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Canadian Legal Research

Statutes and Constitution

Statutory law in Canada has some similarities and some differences from statutory law within the United States. Similar to federal statutes within the United States, a federal statute in Canada applies to every province and territory within Canada. A provincial statute only has mandatory authority within its own jurisdiction. Thus, a British Columbia statute has no mandatory authority within another province or territory within Canada. In the United States, if a power is not mentioned as belonging to the federal government, that power would come under the power of the states. However, in Canada, the opposite holds true. If a power is not mentioned as belonging to a provincial government, then that power lies with the national Parliament.

For more information on the legislative process within Canada's national Parliament, click here. For information regarding how a bill becomes a law within Canada's parliament, visit LEGISInfo, and then click on "How does a bill become a law?" Additionally, the Privy Council Office has a detailed guide on its web site entitled A Guide to the Making of Federal Acts and Regulations.

Access to free legislative information on the Internet varies by province and territory, but a good resource to use for access to the statutory collections of most of the Canadian jurisdictions is the Canadian Legislative Information Institute, which contains 13 collections. 

You will always want to make sure that your statutory legal research is up to date. To verify that a Canadian federal statute in still good consult online resources such as CanLII. In addition, these online research guides provide detailed, step-by-step instruction on how to perform statutory research; prepared by Queens University (instruction on federal and Ontario statutory research).

Currently, there are ten provinces and three territories within Canada. Establishing a new province would require Constitutional amendment. Once a province is established, per section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, a province has exclusive legislative authority. In contrast, territories only have that legislative authority given to them by Parliament, which may be limited.

Canada's Constitution can be found in Volume 4 of the Constitutions of the Countries of the World (ILS RR K3157 .A2 B58 1971). This volume contains a consolidation of the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982 as of April 1, 1999. As such, it takes into account the Constitution Act of 1999, Nuvanut. When Nuvanut became a new territory, the Constitution Act, 1867, Part 2, was amended to allow for an increase in Senators from 104 to 105, with the maximum number of senators being raised from 112 to 113, accordingly, and to allow for each of the three territories to have one representative each. Additionally, the Canada Department of Justice web site provides the text of the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982.