When conducting legislative research, it is best not to assume anything. One often-made assumption is that an Act passed by a legislative body during a specific year comes into force during that same year. In reality, many statutes come into force on a date other than the date on which they receive Royal Assent.
There are essentially four ways an Act can be brought into force:
- Royal Assent
- Fixed Date – retroactive or prospective
- Proclamation or Order
To find coming into force information, start by looking at the end of the Act. Is there a coming into force provision? If not, look through the entire statute to see if there is a commencement statement in earlier sections, or at the end of individual schedules. Read carefully, as the Act may provide that different sections come into force on different dates and by different means.
Finding Proclamations and Orders
If the Act or section(s) of the Act come into force by proclamation or order, you will need to research further to determine whether a proclamation or order has been issued.
For Ontario statutes, check the Table of Proclamations (cumulative from the RSO 1990) on the e-Laws website. If your Act was passed before 1990, you will need to check the Table of Proclamations found at the back of annual print volumes of the Statutes of Ontario. To find a copy of the text of a proclamation, check the Ontario Gazette in print, or on the Web at www.ontariogazette.gov.on.ca.
For federal statutes, check the Table of Public Statutes and Responsible Ministers on the Justice Laws website. This table (cumulative from the RSC 1985) shows coming into force information under the short title of the Act. If your Act was passed before 1985, you will need to check the Table of Public Statutes found at the back of annual print volumes of the Statutes of Canada. To find a copy of the text of an order fixing the coming into force date of a statute, check the Canada Gazette, Part II in print, or online at http://www.gazette.gc.ca.
Fortunately, at the Great Library we endeavour to make your legal research easier and more efficient. For many years, our staff has annotated the printed annual volumes of the Ontario and Canada statutes, noting the in-force date for each Act, including the proclamation date and the Gazette citation where the proclamation or order was published.
Researching legislation can be complicated, and having the correct in force information can make or break your case. So, make this your New Year’s resolution: don’t assume – find out. And when in doubt, ask a law librarian.