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SENG 401 - Introduction to Legal Research for Software Engineering

This guide provides an introduction to legal research for non-lawyers

About Legislation

The primary sources of law are legislation and case law.  Legislation includes statutes (also called acts) and regulations. 


In Canada, statutes are enacted by the federal parliament or the provincial and territorial legislatures.

One statute is paramount: the Constitution Act, 1982 (and associated statutes and appendices that form the Constitution of Canada). All statutes – federal, provincial and territorial – must comply with Constitution.

Federal statutes cover matters that fall under the federal government's s. 91 constitutional jurisdiction.

Provincial statutes cover matters that fall under the provincial government's s. 92 exclusive constitutional jurisdiction.


Regulations are called "subordinate legislation" – they are subordinate to statutes, the authority for a regulation is from its parent statute. Regulations are usually more detailed than statutes and contain the practical details of how the provisions of a statute will be implemented.

Regulations are not passed by Parliament or legislatures. Rather, they are prescribed by government departments or ministries. This allows them to be set or amended frequently or quickly.

Finding legislation

Often you will know the name of the statute you are looking for. In other situations you need to find out if there is an applicable statute and then discover its name. Once you find the statute, you will also need to determine whether any regulations apply to the issue you're researching.

Resources you will find helpful include

  • Secondary Sources
  • CanLII -- Includes statutes and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions. Contains consolidations and some point-in-time information. Coverage and currency varies with the jurisdiction.
  • Federal Legislation:
  • B.C. Legislation
    • BC Laws -- Freely available database of consolidated BC statutes and regulations since 1996, with point-in-time features, historical tables, tables of legislative changes.
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