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Legal Citation

How to Cite Statutes

Citation of statutes is quite straightforward. It takes the following form:

short title, statute volume (including jurisdiction and year), chapter number, section number (if needed)

Example of a statute in an annual statute volume: Fewer Politicians Act, SO 1996, c 28, s 3.

Example of a statute in a revised statute volume: Mining Act, RSO 1990, c M.14.

Citation Breakdown

A. Short Title

  • Most statutes have lengthy titles. To save time and space the "short title" is acceptable for citation purposes.
  • This title is easy to find at either the beginning or end of the act and will be prefaced by the words, "This act may be cited as". Use the short title as given and remember to italicize it.
  • Newer statutes may also include the year as part of the title. If you find a statute with a year in the title, make sure you include this as part of the title in your citation (e.g., Pharmacy Act, 1991, SO 1991, c 36).

B. Volume Title Abbreviation

  • Revised Statutes or Regulations: Periodically the federal and provincial governments publish consolidations of all the statutes or regulations in force in their respective jurisdictions as of a particular date. These are referred to as the Revised Statutes or the Revised Regulations.  The last time Ontario issued revised statutes was 1990.  The last time the federal government issued revised statutes was 1985.

RSO 1990 stands for the Revised Statutes of Ontario 1990

RSC 1985 stands for the Revised Statutes of Canada 1985

Examples:

Employment Standards Act, RSO 1990, c E.14.

Canada Elections Act, RSC 1985, c E-2. 

  • Annual statutes: While Revised Statutes are published periodically, annual statute volumes are published every year. These contain both new and amending statutes which have received Royal Assent during the past year. If a statute is passed after the most recent Revised Statutes, it will be cited to the annual volume in which it appears. These annual statutes are cited as follows:

SO 1991 stands for Statutes of Ontario 1991

SC 1991 stands for Statutes of Canada 1991

Examples:

Photo Card Act, 2008, SO 2008, c 17.

Species at Risk Act, SC 2002, c 29.

C. Chapter Number

  • This element of the citation refers to the specific chapter number which the statute has been assigned in the volume.

Examples:

Photo Card Act, 2008, SO 2008, c 17.

Species at Risk Act, SC 2002, c 29.

D. Section Number

  • If necessary, include a reference to the section(s) of the statute you are discussing. This is known as a "pinpoint reference".

Examples:

Photo Card Act, 2008, SO 2008, c 17, s 8.

Species at Risk Act, SC 2002, c 29, ss 5, 7-12.

Note that "section" is abbreviated to "s" and "sections" is abbreviated to "ss". Unlike books and journal articles, there is no "at."

Notes:

  • Some provinces also publish statutes in loose-leaf format. The loose-leaf version may or may not have official status depending on the jurisdiction.  Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia all have an official version.
  • Sessional volumes: In the past, bound volumes of Federal and Ontario statutes were published at the end of each legislative session, rather than on a calendar year basis. When citing to statutes in these volumes, you may need to include the session number. See section 2.1.8 of the McGill Guide.

Revised Statutes which have been amended:

When you cite to a statute, it is assumed you are citing to the current version of the statute. It is only necessary to include a reference to an amending statute in the citation if it is relevant to a point being discussed. To include an amending statute, cite the original statute first, followed by "as amended by" and the citation of the new act. Include the name of the amending statute only if it differs from the original act.

Example:

Hay and Straw Inspection Act, RSC 1985, c H-2, as amended by An Act to Amend the Department of Agriculture Act and to amend or repeal certain other Acts, SC 1994, c 38.


This citation is referring to federal legislation, the Hay and Straw Inspection Act, chapter H-2 in the 1985 Revised Statutes, which has been amended by a statute found in chapter 38 of the 1994 annual statutes.