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.
For a basic introduction into researching Federal statutes see : Canadian Abridgment – A quick guide to researching Canadian statutes
Canadian public statutes can be found in the:
- Revised Statutes of Canada (R.S.C.) with the lastest version being R.S.C. 1985 (consolidated statutes in force at the time of publication)
- annual bound volumes (S.C.)
- Canada Gazette Part III
- and online:
- Justice Laws Website
- Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII)
- Canada Gazette, Part III – Includes 1998-current
- Canada Gazette, Part III – Includes 1974-1997
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.
- Justice Laws Website – Contains consolidated statutes searchable by keyword in the title or within the text of the statute. Effective June 1, 2009, consolidated Acts and Regulations posted on the Justice Laws Web Site are official .
- Table of Public Statutes and Responsible Ministers – This is an alphabetical table of federal statutes including all statutes since the RSC 1985 revision, as well as certain statutes which were not included in the revision. It is available online and in print in the orange pages in the back of the Statutes of Canada volumes.
- Canada Gazette, Part III – As of Apr. 1, 2014 it is only in electronic format. Contains the most recent statutes before they are published in the annual volumes of the Statutes of Canada. The online pdf versions became official Apr. 1, 2003.
- CanLII – Statutes and Regulations of Canada (Federal) – You can search the title or full text of the statutes by keyword(s).
- HeinOnline – includes pdf versions of all Statutes of Canada from 1792 onwards. Look under the Canada collection.
- WestlawNext – Canada (LawSource)
- Lexis Advance® Quicklaw® – Finding by Subject
- Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (C.E.D.) (Western), 4th ed. Available electronically on WestlawNext – Canada (LawSource)
- Halsbury’s laws of Canada – You can access the statutes by subject using the Table of Statutes found at the beginning of each topical chapter. Also available electronically through Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
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
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.
- Canada legislative index by B.C. Courthouse Library Society – completed in 2010. The ‘House of Commons Bills’ or ‘Senate Bills’ sections track the stage of each historical bill from first reading to in force.
- 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.
- Canadian current law: legislation – The “Progress of Bills” and the “Statutes Amended, Repealed or Proclaimed in Force” sections in the issues and annuals have information on coming into force status.
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:
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)
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
For information on the intent behind statutes and their amendments use the following sources:
- Reports, discussion papers and studies on a range of legislative issues are published in print and included in our collection. Do an advanced search on our catalogue with the name of the statute as a phrase or also add “Law Commission of Canada” as Author. Keep in mind the Commission has not been active since mid 2006.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
The citation information below is following the 7th edition of the McGill Guide as adopted by the Court of Queen’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 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
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.
- this is a Statutory Order and Regulation from 1987, the 234th regulation for the year
Since 2000, the year is given in full:
Regulations from the consolidation are cited as:
- CRC, c 311
For more information on citing statutes or regulations consult:
- Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 7th ed.
Also referred to as the McGill Guide
- Notice to the Profession – Citation of Authorities
- On Nov. 12, 2013 the Court of Queen’s Bench adopted the 7th edition of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation.
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.
- Locate the statute or regulation you are trying to note up either through the alphabetical listing or the search screen.
- Open the statute or regulation and then 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. There is no editorial input into this list.
- Use the [Find and keycite by name] tab on the homepage, click on the [Find and keycite by statute or regulation] option. Enter the title, section (if applicable) and jurisdiction of the legislation you wish to note up.
- Or use the drop down box on the top search screen and select [Find and keycite by statute or regulation]. 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.
- Using the [Find a Document box] on the home page, enter the citation of the statute or regulation in the [Note-up with QuickCITE box]
- or retrieve the statute or regulation by section number using the Find Legislation box and click on the [Note up with QuickCITE] link near the top left of the page.
- or use the Legislation search page, click on the [QuickCITE Legislation Citator] feature and enter your search terms. Any of these search methods will retrieve a list of cases that have considered that section, as well as the type of treatment given by each case (e.g. considered; referred to; cited)
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.
- Canadian encyclopedic digest (C.E.D.) (Western),4th ed.- This multi-volume legal encyclopedia provides judicial consideration of current federal statutes, regulations or rules and those of the four Western provinces referred to in the title. Every statute and every section of a statute that has been the subject of judicial consideration from Canadian courts and administrative tribunals is listed by subject title or area of law. Foreign laws that have received Canadian judicial consideration are also included. No longer updated in print.
- 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 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
Includes information on individual bills beginning with 35th Parliament – 1st Session (1994), and includes the text of a bill at various stages, summaries from the Research Branch, and bill status.
Provides access to historical bills 1860-1900.
Select the Early Official Publications tab on the left side of the screen.
- Progress of Bills section in the individual issues reports activity from first reading through the stages to Royal Assent and proclamation.
- Statutes Amended, Repealed or Proclaimed in Force section in the issues and annuals have information on in force status
- Statutes Enacted section in the annuals.
Orders in Council
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:
- 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 – Library and Archives Canada online
1990-current – Privy Council Office online
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 email@example.com
LIbrary & Archives Canada Reference Centre – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
*Official versions of the Canada Gazette:
1841 to current – print
Apr. 1, 2013 to current – electronic pdf
The Debates are also referred to as Hansard.
They contain an edited verbatim record of the discussion on new legislation
- Debates – House of Commons 1994-current.
- Debates – Senate 1996-current
- Debates – historical – House of Commons & Senate 1st Parliament session 1867- 35th Parliament session 1996
- Parliament of Canada – LEGISinfo – 35th Parliament – Current. Select bill, select show sittings, select date and this will take you to the relevant Hansard issue.
- Hansard 1901- current (English only)
Search within full text, speaker names, parties, and topics of Hansard proceedings. Including photos of the speakers.
Journals, Session Papers & Reports
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.
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.
- 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:
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
- Interpretation of Legislation in Canada, 4th ed. by Pierre-Andre Cote – Table of Contents
- Statutory Interpretation, 3rd ed. by Ruth Sulivan – Table of Contents
Also available as an e-text
- Updating Statutes and Regulations for all Canadian Jurisdicitions, 5th ed. by Nancy McCormack & Nathalie Leonard
- How to Understand Statutes and Regulations, 2nd ed. by Nancy McCormack – Table of Contents