Case Brief Wiki


Eliza Jane Ramsden left a trust of money in her will to the University of Prince Edward Island to be used for a scholarship in her and her husband's names. She stated that preference be given to protestant students who are entering the field of ministry. She left the money to the University to distribute to candidates. This is contrary to the University Act which requires them to be non-denominational in all of their decisions, and therefore they are applying to the court for direction.


  1. Is a condition which would require the executors to violate an Act of the province void for public policy?


A private party is to be found who can administer the scholarship without violating the Act.


MacDonald states that there is no way that the conditions of the estate can be interpreted so that they do not violate the University Act. Therefore, they must decide if the words can be altered through equity to make the estate valid under the Act. The power to do this is known as the cy-près doctrine, and it states that courts can alter equitable instruments which would otherwise be invalid in order to have them conform as closely as possible with the testator's wishes and be within the bounds of the law.

However, MacDonald states that the only reason why the trust violates the university's policy is because the university has to administer the scholarship itself. There are other religion-based scholarships at UPEI that are administered by private parties and they are perfectly acceptable. Therefore, he concludes that the best way to bring this trust into alignment with the law is to find a suitable third party who is willing to take over control of the distribution of the scholarship. If this were done, there would be no aspect of public policy that was violated.


Courts can alter equitable instruments to bring them in line with the law as long as they do so in a manner consistent with the testator's will (cy-près doctrine).