Legislation on CanLII, Figures and Trivia

As recently posted here, the CanLII website will soon have all Canadian jurisdictions included in its new point-in-time legislation publication system. I thought that slaw readers would be interested in having some more insight about the project. Let’s begin with preliminary figures and some trivia about legislation available online from governments’ websites, which are the source of CanLII’s databases.

Over 6,000 updated public Acts are available online in all Canadian jurisdictions, averaging about 450 per jurisdiction. These figures double for corresponding enabled regulations. Not surprisingly, the Province of Ontario posts the largest number of effective public acts – about 700 – while the northern territories each consolidate less than 250. Demographics seem to be a factor, but we should also bear in mind that the criteria for including certain types of Acts in an online consolidation slightly differs from one jurisdiction to another; sometimes only statutes from official revisions are included but most of the time new annual public statutes are also part of an online consolidation.

Since CanLII’s new system is largely about presenting legislation as it was in force in the past, we were able to estimate that each consolidated Act gets amended once every 3 years on average, but about 40% were not amended at all over the last 5 years. While lawyers from Western and Atlantic Canada have to deal with about 125 changes per year to their consolidated statutes in order to stay current, those in Ontario and Quebec are faced with more than 300 changes yearly. The federal level stands in between with about 200.

When endeavoring in such a broad and comprehensive project one must be prepared to come across situations you do not typically encounter in day-to-day legal research, but should nevertheless be taken into account. For instance as some of you may be aware of, a statute can be embedded in another statute and a provincial regulation can be enabled by a federal Act.

Legislation can also make you smile. Only a very few among you, if any, are likely to have searched for legislation governing subject-matters such as your province’s emblematic dog, our national sports or standards for manufacturing the Canadian flag. By the way, did you know that the Yukon territory has an official tartan? We also learned that legislatures can be quite creative with titles, my personal favorite being Ontario’s Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act.

LexUM plans to progressively improve CanLII’s legislation publication system in terms of usability, content and currentness. The most requested improvement based on user feedback to date would be the availability of content tables linking to parts, chapters and sections of legislative texts. We are working on this. We will also facilitate searching by adding common names and acronyms of legislative texts (e.g. the “Charter”, “PIPEDA”) in our search index. We will also add annual legislation. Many other improvements are on our wishlist. Any suggestions?


  1. Frédéric:

    You and your group are to be commended on excellent work. I increasingly use CanLII for legislation.

    Nice features to have:

    – a clickable table of contents at the start of the Act (or major regs), especially when the legislation is lengthy (I realize some jurisdictions do this, but not all)

    – more or better transparency on date of currency and how frequently it would be updated if there were changes to the text

  2. I hesitate to go back into History but

    1) the Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act was repealed
    2) the Harris government’s cute attempts to editorialize by Short Title was a bane to statutory researchers, as was the resort to omnibus Acts, and legislation by Schedule.
    3) Of all of these, the weirdest was the Arthur Wishart Act of 2000, designed as a tribute to a great AG (and without thought for electoral politics). Despite the name Sault Ste Marie has been in NDP and Liberal hands for 24 years.