Tracing Historical Legislation at Library and Archives Canada

Are you thinking of doing some research on Canada’s past laws? Although current legislation is available on the Justice Laws website, the Reference Team at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) frequently assists clients in tracing historical legislation. While it might seem like a daunting task, with the right tools it often proves easy and interesting.

Most research of this type will require consulting one or more of the following sources:

  • Statutes of Canada (S.C.): The S.C., also known as the annual or sessional statutes, include the text of all acts and amendments passed during a given session of Parliament, in both official languages. The annual statutes for 2001 onwards are available on the Justice Laws website. You may access the earlier S.C. here at LAC or at many public and academic libraries.
  • Revised Statutes of Canada (R.S.C.): The R.S.C. represent the periodic revision of all current laws to incorporate any amendments. Any subsequent modifications to legislation will be carried out on the basis of these new, revised statutes, preventing the Table of Public Statutes (see below) from becoming too unwieldy. The latest revision occurred in 1985 and had previously been carried out in 1886, 1906, 1927, 1952 and 1970. The R.S.C. are also available to consult here at LAC, as well as at select public and academic libraries.
  • Table of Public Statutes: This useful resource lists all of the amendments to and repeals of legislation from either the previous revision or from the date of a law’s enactment, whichever is more recent. Modifications since the most recent revision in 1985 are also found on the Justice Laws website. For any legislation or amendments prior to 1985, the table will be at the end of the annual editions of the Statutes of Canada.

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