Noscitur a Sociis

Table of Contents


The Queen v. Vancouver Art Metal Works Ltd., 93 DTC 5116 (FCA)

Létourneau J.A. noted (at p. 5118) that an order for the noscitur a sociis rule to apply "there must be a distinct genus or category from which the general words can take their colour or meaning", and there is no such genus in s. 39(5) of the Act which would justify restricting the phrase "trader or dealer in securities" to registered dealers.

British Columbia Telephone Co. Ltd. v. The Queen, 92 DTC 6129 (FCA)

After noting that the noscitur a sociis doctrine should only be applied with great caution, MacGuigan J.A. found that there is no warrant to applying it to the interpretation of the word "cable" in the phrase "wire or cable" in Class 3(j) of Schedule II.

Peter Cundill & Associates Ltd. v. The Queen, 91 DTC 5085 (FCTD), aff'd 91 DTC 5543 (FCA)

With respect to a submission that the more general word "management" in the phrase "management or administration fee" in s. 212(1)(a) should be coloured by the word "administration", Cullen J. stated (p. 5089):

"Such an approach fails to give sufficient weight to the fact that the words 'management' and 'administration' are divided by the disjunctive 'or', which tends to suggest that the words were intended to bear separate meanings."

Customs and Excise Commissioners v. Viva Gas Appliances Ltd., [1983] BTC 5064, [1983] 1 WLR 1445, [1984] 1 All E.R. 112 (HL)

"In the case of a word which is capable of bearing various shades of meaning, the fact that it is included in a list of words of greater precision in which some common characteristic can be discerned may enable one to say that the chameleon word takes its colour from those other words and of its possible meanings bears that which shares the characteristic that is common to the others." However, respecting the phrase "construction, alteration or demolition of any building", the words "'construction' and 'demolition', have no common colour for 'alteration', which is sandwiched between them, to take. 'Demolition' so far from sharing a common characteristic with 'construction' is its antithesis."

Howden Brothers Construction Ltd. v. The Queen, 80 DTC 6393, [1980] CTC 529 (FCTD)

It was held with respect to the meaning of the word "mould" in the phrase "a die, jig, pattern, mould or last", that all the other descriptive words in the phrase referred to something that was permanent in form and "'mould' must be interpreted as restricted to the same 'genus' as the other words in this subsection."

Tory Estate v. M.N.R., 73 DTC 5354, [1973] CTC 434 (FCA), briefly aff'd 76 DTC 6312, [1976] CTC 415 (SCC)

The meaning of the word "transferred" in the phrase "transferred or distributed to beneficiaries" was held to be coloured by the meaning of the word "distributed".

See Also

Lichtman v. The Queen, 2017 TCC 252 (Informal Procedure)

noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis compared

In the course of discussing the meaning of “congregation” in the phrase “ministering to a diocese, parish or congregation” in s. 8(1)(c), Campbell J discussed the noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis rules as follows (at paras. 193-194):

In very general terms, the difference between these two statutory construction terms is that the noscitur a sociis rule is used, where the meaning of a general word in a series of words is to be determined, then all of the words or terms in the series are engaged in order to define the commonality among them so that a particular meaning can be assigned to that word or term that is in question. Ejusdem generis determines the meaning of a general word used at the end of a list of specific items by confining it to subjects that are comparable to the earlier terms or in other words, by determining the commonality in order to ascertain what types of items might fall within the broader general term that the statute uses. By contrast in using the noscitur a sociis rule, all of the items in the series are reviewed in order to determine their commonality and, in turn, give meaning to the general term utilized in the series.

Clearly it is the associated words rule or noscitur a sociis that should be used in interpreting clause 8(1)(c)(ii)(B) of the Act.

Locations of other summaries Wordcount
Tax Topics - Income Tax Act - Section 8 - Subsection 8(1) - Paragraph 8(1)(c) religious instructors at a Hebrew academy did not qualify for the clergy residence deduction 256

Cartier House Care Centre Ltd. v. The Queen, 2015 TCC 278

noscitur a sociis did not apply to general phases preceding list

Paris J rejected CRA arguments that independent contractors who provided personal care services to a B.C. for-profit residential care home, including assistance with bathing, dressing, grooming, feeding, and incontinence management, were not thereby providing a (GST-exempt) "homemaker service," which was defined to mean "a household or personal service, such as cleaning, laundering, meal preparation and child care, that is rendered to an individual who, due to age, infirmity or disability, requires assistance." He stated (at paras. 46-47):

The use of specific examples after a general term in legislation does not restrict the meaning of the general term to cases similar to the specific examples. Rather, the presumption is that, in using the specific examples, Parliament intended to extend the meaning of the general term to things that would ordinarily have been seen as not falling within the general term. …

[T]he noscitur a sociis rule is inapplicable in this case because it is normally applied when interpreting terms in a list: R. v. Daoust, 2004 SCC 6 at paragraph 60. Here, the words "personal service" are general words that are part of the term "household or personal service" which is followed by a list of examples.

Locations of other summaries Wordcount
Tax Topics - Excise Tax Act - Schedules - Schedule V - Part II - Section 1 - Home Care Service "personal care" included ADL assistance 383
Tax Topics - Excise Tax Act - Schedules - Schedule V - Part II - Section 1 - Institutional Health Care Service accommodation an institutional health care service 200
Tax Topics - Excise Tax Act - Schedules - Schedule V - Part II - Section 13 personal care services provided by independent contractors were exempted 459
Tax Topics - Excise Tax Act - Section 138 s. 138 did not apply where the allocation of consideration among the components was apparent 234
Tax Topics - Statutory Interpretation - Interpretation/Definition Provisions general phases in definition not limited by following specific enumeration 171

Roger Dubois Inc. v. The Queen, 2014 DTC 1094 [3167], 2013 TCC 409, briefly aff'd 2015 CAF 235

no implied similarity requirement

The taxpayer unsuccessfully argued that Reg. 1102(1)(e)(iv) referred "to decorative objects and not objects that are used, as is the case with the musical instruments in question" (para. 25). It submitted that the noscitur a sociis principle applied, so that "any other antique object" must refer to objects sharing qualities with "antique furniture." Jorré J noted the statement of Pierre‑André Côté in The Interpretation of Legislation in Canada, 4th ed., Éditions Thémis, 2011 at para. 1179 that:

Although a good servant, the noscitur a sociis principle may prove to be a poor master. It can be misleading and should be handled with care.

He then stated (at para. 33):

Here, the Regulations do not mention "other similar object" or "decorative object". The context of the provision does not suggest a limitation other than objects that are more than 100 years old.

Besner v. The Queen, 2008 DTC 4299, 2008 TCC 404

V.A. Miller J was assisted in her conclusion that "complaint" in s. 239(3) of the Act meant the initiating of a judicial proceeding by its appearance in s. 239(3) in the phrase "information or complaint", and stated (at para. 17):

"If nothing else, the principle of noscitur a sociis that is the associated word rule, invites the reader to look for the common feature between the words linked by 'and' or 'or'. In this situation, the common feature between 'information'; and 'complaint' are that they are both processes for bringing a matter before the court."