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Government Publications: Canada

Royal Commissions

Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry are official Government inquiries into matters of national concern. The Government tends to use these bodies for two purposes: to obtain advice concerning an important general problem; or to investigate a specific incident.

  • Royal Commissions are appointed under Part 1 of the Public Inquiries Act by the Governor in Council and must report their findings to the Cabinet but are otherwise independent of government influence. In general, Royal Commissions tend to be broader in scope than other forms of governmental inquiry - often holding cross-country public hearings and publishing associated research reports as well as their formal findings and recommendations.
  • Commissions of Inquiry are similar to Royal Commissions and it can be difficult to differentiate between the two. Both are appointed by the Governor in Council, under the Public Inquiries Act, and are required to report their findings to the Cabinet. However, in practice Commissions of Inquiry tend to be less broad in scope than Royal Commissions, generating fewer publications, less research and holding fewer public hearings..
  • Archived Commissions of Inquiry (Library and Archives Canada)

.Locating Commission Reports

In the past, Commission Reports have been published both as individual documents, and as part of the Sessional Papers for the Parliament and Session of the time. The stand alone copies would include "Royal Commission" or "Inquiry" in the title.

1) Online:

  • Privy Council Office. Note, some of these reports are hosted on the Privy Council site and some are linked from the Library & Archives Canada site. This site has digitized copies of reports dating back to the 19th century in its archive. Reports are browsable by subject or by commissioner.

2) Print / microfiche

  • Library catalogue: If you don't know the title of the report(s) that you require, you will need to include in your search the keywords "Canada" and "royal commission" for Royal Commissions and "Canada" and "inquiry" for Commissions of Inquiry.

Note, you will find that Commissions are commonly referred to by the name of their Commissioners. Thus, the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada is also known as the Romanow Report, after its author Roy Romanow.

  • Microfiche (1867-1966) complete collection at call no.: AW5.C3525.  The microfiches are arranged by numbers assigned to them in Federal Royal Commissions in Canada, 1867 - 1966. Note, records for individual commission reports in the UBC Library catalogue show a location for the Law Library - A second set is also available in Koerner Library microforms.

3) Indexes & Checklists

Another approach to locating Commissions is to consult one of the indexes or lists noted below to determine the correct title of the report(s) you require.

  • Federal Royal Commissions in Canada, 1867-1966: a Checklist. Availalbe in Koerner Library: ZJL94.H45 1967.
  • Accompanying title: Guide to Microform Edition of the Reports of the Royal Commissions of Canada 1867-1966. Available in Koerner Library  ZJL94.H451 1977.
  • The Reports of the Royal Commissions of Canada 1867-1966 that are on microfiche in Koerner Library AW5.C3525.
  • Federal Royal Commissions in Canada, 1966-1977 : an update. Available in Koerner Library  ZJL94.H452 1989
  • Canadian Federal Royal Commissions 1978-1988 : an update. Available in Koerner Library  ZJL94.H453 1989
  • Manuscript Bibliography of Canadian Federal Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry, May 29, 2013
    • "An extensive, multi-part manuscript of a bibliography of Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry was recently found in a filing cabinet here at Publishing and Depository Services. Pages are hand-written, typed or have clipped excerpts from published catalogues stapled to legal sized sheets. There are extensive hand-written annotations throughout"