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.
- 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.
Most legislation originates with the Government. Policy proposal requiring legislation is submitted to Cabinet by Minster(s).
- 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.
- 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.
- Consideration in Committee
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Last Updated: 12 April 2013