Finding Federal Legislation

Statutes

To become a Federal law, a bill must pass through first, second and third reading in the House of Commons and the Senate. It then receives Royal Assent. A bill becomes law when it receives Royal Assent at which point it is given a chapter number. Even though a bill received Royal Assent it might not be in force yet.

Federal laws are binding across Canada.


Canadian public statutes can be found in the:

Finding

Locating statutes by title or subject electronically

Subject-specific legal texts and looseleaf services often identify statutes either in a table or by footnotes. You can find texts on various annotated Federal statutes by searching our catalogue.

**Keep in mind when consulting online & looseleaf sources always check the currency of the information.

Coming into Force

New statutes and amendments to existing statutes are introduced as bills in Parliament. There is often a delay between a bill becoming law and the law coming into force. Not all bills become law.

Statutes come into force (CIF) upon Royal Assent unless the statute specifies another date:

  • when the statute is in force based on a “coming into force” provision
  • set by Order of the Governor in Council by proclamation.

Different sections of an act can come into force on different days.

To find this information look at the end of the statute.

Coming Into Force

  • Table of Public Statutes and Responsible Ministers
    Select the first letter of the statute name. Coming into force information immediately follows the list of amendments to an Act. The print version is available at the end of each annual volume – orange pages are in English, blue pages are in French.
  • Statutes of Canada
    The last volume for each year includes a chart on Proclamations of Canada and Orders in Council relating to the coming into force of acts for the year. It is found just prior to the Table of public statutes and responsible ministers.
  • Privy Council Office
    Orders in Council and proclamations are searchable on this site. The latest information is available from their office at (613) 957-5153 or email: info@pco-bcp.gc.ca
  • Canada Gazette Part II – 1998-current unconsolidated regulations
  • Canada Gazette, Part III
    Each issue includes a “Proclamations of Canada and Orders In Council Relating to the Coming Into Force of Acts” table covering the Acts included in that issue. It is generally found at the end of each issue. As of Apr. 1, 2014 this publication is only available in electronic format.
  • LEGISinfo – Parliament of Canada – Locate the act in question and on the right hand side under status of Bill select Coming into Force information. Also on the right hand side under Text of Bill select latest publication to see the details on all the readings of a bill and if it has reached Royal Assent.

Historical

The ‘Table of the History and Disposal of Acts’ facilitates research on the history of a statute and its particular sections. Also, at the end of sections of a revised or consolidated statute is a historical footnote that states the source of this section in the previous revision or later new statute and includes any subsequent amendments. To trace a revised statute further, check the historical footnote for the section in the previous revision; continue to follow the sections backwards to identify the original section.

  • Justice Laws Website – Use the Advanced Search feature to access point-in-time statutes from 2003. They are searchable by keyword(s) in title and text as well as by chapter number.
  • HeinOnline – includes pdf versions of all Statutes of Canada from 1792 onwards. Look under the Canada collection.
  • Canada Gazette – Library and Archives Canada provides online access to the Canada Gazette (statutes & regs) from 1841 to 1997
  • Canada Gazette Directorate – The Canada Gazette Directorate provides free online access to the Canada Gazette from 1998 to present under the publications tab.
  • Lexis Advance® Quicklaw® – Search or browse ‘Canada Statutes’ for point-in-time statutes from 1999, and ‘Canada Annual Statutes’ for statutes from the annual volumes from 1996.
  • Early Canadiana Online – historical statutes

Point in Time

Would you like to see how an act read at an earlier point in time? Previous versions of legislation are available in these online sources:

Comparing versions

To compare a statute’s amended wording with its former wording see CanLII:

  • Search for the legislation you are interested in
  • click on the box beside the dates of two versions you are interested in
  • click on COMPARE in the blue box

The result is a side by side view of the two versions:

  • On the left is the older version (changes highlighted in red)
  • On the right is the newer version (changes highlighted in green)

Private Statutes

The scope of legislation enacted as a private statute is restricted to private companies, organizations or individuals. Private statutes are published only in the annual volumes of the statutes: they are not incorporated into revisions or consolidations.

Legislative Intent

For information on the intent behind statutes and their amendments use the following sources:

  • House of Commons debates: official report
  • Reports, discussion papers and studies on a range of legislative issues are published in print and included in our collection. Do an advanced search in our catalogue with the name of the statute as a phrase and also add “Law Commission of Canada” as Author. Keep in mind the Commission has not been active since mid 2006.
  • Index to Canadian legal literature (ICLL)
    The “Table of Statutes” section indexes articles under specific statutes, case comments, and annotations.
    Available electronically through Westlaw Canada

Regulations

Federal regulations, referred to as delegated or subordinate legislation, exist under and are enabled by governing statutes.

The Statutory Instruments Act, RSC 1985, c S-22 governs federal regulations. Regulations are defined in the Act as a statutory instrument “made in the exercise of a legislative power conferred by or under an Act of Parliament”, or a statutory instrument “for the contravention of which a penalty, fine or imprisonment is prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament”.

New regulations must be registered with the Clerk of the Privy Council and be published in the Canada Gazette, part II.

