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Law - Legislative Process Research

This guide has been prepared to assist with legislative process research.

Legislative Histories

Legislative histories are important because the documents relating to the preparation and enactment of a Bill may provide valuable information regarding the interpretation of a statute or a particular provision. 

The author of Sullivan and Driedger on the Construction of Statutes describes Legislative History as:

In a broad sense the legislative history of an enactment consists of everything that relates to the conception, preparation and passage of the enactment, from the earliest proposals for legislation to royal assent.  This includes the reports of law reform commissions and other similar bodies; departmental studies and recommendations; proposals and memoranda submitted to cabinet; the remarks of the Minister responsible for the bill; materials tabled or otherwise brought to the attention of the legislature during the legislative process, including explanatory notes; materials published by the government during the legislative process, such as explanatory papers or press releases; legislative committee hearings and reports; debates on the floor of the legislature; the record of motions to amend the bill and so on. (p. 481-2)

Legislative histories include:

  • Versions of a Bill
    • every addition or deletion made during the legislative process implies a deliberate choice of language
  • Debates (Hansard)
    • official record of the Debates in the Legislature or Parliament
    • statements made by the Minister or member of the house who introduced the Bill may be relevant for the purpose of determining legislative intent
    • may also help in finding out if a Bill was referred to a particular committee
  • Committee Proceedings and Reports
    • committees are generally delegated the task of providing a detailed examination of proposed legislation
    • reports can be very informative in explaining legislative intent
  • Royal Commission Reports
    • usually include recommendations relating to the matter under examination, which may assist in providing relevant background information regarding the incentive or need to introduce certain laws
  • Official Government Documents
    • includes “white papers” and “green papers”
  • Law Reform Commission Reports
    • provide summaries of the area of law under study
    • explain why the law needs to be changed,
    • provide recommendations for the improvement, modernization and reform of laws

Many materials used to construct a legislative history can be found under Legislation & Government on the Law Library website.

Federal Sources