During each session of Parliament, various documents and reports are submitted to both the House of Commons and the Senate. These include the reports and evidence of parliamentary committees, departmental annual reports, and answers to written questions from members of Parliament. Some Royal Commissions, Task Force Reports, Census volumes, and other tabled documents, such as business institutions, statistics, foreign affairs documents, lists of Order-in-Council appointments, maps and other documents are included as well.
Parliamentary committee reports were excluded as these were printed as appendices to the Journals.
Some tabled documents were ‘not printed’, and therefore don’t appear in the published Sessional Papers. Certain of these can be found in the ‘Unpublished Sessional Papers’ (from 1916 to 1988).
Where can I find them?
Province of Canada, 1841-1866
Papers ordered to be printed were collected in the Appendices to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (1841-1859) and the Sessional Papers of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (1860-1866). Other papers were included within the Journals of each chamber.
These papers may be obtained from the Library of Parliament.
Dominion of Canada, 1867-1924
The Sessional Papers dating from 1867 to 1925 (the 1st to 14th Parliaments) were published as collections. They are available at the University of BC Libraries and the Vancouver Public Library, as well as the Library of Parliament.
Sessional Papers from 1867 to 1900 can also be found in Early Canadiana Online.
Sessional Papers from 1901 to 1925 can also be found in the Internet Archive.
From 1924 to 1930 (the 15th to the 16th Parliament), sessional papers were mainly published under the title: Annual departmental reports.
After 1930,the sessional papers were once again published individually, rather than as part of a collection. In some cases, parliamentary papers are printed as appendices to the Journals.
Since 1963 (the 26th Parliament), sessional papers are individually catalogued by the issuing department.
The sessional papers are assigned numbers by the Journals Branch. The sessional paper number is shown in the Journals along with a brief description of the document. These papers may be obtained from the Library of Parliament.
The best way to retrieve the sessional papers is by searching in the Journals. All the documents that have been tabled in the House of Commons are listed. You can also have access to the older journals via the Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources Portal.
Once you have identified a sessional paper that you are looking for, you can contact the Library of Parliament for a copy.
Unpublished Sessional Papers
Not all Sessional Papers are printed and distributed. In this case, original copies are retained by Library and Archives Canada and the Library of Parliament. Both Libraries have unpublished sessional papers starting from 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session) to the present.
Note: All pre-1916 unpublished sessional papers were burned in a fire at the Parliament buildings.