Traditionally, a general revision of the BC statutes has taken place every 15 to 20 years. The last general revision occurred in 1996.
The mandate of the revision committee, and the effect of the revision, is set out in the Statute Revision Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 440. The purpose of a general revision is to consolidate all amendments to the statutes since the last revision, and to improve the statutes by making non-substantive changes in wording, style and organisation. Now that consolidation occurs on an ongoing basis, general revisions will likely occur less often.
In addition to general revisions, the Statute Revision Act contemplates limited revisions. This will apply when a particular Act is replaced by a new Act.
Traditionally, statutes introduced between general revisions were cited by reference to the year in which they were enacted until they became incorporated in a general revision. Now, following a 2013 amendment to the Statute Revision Act and the Interpretation Act, a new Act will be assigned a revised statute citation. Once this occurs, the new Act can be cited either to the SBC citation assigned when the new Act was first enacted, or to the RSBC citation assigned in the annual volume.
For example, the citation for the new Insurance Act as enacted is Insurance Act, S.B.C. 2012 c. 37. However, the statute has also been assigned a limited revision chapter number, and can be cited as Insurance Act, R.S.B.C. 2012 c. 1.
Research for judicial consideration of legislation is often citation-based. Where there has been a limited revision, and a provision in a new statute could be cited either to the SBC or RSBC citation, researchers should check for both versions when noting up – unless they are satisfied that the note-up service will resolve either citation to the same results.
There are many different tools for locating relevant statutory provisions. These include:
- conducting an electronic search of the text of the statutes
- reviewing text books, encyclopedias and periodical articles on your topic
- reviewing CCH publications, Quickscribe consolidations, or other commercial statutes compilations on your topic, which may have detailed indices
- finding references to statutory provisions within relevant cases
- scanning the names of the statutes.
BCLaws free access to the statutes: BCLaws.ca contains a searchable current consolidation of the British Columbia statutes and regulations, and 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).
CanLII free access to the statutes: CanLII.org contains the 1996 revision and regulations, with amendments back to January 2009. It is updated weekly from the BCLaws.ca site. The legislation can be searched in full text, and earlier versions can be compared side-by-side with later versions to identify changes made during amendments. There is a note-up feature but it is not comprehensive. Users can subscribe to RSS feeds to be notified of changes to legislation.
QP LegalEze: QP LegalEze is an Internet-based subscription product containing the 1996 revision and regulations. It will be discontinued once its content has been moved to BCLaws.ca. QP LegalEze contains a searchable current consolidation of the British Columbia statutes and regulations, and also publishes orders-in-council, legislative history tables, bills, Hansard, consolidated in force information, regulations bulletins, the full text of private Acts, archived versions of earlier consolidations, BC Gazette Parts I and II, and corporate registry notices.
Quicklaw: Quicklaw publishes the current consolidation of the 1996 revision, with regulations, in British Columbia Statutes and Regulations. It is includes point in time and detailed legislative history information. Quicklaw also publishes some historical BC legislation, back to 2000. QuickCite includes judicial consideration of legislation back to 1992.
LawSource: LawSource publishes the current consolidation of the 1996 revision, with an incomplete collection of regulations. KeyCite includes judicial consideration of legislation with extensive historical coverage.
Quickscribe: Quickscribe Online publishes 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 also 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.
Dart: British Columbia Statute Service is published by Canada Law Book on-line. It includes a full text consolidation of the Revised Statutes of British Columbia 1996 and Regulations, with legislative history and amendments, annotations of British Columbia and Supreme Court of Canada decisions interpreting the statutes, links to Western Legal Publications’ case digests, links to full text judgments, cross-references, and a Table of Statutes.
LLMC Digital: LLMC Digital Law Library is a paid subscription service that publishes electronic versions of older revisions of the Revised Statutes of British Columbia. It is available without charge to in-library users at the BC Courthouse Libraries.
Once you have located a statutory provision, you must ensure that it is current. There are a variety of ways to find amendments to a BC statute since the last revision.
- The revision itself is updated periodically to include amendments passed during earlier legislative sessions. Your first step should be to check the date to which the consolidation you are using is current. If you are using an electronic version of the statutes, always check the scope note for the electronic version.
- Use BCLaws.ca to check the Table of Legislative Changes for the statute in question. It will list amendments and provide information about whether and when the amendments came into force.
- To receive notification of amendments to BC legislation, subscribe to an RSS feed. CanLII and Quickscribe allow you to subscribe to a feed for an individual statute or regulation, or for all amendments.
To conduct effective research, and particularly to look for judicial consideration of a statutory provision, you need to know its prior year, chapter, and section numbers. You can usually obtain this information (back to the last revision) from historical notes at the end of each section of the revised statutes. This is the system employed in all prior BC revisions and in other Canadian jurisdictions. However, the 1996 revision as published by the Queen’s Printer includes this information in a separate table at the end of each Act.
The historical reference will appear in a year-chapter-section format. For example, 1979-38-2 refers to section 2 of Chapter 38 of the 1979 revision.
This legislative history information is published in separate tables in BCLaws.ca and in the print consolidation of the legislation, and directly under the section by commercial publishers such as Quicklaw and Quickscribe. To see legislative history information about a statute on BCLaws.ca, locate the statute in the alphabetical listing, then click on the Historical Table link for the statute. The Historical Table will include a reference to the section from the previous revision, as well as any amendments up to the 1996 revision coming into force. There are also separate Tables of Legislative Changes that show amendments since the 1996 revision came into force.
If you want to trace the references to a statutory provision back to the 1960 revision, you would look first in the 1996 notes to find the 1979 section number, and then in the 1979 notes to find the 1960 section number. If there have been amendments between revisions, find them by looking in the sessional volume for the year of the amendment. For example, a reference to 1985-2-18 refers you to section 18 of Chapter 2 in the sessional volume for 1985.
Full text electronic access to BC legislation from 1868-1995 is available to in-library users at Courthouse Libraries BC. Access is through the library catalogue. Courthouse Libraries BC also contains print copies of previous consolidations and sessional volumes. QP LegalEze makes available a limited range of previous consolidations. The statute consolidations go back to 1991 and the regulation consolidations go back to 2003.
To dig further into the legislative history of a provision, look for Hansard debates of the bill while it was in the process of being enacted.
Hansard can be searched back to 1970 on the Legislative Assembly website. Hansard references are also included in the Progress of Bills tables for legislation back to 1999, and on the summary sheet for each bill in the BC Legislative Digest.
Water Protection Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 484, s. 5.
If you are citing to the version of that Act that was passed in 1995, prior to the 1996 revision, the citation is:
Water Protection Act, S.B.C. 1995, c. 34, s. 5.
There are several changes. Instead of R.S.B.C. (for Revised Statutes of British Columbia) you use S.B.C. (for Statutes of British Columbia). The year and chapter number are both different. In this case the section number is the same, but often the section numbering will change in a revision.
The move to continuous electronic consolidation of statutory changes is starting to affect citation rules. For example, s. 43 of the Interpretation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 238 has been amended to permit an Act that is a limited revision to be cited either to its chapter number in the sessional volume for the year when it was enacted, or as a Revised Statute for that year.
There is often confusion about whether you need to cite all amendments when you cite a statutory provision. The Interpretation Act provides that any citation to an enactment in legislation is deemed to include all amendments to that enactment. The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation provides that citations are presumed to be to the statute as amended. It is therefore not necessary to include amendment information in court submissions. However, if the amendment is relevant to a point being discussed, it should be cited. Different rules apply to statute citations in contracts, as the court looks to the parties’ intention at the time the contract is made.