Locating Federal Legislation


  • Creation of a law begins with the introduction of either a public bill, introduced by the government, or a private member's bill, introduced by any individual Member of Parliament or Senator.
  • Bill numbering:
    • House of Commons:
      • Public bills: C-1 to C-200 in order of presentation
      • Private members' bills: C-201+ in order of presentation
      • Private bills: C-1001+
    • Senate:
      • Public bills: S-1 to S-200 in order of presentation
      • Private members' bills: S-201+ in order of presentation
      • Private bills: S-1001+
  • Detailed information on the legislation making process: ;Making Canada’s Laws
  • For any bill to become law in Canada, it must pass through several stages:
    • First Reading - Bill is introduced
    • Second Reading - Where much of the debate happens
    • Committee Stage - Sent to a Committee for consideration
    • Report Stage - Committee reports back to the House with any suggested amendments
    • Third Reading - Bill put to a final vote
    • After Third Reading in the House of Commons, it is sent to the Senate where it repeats the three reading process, or vice versa, for bills that began in the Senate.
    • Royal Assent - If the Bill is passed in both Houses, it is presented to the Governor General for assent. When the Bill is given Royal Assent it becomes law, and can be called an Act or Statute. The date of assent is at the top of the enactment.
    • Coming into Force (CIF) - The Act comes into force upon Royal Assent, or when it is proclaimed by the Governor General, or on a day specified in the act. Different sections may come into force at different times. Refer to the Commencement Clause to find out the details. If it is silent, commencement falls on the date of assent as stated in the current Interpretation Act (RSC, 1985, c I-21, ss 5-6).
      • Proclamations are special government orders called statutory instruments (SI),and are published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.
      • Also, at the back of each volume of the print Statutes of Canada, are yellow pages titled Proclamations of Canada and Orders in Council Relating to the Coming into Force of Acts that lists the statute, relevant sections, coming into force date, SI number and citation to the Canada Gazette Part II.


  • Made by an executive branch of government: committees that are administered, or under the responsibility, of ministries who oversee the enabling statute
    • Always pursuant to an enabling statute, and given legal authority by that statute.
    • Regulations exist to support the mandate of their enabling act.
    • Regulations can be amended by other regulations.
  • Regulations are first published in the Canada Gazette, Part II – and fall under the category Statutory Orders and Regulations (SOR).
    • Historically, like revised statutes, regulations were consolidated in publications called the Consolidated Regulations of Canada (CRC) which incorporated amendments to main regulations into one publication for ease of use. The last CRC publication was in 1978.
    • The Consolidated Regulations of Canada (CRC) 1949 and 1955 have now been scanned and made available through the Collections Canada website.


  • Understanding why an act was made can help you anticipate potential changes to the law, or discover the historical reasoning for the creation of a law to help craft an interpretative argument.
  • Goal: Find the Hansard debates and committee reports around the creation of the legislation you're interested in, which may contain the rationale in creating a particular statute or provision.
  • Process:
    1. Start with the current version of an act or provision
    2. Work backwards through time to uncover previous versions of said act or provision by looking up prior source dates referenced in each version until you reach the first occurrence of the act/provision.
    3. Once you find the incepting act, move to legislative materials, and examine the bill(s), the Hansard debates, and committee report(s).
    4. Find your bill number:
      • If you are working with a statute enacted before 2001, look in print Statutes of Canada. The table of contents includes the bill number alongside each statute
      • From 2001 onwards, find your statute in the Annual Statutes section of Justice Laws, and look for the bill number in italics beside the statute citation
  • Tips:
    • Remember that the law is always changing: Some legislation will have multiple amendments to a given section over the course of a year or years.
    • Parliament and Session Number - Find the Parliament number and session number for a bill from the Statutes of Canada volume containing the enacted bill.

Working with the Debates

  • Key dates can be found in a legislative history table or progress of bills record. If these aren't available, look up the page references to the Readings in the index or appendix of the Journals, then turn to the corresponding page to find the date of the Reading entry. Of the three Readings, it is the 2nd Reading that will be of most interest, as it will contain most of the deliberations between members concerning the relevancy or doubts each had before voting.
  • Committee Reports - mandated by the government, a parliamentary committee will evaluate a proposed bill and provide a report with their findings back to the House of Commons for further consideration.
  • Historically, approximately every 15 years, substantive Canadian statutes were combined with all of their amendments and compiled into the Revised Statutes of Canada (RSC).
    • RSC 1985 is the most recent consolidation available
      • Amendments which were passed while the revision was being compiled (1985-1989) were published in the appendix volumes found at the end of the Revised Statutes of Canada.
    • If you are citing a statute which has been included in the Revised Statutes of Canada, you will not cite to the Statutes of Canada, but to the RSC instead.
    • Note that once statutes are included in the RSC, their original chapter number will be changed, and they are entered in alphabetical order with a chapter number and letter. Acts included in the RSC adopt the RSC citation format, and carry the RSC citation format into the consolidated online version with amendments incorporated.
  • Justice Laws - Official, free copies of consolidated statutes and regulations
  • CanLII - Free access to unofficial copies of consolidated statutes and regulations
  • Hein Online - Scanned copies of the Revised Statutes of Canada, all historical versions. This collection also contains the Consolidated Regulations of Canada, 1978.
  • LLMC Digital - Scanned copies of the Revised Statutes of Canada from the 1840s up to and including the Revised Statutes of Canada 1952. This collection also contains historical regulations, including the Consolidated Regulations of Canada, 1978, and Orders in Council
  • Revised Statutes of Canada - In force dates - BC Courthouse libraries
  • Many statutes passed by the government merely contain lists of amendments to other statutes. The annual Statutes of Canada contain both new Acts about substantive matters, as well as statutes whose function is largely to amend other Acts.
  • When an Act is published in the Statutes of Canada, the Act is given a chapter number. All statutes can be located if you know the year of the annual statute volume and the chapter number of the Act.
    • The Act is also divided into parts and sections and may have schedules attached at the end.
    • The Statute’s citation remains the same from print to electronic format, with amendments incorporated into the consolidated online version.
  • Justice Laws - Official, free copies of Annual Statutes
  • Canada Gazette Part Three - Official copies of Annual Statutes, with historical content
  • Canada Gazette Part Two - Official copies of regulations as registered, with historical content. Read the original regulation or amending regulation in its entirety.
  • Historical Canada Gazette, 1841-1997. See also Index to Canada Gazette Part Two 1955-1999.
  • Hein Online - Session Laws Library provides a scanned copy of the Statutes of Canada, with historical content
  • LLMC Digital - Scanned copies of the original Statutes of Canada as well as the Statutes of Upper Canada and for Lower Canada beginning with 1792 up to and including 1969
  • Statutes of Canada can also be found in print in the law library, ground floor at XC 185.2


  • Debates or "Hansard" contain the verbatim transcripts of the House of Commons and Senate
  • Committee Reports (search library catalogue by committee name or search the federal government website for the committee’s reports) outline the findings and recommendations for changes in the bill.


  • LegisInfo.
    • Debates, Bills, Journalls, Committee Reports and Status of Bills information
    • Content begin with the 37th Parliament, 1st Sess (2001-01-29 to 2002-09-16) This product is searchable and browsable.


    • Enhanced search functionality for Canadian Parliamentary Debates.
    • Content begins with 1901. Choose "Timeline" for browsable list of dates.
  • OpenParliament
    • Content beginning 35th Parl, 1st Sess, (1994-01-17 to 1996-02-02)
    • Searchable only.

Last Updated: September 1, 2022 ADemers