Finding Standards

Standards, which “establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies”, are often referenced by acts and regulations; in order to be able to properly interpret a piece of legislation you may need to see the standard it is referring to.

Frequently the fastest and most efficient solution (if not the cheapest) is to buy the standard, either in print or electronic format. However, if you’re buying a digital version it is important to be aware of how the standard is licenced, e.g. in some cases the person who bought the standard is the only person who can use it. For Canadian standards, the Standards Council of Canada (confusingly — for law librarians at least — abbreviated SCC) is a useful place to start.

Standards are frequently referred to by a number (e.g. “CSA Z1008:21”) where the first letters indicate who issued the standard (in this case the Canadian Standards Association), the middle numbers indicate the number of the standard, and the last number indicates the year of issue (i.e. 2021). Standards are frequently revised or replaced, so it is important to know which particular version of a standard you are looking for. Older standards can be more challenging to find.

Your local public library may own some standards in print format so it is worthwhile checking with them.

A number of Canadian standards are available for free; for example you can find the online collection of Codes Canada publications (including the National Building Code of Canada 2020, the National Plumbing Code of Canada 2020 and the National Fire Code of Canada 2020) at Similarly the British Columbia Codes 2018 are available online at

Susannah Tredwell

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