The nature of regulations

Subordinate legislation includes regulations, orders, directives, tariffs, bylaws and proclamations.

The Statutory Instruments Act governs federal regulations. Section 2 of that Act distinguishes between regulations and other types of statutory instruments. Regulations are defined as a statutory instrument “made in the exercise of a legislative power conferred by or under an Act of Parliament”, or a statutory instrument “for the contravention of which a penalty, fine or imprisonment is prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament”.

Regulations are cited using SOR and other types of statutory instruments are cited using SI.

The governing statute sets out the scope of the regulatory power. The governing statute also sets out who has the authority to make the regulation or order.

How regulations are made

A regulation is made in the following way.

  1. The ministry responsible for the governing statute produces a draft regulation.
  2. The draft regulation is reviewed by the Clerk of the Privy Council in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice.
  3. Proposed regulations are published in the Canada Gazette Part I, together with a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. This provides an opportunity for public comment on the proposed regulation.
  4. If necessary the regulation is revised by the ministry and returned to the Clerk of the Privy Council for review.
  5. Once the regulation is in final form a draft Order in Council is prepared for signature by the Governor General.

Before the regulation can come into force, it must be registered by the Clerk of the Privy Council. The regulation is then published in Part II of the Canada Gazette, as required by the Statutory Instruments Act.

When you review an Act, note whether it contains a section authorising the Governor in Council or another entity to make regulations. If so, you should check to find out whether any regulations have been passed.

Citing a regulation

A regulation is cited by year and number.

A sample citation is Trade-marks Regulations (1996), SOR/96-195.

“SOR” stands for Statutory Orders and Regulations. “96” stands for the year 1996, and 195 is the number assigned to the regulation. Inclusion of the title of the regulation is optional. If the statutory instrument is not a regulation, it is cited as SI/92-133.

Regulations published in the 1978 consolidation are cited to that consolidation. The citation includes the title of the regulation.

A sample citation is Air Cushion Vehicle Regulations, C.R.C., c. 4.

Finding regulations

Use a consolidated version of the regulations to locate the regulations enacted under a statute. Current consolidated versions of the federal regulations are available electronically through

Additional sources are CCH publications or other commercial consolidations of legislation on your topic.

Regulations are published in final form in the Canada Gazette, Part II. The Internet version of Parts I, II and III of the Canada Gazette has official status as of April 1, 2003. Each print issue has an index listing regulations by number and by name. A cumulative index is produced at the end of each calendar year, and the issues for the year are bound with the index.

The last time the federal regulations were consolidated in print format was 1978. Although the regulations published in that consolidation are still in effect, most of them have been amended, and there are many new regulations not included in the consolidation. Rather than starting with the 1978 consolidation, you should start your research with a current consolidation of the regulations.

There are two consolidated indices to the federal regulations.

The federal Queen’s Printer publishes the Consolidated Index of Statutory Instruments, as part of the Canada Gazette, Part II.

  • This index contains a list of all regulations and amendments to them, organised by statute.
  • Look up the title of the enabling Act, and review the list of regulations passed pursuant to it. This will give you the information you need to locate the full text of the regulation and amendments to it in either print or electronic sources.
  • Because this publication is only published semi-annually it will often be less current than the consolidated electronic versions.

Carswell publishes the Canada Regulations Index, a commercial consolidated index to the federal regulations.

  • The coloured pages filed at the front of each volume update the white pages. The coloured pages list regulations passed since the period covered by the white pages, but do not provide detailed information about those regulations.
  • The white pages contain a detailed index to all regulations passed since the 1978 consolidation, including the table of contents for each regulation.

If you are researching an Act with several regulations, this publication may help you to quickly narrow your research to the most relevant regulations. Depending on the timing of new releases, it may also be more current than the Consolidated Index published by the government.

Updating regulations

The consolidated version will contain amendments up to the date of the consolidation. Look for the date of the consolidation, and check for amendments from that date.

For new regulations and recent amendments:

  • Check the index pages in all issues of the Canada Gazette Part II published since the most current Consolidated Index
  • Subscribe to Canadian Legislative Pulse by CCH
  • Subscribe to the CanLII RSS feeds for amendments to regulations of interest to you.

Legislative history

If you need to conduct historical research on the regulations, rather than just study the consolidated version, the Consolidated Index will provide you with citations to all regulations, and amendments to them, since 1955. You can then find the original versions in the Canada Gazette, Part II.