rule”, by considering extrinsic evidence when determining the true nature of the underlying claim. The “pleadings rule” holds that a “court may look only to the provisions of the policy and to the pleadings in the underlying action to determine whether the insurer has a duty to defend the insured”: IT Haven Inc. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, 2022 ONCA 71, 18 C.C.L.I. (6th) 219, at para. 35. This rule, which ordinarily prevents courts from considering other “extrinsic evidence”, is intended to encourage expedition and to discourage factual findings that could prejudice the underlying action: IT Haven Inc., at paras. 38-39. However, there is an exception to the pleadings rule that permits courts to consider extrinsic evidence that is explicitly referred to in the pleadings in the underlying action: Monenco, at para. 36; IT Haven Inc., at para. 37. The reports critical of Ontario’s bail release system that the application judge considered fall within this exception since they were referred to in the pleadings in the underlying action. Moreover, the application judge cited these documents without making factual findings, while listing multiple passages from the pleadings that supported her characterization of the true nature of the underlying claim. Simply put, she used this extrinsic evidence without violating the pleadings rule, and without creating any of the mischief the pleadings rule is intended to prevent. I would dismiss this ground of appeal.
. Ahamed v. Canada

In Ahamed v. Canada (Fed CA, 2020) the Federal Court of Appeal considered the use of non-public extrinsic evidence in statutory interpretation:
[21] The Tax Court based its finding that the internal documents in question are of marginal relevance on Superior Plus Corp. v. Canada, 2016 TCC 217 at para. 34, which provides such documents are not relevant to ascertaining the Minister’s mental process in auditing and assessing a taxpayer, unless they have been communicated to the Minister. The respondent argues that the Tax Court was correct to apply the same reasoning to statutory interpretation: internal finance documents that have not been communicated to the Minister are not relevant to ascertaining Parliamentary intent.

[22] It is tempting to follow this reasoning and to agree with the respondent’s position that documents must be publicly available in order to be relevant to statutory interpretation. Otherwise, it would be possible for members of the public to be left without access to certain information that is necessary to fully understand a particular law with which they are required to comply. Such a situation would be problematic for the reasons mentioned in Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v. Hart, [1992] 3 W.L.R. 1032 at 1042 (U.K.H.L.):
A statute is, after all, the formal and complete intimation to the citizen of a particular rule of the law which he is enjoined, sometimes under penalty, to obey and by which he is both expected and entitled to regulate his conduct. We must, therefore, I believe, be very cautious in opening the door to the reception of material not readily or ordinarily accessible to the citizen whose rights and duties are to be affected by the words in which the legislature has elected to express its will.
[23] Notwithstanding this concern, the appellant argues that the scope of documents that could be relevant to statutory interpretation is viewed more broadly. For example, the appellant cites Delisle v. Canada (Attorney General), 1999 CanLII 649 (SCC), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 989 (Delisle), which concerned an argument that a provision of a federal statute violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of The Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c 11. As part of his analysis on behalf of the majority of the Court in Delisle, Bastarache J. considered the purpose of the statutory provision in question in the course of interpreting it. At para. 17, he stated as follows:
[…]Although extrinsic sources may be used to interpret legislation and to determine its true meaning, when the meaning of the challenged provision is clear, they are of little assistance in determining the purpose of a statute in order to evaluate whether it is consistent with the Charter. Generally, the Court must not strike down an enactment which does not infringe the Charter in its meaning, form or effects, which would force Parliament to re-enact the same text, but with an extrinsic demonstration of a valid purpose. That would be an absurd scenario because it would ascribe a direct statutory effect to simple statements, internal reports and other external sources which, while they are useful when a judge must determine the meaning of an obscure provision, are not sufficient to strike down a statutory enactment which is otherwise consistent with the Charter. Legislative intent must have an institutional quality, as it is impossible to know what each member of Parliament was thinking. It must reflect what was known to the members at the time of the vote. It must also have regard to the fact that the members were called upon to vote on a specific wording, for which an institutional explanation was provided. The wording and justification thereof are important precisely because members have a duty to understand the meaning of the statute on which they are voting. This is more important than speculation on the subjective intention of those who proposed the enactment. (emphasis added)
[24] This passage recognizes the potential relevance of internal documents to the interpretation of "“obscure”" statutory provisions. It is not clear what constitutes "“obscure”", and I do not reach a conclusion on this point. I note that this passage does not state clearly whether internal, non-public documents can be relevant to statutory interpretation. In fact, the focus on "“what was known to the members [of Parliament] at the time of the vote,”" suggests that non-public documents are not relevant.

