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Legislation: Parliament of Canada

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How a Bill Becomes an Act

How a Bill Becomes an Act

How a Bill Becomes an Act

In Canada, before a law is enacted, it begins as a bill.  Bills originating in the House of Commons are known as government bills.  Other types of bills include: private member bills, private senator's bills, public bills or private bills.  Government bills are numbered consecutively from  C-1 - C-200.

Private member bills are bills introduced in the House of Commons by a member of parliament who is not a cabinet minister.  Private senator's bills are introduced in the Senate by a senator who is not a member of the ministry. Private member bills are numbered consecutively from C-201 to C-1000 if introduced in the House of Commons, and S-201 - S-1000 if introduced in the Senate. (Prior to April 2006 when the 39th Parliament opened, all bills originating in the Senate were numbered consecutively beginning at S-1).

First Reading

After a bill has been introduced into Parliament, it is received, printed, and disseminated.  Bills are not debated at their first reading.

Second Reading

At the second reading, a bill is debated and the debates are recorded in Hansard.  At the end of the debate, a vote is taken to determine whether the bill will proceed to the committee stage or die.

Committee Stage

Following the second reading of a bill, a legislative committee is set up to study the bill in detail. The committee recommends whether a bill should be adopted as-is, amended, or dropped.  

Committees are groups of parliamentarians who study and consider legislation under consideration, departmental activities and spending, reports and other documents tabled in the House, order-in-council appointments and other "committee business".  Composed of both senators and members of the House of Commons, there are several different types of committees, including: standing, legislative, special and joint, Committees of the Whole and the Liaison Committee.

  •    The Committee of the Whole includes all members of the House of Commons and is chaired by the Deputy Speaker.
  •     Standing Committees are typically composed of 7-11 members who are chosen from parties in proportion to party representation in the House of Commons.  Standing Committees are the most important type of government committee.
  •     Legislative Committees are set up to examine legislation following the second reading of a bill.  These committees normally have seven members and include backbench members from every party.  The committee recommends whether a bill should be adopted as-is, amended, or dropped.  See Committees of the House of Commons Homepage, Committees: A Practical Guide or the Canadian Encyclopedia for more information.

Reports Stage

The committee reports the bill to the House, including any proposed amendments, which the House deliberates and then either accepts or rejects through a vote.  

Third Reading

At the third reading of a bill, the committee reports the bill to the House with any proposed amendments.  The bill is then voted upon by the House, and either "dies" or "passes the House".  If it passes, the bill is printed and sent to the Senate.
Royal Assent

When a bill is given Royal Assent, it comes into force and becomes law.  Bills must pass both the House of Commons and the Senate before they receive Royal Assent, which is granted by the Governor General. Once a bill comes into force, it becomes an act and is renumbered.  The text of a new act is published in the Canada Gazette Part III and later in the Statutes of Canada.


    Kehoe, I.  1997.  How a government bill becomes law.  Retrieved from
    Stewart, J.  n.d.  Parliamentary Procedure.  In The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from


Find Hansards, Bills, Committee Reports, OICs, Regulations, Statutes

Where to Find Hansards, Bills, Committee Reports, Orders in Council, Notices, Regulations, Statutes

Hansard (Debates)

The Hansard, or Official Report of Debates, is a record of Senate and House of Commons proceedings including speeches and debates of Senators and Members in the Chamber, recorded votes, written answers to some questions, and the Speech from the Throne. 

Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources


    Bills and current information about bills  

Committee Reports

(In Print): Search the TRU Library Catalogue:

  • Search by author, i.e. Canada. Parliament. House of Commons
  • Keyword search by title using the name of the committee if you know it (i.e., Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development), or the phrase "minutes of proceedings and evidence" which is included in the title of all committee reports.

Canada Gazette

Published since 1841, the Canada Gazette is the official newspaper of the Government of Canada.  It contains regulations and public Acts of Parliament, proposed regulations, official appointments and public notices as well as miscellaneous public notices from the private sector.

Orders in Council

Finding and Citing Statutes

Finding Statutes

Citing Statutes

The full citation of a federal statute consists of:

  • The short title of the statute, as provided in the statute itself.
  • The location of the statute. Whenever possible, cite a statute as it appears in the latest revision of the federal statutes. For Canada, the latest revision was published in 1985, i.e. RSC 1985. If the act was passed after the publication of the 1985 revision, cite the annual volume, for the year that the statute was enacted.
  • Chapter number, as listed at the beginning of the statute.
  • Reference to any particular section(s) mentioned.

Canada Evidence Act, RSC 1985, c C-5.
Emergency Preparedness Act, RSC 1985 (4th Supp.), c 6.
Northwest Territories Waters Act, SC 1992, c39, s 7.

Legal Citation

The most recent edition of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (McGill Guide) is available to law students on WestlawNext Canada.

Print copies are available on reserve in the law library.

Other online guides to Legal Citation:

Online Resources

Online Resources