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Tracing Legislative History

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Susan Barker

on 25 September 2014

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Transcript of Tracing Legislative History

63 - 64 V, c 29, s3 Criminal Code Amendment Act 1900, SC 1892, c 29, ss 278 and 706
Legislative History
Start by Tracing the Evolution of the Statute
Tracing the Evolution of the Polygamy provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code
Start by finding the current version of the section of the statute that you are researching. These can be found
on the goverment legislation websites, on CanlII or in the Westlaw Canada or Quicklaw/LexisNexis Databases
in the print statutes
or by using a Statute Citator, or annotated statute, like Martin's Criminal Code for example
look at the
for the previous statute volume in order to locate the earlier version of the Criminal Code.
So we must look RSC 1952 - one year prior to SC 1953-54
Criminal Code, RSC 1927, c 36
From the earlier index, we know that the Code existed in the 1927 revision but
where are the polygamy sections?
to find them, check the 1927 index
Criminal Code, RSC 1906, c 146, ss 310 and 948
Tracing s 310: 63-63 V, c 46, s3
Criminal Code Amendment Act, SC 1900, c 46, s 3
An Act Respecting Offenses Relating to the Law of Marriage, RSC 1886, c161, s 4
53 V, c 37, s11
An Act to Further Amend the Criminal Law, SC 1890, c 37, s11
Reference to s. 293 of the current criminal code, which can be found in the Revised Statutes of Canada 1985, c C46 s 293
Criminal Code, RSC 1985 c C-46, s 293
Criminal Code, RSC, 1970, c C-34, s 257
Criminal Code, SC 1953-54, c 51, s 244
Hmm! Where did it go? What should I do next. Don't assume that because the note is not there that you have reached the end of your search
To Locate the Earlier Version of the Statute
Criminal Code, RSC 1927, c 36, ss 310 and 948
s. 3 is a huge section that includes all the amendments and changes to all the other sections. So when you look at s. 278 you are still looking at a part of s. 3 which is why you
cite to s. 3 rather than s. 278
Notice the section number change
Bringing the two sections back together
This statute adds the polygamy section
Where it all started
But wait, there's more!
So, now you have this information, what do you do with it. When researching legislative intent, you need to find out what the government was thinking about when it passed the legislation. To do this you would look at parliamentary debates and committee reports
Legislative Evolution and History
Why is it important to know how to research legislative evolution and history?

at some point in your academic or professional career you are likely to be asked to do legislative history research
very often we get articling students in the library whose first research project for their firm is to research the evolution and history of a particular statute
Researching Legislative Intent
So Why is Legislative Intent Important?
Researching Legislative Intent
How do you research legislative intent?

To find out why a law was bought into force you need to look at the debates (Hansards) to find out what was said when the law was first introduced
Make sure you have the correct session and check the index for that session. There are likely to be debates in the House, the Senate and even at the committee level and so you should check all of them to be thorough.
While it is not binding in the courts, legislative intent can have persuasive value
Knowing legislative intent enables judges to justify their decisions within the context of parliament's original intentions
See: Dreidger's Modern Principle
"Today there is only one principle or approach, namely, the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the
intention of Parliament
." Elmer Driedger, Construction of Statutes (2nd ed. Toronto: Butterworths, 1983)
This quote from Dreidger is often cited in judicial decisions. In fact is it quoted in the most recent BC polygamy reference.

House of Commons Debates (February 7, 1890) at 342-43 (1r); (April 10, 1890) at 3161-86 (2r and com); (April 16, 1890) at 3441-60 (amt and 3r); (May 16, 1890) at 4938 (ra)

Debates ofthe Senate (April 22, 1890) at 515 (1r); (April 25, 1890) at 583-86 (2r); (April 30, 1890) at 648-58 (com); (May 1,1890) at 681-83 (3r); (May 12,1890) at 780 (concur in Commons amts); (May 16, 1890) at 904 (ra)
The B.C. Polygamy Case: Application
Reference re: Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, 2011 BCSC 1588

One of the briefs presented was an extensive legal history compiled by the BC and Federal Attorney Generals
The judge refered to this brief a number of times in his judgment and dedicated and entire section of his judgment to "The Purpose and Interpretation of Section 293"
This is a bit of guess work but since we are in the correct session then we can take a chance an see if this entry works.
1r= first reading
2r= second reading
Com= referred to committee
3r= third reading.
Researching Legislative Intent
Susan Barker
Digital Services and Reference Librarian
Bora Laskin Law Library
University of Toronto
Locate the text of the act either online or in print.
Make note of the source reference below each section, use this reference to trace the legislation to the previous version
Source Reference
Full transcript