[25] Ruth Sullivan, in Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed., (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2014) at §23.11 casts a broad net for the types of documents that can be relevant to statutory interpretation:
Like evidence of external context, opinions about the purpose and meaning of legislation can be found anywhere: before enactment, in the materials generated by government employees participating in the legislative process (instructing officers, drafters, legal opinion givers) and, after enactment, in interpretive guidelines issued by administrative agencies, in judicial or administrative case law and in the daily decisions of government employees charged with administering the legislation. Until recently, the primary source of opinion about the meaning of legislation was judicial case law. Courts were unwilling to look at the practice of bureaucrats or the opinions of administrative tribunals and, except for standard textbooks, scholarly opinion was largely ignored. The current tendency, however, is to look at any material that meets the threshold test of relevance and reliability.
[26] Again, this passage does not state clearly that non-public documents can be relevant to statutory interpretation. However, it does appear that the legislative process (during which relevant documents could be created) begins early. In Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada, 2018 SCC 40, [2018] 2 S.C.R. 765 (Mikisew) at para. 120, Brown J. stated that "“the legislative process begins with a bill’s formative stages, even where the bill is developed by ministers of the Crown.”" Brown J went on in paragraph 121 to state
Public servants making policy recommendations prior to the formulation and introduction of a bill are not “executing” existing legislative policy or direction. Their actions, rather, are directed to informing potential changes to legislative policy and are squarely legislative in nature.
[27] Care must be taken not to read Mikisew too broadly. That case concerned whether the law-making process (described at paragraph 116 thereof as the steps from initial policy development to royal assent) was subject to the Crown’s duty to consult indigenous peoples about steps that could adversely affect their rights. Mikisew was not concerned with statutory interpretation.

[28] Sullivan, relying on the Newfoundland Court of Appeal decision in Reference re Upper Churchill Water Rights Reversion Act (1982), 1982 CanLII 3312 (NL CA), 134 D.L.R. (3d) 288, 36 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 273, rev’d 1984 CanLII 17 (SCC), [1984] 1 S.C.R. 297 (Upper Churchill), goes on at §23.13 to state:
When the purpose of a provision is discussed or its meaning explained during the enactment process, and the legislation is then passed on that understanding, the explanation or discussion offers persuasive (if not conclusive) evidence of the legislature's intent.
[29] However, the Supreme Court of Canada in Upper Churchill offered a more nuanced approach to the relevance of extrinsic evidence. After discussing the relaxation of the former general exclusionary rule against admissibility of extrinsic evidence, the Court stated at p. 318:
It will therefore be open to the Court in a proper case to receive and consider extrinsic evidence on the operation and effect of the legislation. In view of the positions of the parties, particularly the appellants’ contention that the Reversion Act has extra-provincial effect, this is, in my opinion, such a case.

I agree with the Court of Appeal in the present case that extrinsic evidence is admissible to show the background against which the legislation was enacted. I also agree that such evidence is not receivable as an aid to construction of the statute. However, I am also of the view that in constitutional cases, particularly where there are allegations of colourability, extrinsic evidence may be considered to ascertain not only the operation and effect of the impugned legislation but its true object and purpose as well. This was also the view of Dickson J. in the Reference re Residential Tenancies Act, 1979, [1981 CanLII 24 (SCC), [1981] 1 S.C.R. 714], at p. 721, where he said:
In my view a court may, in a proper case, require to be informed as to what the effect of the legislation will be. The object or purpose of the Act in question may also call for consideration though, generally speaking, speeches made in the Legislature at the time of enactment of the measure are inadmissible as having little evidential weight.
This view is subject, of course, to the limitation suggested by Dickson J., at p. 723 of the same case, that only evidence which is not inherently unreliable or offending against public policy should be admissible…
[30] ot only does the Supreme Court leave room for cases where extrinsic evidence will not be relevant, but it also limits the issues to which such evidence might be relevant. Moreover, it should be noted that Upper Churchill was in a constitutional law context, in which the Supreme Court has traditionally been more open to extrinsic evidence (see p. 317).

[31] In the end, though there are good reasons to be reluctant to consider non-public documents in the exercise of statutory interpretation, it is difficult to state unequivocally that such documents could never be relevant. The better question is whether the documents in question in the present appeal have an institutional quality such that they could represent the government’s position concerning the legislation at issue. If not, such documents are not relevant.


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Last modified: 12-02-24
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