Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Generalia Specialibus Non Derogant Definition:

Latin maxim of interpretation: the provisions of a general statute must yield to those of a special one.

Also known as the rule of implied exception.

In Rogers v United States, Justice Brewers adopted these words:

"The rule is generalia specialibus non derogant. The general principle to be applied ... to the construction of acts of Parliament is that a general act is not to be construed to repeal a previous particular act, unless there is some express reference to the previous legislation on the subject, or unless there is a necessary inconsistency in the two acts standing together. And the reason is ... that the legislature having had its attention directed to a special subject, and having observed all the circumstances of the case and provided for them, does not intend by a general enactment afterwards to derogate from its own act when it makes no special mention of its intention so to do....

"As a corollary from the doctrine that implied repeals are not favored, it has come to be an established rule in the construction of statutes that a subsequent act, treating a subject in general terms and not expressly contradicting the provisions of a prior special statute, is not to be considered as intended to affect the more particular and specific provisions of the earlier act, unless it is absolutely necessary so to construe it in order to give its words any meaning at all....

"The reason and philosophy of the rule is, that when the mind of the legislator has been turned to the details of a subject, and he has acted upon it, a subsequent statute in general terms or treating the subject in a general manner and not expressly contradicting the original act, shall not be considered as intended to affect the more particular or positive previous provisions, unless it is absolutely necessary to give the latter act such a construction, in order that its words shall have any meaning at all."

In Doré v Verdun, Justice Gonthier of Canada's Supreme Court used these words:

"... the rule of interpretation that subsequent general legislation is deemed not to derogate from a prior special Act (generalia specialibus non derogant)."

In a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision, Lalonde v Sun Life, Justice Gonthier had used these words in his opinion:

"This is an appropriate case in which to apply the maxim generalia specialibus non derogant and give precedence to the special Act.... The principle is, therefore, that where there are provisions in a special Act and in a general Act on the same subject which are inconsistent, if the special Act gives a complete rule on the subject, the expression of the rule acts as an exception to the subject-matter of the rule from the general Act."

Justice Locke wrote, in Greenshields v. The Queen:

"In the case of conflict between an earlier and a later statute, a repeal by implication is never to be favoured and is only effected where the provisions of the later enactment are so inconsistent with, or repugnant to, those of the earlier that the two cannot stand together… Speciat Acts are not repealed by general Acts unless there be some express reference to the previous legislation or a necessary inconsistency in the two Acts standing together which prevents the maxim generalia specialibus non derogant being applied."

In Sullivan and Driedger:

"Implied exception (generalia specialibus non derogant). When two provisions are in conflict and one of them deals specifically with the matter in question while the other is of more general application, the conflict may be avoided by applying the specific provision to the exclusion of the more general one. The specific prevails over the general; it does not matter which was enacted first. This strategy for the resolution of conflict is usually referred to by the Latin name generalia specialibus non derogant. The English term “implied exception” is adopted ... for, in effect, the specific provision implicitly carves out an exception to the general one...."

In R v Greenwood, Justice Griffiths of the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote

"The maxim generalia specialibus non derogant means that, for the purposes of interpretation of two statutes in apparent conflict, the provisions of a general statute must yield to those of a special one."

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