Creating a Complete History of Legislation

The easiest way to create a history of an act is to start with the most recent version of the legislation and work your way backwards. Going forward tends to be more complicated.

Depending on your jurisdiction and how far back you need to go, you may be able to do this entirely using electronic resources. Provincial historical legislation is now available on HeinOnline; check with your law society or library to see if you have access.

Let’s take the (now repealed) Bee Act, RSBC 1996, c 29 as an example. Using the Tables of Legislative Changes on BC Laws, you can see all the changes made to the act since 1996. (Alternatively, you could have used the Table of Statutes at the back of the annual statutes.) You can then look at the Historical Table for the Bee Act which provides a concordance between RSBC 1979 and 1996. Then, depending on what resources are available to you, you can finish the legislative research using HeinOnline or print resources.

The end result looks like:

Foul Brood Bees Act, RSBC 1911, c 18

Amended by SBC 1919, c 7; SBC 1923, c 2; SBC 1920, c 6.
NOTE: Renamed Apiaries Act by SBC 1919, c 7

Apiaries Act, RSBC 1924, c 12

Amended by SBC 1929, c 4, s 2; SBC 1930, c 3, s 2.

Apiaries Act, RSBC 1936, c 11

Amended by SBC 1947, c 5

Apiaries Act, RSBC 1948, c 14

Amended by SBC 1959, c 3

Apiaries Act, RSBC 1960, c 12

Amended by SBC 1963, c 2.
Repealed by S.B.C. 1975, c. 6

Bee Act, SBC 1975, c 6

Amended by SBC 1977, c 2, s 14; SBC 1977, c 75, s 10; SBC 1979, c 22, s 4

Bee Act, RSBC 1979, c 27

Amended by SBC 1980, c 29, s 10; SBC 1980, c 50, s 2; SBC 1988, c 31, ss 1-4.

Bee Act, RSBC 1996, c 29

Amended by SBC 2011, c 25, s 481, Sch (in force 18 Mar 2013); SBC 2007, c 14, ss 213, 215, Sch (in force 1 Dec 2007).
Repealed by SBC 2003, c 7, s 4, effective January 19, 2015 (BC Reg 3/2015)

The two most common challenges that you run into when creating legislative histories are that a) the act is repealed and replaced by another act and b) the act changes its name; both of these challenges are easier to deal with when you go backwards.

You can see from the legislative history of the Bee Act, that both these things happened. In 1975 the Bee Act replaced the existing Apiaries Act. Since I was going backwards I could see that section 32 (1) of SBC 1975, c 6 reads “The Apiaries Act is repealed.” so I knew that there had been an equivalent act to the Bee Act. Similarly in 1919, the name of the act changed from the Foul Brood Bees Act to the Apiaries Act. Since I was going backwards I could see that section 3 of SBC 1919, c 7 changes the short title.

What if you are trying to create a legislative history of a section of an act rather than the whole act?

Again, it is easier to trace it backwards rather than forwards. One challenge is that when acts are consolidated, the sections are renumbered. For example, section 68 of the Income Tax Act, RSBC 1996, c. 215 is not the same as section 68 of the Income Tax Act, RSBC 1979, c 190.

Use the RSBC to find what the equivalent section of an act was in a previous revision. Find the section of interest in the print RSBC volume; the legislative history will be at the bottom of the section.

One challenge that can arise when an act replaces (rather than revises) the previous act, since a legislative history is usually not given. In this situation you may find yourself having to read through the entire act to find the equivalent section. Sometimes (albeit infrequently) there may be a concordance between the two versions of the act. If a concordance doesn’t exist, Hansard can be helpful, since it may indicate what happened to a specific section.

My thanks to Stef Alexandru of Lawson Lundell for the inspiration for this tip.

Susannah Tredwell


  1. Consoeur,

    Un article très intéressant qui m’a aidé à trouver une solution définitive à un problème juridique en droit du travail dans le cadre de mon travail.


Leave a Reply

(Your email address will not be published or distributed)