Frequently Asked Questions
  • General Information On Legislation
    1. Government bills are bills introduced by a Minister of the Crown. These bills are drafted by the Department of Justice on the instructions of Cabinet. They can be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Commons. In the Senate, they are numbered S-1 through S-200, and in the House of Commons, they are numbered C-1 through to C-200.

      Although in practice most government bills are introduced in the House of Commons, government bills may be introduced in the Senate. These bills are usually introduced by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, although another Senator typically assumes sponsorship of the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

    2. Private Members’ bills are bills introduced in the House of Commons by individual Members who are not Cabinet ministers. Bills introduced by Senators who are not members of the Ministry are called Senate public bills.

      These bills follow the same legislative process as government bills, although their consideration and the time allocated to them is more restricted in the House of Commons.

    3. Private bills are designed to provide a benefit or exemption to an individual or group from the application of the law, such as a bill to incorporate a private company. A private bill can only be introduced by a Senator or a Member who is not a member of the Cabinet. Private bills are now almost always introduced in the Senate.

    4. When a bill is introduced, it is assigned a number based on its chronological order of introduction in its Chamber of origin. Bills introduced in the Senate start with the letter S, and those introduced in the House of Commons start with the letter C.

      Government bills are numbered consecutively from 1 to 200, Senate public bills and private Members’ bills are numbered consecutively from 201 to 1000. Because the House of Commons’ Standing Orders provide that private Members’ bills continue from session to session within a Parliament, their number remains unchanged throughout a Parliament. This only affects bills C-201 to C-1000. (If one of these bills received Royal Assent in a previous session, it will not be displayed in the list of private Members’ bills for the current session.) Private bills, which are now almost always introduced in the Senate, are numbered beginning at 1001.

      Before the start of the 39th Parliament in April 2006, bills originating in the Senate were numbered consecutively beginning at S-1, regardless of bill type. To determine the bill type prior to April 2006, please consult the Journals of the Senate or the Senate's Progress of Legislation document.

    5. In order for a bill to become a law, it must go through a number of specific stages in both the Senate and the House of Commons. The process in each Chamber is similar.

      House of Commons
      • Introduction and First Reading: The bill is introduced after notice is given; it is then assigned a number and printed.
      • Second Reading: The principle of the bill is debated and the bill is referred to a committee for more detailed study. (In the House of Commons, it is possible to refer a bill to committee prior to second reading pursuant to Standing Order 73.)
      • Committee Consideration: After a detailed analysis of the bill, often involving the hearing of witnesses, and a clause-by-clause study, the committee reports the bill back to the House of Commons.
      • Report Stage: The bill, as passed by the committee, is considered by the House and further amendments can be proposed and debated.
      • Third Reading: The bill, as adopted at the report stage, is debated a final time. Debate focuses on the final form of the bill.
      • Passage and Royal Assent: If the bill originated in the House of Commons and is passed at the third reading stage, it is sent to the Senate where it will follow the process described below. If the bill originated in the Senate and has been passed by both chambers in the same form, it is presented for Royal Assent.
      Senate
      • Introduction and First Reading: The bill is introduced without notice, given a number and printed.
      • Second Reading: The principle of the bill is debated at second reading and, if it passes, the bill is almost always referred to a committee for more detailed study. (In the Senate, it is possible for a committee to study the subject matter of a bill introduced in the House of Commons prior to introduction in the Senate, pursuant to Rule 74 of the Rules of the Senate. This is referred to as pre-study. The Senate may also refer the subject matter of a bill to a committee before the bill has received second reading.)
      • Committee Stage: The committee studies the bill and reports it back to the Senate.
      • Report Stage: The Senate only considers a bill at report stage if the committee either recommends amendments or that the bill not be further studied. Committee reports on bills that do not propose amendments are deemed adopted by the Senate without a motion.
      • Third Reading: The bill, as amended by the Senate or not, is debated a third time. Debate focuses on the final form of the bill, although amendments to clauses of the bill can also be moved at this stage without the need to return it to committee.
      • Passage and Royal Assent: If the bill originated in the Senate and is passed, it is then sent to the House of Commons where it follows the process described above. If the bill originated in the House of Commons and has been passed by both chambers in the same form, it is presented for Royal Assent.

      If either the Senate or the House of Commons amends a bill already passed by the other House, there is an exchange of messages indicating the amendment. Until both Houses agree on the content of the bill, it cannot be presented for Royal Assent.

