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The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) defines a treaty in Article 2 as “an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument, or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.”

Treaties can be bilateral (between two countries), multilateral (between three or more countries) or plurilateral (between one state and a group of states).

In Canada, treaties fall into one of two categories: those that do not require new legislation in order to be implemented and those that do. For treaties that don’t require legislation, the Canadian government will wait at least twenty-one sitting days after a treaty is tabled and then begin the process of bringing the treaty into force. For treaties that do require legislative changes, the Government will generally wait a minimum of twenty-one sitting days before introducing the necessary legislation, although exceptions can be made if a treaty needs to be urgently ratified. (For more information on the process see

For example, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, signed in The Hague in 1970, is a multilateral treaty of which Canada is a signatory. Canada signed the Convention on December 16, 1970, but did not ratify it until June 20, 1972. The legislation was tabled in the House of Commons on June 23, 1972 and the Convention came into force in Canada on July 24, 1972. (The in force date differs greatly by country.)

The Canadian Treaty Series is available at and you can search Canada’s treaties at

Susannah Tredwell


Administrator’s note: thanks to Lesley Ellen Harris of for this guest tip!

Do you sometimes feel that there’s too much information out there?

Do you wish there were a list of the top 5 to 10 online articles you need to read to get from point A to point B?

These posts on Canadian copyright law provide a basic understanding of a variety of topics.

  1. 10 Myths About Canadian Copyright Law
  2. 8 Facts About Canadian Copyright Law
  3. Canadian Copyright Law Quiz
  4. The Balance in Canadian Copyright Law
  5. Who Owns Copyright in Canada?
  6. Duration of Copyright in Canada
  7. Moral Rights in Canadian Copyright Law
  8. Orphan Works in Canada: Unlocatable Copyright Owners
  9. Canadian Versus U.S. Copyright Law
  10. Canadian Librarians and International Copyright


Shut down, shutdown
Don’t confuse these.

You shut down your computer in anticipation of the firmwide shutdown by the IT department.  On a similar footing, log in and login.

This is like the awful liaise.

Surveil is a misguided back-formation from surveillance, but an ugly and unnecessary one; just say watch or follow.

Well wishes
Where on earth did this expression come from? You wish someone well, but send good wishes. Well wishes awkwardly places an adverb where only an adjective should go.

The partner was impressed by the associate’s memo.

OK, but was the impression favourable or unfavourable? We generally mean impressed in a positive way, but if you think about it the word means that something elicited a reaction, whether negative or positive.

That said, She was not impressed would never be taken to mean neutrality or lack of response. Avoid anyway, not least because it’s a journalistic/Wikipedia-entry kind of word.

The below
For the love of all that is beautiful and true, no!

Please see above (or below) or the paragraph above (or below) would be fine, but the below in reference to something set out lower down is inelegant.

Whatever happened to ‘on’ and ‘about’?
People now say around or even surrounding when a simpler on or about would do. Issues surrounding, questions around, rules around – stop this!

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


You’ve already been advised in a previous post not to say outside of or inside of. The of is both unnecessary and incorrect in each case.

Of creeps in elsewhere, where it should not. As in the shudder-inducing off of, Please, just off. Or perhaps from (I got it from the internet, not off of).

Or as in It’s not that big of a deal. You mean It’s not that big a deal (although not much of a big deal).

Where you should be using of is with the verb enamoured: you are enamoured of (not with) someone if you are in love with that person (enamoured by the person if you are loved back).

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


The general rule of thumb is that acts are amended (or repealed) by acts and regulations are amended (or repealed) by regulations. Some acts do explicitly state that they can be amended by regulation, although what can be amended is usually minor (e.g. making changes to a schedule to an act).

An example of this can be found in British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act:

(4.1) The Board may, by regulation,

(a) add to or delete from Schedule B [of the act] a disease that, in the opinion of the Board, is an occupational disease,
(b) add to or delete from Schedule B a process or an industry, and
(c) set terms, conditions and limitations for the purposes of paragraphs (a) and (b).

Such provisions are known as Henry VIII clauses. The name is based on Henry VIII’s reputed fondness “for legislating directly by proclamation rather than through Parliament.


Basis is, basically, bad. Why, you ask? It’s one of those words that lawyers love to use, but one that renders their prose flabby and verbose. Instead of on a temporary/permanent/daily/whatever basis, just write temporarily, permanently, daily etc. While adverbs are not a hallmark of vigorous prose, a single word is better than four.

A related word is based: Where are you based?, people ask; I’m based in Toronto. Doesn’t this sound affected? Why can’t it just be live? Perhaps based sounds more cosmopolitan and jet-setty (put another way, pretentious)?

