Effective legislative research requires the reader to study and consider a legislative provision in the context of the whole Act, rather than looking at an isolated section. Regulations should be considered as well as the statute. The legislation you review must be current. Effective judicial consideration research often requires that you find out about previous revisions of the legislation. These factors should be considered when choosing your source for legislation.
Analysis of a comparison of the legislation available on LawSource, Quicklaw and CanLII as of January 16, 2014 leads to the following generalizations regarding the legislative research tools available on these services.
- Quicklaw is very current for federal, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario legislation. LawSource is less current than Quicklaw for several jurisdictions, but is more current for some.
- LawSource does not contain complete regulations for any jurisdiction, so either Quicklaw or CanLII will be preferable sources for regulations unless the particular regulation you are researching is within the selection available on LawSource.
- If your objective is to research all statutes (not regulations) across Canada, this can be done by section on either LawSource or Quicklaw (except for Nunavut legislation), or by whole Act on CanLII.
- Quicklaw contains much better legislative history information than LawSource, including a reference to the previous revision. It permits point in time research for federal, Alberta, BC and Ontario statutes. This allows the researcher to view all versions of a section from the commencement of point in time coverage, or to request the version in force on a particular date.
- LawSource legislative history information is only for the current revision.
- LawSource permits the user to travel to sequential sections of the legislation using navigation links. On Quicklaw this can be done by searching for the Act by name or citation and then viewing individual sections selected from the left panel. In addition, on Quicklaw the “View More” box at the top right enables the whole Act to be viewed, printed or downloaded as one document.
- LawSource includes KeyCite, which covers judicial consideration of statutes, rules of court and regulations. KeyCite has full historical coverage spanning earlier legislative revisions.
- Quicklaw has expanded QuickCite to include statutes and regulations judicially considered, but only for the most recent legislative revision. It is not as comprehensive as KeyCite, with coverage starting at cases from January 1992 (from 2006 for Quebec).
- Both KeyCite and QuickCite list judicial consideration broken down by subsection and clauses, including defined terms in legislation. Results on both services can be further refined using a keyword search.
- The Rules of Court can be searched on either Quicklaw or LawSource. However, LawSource has the additional feature of a Rules Concordance, and has added Rules Judicially Considered to KeyCite.
CanLII publishes statutes and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions. CanLII’s legislative coverage for some provincial jurisdictions is stronger than that offered by the commercial services.
- Most of the provincial legislation databases are updated weekly, and federal legislation is updated bi-weekly. However, currency is dependent on the currency of the government consolidation from which the update is downloaded.
- Users can compare different versions of an Act or regulation in a side-by-side view with changes highlighted. They can also subscribe to an RSS feed to be notified of amendments to specific Acts and regulations, or amendments to all legislation from a jurisdiction.
- The improved CanLII legislative note-up allows noting up by section or by subsection, and can be accessed from the link at the section number.
- Cases and decisions on CanLII link directly to the legislation referenced in them.
- Users can search the entire legislation collection or specify which jurisdiction or statute they want to search in. Legislation can also be accessed by browsing alphabetically. Regulations enacted pursuant to a statute are listed with the statute.
- Legislative collections include a reference to the previous revision for most jurisdictions.
- There is a convenient feature allowing easy copying of the full legislative citation from a link at each section number.
BCLaws.ca is a free site operated by the Queen’s Printer that publishes a searchable current consolidation of British Columbia statutes and regulations. BCLaws also publishes orders-in-council (from 1872), point-in-time, and legislative history tables. Content is gradually being moved to BCLaws from QP LegalEze, but the transition is not yet complete. The Gazette Parts I and II have not yet moved to BCLaws. Also, the site does not yet contain private Acts, or older consolidations. In respect of some content, the BCLaws home page links to legislative research tools on the Legislative Assembly website, including Hansard (from 1970), bills (from 1992), progress of bills tables, and archived Journals (from 1851).
QP LegalEze is a legislation site also published by the Queen’s Printer, but it requires a paid subscription. Its content is gradually being moved to BCLaws, after which QP LegalEze will be discontinued.
Quickscribe Online makes available to subscribers the 1996 revision with regulations, and includes a number of value-added features to help subscribers navigate through bills, orders-in-council, current and archived versions of BC legislation. Quickscribe includes alert services to notify users of legislative changes. A subscription includes access to the BC Legislative Digest, which follows the progress of bills in the BC Legislative Assembly. Quickscribe Hardcopy publishes topical consolidations of British Columbia legislation in print.
- An official version of federal legislation is freely available through the Department of Justice.
- Access to bills and legislation from across Canada is conveniently listed in Bora Laskin Law Library – Canadian Legislation.
- An excellent source for federal bills is Legisinfo.
Historical Canadian federal legislation is available through Hein Online. The collection contains PDF versions of the Revised Statutes of Canada (1886, 1906, 1927, 1952, 1970, 1985 revisions) and the sessional volumes of the federal statutes (from 1792).