Statute revisions

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, RSBC 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 can 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, SBC 2012, c 37. However, the statute has also been assigned a limited revision chapter number, and can be cited as Insurance Act, RSBC 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.

Finding statutory provisions

There are many different tools for locating relevant statutory provisions. These include:

  • Secondary sources on your topic: text books, encyclopedias, and periodical articles. Secondary sources are a good starting point for locating relevant statutory provisions, due to the difficulty of identifying keywords to search statutes.
  • Review commercially published consolidated statutes on your topic, which may have detailed indices. Try searching a law library catalogue to locate published statute consolidations on your topic.
  • Look for references to statutory provisions within relevant cases.
  • Conduct keyword searches of statutes.

There are several online versions of the BC statutes, which can be used for full text searches of the statutes and regulations.

BCLaws: includes:

  • current consolidations of British Columbia statutes and regulations plus tables of legislative changes
  • private, special, and local acts
  • regulations bulletins
  • BC Gazette Parts I and II
  • Orders in Council (from 1872)
  • archived consolidations of statutes and regulations.

The BCLaws home page links to legislative research tools on the Legislative Assembly website, including Debates of the Legislative Assembly (Hansard) from 1970, and archived Journals from 1851.

CanLII: contains the 1996 revision and regulations, with amendments back to January 2009. Statutes are updated frequently from the site. Earlier versions of statutes and regulations 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.

Quickscribe:  Quickscribe publishes the 1996 revision with regulations, and includes many value-added features to help subscribers navigate amendments, bills, orders-in-council, current, and archived versions of BC legislation. Quickscribe includes some early consolidations of statutes not yet in force as well as repealed legislation. Quickscribe also includes alert services to notify users of legislative changes.

Quicklaw: Quicklaw publishes the current consolidation of the 1996 revision and regulations, plus annual statutes back to 1997 and historical legislation back to 2000. Quicklaw includes some point in time coverage back to 2000 and detailed legislative history information.  QuickCite includes judicial consideration of legislation back to 1992.

WestlawNext Canada LawSource: LawSource publishes the current consolidation of the 1996 revision and consolidated provincial regulations including new and revised regulations. KeyCite includes judicial consideration of legislation with extensive historical coverage.

HeinOnline: HeinOnline’s Provincial Statutes of Canada includes many historical revisions and statutes of British Columbia.

LLMC Digital: LLMC Digital Law Library publishes selected historical BC statutes and proclamations.

Finding amendments

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.

  • Your first step should be to check the currency date of the source you are using.
  • Quickscribe includes tools to help researchers identify amendments to a statute within a selected timeframe.
  • You can use to find information about amendments to your statute and and whether they are in force: check your statute’s Tables of Legislative Changes.
  • To receive ongoing notification of amendments to BC legislation use CanLII RSS feeds or Quickscribe RSS feeds or email alerts. Quickscribe alerts are more current than CanLII.

Finding legislative history

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 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, look at the Historical Table 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.

Tables of concordance can be helpful to researchers who need to update an older statutory provision or trace a current provision back in time, particularly if the statute has a complex history, or if you need to find similar statutory revisions in different jurisdictions.

Examples of tables of concordance include:

  • Sectional table of concordance for the Revised Statutes of British Columbia 1996, published by the (BC) Office of Legislative Counsel or the Sectional table of concordance for the Revised Statutes of British Columbia 1979, published by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia (these tables are not available online, but your library might have a copy). These tables show the relationship of a section in a statute in one revision (RSBC 1996) with the previous revision (RSBC 1979).
  • The BC government publishes unofficial tables of concordance between the Local Government Act and the Community Charter.
  • WestlawNext Canada includes tables of concordance to federal, provincial, and territorial legislation for topics such as family law, personal property security acts, and securities acts.
  • Some books (in print and online) include tables of concordance as research tools: for example, the British Columbia Corporations Law Guide (LexisNexis) includes a table of concordance between the Company Act, RSBC 1979, c 59 and the Company Act, RSBC 1996, c 62 and the Company Act, RSBC 1996, c 62 and the Business Corporations Act, SBC 2002, c 57.The Wills, Estates and Succession Act Transition Guide (Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia) includes a table of concordance between the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, SBC 2009, c 13, and source enactments dealing with similar subject-matter.

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. You can look up your bill in Hansard Indexes online and in print. Legislative Assembly pages for recent sessions include a List of Bills with Hansard Debates to make it easier to find debate on specific bills.

Citing a statute

The citation for a statute varies depending on whether you are citing to a revision, or to a sessional volume. If you are citing to section 5 of chapter 484 of the 1996 revision, the citation is:

Water Protection Act, RSBC 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, SBC 1995, c 34, s 5.

There are several differences. Instead of RSBC (for Revised Statutes of British Columbia) you use SBC (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, RSBC 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. See the Legislative Assembly of BC website for a list of Revisions Pursuant to the Statute Revision Act.

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.