Skip to Main Content


Guide to research sources for Canadian and BC law.

Legislation (Statute law)

This page provides links to key resources for locating legislation for Canada and British Columbia which are available to KPU users.

About legislation

Image credit: Canadian Bar Association

Laws created by governments are called "legislation". Legislation may also be called "statute law".

The laws which are created by elected representatives in the federal Parliament or a provincial Legislative Assembly are usually called "acts" or "statutes".

Statutes are often supplemented by "regulations" or other "statutory instruments" which are typically approved by the relevant government Minister. 

Legislation is one of the two main types of primary law in Canada, which means it is binding in court. The other main type of primary law is case law: the decisions made by judges in courts. 

It is helpful to understand how legislation is created so that you can search effectively. If this is your first time researching legislation, you may want to read the library's Statute Law Guidepost.

Federal Government:

Source: Parliament of Canada, 2019.

How Laws are Made

How Laws Are Made graphic showing 6 steps from proposal of bill to royal assent.

BC Government:

Source: Reflective Prof [Wayland Chau], 2020.

In Canada, the power to make laws on specific matters is divided between the federal government and the provincial governments. This distribution of legislative powers was originally set out in two sections of the British North America Act [BNA Act] in 1867. 

  • Section 91: federal jurisdiction
  • Section 92: provincial jurisdiction

The BNA Act was later renamed the Constitution Act, 1867. The Act has been amended many times, most significantly in 1982 when it was 're-patriated' from the United Kingdom, and Canada gained the right to amend its own constitution. However, the fundamental division of powers has not changed in 150 years.

The Constitution Act, 1982 supplements the Constitution Act, 1867 and introduced the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Act: a law created and approved by legislators; also called a Statute

Bill: a proposed new law (or amendment to an existing law) which has not yet been approved by legislators; becomes an Act when passed

Legislation: a broad term that refers to laws, regulations, and other legal instruments created by governments

Primary sources: the two types of materials that are legally binding: legislation and case law

Regulations: primary legal documents, with the force of law, that accompany some Acts to provide details; usually developed by government ministry, not elected legislators; also called Subordinate Legislation

Secondary sources: materials that explain or interpret the primary law: e.g. books, journal articles, etc.

Statute: a law created and approved by legislators; also called an Act

Subordinate Legislation: another term for Regulations

Tools to locate legislation

These databases include legislation from all levels of government:

Key Resources:

Orders in Council
Hansard Debates

The federal government creates most criminal laws in Canada. The Criminal Code is the main piece of legislation, but there are several other acts, including the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and others. You will find the texts for all of these laws in CanLII, LawSource and on the Justice Laws website listed on the previous tabs.

The following database focuses specifically on criminal laws:

Annotated Criminal Codes


Annotated Statutes

These provide the text of an act, with section-by-section analysis (annotations) and references to important legal cases. They are excellent resources to start your research on a piece of legislation. Although some of these resources are available online, they are often easier to use (believe it or not!) in the print format. Here are a few titles: