How to Trace the Legislative Evolution of a Statute

AuthorSusan Barker, Erica Anderson
chapter seven
How to Trace the Legislative Evolution of a
If you have been asked to trace the legislative evolution and history
of a statute, it is not always necessary to start from scratch. Searching
court websites, WestlawNext Canada, or even Google might yield an
extant legislative evolution or history (or both) that you can use as a
jumping-o point for your own research. You might also want to look
at law reform commission reports, practitioner texts, or annotated
statutes. Although you should never rely wholly on research pre-
pared by someone else and would need to double check and update
the information provided, it sti might be useful to have an existing
document as a guide.
Ruth Suivan’s denition of legislative evolution from her treatise
Suivan on the Construction of Statutes has a very specic meaning:
Legislative evolution: “the evolution of a legislative provision con-
sists of successive enacted versions from inception to the version in
place when the relevant facts occur.”1
1 Ruth Suivan, Suivan on the Construction of Statutes, 6th ed (Markham, ON:
LexisNexis, 2014) at 660.
150 Researching Legislative Intent
e Supreme Court of Canada has adopted Suivan’s denition
of legislative evolution in a number of cases. In Marche v Halifax Insur-
ance Co, for example, Bastarache J (in his dissent) states:
According to Professor Suivan, “[o]ne of the most eective ways of
establishing legislative purpose is to trace the evolution of legislation
from its inception, through successive amendments, to its current
1) Tracing the Evolution of a Statute
To trace evolution of a statute or section of a statute (which is also
known as backdating), start by looking at the current statute and then
work your way backwards to its inception. Make note of any changes
to the statute and when those changes occurred. e information on
when the changes took place can later be used to locate the legislative
history of the statute.
2) The Source Reference
One useful tool for tracing a statute back is the source reference. For
federal and Ontario statutes the source reference appears at the end
of each section of the statute and provides citations to a the statutes
that have amended that section, either back to the most recent statute
revision or back to that section’s inception, whichever is more recent.
Citations for the source references foow a similar paern to con-
ventional citation but there are some dierences. Here is an example
from section 2 of the current federal Citizenship Act:
(2) For the purposes of this Act,
(a) a person is deemed to be born in Canada if the person is born
on a Canadian vessel as dened in section 2 of the Canada Ship-
ping Act, 2001, or on an aircra registered in Canada under the
Aeronautics Act and regulations made under that Act;
2 Marche v Halifax Insurance Co, 2005 SCC 6 at para 98 [Marche].

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