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Find Legislation: Canada

What is legislation?

  • Legislation is law enacted by government. It takes the form of a written document.
  • In many countries, including Canada and the United States, there are two types of laws: primary legislation and secondary legislation.

What is primary legislation?

Primary legislation

  • Created by legislative bodies (such as Parliament or Congress)
  • Also called a statue or act
  • Sets out the broad principles and framework of the law
  • Known as a bill prior to approval by a country’s legislative body

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation

  • Created by bodies, other than the legislative body, that have been delegated that authority by the primary legislation
  • Those bodies are often, but not always, government agencies or departments
  • Also known as delegated legislation, subordinate legislation, or regulation
  • Sets out specific rules under the authority of the primary legislation that authorizes it

How do I find Canadian federal legislation?

  • All Canadian federal acts and regulations are available online on the Justice Laws Website.
  • If you know the name of the act or regulation, you can search for it or browse an alphabetical list.
  • If you don’t know the name of the act or regulation, you can search by keyword using Basic Search or Advanced Search.
  • The text of all federal acts and regulations is also available on the CanLII website.
  • The text of bills, along with their status, is available online at LEGISinfo.
  • Bills receive numbers based on their chronological order of introduction and the chamber (Senate or House of Commons) in which they are introduced. They also have names, e.g. C-277: An Act for providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.
  • Search for bills by bill number, title, or keyword search of title and content. Try the advanced search for even more powerful searching abilities.

How do I find Canadian provincial and territorial legislation?

  • The text of all provincial and territorial legislation is available on the CanLII website.
  • Search CanLII by keyword across all provinces and territories, by keyword in a specific province or territory, or browse each province and territory’s alphabetical list.
  • You can also find each province’s and territory’s official website for legislation by searching Google for <jurisdiction name> legislation, e.g. Ontario legislation.

How do I find Canadian municipal legislation?

  • Legislation enacted by a municipality is called a by-law.
  • You can find each municipality’s official by-laws website by searching Google for <municipality name> by-laws, e.g. Guelph by-laws.

Find Canadian legislation

Resources to help with research

Guide: Google Like a ScholarGuide: Find Government PublicationsGuide: Find Grey Literature

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