The latest official consolidation of the regulations is Consolidated Regulations of Canada, 1978 (C.R.C. 1978). Keep in mind some regulations are exempt from publication. You can access a current consolidated version of a regulation through the Justice Laws Website.

For more information, view the Privy Council Office (PCO) Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations.

Finding

Current

  • Consolidated index of Statutory Instruments
    This cumulative index (from 1955) lists federal regulations and their enabling acts. Table I lists the regulations alphabetically, referencing the enabling statute for each. Table II lists enabling statutes alphabetically by title, with the associated regulations listed alphabetically below each statute, including all changes made to sections of a regulation. Part of the Canada Gazette part II, it is published quarterly and is only available in electronic format.
  • Justice Laws Website
    Consolidated versions of the regulations are searchable by keyword(s) in the title or text, and browsable by title.
  • Canada Gazette Part II
    1998-current unconsolidated regulations. Current issues are only available electronically.
  • CanLII – Statutes and Regulations of Canada
    Consolidated regulations accessible by keyword(s) or from an alphabetical list. Check the currency of the content on this page as it may not be as up to date as other sources.
    Some point-in-time versions are also available.
  • Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
    ‘Canada Regulations’ includes searchable federal regulations, consolidated and updated according to the most recent issue of the Canada Gazette, part II.
    Check the currency information in each document for the date of the last update.
  • Westlaw Canada
    Searchable consolidated federal regulations that are updated daily

Historical

Updating

Regulations are in force on the date registered with the Clerk of the Privy Council unless otherwise specified (see s.9 of the Statutory Instruments Act). The date is included beside the S.O.R. and S.I. citations.

  • Consolidated index of Statutory Instruments
    This cumulative index (from 1955) lists federal regulations and their enabling acts. Table I lists the regulations alphabetically, referencing the enabling statute for each. Table II lists enabling statutes alphabetically by title, with the associated regulations listed alphabetically below each statute, including all changes made to sections of a regulation. Part of the Canada Gazette part II, it is published quarterly and is only available in electronic format.
  • Canada Gazette Part II
    1947-2014 available in various library locations. The Table of Contents in each issue lists the included S.O.R.s and S.I.s
  • Canada Gazette Part II – electronic access
    1998-current unconsolidated regulations.
    The Table of Contents in each issue lists the included S.O.R.s and S.I.s
  • Privy Council Office
    Orders in Council are searchable on this site including in proclamations. The latest information is available from their office at (613) 957-5153 or email: info@pco-bcp.gc.ca

Historical

Historical

Use the history note at the end of a section of any consolidated electronic version of a regulation to trace the history of that section.

To locate a regulation no longer in force, use the ‘Consolidated Index of Statutory Instruments’ in the Canada Gazette, Part II  for the year the regulation ceased to be in force. Each Index includes the regulations in force at any time during that year.

  • Canada Gazette, Part I
    Contains a section on proposed regulations. Each entry consists of a regulatory impact analysis statement and the proposed regulatory text.
  • Justice Laws Website
    Point-in-time searching for the consolidated versions of the regulations from March 22, 2006 is available.
  • Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) Some point-in-time versions of regulations can be found when searching by regulation name, noted under the “versions” tab heading provided.
  • LexisAdvance® Quicklaw®
    ‘Canada Repealed Regulations’ contains regulations repealed, revoked, expired, exonerated, cancelled, ceased or terminated since 2003. These may be searched or browsed.

Citing

The citation information below is following the 7th edition of the McGill Guide as adopted by the Court of King’s bench and detailed in the notice to the profession below. At this point the 8th edition of the McGill Guide has not been adopted.


Statutes

Statutes are cited by the short title, in italics, followed by a non-italicized comma, followed by RSC year or RSC year (1st Supp.) or SC year; comma and then the designated chapter number.

The statutes in the original eight volumes of RSC 1985 are cited by the assigned alpha-numeric chapter number:

  • Agricultural Products Marketing Act, RSC 1985, c A-6

Subsequent statutes are cited by the year and a numerical chapter number:

  • Civil Marriage Act, SC 2005, c 33

Regulations

Federal regulations are cited by series, year and number. The series is either SOR (Statutory Orders and Regulations) for regulations or SI (Statutory Instruments) for other types of statutory instruments.

  • SOR/87-234
    • this is a Statutory Order and Regulation from 1987, the 234th regulation for the year

Since 2000, the year is given in full:

  • SOR/2006-14

Regulations from the consolidation are cited as:

  • CRC, c 311

For more information on citing statutes or regulations consult:

Judicial Consideration

Judicial consideration, or noting up, of a statute or regulation involves searching for case law that interprets or applies the statute or regulation or a section thereof. The judicial decisions retrieved reveal how courts have interpreted and analyzed the legislation. Since statutes and section numbers can change over time, it is important to consider repealed or superseded legislation, with particular attention to changes to the section numbers.

Noting up is easiest done online.

E-Resources

Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII)

  • Locate and open the statute or regulation you are trying to note up.
  • Select the Noteup tab.
  • You can retrieve citations to the whole statute or regulation or to a specific section or subsection.
  • You will retrieve a hyperlinked list of decisions published in CanLII citing the statute, regulation or section/subsection of the statute or regulation.

