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how a bill becomes law

How does a bill become a law in Canada?


see also: current federal legislation; federal politics

(original source: parl.gc.ca)

The Legislative Process


General Principles


A bill is a proposed law submitted to Parliament for its examination, possible amendment and approval.
In order to become law, the House and the Senate must adopt a bill in identical form, following a series of stages outlined below; the bill must then receive Royal Assent.
A government bill is introduced (or sponsored) by the Minister having responsibility for the subject matter of the bill. Government bills are drafted by the Department of Justice.
A private Member's bill is introduced (or sponsored) by a private Member who is not a Minister or parliamentary secretary. Private Members' bills are drafted by the House of Commons' legislative counsel.

Introduction and First Reading


A bill must be formally presented or introduced to the House before it is given a number, printed and distributed. Government bills are numbered C-1 to C-200 while private Members' bills are numbered C-201 to C-1000.
Introduction and first reading are purely formal stages that take place at the same time. There is no debate and no vote takes place.

Second Reading and Referral to a Committee


The motion for second reading and referral to a committee is the first debatable stage of the legislative process.
The debate focuses on the principle of the bill. Amendments to the individual provisions of the bill are not permitted at this time.
If the bill is passed at this stage, the scope or basic principles of the bill are fixed.

Committee Stage


Bills are referred to a committee for detailed examination, usually after second reading.
Witnesses are often invited to appear before the committee to offer insight or opinions on the bill's provisions.
The committee usually hears first from the Minister and/or departmental officials (in the case of a government bill). The committee may then hear from interested groups or individuals.
Once testimony by witnesses is complete, the committee proceeds to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
Clause-by-clause study is the line-by-line examination of the bill and is the first opportunity for Members of the committee to propose amendments to the provisions of the bill.
Members of both the governing and opposition parties may propose amendments, which are then voted upon by the committee.
Once clause-by-clause consideration is complete, the bill is reported back to the House (with any amendments adopted by the committee).

Report Stage


Report stage enables the House to review the committee's work on the bill and allows all Members of the House to propose further amendments.
The Standing Orders empower the Speaker to review any proposed amendments and select the ones to be debated and voted upon by the House. The selection is done to avoid a repetition of the committee's work.
The bill, as reported by the committee, is then concurred in (agreed to) together with any further amendments adopted by the House at report stage.
If there are no amendments proposed at report stage, the House proceeds immediately to the third reading stage.

Third Reading


Third reading stage is the final consideration of the bill by the House before it is sent to the Senate
No amendments to the provisions of the bill are permitted at this stage.

Senate Consideration


The Senate's procedures for considering a bill are similar to those of the House of Commons.
Any amendments made by the Senate during its consideration of the bill must be considered by the House. The House can accept, reject or further modify amendments made by the Senate.
Once a bill is adopted in identical form by both Houses, it can then receive Royal Assent.

Royal Assent


Royal Assent is the procedure by which the representative of the Crown (the Governor General or one of his/her deputies) gives consent to the enactment of the bill. At this time, the bill becomes an Act of Parliament
Coming into Force

An Act of Parliament comes into force either when it receives Royal Assent or on another date provided for in the Act.

Variations to the Legislative Process


The House may use one of several alternative procedures for considering a bill.
The House can ask a committee to prepare a bill and present it to the House for second reading.
A bill may be referred to committee before second reading. This option allows the committee to consider a broader range of amendments, since the scope of the bill has not yet been fixed.
Private Members' bills are dealt with in accordance with additional procedures set out for Private Members' Business.
A separate procedure exists for private bills which are bills that propose to grant powers, special rights or exemptions to a person or group of persons, including a corporation. That procedure is not dealt with in this fact sheet.

Information about Bills


Bills may be reprinted a number of times throughout the legislative process, but not necessarily at all stages. The full text of all bills before Parliament is available at www.parl.gc.ca under the heading “Bills”.
Information about the current status of all bills before the House is also available at www.parl.gc.ca in a document called “Status of House Business”.