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A Lesson in Anatomy: The Canada Gazette 

As the official newspaper of the Government of Canada, published under the authority of the Statutory Instruments Act, the Canada Gazette contains a wealth of government information from new and proposed regulations to various public notices. The materials published in the Canada Gazette can form the backbone of much of your primary legal research — if you know where to look! In this post we’ll examine the anatomy of the Canada Gazette and dissect its 3 separately published parts to provide some clarity.

Part I

Part I of the Gazette is published every Saturday and is organized into six parts: Government House, Government Notices, Parliament, Commissions, Miscellaneous Notices and Proposed Regulations. It is most often used to look for orders-in-council, proposed regulations and their Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) and federal agency or departmental notices.

Quarterly Indexes provide a handy list of notices and orders-in-council published in Part I in the previous 3 months.

Part II

Part II is published bi-weekly on Wednesdays. This part contains important information for legislative research purposes, namely enacted regulations, other classes of statutory instruments, and orders. Part II is where to find orders fixing the coming into force dates for acts. Every document contained in Part II can be identified and is organized chronologically by a specified number: a Statutory Orders and Regulations (SOR) number or a Statutory Instruments (SI) number.

Part III

Part III contains official versions of public Acts of Parliament along with their enactment proclamations. This part of the Gazette is now less used than in the past, since recently enacted or “assented-to” versions of acts can be readily accessed in other places, such as the Justice Laws website or through LegisINFO. Part III is published irregularly, essentially whenever the Department of Justice determines there are enough newly enacted statutes to warrant it.

All parts of the Canada Gazette since 1998 are available on the “Canada Gazette Publications” webpage. (PDF versions since April 1, 2003 are official for evidence purposes.) For older issues, look to the Canada Gazette Archives. The Great Library has hard copies of the Canada Gazette from its inception in 1841 to 2014, the year the federal government discontinued the print publication.

For further reading, the Government of Canada has produced a helpful webpage on Understanding the Canada Gazette, as well as a History of the Canada Gazette.

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Prohibited Pets and Where to Find Them – Researching Municipal By-laws

Can my neighbour keep ferrets as pets, and if so how many? This question about what animals are permitted as pets in the City of Toronto recently led us into the world of municipal by-law research.

The City of Toronto website provides three great tools for this type of research:

  1. City of Toronto Municipal Code

The Code is an updated compilation of by-laws, divided into 3 parts – Administrative, General and Traffic and Parking By-laws, each organized by subject specific chapters.

You can browse the Code by chapter/subject, or use the separate search function. The table of contents includes links to any recent amendments made to a Code chapter since the last update.

(A quick note about scope – the Code contains administrative by-laws and by-laws that have general application to people and places across the City of Toronto, but it doesn’t include by-laws from decisions about specific people, places or things.)

  1. City of Toronto By-laws

Annual by-laws made by the City of Toronto are available from the current year back to 1998 (the year of municipal amalgamation in Ontario). You can browse this collection by year or by-law number, or use the keyword search function.

  1. By-law Status Registry

The Registry includes the history and status of by-laws, including older by-laws (many of which are still in force today) from the former municipalities of Toronto, Metropolitan Toronto, East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York back to 1834.

Now, back to the ferrets… our research in the City of Toronto Municipal Code led us to Chapter 349, Animals which sets out the rules for keeping and caring for animals in the city. The by-law also provides a long list of Prohibited Animals (Schedule A). We found that ferrets fall under the family of Mustelidae, a grouping of carnivorous mammals that also includes skunks, weasels, otters and badgers.  Ferrets are however specifically exempted in the Schedule.

While it appears ferrets are safe to keep as pets, we noted that a significant portion of the animal kingdom is not; residents are prohibited from keeping anteaters, elephants, fruit bats, hyenas, penguins, sloths and wallabies, to name a few. Interestingly, snakes are fine as long as they reach an adult length under 3 metres.

There is no mention of maximum ferret numbers per dwelling unit in Chapter 349 of the Code (although § 349-5 restricts the number of dogs to three and cats to six). Searching the City of Toronto annual by-laws, we found an earlier by-law (28-1999) which did provide that “no person shall keep in any dwelling unit more than six (6) of any combination of dogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits…” However checking in the By-law Status Registry confirmed that Chapter 349 of the Code superseded the earlier by-law.

Here are some other useful resources to assist with basic by-law research:

About Bills, By-laws and the Municipal Code – FAQs

By-law and Toronto Municipal Code Services – for questions and to obtain certified copies of by-laws

By-law Digitization Program – on-going scanning project of pre-1998 by-laws passed by the Toronto and former municipalities (Copies of by-laws not yet scanned can be requested from the City of Toronto Archives.)

A Brief History of Zoning Bylaws in Toronto, Toronto Reference Library Blog, Dec. 14, 2015

Rogers, The Law of Canadian Municipal Corporations (Thomson Reuters loose leaf) KF 5305 R63 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor; also available on Proview – Chapter IX, By-laws provides background and commentary on drafting, enacting, enforcing, and repealing by-laws

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December is known as Universal Human Rights Month. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in Paris on December 10, 1948. The milestone document consists of 30 articles setting out the basic human rights and freedoms – civil, political, economic, social and cultural for “all peoples and all nations”.

The universality of the Declaration is reflected in the fact that it is the most translated document in the world. There are currently 515 translations from Abkhaz to Zulu, as well as sign language versions, child-friendly versions, and illustrated versions.

To mark Universal Human Rights Month, here is a short selection of resources for researching the UDHR:


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American Law Guides for Beginners (and Canadian legal researchers)

At the Great Library, we’re always looking for simple, accessible resources that can provide our users with a good starting point for their U.S. legal research. So we were happy to discover that the Law Library of Congress has produced a series of beginner’s guides to American law topics.

Topic choices are pulled from the library’s frequently asked questions, and the guides are designed to assist researchers get their bearings in an unfamiliar area of law. So, they are well-suited to the needs of non-US legal researchers.

The guides are published on the Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis. Each one offers an introduction to the area of law, some research tips and a well-researched selection of secondary, primary and free online sources. Here are a few examples:

Patent Law: A Beginner’s Guide outlines the U.S. patent process, provides advice on where to search for patent laws and cases, and gives the titles of leading texts, as well as links to online resources, patent organization websites and practitioner blogs.

The Administration of a Probate Estate: A Beginner’s Guide includes a list of useful secondary sources and provides direction to state probate codes where answers to common questions about the administration of estates can be found.

Federal Statutes: A Beginner’s Guide aims to de-mystify federal statutory research by explaining the statutory publication process and describing where each type of statutory publication can be found.

Check In Custodia Legis for a full list of Beginner’s Guides.

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Finding Ontario OICs

What are OICs (Orders in Council)? Every province has them and the federal government as well, although the federal ones are also called Privy Council Orders.

There is a succinct definition of an Order in Council on the Ontario government’s Orders in Council website:

“An Order in Council (OIC) is a government order recommended by the Executive Council and signed by the Lieutenant Governor.”

Hundreds of OICs are made every year. A few are published in the Ontario Gazette but the majority are never published. In the past they were extremely difficult to locate.

Not anymore! The government website is one-stop shopping for:

  • what OICs are used for;
  • how they are created; and
  • most importantly, contact information for obtaining copies of them depending on the year they were created.