Shhh… Be very, very quiet, we’re hunting CIF dates!

As a reminder, statutes are not necessarily in force upon royal assent – however, most statutes and regulations come with a commencement section these days. That said, if you conduct historical legislative research, you may find that some annual statutes are ‘silent’ about their commencement!

What is silent commencement, and why does this happen?

Silent commencement occurs when an amending act or annual statute does not include a commencement provision indicating when the act will be in force.

Unfortunately, we could not find a clear answer as to why some acts are missing commencement provisions, but we can tell you how to determine the CIF (Coming into Force) date if you come across one in an Ontario statute or a federal statute.

What do I do if my Ontario statute is missing a commencement provision?

To find the CIF date of a silent Ontario Act, you must view the statutes which governed the interpretation of legislation at the time it was passed. Currently the statute governing the interpretation of Ontario legislation is the Legislation Act, 2006 [1].

However, the provisions and statutes dealing with silent commencement have changed over time – please see the sections below for more details or view our flowchart (prepared for convenience purposes only).

Click thumbnail to view Silent Commencement of Ontario Statutes: A Summary Flowchart

For silent acts given royal assent after July 25, 2007…

For silent acts given royal assent after July 25, 2007, see the Legislation Act, 2006 (on elaws), S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sched. F, s. 8 [2]:

“Unless otherwise provided, an Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.”

For silent acts given royal assent between January 1, 1937 and July 24, 2007…

For silent acts given royal assent January 1, 1937 to July 24, 2007, see the The Statutes Amendment Act, 1937 (via the Internet Archive), S.O. 1937, c. 73, s. 2: [3]

“…unless otherwise provided therein the Act shall come into force and take effect on the sixtieth day after the prorogation of the session of the Legislature at which the Act was passed or on the sixtieth day after the day of signification, whichever is the later date.”

To find the prorogation date of a session of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, use the Journals. You can find the prorogation date on the title page for the session, or on the final page where it’s recorded that the Legislative Assembly is prorogued.

Signification refers to the process by which an act is given royal assent either in person or by written declaration by the sovereign or their representatives [4][5].

For silent acts given royal assent between April 14, 1925 and December 31, 1936…

For silent acts given royal assent between April 14, 1925 to December 31, 1936, see The Statutes Act, 1925 (via the Internet Archive), S.O. 1925, c. 6, s. 2: [6]

“…unless otherwise provided therein the Act shall come into force and take effect on the sixtieth day after the day of the prorogation of the Session of the Legislature at which the Act was passed or after the day of signification as the case may be.”

For silent acts given royal assent between January 1, 1919 and April 13, 1925…

For silent acts given royal assent between January 1, 1919 and April 13, 1925, see The Statute Law Amendment Act, 1918 (via the Internet Archive), S.O. 1918, c. 20, s. 1: [7]

“…unless otherwise provided therein the Act shall come into force and take effect on the 60th day after the day of the assent or signification, as the case may be.”

For silent acts given royal assent between February 28, 1868 and December 31, 1918…

For silent acts given royal assent between February 28, 1868 to December 31, 1918, see The Interpretation Act, S.O. 1867-68, c. 1, s. 4: [8]

“…the date of such Assent or Signification, as the case may be, shall be the date of the commencement of the Act, if no later commencement be therein provided.”

What do I do if my Federal statute is missing a commencement provision?

Determining commencement for a silent act is much more straight forward with Canadian federal statutes. According to section 5 of the federal Interpretation Act, an Act of Parliament lacking a commencement provision is in force upon royal assent [9]! The very first act of the first Canadian Parliament was An Act Respecting the Statutes of Canada (31 V. c. 1). Section 4 of that Act indicates that federal acts come into force on their royal assent date, “…if no later commencement be therein provided”. The exact wording of the Interpretation Act has changed over time, but silent federal acts are still to come into force upon royal assent.

Final thoughts…

The good news is that most federal and Ontario Acts come with a commencement provision, but now you know what to do when your Act is a silent one!

References

[1] Ontario, Legislative Library and Research Services, When Do Ontario Acts And Regulations Come Into Force?, Research Paper B31 (Revised March 2018) (Toronto: Legislative Research Service, 2018) at 2 <https://www.ola.org/sites/default/files/common/2018-when-do-acts-come-into-force-en.pdf> accessed 11 March 2022.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jessica Richardson, Modernisation of Royal Assent in Canada, 2004 27-2 Canadian Parliamentary Review 32, 2004 CanLIIDocs 275, <https://canlii.ca/t/skbx>, retrieved on 2022-03-15.

[5] See “Royal assent” in “Chapter 16 The Legislative Process” from Marc Bosc & André Gagnon, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd Ed (Ottawa: House of Commons, 2017) online: <https://www.ourcommons.ca/about/procedureandpractice3rdedition/ch_16_5-e.html#16-5-11>.

[6] Ontario, Legislative Library and Research Services, supra note 1.

[7] Ontario, Legislative Library and Research Services, supra note 1.

[8] Ontario, Legislative Library and Research Services, supra note 1.

[9] Michel Bedard, Coming into Force of Federal Legislation, In Brief, Publication No. 2009-03-E (Ottawa: Library of Parliament, 2015) online: <https://lop.parl.ca/sites/PublicWebsite/default/en_CA/ResearchPublications/200903E> accessed 11 March 2022.