Way back when I did a post about how to search through the Ontario Hansard Debates online, I made a note to myself to follow up with a companion Federal Debates post. This is me following up, after more than a year. Because, well, insert something about dedication (or stubbornness).
As it seems with all things in Canadian Law, online access to the Federal Debates of Parliament (“Hansard”) are scattered across several different websites, and your mileage may vary with each.
- Parliament of Canada / LegisInfo – If you’re lucky enough to be dealing with a piece of legislation from 1994 onwards (and the later you go generally the more linked content you will get for each Bill), the main Parliament of Canada website will most likely work well for you. You can trace Bills, click through to their linked debates, and see the reports from related committees.
- Canadiana – For earlier debates, use Canadiana.org’s Parliamentary Historical Resources site through the Library of Parliament. This site has the debates from both the Senate and the House of Commons, in both official languages, back to Confederation. The only downside here is that the search engine can be a little finicky. I’ve had the most success with it by narrowing the date range to the date you are interested, and searching the Bill number (not the chapter number of the Act), if you know it.
Like the rest of legislative research, trying to find Legislative Intent is unfortunately not an exact science, but hopefully the above should assist in getting you started. Also, I love doing this kind of research, so please don’t hesitate to let us know should you need assistance!