Annual Statutes: What Gives?

Four annotated Statutes of Ontario volumes with the Great Library in the background

In a previous post on Myths of Legislative Research, we mention that before the existence of e-Laws, Justice Laws, and online consolidations, legislation was not consolidated each year but rather every decade or so with revisions produced by the respective government (Revised Statutes of Canada, Revised Statutes of Ontario, etc.). So, if statutes were not being consolidated annually, what do we mean when we refer to “annual statutes”, and what comprises these annual volumes? Here’s a refresher. 

Annual volumes contain all the statutes passed[1] by a parliament or legislature each year. Previously, some jurisdictions published statutes by parliamentary session, rather than by year, into what are called “sessional volumes”. Annual

statutes are where you’ll find substantive changes to legislation. Only corrections and “housekeeping” or minor changes are allowed to be enacted in revisions and consolidations (as explained in our posts Editorial changes in Revised Statutes and Revisions and Consolidations: There’s a Difference?).  

Statutes found in annual volumes can be: 

  • new enactments of substantive law 
  • amending or repealing acts 
  • acts that repeal and replace themselves (as a method of ad hoc consolidation)  

“Ad hoc consolidations” may occur when there have been so many amendments made to an act that a need for a consolidation arises before the time of the next revision; such a consolidation would appear in the annual volumes.[2]

Ad hoc consolidations and new enactments of substantive law are the instances by which you may find a consolidation amongst the annual volumes. Otherwise, when referencing annual statutes and annual volumes, you are likely to find legislation which merely amends, repeals, or affects substantive law in some way. Annual/Sessional statutes are the main tool by which amendments, repeals, and other changes made to substantive law are displayed, and are central to the task of creating point-in-time consolidations

Ontario annual statutes can be found under “Source Law” on e-Laws going back until 2000, and federal annual statutes can be found under “Annual Statutes” on Justice Laws going back until 2001. The Great Library also possesses the print annual statutes for the federal and Ontario jurisdictions since the beginning of their production, as well as the annual statutes for all other provincial jurisdictions. For more on where to find legislation, look to our research guide On The Web: Where to Find Canadian Legislation.

[1] Bills that have received royal assent.
[2]The Parliament or Legislature would gather and consolidate the associated changes and amendments along with the body of the unchanged text to enact a newly consolidated version of the act. This consolidation would repeal and replace the old version of itself, thus producing a technically new act (though the nature of the substantive law would remain the same).