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Government Information: Canada

How a Government Bill becomes Law - Canada


The following guide will explain the process by which a typical government initiated bill becomes law. This guide provides an overview of the Federal Legislative Process. Adapted from The Federal Legislative Process in Canada (CA1 J 87F24 Documents).

To become law, a bill must first be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Commons. It must then pass through various stages in each House: first, second and third reading. Then it must receive Royal Assent.

Definitions

Public Bills

These are proposals for laws that will affect the public in general. Most public bills are introduced by Government Ministers. Bills sponsored by the Government are numbered from C-1 to C-200 in order of presentation. If they are introduced first in the Senate, they are numbered starting S-1.

Private Bills

These are limited in scope: they concern an individual or group of individuals only. They confer a right on some person or group, or relieve them of a responsibility.

Policy Proposal

Most legislation originates with the Government. Policy proposal requiring legislation is submitted to Cabinet by Minster(s).

Cabinet

  • Policy proposal is considered by the appropriate Cabinet committee and recommendations are made to the Cabinet.
  • If Cabinet approves, the responsible Ministry issues drafting instructions to the Legislation Section of the Department of Justice.
  • Draft bill is prepared in two official languages and approved by the responsible Minster.
  • Draft bill is presented to Cabinet for approval.
  • If approved it is ready to be introduced in Parliament.

Parliament

First Reading

First reading in either the Senate or the House of Commons. Bill is printed.

Second Reading

Second reading in the same House of Parliament. Members debate and vote on the principle of the bill. The House may decide to refer the bill to a legislative, standing or a special committee, or to Committee of the Whole.

Consideration in Committee

Consideration by the appropriate parliamentary committee (clause-by-clause study of the bill). Committee can summon witnesses and experts to provide it with information and help in improving the bill.

Report Stage

Committee reports the bill to the House clearly indicating any amendments propsosed. House considers amendments and votes for or against them.

Third Reading

Debate and vote on bill as amended.
Once bill has been read 3 times in the House, it is sent to the Senate for its consideration.

Royal Assent

  • Bill is presented to the Governor General for assent.
  • The Governor General may assent to Bill in the Queen's name, withhold assent or reserve assent.
  • When Bill is given Royal Assent it becomes law.

In Force

  • Statute is in force:
    • upon Royal Assent, or
    • when it is proclaimed by the Governor General, or
    • on a day specified in the act
  • Different sections may come into force at different times

(Prepared by Inba Kehoe, Government Documents, Queen's University, 1997)

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