Revisions and Consolidations: There’s a Difference?

A photo of a chair and table in front of a wall of bookshelves.

In our last post we explained how to manually craft point-in-time consolidations and highlighted one of the main tools we use: Revised Statutes.

Consolidated legislation can be crafted by the consolidator using the ‘cut and paste’ method  and it is also what you see on government web sites such as e-Laws and Justice Laws. A consolidation of a statute refers to the updating of a statute to discern what that statute or provision looked like at a point-in-time.

Now, what’s the difference between a consolidation and a revision? In this blog post we will highlight what statute revisions are by answering the questions below. But first!  A little history.

The first “official” Revised Statutes of Upper Canada were published in 1843.[1] Since then, federal and provincial jurisdictions have published them every 10 to 20 years. Federal statutes were revised in the following years: 1886, 1906, 1927, 1952, 1970 and 1985. And Ontario statutes: 1877, 1887, 1897, 1914, 1927, 1937, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990.

What is a statute revision?

Statute revision is the process where an existing Act is revised to consolidate in force amendments that have been made to a certain date. Unlike consolidations, which function as point-in-time versions of legislation, revisions undergo a regulatory process during which outdated language and style is modernized without changing the legal effect of the law. Additionally, revisions re-enact statutes and are brought into force by regulation.

What can a revision do?

Preparing and producing general revisions is a huge job, the last federal revision in 1985 took approximately 4 years to complete! They have been carried out by statute revision commissions pursuant to a statutory mandate. The following Acts establish the authority that is used when revising the Act:

Federal – Legislation Revision and Consolidation Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. S-20
Ontario – Legislation Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sch. F

The governing statutes define what exactly can be done during a revision. Some of the more important things a revision can do are: combine Acts and provisions (which includes renumbering), rename an Act, alter the punctuation for consistency and clarity, correct grammatical errors, omit repealed provisions and make minor amendments in the language to clarify the intent of the Legislature.[2]

What does re-enactment of a revised statute mean?

Re-enactment means the existing legislative text is repealed and replaced by the newly revised legislative text and then proclaimed in force. However, the substantive law that is expressed remains the same and the coming into force date of an original provision included in a revision is unchanged by re-enactment.

To help researchers trace and track these changes and find the original coming into force dates, tables of concordances are published with the revision as well as a table of the history and disposal of acts.

Will there be another Revised Statutes for Canada and/or Ontario?

It is unlikely for either Ontario or Canada to undertake a traditional general revision. Both jurisdictions consolidate public statutes and regulations on an ongoing basis on e-Laws and Justice Laws. The last revision in Canada was produced in 1985, and for Ontario, 1990.

[1] Norman Larsen, “Statute Revision and Consolidation: History Process and Problems” (1987, Ottawa Law Review, CanLIIDocs 3)

[2] Ruth Sullivan, Sullivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed. (LexisNexis Canada, 2014) at para. 24.56