How new laws and regulations are created
Laws affect nearly every aspect of our everyday lives. For example, we have laws that govern activities like driving a car, getting a job, and getting married. Laws help to ensure a safe and peaceful society. The Canadian legal system respects individual rights and ensures that our society is orderly. The rule of law, freedom under the law, democratic principles, and respect for others form the foundations of Canada's legal heritage.
Indigenous customs and traditions have also contributed to alternative approaches to laws, such as healing and sentencing circles, community justice, and restorative justice. Read more about the Indigenous Justice Program, which works to give Indigenous peoples a greater role in administering justice in their communities.
Because our society is so complex, it would be nearly impossible if lawmakers had to deal with all of the details of all the laws. To help with this, Parliament and provincial and territorial legislatures often pass laws to give departments or other government organizations the authority to make specific laws called regulations. As you’ll see below, regulations carry out the purposes of general laws or expand on them and have the force of a law. For example, there are regulations on the food we eat so we stay healthy or outline what kind of storage tank we need to use to keep oil products so we stay safe.
All Canadians should have an awareness and understanding how new laws and regulations are created. To get started, read more by following the process below, download and share our infographic, and check out the links below for related information.
THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
Legislation is a written law that provides rules of conduct. To become law, legislation must be approved by Parliament. Proposed legislation is introduced in Parliament in the form of a bill which provides the basis to amend or repeal existing laws or put new ones in place.
Canada’s legislative process involves all three parts of Parliament: the House of Commons (elected, lower Chamber), the Senate (appointed, upper Chamber), and the Monarch (Head of State, who is represented by the Governor General in Canada).
These three parts work together to create new laws.
Proposed policy is developed by the Government and is then presented to Cabinet for approval to draft a new bill.
- Cabinet is the Prime Minister’s forum for creating consensus among the Government’s Ministers.
- A bill is text of a legislative initiative that the Government submits to Parliament to be approved, and possibly amended, before becoming law.
Following the Cabinet’s approval, the Department of Justice drafts a bill. This is done in collaboration with a government department’s or agency’s policy development and legal services teams.
The bill is introduced in either the House of Commons or the Senate.
Traditionally, Parliamentarians then debate the principle of the bill and vote to decide whether it should be studied further.
If the bill passes second reading, it is sent to a Parliamentary Committee, which studies it in depth, holds public hearings to hear views and may make changes to the bill.
When a Committee has finished its study, it reports the bill back to the Chamber. During the report stage, Parliamentarians can also make amendments to the bill.
The bill is then subject to a final debate and vote.
If the bill passes the vote, it is then sent to the other Chamber, where it goes through the same process.
Once the bill has been passed in the same form by both Chambers, it goes to the Governor General for Royal Assent and then becomes Canadian law.
The law becomes enforceable once it comes into force. Laws can come into force in the following ways:
- when they receive Royal Assent;
- on a day or days specified in the Act; and
- on a day or days set by the Governor in Council (the Governor General, on the advice of the federal Cabinet).
THE REGULATORY PROCESS
Regulations provide support to the new laws and are enforceable by law.
Unlike legislation, regulations are not made by Parliament but rather by persons or bodies that Parliament has given the authority to make them in an Act, such as the Governor in Council or a Minister. This is why regulations are developed under a separate process from Acts.
The relevant organizations conduct an analysis for the development of regulatory proposals.
The relevant organizations conduct stakeholder engagement to seek views on possible policy approaches.
After consideration of comments received, the regulatory proposals are further refined.
Stakeholders are invited to provide further comments.
Draft regulations are then developed by the Department of Justice in accordance with the written instructions provided by the relevant organizations.
The Minister, for Ministerial regulations, or the Treasury Board, for Governor in Council regulations, reviews and approves the draft regulations for publication, with or without changes.
The approved draft regulations are published in the Canada Gazette, Part I.
- The Canada Gazette is the official newspaper of the Government of Canada. It contains information such as formal public notices, official appointments, proposed regulations and more. It is also a consultative tool, providing Canadians with the opportunity to provide their comments on the proposed regulations.
Comments are taken into consideration and the draft regulations are updated and finalized.
The Minister or the Governor in Council, on Treasury Board's advice, as appropriate, reviews and approves the making of the final regulations. The regulations are made once the Minister signs the regulations' covering order, or once the Governor General signs the regulations' Order in Council, as the case may be. The final regulations are then published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, and come into force on the day or days set out in the regulations.
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