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Canadian parliamentary publications

Acts and Statutes

When a bill successfully passes through the legislative process and receives Royal Assent it becomes an Act. Public General Acts are of a general public nature. Local and Private Acts concern matters relating to specific persons or matters.

Each Act is assigned a chapter number coupled with the name of the reigning sovereign and the regnal years(s) of the session, (eg. 40-41-42 Elizabeth II, c.44). In bound form, these Acts are commonly known as Statutes.

The most recent Public Acts and their enactment proclamations are available in the Canada Gazette, Part III.

Canada Gazette

The Canada Gazette is the official news bulletin of the Government of Canada. This publication currently includes new statutes and regulations, proposed regulations, decisions of administrative boards, assorted government notices and private sector notices as required by statute.

Orders-in-council, regulations, and other statutory Instruments

Orders-in-council are legislative instruments approved by Cabinet and signed by the Governor General. They address a wide range of administrative and legislative matters from official appointments and civil service staffing to the establishment of regulations.

Each order-in-council is assigned a PC number, for example, P.C. 1999-941. Numbers are assigned consecutively within a calendar year.

A statutory instrument is a rule, order, regulation or other regulatory text. Such instruments are made by persons or bodies to whom Parliament has delegated authority, such as the Cabinet, a minister or a department. The authority to make a regulation must be expressed by an enabling Act.

Regulations and other statutory instruments frequently require the approval of Cabinet. Once approved they become orders-in-council and are numbered as such, for example, P.C. 1999-941. Regulations are subsequently assigned a second number, an SOR number, for example, SOR/99-258. Statutory instruments and other documents, other than regulations, are assigned an SI number, for example, SI/99-70. Numbers are assigned consecutively within a series and calendar year.

Regulations and other statutory instruments approved by bodies other than cabinet, such as Ministers and departments, are not assigned an order-in-council (P.C.) number.

Most published orders-in-council, regulations and other statutory instruments are currently available in the Canada Gazette.

Royal Commissions

Royal Commissions, also known as Commissions of Inquiry, are appointed by Cabinet under the Inquiries Act, to inquire into and report on matters of national significance. Terms of reference, powers and commissioners are assigned by an Order-in-Council.

Findings are reported to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and issued as an official Report. This Report is normally tabled in the House of Commons and designated as a Sessional Paper. Many Reports are also published separately. Other supplementary materials such as interim reports, background papers and research studies may also be published, particularly in recent years. Other materials such as briefs, submissions and transcripts are not usually published.

Library and Archives Canada carries an extensive collection of Royal Commission documents, both published and unpublished. National Library holdings can be located through the Index to Federal Royal Commissions web site. Archival sources may be searched using ArchiviaNet - Government of Canada Files and selecting record group "Royal Commissions - RG 33".

Sessional Papers

Sessional Papers are a collected series of reports, documents and papers tabled in the House or Senate. Included are Annual Reports of Departments, Boards and Crown Corporations, Government Estimates and Public Accounts, Royal Commission and Task Force Reports, Election Returns, Government responses to Committee Reports, papers dealing with Government policies and written responses to questions asked in the House and Senate. These Papers do not include House of Commons Bills or Senate Bills.

Published Sessional Papers refers to those Papers ordered printed and distributed for public use. Official publication of sessional papers in a collected series ceased in 1925. Unpublished Sessional Papers refers to those Papers not distributed directly by the Government, as Sessional Papers, for public use. Sessional Paper titles may, however, be published separately outside of the Sessional Paper series, (eg. Annual Reports of Departments, Royal Commission Reports, etc).

Unpublished Sessional Papers from the 1st Parliament to the 12th Parliament, 5th Session (1867-1915), were destroyed in the Parliament Buildings fire of 1916 and are not available.

Current Sessional Papers are available from Information Services at the Library of Parliament, by e-mail at info@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 1-866-599-4999. Library and Archives Canada carries an extensive collection of earlier Sessional Papers.