      For additional information on the legislative process, please click on any of the following links:

    6. When the Senate and the House of Commons have both passed a bill in identical form, the Governor General, or one of his deputies, gives the bill Royal Assent on behalf of the Queen, and it becomes an Act of Parliament, one of the statutes of Canada. Royal Assent can be granted either at a ceremony in the Senate chamber held in the presence of both Houses, or by written declaration that is announced in both Houses.

    7. ‘Coming into Force’ is the date that the legislation, or part of it, becomes enforceable. Laws can come into force in several ways:

      • Some laws come into force when they receive Royal Assent;
      • Some laws come into force on a day or days specified in the Act; and
      • Some laws come into force on a day or days set by the Governor in Council (the Governor General, on the advice of the federal Cabinet).

    8. Bill S-1 and Bill C-1 are called pro forma bills and are introduced at the beginning of each session for the sole purpose of asserting the right of the Senate and the House of Commons to determine the order of their deliberations, regardless of the reasons for summoning Parliament set out in the Throne Speech. The introduction of a pro forma bill is a practice dating back to before Confederation and that originated in the British House of Commons in 1558. These bills only receive first reading. The bills are normally entitled Bill S-1, An Act relating to Railways and Bill C-1, An Act respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office.

      During the Second and Third Sessions of the 40th Parliament, the pro forma bills were printed and posted on the Web site and are included in the statistics generated by LEGISinfo for these two sessions.

  • Using LEGISinfo
    1. LEGISinfo provides information on all bills considered by the Senate and the House of Commons since the start of the 37th Parliament in 2001. (Note: The titles and numbers of most bills considered by Parliament between 1994 and 2000 are also available along with the bill publication.) In addition to bill numbers, long and short (if applicable) titles, and a quick overview of the last stage a bill has completed in the legislative process, the following information is available to users:

      Text of the Bill

      This link provides direct access to all printed versions of the bill. Bills may be printed on as many as four occasions:

      • First Reading
      • As amended by committee (House of Commons only)
      • As passed by the House of Commons (the Senate)
      • Royal Assent

      Not all bills are printed at each stage listed above and it is not uncommon for a bill not to be printed as reported by the committee when no significant amendments have passed. Bills reported by Senate committees are not reprinted.

      Status of the Bill

      This link provides an overview of the current legislative stage of a bill as well as the dates when other stages of the legislative process were completed. You can also access the Debates of the Senate and the Debates of the House of Commons for the dates when the bill was debated, along with major speeches and recorded votes. This portion of the site is updated on a daily basis and reflects any action taken by the Senate or the House of Commons on the previous day.

      In addition, from the LEGISinfo home page, you can search for all bills at a certain stage in the legislative process by clicking on the links under the Status heading on the right-hand navigation menu (e.g., House - At Second Reading, Senate - At Third Reading).

      Bill Sponsor and Political Affiliation

      The name of the Senator or Member of the House of Commons sponsoring a bill is provided. In the case of a government bill, only the Minister’s title is provided. By clicking on the hyperlinked title, you will find the name of the current Minister and related information. By clicking on the name of the sponsor of a Senate public bill or private Member’s bill, you will find additional information about the parliamentarian (e.g., contact information, riding / senatorial division information, committee roles, election / appointment information, etc.).

      You may also search for all bills sponsored by a particular Minister, Senator or Member of the House of Commons, by clicking on his or her name provided on the right-hand navigation menu on the LEGISinfo home page.

      Users may also search for bills by political affiliation by using the links provided on the right-hand navigation menu on the LEGISinfo home page. Please note that only current political affiliations are available for Senators.

      Speaker’s Rulings and Statements

      Each chamber’s Speaker may deliver rulings and statements with respect to the procedural acceptability of a bill or, in the case of the House of Commons, the selection of amendments to be debated at report stage. The dates of these important rulings and statements are provided in this section as are the links to the Debates of the Senate and Debates of the House of Commons.

      Major Speeches in Parliament

      These are speeches delivered in the Senate and the House of Commons at second reading by the bill’s sponsor and the opposition critics or lead speakers from each recognized political party, if applicable.

      Similar Bills Introduced in Previous Sessions

      It is not unusual for bills not to have completed all stages of the legislative process when Parliament is prorogued. Bills are therefore sometimes reintroduced in a new session of Parliament and LEGISinfo provides selected information on the previous versions of these bills such as when the bill was introduced, as well as its bill number, title and the stage that it reached in the legislative process.

      Since 2003, prorogation has had almost no practical effect on private Members’ bills (bills C-201 to C-1000). These bills continue from session to session within a Parliament without interruption, i.e. they do not have to be reintroduced in a new session. They are deemed to have passed all stages completed in the previous session and retain the same place on the Order Paper. LEGISinfo provides information from previous sessions on these bills.

