Finding Our Legislative Link
Published: 08/15/2008 by Chris Kirwan
I recently set out to find proposed bills in provincial and federal governments in Canada, and within just a few minutes I was rewarded with an easy find online. I discovered that every bill introduced for the current session of each legislature in Canada can be accessed simply by “Googling” the legislature in each respective province. Most parliament homepages have a convenient link to bills and legislation. Under this link, there is a complete listing of the bills, their current status in the legislature, and often a link to a PDF version of the entire bill.
Though I was surprised at the ease with which I was able to find the information, I was even more astonished by the sheer volume of proposed legislation and amendments, particularly at the federal government level. Only two months after beginning a new federal parliamentary session, there were over 200 private-members’ bills.
To me, much of the legislation seemed trifling, petty, and time-consuming. For example, the federal Private Member’s Bill C-477 is an Act to recognize Pedro da Silva as Canada’s first officially commissioned letter carrier. I must admit that when I read this, I had to wonder what would happen if we started recognizing all of the “firsts.” There were numerous Acts, both federally and provincially, to setup official days or even weeks recognizing certain sicknesses, events, or ethnic groups. Further, there were numerous bills outlining a name change to different electoral districts. I didn’t know a bill was needed to change an electoral district name! As I wandered through all this material, I had to ask myself: “Don’t our elected representatives have better things to do than propose items such as these?”
However, as I dug further, my attitude began to change. I found several bills that proposed changing the Charter so that it would include gender identity alongside the recent addition of sexual orientation among the list of nondiscriminatory rights. There was also a bill to make abortions illegal, bills cracking down on cell phone use in cars, and other bills suggesting important changes to the Criminal Code.
Among these bills, some of which were government bills, I also came across the really interesting proposals – changes to the charters and to the Education Act. Though these were mainly government bills in provincial legislatures, they provided fascinating reading.
Paul Faris of HSLDA lead me to Bill 63 at the Quebec National Assembly. This bill would amend the Quebec Charter so that the preamble makes the equality of men and women a recognized aspect of the Charter. The concern lies in the possibility that wording changes might place women’s rights above religious freedoms. In Alberta, a recent bill proposed changes to the Education Act that would prohibit any school run by a board from charging students or their parents any fee for any event.
Researching laws and bills is a fascinating process and makes an excellent civics project for high school-aged students. Even after I was finished my assignment, I still continued to research just for my own curiosity. I thoroughly benefited from what I found, and you might too, albeit for your own education or information. I encourage you to take the initiative to find your own legislative links!
*Article reprinted with permission from author and Court Report & Communique, a publication of Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada. (HSLDA)
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick – English
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