Updating Federal Statutes Using LEGISinfo, Part II (Tip of the Week)

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By Ken Fox

Last week’s tip demonstrated how to update legislation and find coming-in-force dates using LEGISinfo. Now it is time to dig into some the more advanced features of this source.

Let’s go back to that same bill, Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act. If you type “C-11” in the search box, you get all of the Bill C-11’s from various sessions – but it is a simple matter to pick out the correct one from the 1st Session of the 41st Parliament. Click on the title to view the bill information.

In the center column, under the heading “Status of the Bill” is the complete history of the bill’s passage through Parliament. Note that for each legislative stage you can choose to “Show Sittings” (in the case of house Readings) or “Show Meetings” (in the case of committees). Click to display a list of dates in which the bill was discussed at a particular stage.

First Reading is when the bill is introduced – so there is rarely more than one sitting. Second Reading is when the bill is debated on its principles. For Bill C-11, there are ten dates for Second Reading in the House of Commons, indicating a prolonged and possibly vigorous debate:

FedLeg15

Now note that the dates are clickable – go ahead and click on one – In that one click, you have accomplished in an instant what would have been a daunting, multi-step research task for most of history. You have entered a time machine and been transported to the verbatim proceedings of that date in the House of Commons. Use CTRL-F to search for references to bill C-11, and quickly arrive at the Parliamentary speeches delivered in the Fall of 2011 (or Winter of 2012) on the Copyright Modernization Act.

For committee meetings, clicking on the “sitting date” takes you to the verbatim proceedings of the House of Commons (or Senate) where the committee reported. Clicking on the “meeting date” takes you to a table of meetings where the bill was discussed in detail by members of Parliament, as well as government officials and experts on the topic of the bill.

FedLeg16

Drill down further to access meeting Minutes, Evidence presented, or even a video webcast of the meeting itself – to see a world in a grain of sand? You bet.

But that’s not all (I say in infommercial-speak) – if you go back to the main information page on Bill C-11 (or any bill) – look to the heading “About this Bill” in the right-hand column. The three clickable sub-headings each provide a separate source of background information on the history and purpose of the bill, which can be potentially used, along with the debates and committee documents, as evidence of legislative intent. Departmental Information includes Press Releases, Backgrounders and Fact Sheets. The Legislative Summary is the official Parliamentary publication in support of the proposed legislation, and Further Reading provides an (in this case) extensive bibliography of non-Parliamentary publications, commentary, press, and related links.

Yes, researching legislation is getting easier. And that concludes this series of Research Tips – remember to contact the library if you have any questions about LEGISinfo or other legal sourcery.

 

This is the final part of a multi-part series on researching federal legislation:  Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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