Westlaw Canada

  • Use either the [Find and keycite by name] tab on the homepage, select [Find and keycite by statute or regulation] or use the drop down box to the right of the top search screen.
  • Enter the title, section (if applicable) and jurisdiction of the legislation you wish to note up.
  • Or search for the legislation first, open the section you wish to note up and select the citing references tab at the top of the page.

LexisAdvance® Quicklaw®

  • Enter the citation of the statute or regulation to Note-up in the search box on the top of the home page.
  • Select the [Note up with QuickCITE] link

Paper

Ensure you check the currency of the items you use.

  • Halsbury’s laws of Canada – It provides judicial consideration of federal and provincial statutes, and statutory instruments.
  • Canada statute citator – It includes only cases with interpretative value. Each entry includes a brief digest of the case explaining the consideration of the statute. History of the statute is also included.
  • Annotated Texts – Annotated publications compiled on specific statutes contain the text of the statute along with annotations. The annotations often provide in-depth information on the judicial consideration the statute has received. Many different annotated statute publications can be located through our catalogue.

Bills

Background

  • Bills can amend or repeal existing law or introduce new law.
  • Most bills are introduced in the House of Commons.
  • All bills must pass through three readings in both the House of Commons and the Senate.
  • Not all bills become law. If a bill does not pass through all the stages, it dies. It can however be reintroduced as a new bill.
  • You can distinguish between House of Commons (C) and Senate (S) bills by the letter at the start of the bill.
  • Bills are numbered chronologically per year

There are two types of bills:

  • Public bills are numbered C1-C200, they are sponsored by government ministers
  • Private bills are numbered C200-onwards, they are sponsored by private members

Finding Bills

Orders in Council

Background

Orders in Council (OIC) may be published or unpublished.

Most OIC’s are not published as they are routine in nature or exempt under the Statutory Instruments Act for confidentiality reasons re defence, national security etc.

OIC’s each have a unique number consisting of the year followed by a sequential number ie P.C. 2011-823

To find Orders in Council you will need:

  • date
  • subject
  • if possible the P.C. number.

If you are missing some of the above information, you might be able to find it by looking up the act in the Canada statute citator.

Published Orders in Council can be found:

Prior to 1947 OIC’s can be found in the Canada Gazette which was only one volume.

After 1947 the Canada Gazette split and the OIC’s can be found in Part I

1841-1998 – Canada Gazette* online and in print in the library

1998- current  Canada Gazette* are online and in print in the library (after Apr. 2014 the Canada Gazette is only available electronically)

1867-1947 – selected orders were printed in both the Canada Gazette* and annual Statutes of Canada.

1867-1924  – digitized by Library and Archives Canada

1889 – Consolidated Orders in Council

1990-current – Privy Council Office – online database

Unpublished or certified copies of Orders in Council can be found through:

Office of the assistant clerk of the Privy Council – if the order was issued in the last five years email them at oic-ddc@pco-bcp.gc.ca

Library & Archives Canada  –  if the order was issued more than 5 years ago phone 1-866-578-7777.

Before they are published in the Canada Gazette contact:

Office of the assistant clerk of the Privy Council – email them at oic-ddc@pco-bcp.gc.ca

*Official versions of the Canada Gazette:

1841 to current – print

Apr. 1, 2013 to current – electronic pdf

Debates

Background

Hansard

The Debates are also referred to as Hansard.
They contain an edited verbatim record of the discussion on new legislation

Journals, Session Papers, Committee minutes & Reports

Background

Journals

Sessional Papers

Sessional Paper Indexes

Unpublished Sessional Papers

  • Not all sessional papers are in print. An original copy can be accessed through Library and Archives Canada
  • ***Note all pre-1916 unpublished papers were lost in a fire.

Committee Minutes

House of Commons Reports etc.

  • Parliament of Canada – House of Commons list of committees. Select the committee you are looking for and you can see reports, meetings and studies back to 1994.

Senate Reports etc.

  • Parliament of Canada – Senate list of committees. Select the committee you are looking for and you can see studies, bills, briefs and reports back to 1994.

Historical Committee reports

Definitions

  • Clerk of the Privy Council Office (P.C.O.): The Clerk of the Privy Council is the most senior non-political official in the Government of Canada, and provides professional, non-partisan support to the Prime Minister on all policy and
    operational issues that may affect the government.
  • Canada Gazette: the official newspaper of the Government of Canada published since 1841, the Canada Gazette is one of the methods that Canadians can use to access the laws and regulations that govern their daily lives. Part I contains notices and proposed regulations. Part II contains official regulations. Part III contains acts of Parliament. As of April 2014 the Canada Gazette can only be accessed electronically.
  • Coming into force
  • Royal Assent

For further definitions see:

Abbeviations

  • Abbreviations of technical terms
    • CIF – Coming into force
    • CRC – Consolidated Regulations of Canada
    • OIC – Order in council
    • PCO – Privy council office
    • SOR – Statutory orders and Regulations
    • R.S.C. – Revised Statutes of Canada

We connect you to the world of legal information in an open and innovative environment.

When you need it. How you need it.