More along the lines of basis are manner and fashion. Only a lawyer would ask for a memo to be delivered in a timely manner (promptly or even soon would be plainer and better). And in an orderly fashion? Please trim the fat and just say something like in order, neatly, regularly …

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


Counsel is an ancient term for one’s legal advisers as a body (The accused did not have the benefit of counsel when he was interrogated) or for a single legal adviser (Maria acted as counsel to the federal government, for which she was made Queen’s Counsel).

A judge will address a Canadian barrister as Counsel (if not by name); in the US, it would more usually be counselor (with a single American L).

The OED says counsel is ‘rarely’ pluralised; ‘should never be’, in my view (and Fowler’s), but I see it.

As a job title, legal counsel is a redundancy. Just counsel (although investment counsel might disagree).

In US firms, many (typically grey-haired) professionals are described as being of counsel – that is, still practising, but no longer a partner and too senior to be an associate. As a description, that’s fine – but as a job title it is not (How many Of Counsels does your firm have? Yuck.)

Counsel and council were historically to some extent interchangeable; over time, council came to mean a board or assembly and its members councillors (Privy Councillors, municipal councillors) – although the members of such a group could also be one’s counsellors if they offered advice, whether legal or general.

Thanks and a request

Since publishing Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing, I’ve received many comments and suggestions from readers. Thanks!

I’ve used a lot of them in these post-book blog posts, and I hope they’ll find their way into a second edition of the Guide (that’s a hint, Irwin Law!)

Until that time, I’d like to acknowledge these readers in particular: Matt Aleksic, Ari Blicker, Jim Frank, Matthew Helfand, Anne Marie Melvie, James Reed, Angela Swan, Douglas Tsoi and Lionel Tupman.

If there are things I haven’t covered that you’d like me to, drop me a line on Linkedin or at the e-mail address given in the front matter of my book. I also check the comments here at Slaw Tips.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


One of the best headlines of 2018 was ‘Stormy Daniels’ Attorney Wants to Depose Donald Trump’. He’s not the only one …

Of course the CBC was using depose in its US legal sense, which is to examine a witness for the purposes of discovery or a later trial. Most Canadian non-lawyer readers would, however, have interpreted depose as overthrowing a bad king.

In Canada, we would not depose a witness or take a deposition – we would examine a witness for discovery.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


Baked in
This is (regrettably) now used to mean something like integral.

Does it have its origin in that vacuous remark by the sometime MP Belinda Stronach about baking ‘a bigger economic pie’ (whatever that was intended to mean)? I don’t know, but please stop talking about things being baked in; you’re a lawyer, not a baker.

C Suite
This was once, I suppose, a fresh way to describe senior management at a company. It is now past its sell-by date.

Not as in flip your lid but rather flip me an e-mail.

I’ve never liked its suggestion of haste and lack of thought.

Just send (or maybe forward, although I’m not sure it’s that important to make the distinction).

No, no, a thousand times no! Use something like forceful or effective instead.

Not sure this is a term from the business world, but it’s certainly jargon.

It is used to mean ‘easy to relate to’ (as in My job as an actuary may not be very relatable, but I find it interesting) – so why not just say ‘easy to relate to’?

Relatable is better used to express, neutrally, the ability to be narrated (related), brought into relation with something else or to possess mutual relation.

This one always makes me think of Dracula.

It’s terribly shopworn – although admittedly a less tired one-word synonym doesn’t come easily to mind.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


I forget where we are in the series. Part 8? Anyway…

One averts one’s gaze from something unpleasant; one adverts (turns one’s attention) to other matters. The two have been confused since the Middle Ages.

My friend Ross Guberman has noted Warren Buffet’s confusion of these two words: the Sage of Omaha wrote to this followers that ‘Investing is an activity in which consumption today is foregone in an attempt to allow greater consumption at a later date’.

A nicely expressed observation, but for the error; Buffet means forgone (‘relinquished’, ‘given up’) not foregone (‘preceding’, as in foregone conclusions or foregoing reasons). Historically, though, the two spellings were more or less interchangeable.

Both have nice past tenses one ought to see more of: for(e)went.

The first is the past tense of the verb to lead (She led an expedition to the South Pole); the second, as a verb, is the infinitive form (to lead) or the present tense in the first or second person (I now lead the derivatives group at my firm or You lead and I follow).

Mistaken use of lead as the past tense of to lead is said to be one of the commonest errors on CVs:

You pedal your bicycle; Donald Trump peddles more fake news than the so-called Fake News he decries.

Someone who pedals is a pedaller (if you’re American, pedaler); who peddles, a pedlar.

I’ve heard these confused, but I don’t think I’ve seen the crime in writing. Yet, anyway.

A tenet is a doctrine or principle; a tenant is a renter of property.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)