This subject guide gathers links and content to assist in researching BC legislation.
BC Regulations go back to 1958. They are available in our print collection in the BC Gazette Part II. BC Regulations are also available online on our public computers on BC Laws, which also contain point-in-time legislation going back to 2003. The most current versions of BC Regulations are freely available on BC Laws and CanLII. For further information, read our Our Legal Knowledge Base entry on BC Regulations Pre-1958.
BC 1st Reading Bills go back to 1872. Our print collection goes back to 1956. Earlier 1st reading bills may be found by contacting the Legislative Library in Victoria. BC 1st Reading Bills are also freely available online going back to 1992 on the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia website. For further information, read Our Legal Knowledge Base entry on Bills – First Reading (BC).
BC Statutes go back to 1872. They are available in our print collection from 1872 onwards. Print versions published by the Queen’s Printer are considered the only official versions of BC legislation. BC Statutes are also available on our public computers on QP Legaleze and contain points-in-time going back to 1991. The most current versions of BC Statutes are freely available on BC Laws and CanLII.
CanLII has point-in-time legislation going back to 2003. BC Laws does not contain historical information.
BC Tables of Concordance go back to 1979. They are available in our print collection.
To create a new law, also called an act or a statute, the government first introduces a bill which must pass through various stages in the Legislature in order to become law.
What is a Bill?
A bill is a proposed law that can amend or repeal existing law or can contain completely new law. Bills can be introduced in the Legislature in one of three ways:
- as a Public Bill (also called a Government Bill), pertaining to public policy and introduced in the Legislature by a Minister
- as a Private Bill, for the benefit of a particular person or group, presented by petition from an individual or special interest group and introduced by an MLA
- as a Member's Bill, introduced by a member of the opposition or government backbencher.
What Stages Must a Bill Pass in Order to Become Law?
1st Reading: This is a formality whereby the bill is introduced in the Legislature. The bill is then printed in its 1st reading form, often with explanatory notes.
2nd Reading: Members of the Legislative Assembly debate the main principle(s) and purpose of the bill. If passed, the bill is then referred to committee for further study. Bills are not re-printed at 2nd reading.
Committee: Clause by clause debate takes place, usually in Committee of the Whole House. At this time, amendments to the bill may be proposed.
Report Stage: The committee reports the bill as either complete without amendments or complete with amendments.
3rd Reading: The bill, as reported by the committee, is passed by the Legislature and is then printed in its final, 3rd reading form. The 3rd reading copy of a bill includes any amendments made to the bill and is generally what becomes law.
Royal Assent: This formal ceremony, presided over by the Lieutenant Governor, completes the enactment process. The Legislature must be sitting in order for a bill to receive Royal Assent. Bills are assigned chapter numbers for the Statutes of British Columbia upon Royal Assent.
When Does An Act Come Into Force?
An act comes into force on the date of Royal Assent, unless the Act itself states that it comes into force on some other day. Different sections of an act can come into force on different days. An exact date may be specified or a "commencement" section may state that the Act or certain sections of the Act will come into force "by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council". This means a regulation is required to fix the date that the Act or sections of the Act come into force. These regulations are generally referred to as proclamations. The Legislature does not have to be sitting in order for a regulation to be issued to proclaim an act or sections of an act into force.
What Happens if a Bill is not Passed?
Not all bills become law. If a bill does not pass through all of the stages described above during one session of the Legislature, the bill "dies on the order paper". A bill that has died on the order paper can, however, be reintroduced as a new bill, with a new bill number, in the next session.
An Act Can Come Into Force in a Number of Ways
- On the date of Royal Assent
- On a date specified in the commence section of the Act
- By regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council. (These regulations are generally referred to as proclamations.)
- Some combination of the above.
The Legislature does not have to be sitting in order for a regulation to be issued to proclaim an act or sections of an act into force.
How Does Your Act Come Into Force?
Check the commencement section at the end of the act. If there is no commencement section the act came into force on Royal Assent.
Is it in Force?
Check the Progress of Bills Table on the Legislative Assembly’s website to determine the Royal Assent Date.
See our Recent BC Proclamations for list of acts that have been brought into force by regulation.