      Recorded Votes

      This section provides links to the Debates of the Senate or the Debates of the House of Commons if recorded votes have been taken to move a bill from one stage to the next. For example, when a bill passes second reading with a recorded vote, LEGISinfo provides a link to the results of the vote in the Debates.

      Coming into Force

      LEGISinfo contains details about the coming into force of each bill. Not all bills or all portions of bills become enforceable when they receive Royal Assent.

      At the end of the ‘coming into force’ information, there may be a reference number such as SI-2010/89. This number refers to the specific instrument passed by the Governor in Council proclaiming the Act or sections of the Act in force.

      The reference number can be broken down into three key elements:

      1. SI is an acronym for Statutory Instrument;
      2. 2010 refers to the year that the SI was published; and
      3. 89 signifies that this is the 89th SI published for the year 2010.
      Publications and Background Information
      • Departmental Information: This section provides links to the press releases and background documents prepared by federal government departments on legislation. Departmental information is available for most government bills.
      • Legislative Summaries: Legislative summaries are documents prepared by the Library of Parliament to provide parliamentarians with background information and an explanation of the bill. These documents are prepared for most government bills. Analysts, knowledgeable in the relevant area of policy or law, write the summaries as soon as resources permit, following first reading of a bill. New legislative summaries will be posted on the Web site once the texts are available in both official languages.
      • Further Reading: This section of LEGISinfo provides several different sources of information. It contains a short bibliography of current magazine and journal articles on the subject matter of the bill; links to press releases prepared by the opposition parties; and links to selected Web sites that are relevant to the subject matter of the legislation.

    2. Two tools are provided for searching bill information in LEGISinfo. Searches can be performed using the Quick Search function which searches for bills by title or number. The Advanced Search function provides additional search parameters, including text (content), bill type, sponsor, Chamber, committee, ministry, and Parliament and session.

    3. Subscribe to RSS Feed

      RSS feeds are available under the LEGISinfo banner for the following pages:

      • LEGISinfo – Home: Feeds on any new bills for the current session of Parliament.
      • Bills on Today’s Agenda: Feeds on any new bills on today’s agenda.
      • Bills Before Committee: Feeds on any new bills before committees.
      • Legislation at a Glance: Feeds on the latest activity for bills progressing through the Legislation at a Glance categories.
      • Search Result: Feeds on any new bills matching the filters / criteria of the search result.

      Also available in the left hand navigation menu are RSS feeds for new Legislative Activities (the latest activity for bills moving through the legislative process), and Legislative Summaries (new legislative summaries for selected bills).

    4. XML (Extensible Markup Language) improves the functionality of the Web by providing more flexible and adaptable data identification and exchange. XML is comprised of customized "tags" that enable the definition, transmission, validation, and interpretation of data between applications and entities. XML is a subset of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), the international standard meta language for text markup systems. The XML provided by the LEGISinfo Web site may be used for further analysis and repurposing.

    5. LEGISinfo contains detailed information on legislation introduced after January 2001. For bills introduced in the 35th (1994-1997) and 36th Parliaments (1997-2000), LEGISinfo provides the bill titles and numbers and, where available, the text of the bills at various stages in the legislative process and legislative summaries. At this time, it is not possible to perform a search by political affiliation for bills introduced in these two Parliaments.

    6. Users should be able to access the legislative information Web site via mobile devices. Although the LEGISinfo Web site does not offer an optimized version for mobile devices, the “Text Mode” hyperlink found on each page may accommodate a more mobile-friendly experience.

    7. Although the LEGISinfo Web site does not meet all of the standards of Common Look and Feel (CLF) 2.0, our site does provide accessibility options: Graphics Mode or Text Mode.

      Graphics Mode: Though it has been designed for maximum accessibility, the site’s regular version may not meet all applicable accessibility standards. It may use pop-up windows, modified hyperlinks, and bilingual documents in multi-column formats.

      Text Mode: The text-based version of the site meets all applicable accessibility standards. It displays only text and uses no images or tables. Note that text mode cannot be accessed within the publications.

    8. For information about LEGISinfo and bills, you may contact the Library of Parliament by mail or phone at:

      LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT
      Information Service
      Parliament of Canada
      Ottawa, Ontario
      K1A 0A9

      Telephone:
      1-866-599-4999 or
      (613) 992-4793

      TTY:
      (613) 995-2266

      You may also e-mail us at infonet@parl.gc.ca.

      In the event you encounter technical difficulties, please contact us at the above e-mail address.

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