Process of Passing a Bill

Making laws is tough work. Every day, something that you do or that you touch has been considered by a lawmaker. But how does an idea get to be a law that affects everyone?

The following steps describe the process of passing a bill through either the House of Commons or the Senate. (If the bill were to pass through the Senate, it would go through the same stages.)

The government typically introduces bills. Opposition and individual parliamentarians also introduce new bills (called Private Member’s Bills).


If a bill originates in the Senate, the bill is identified with the letter S and given a number; for example, Bill S-4. If a Bill originates in the House of Commons, it is identified with the letter C and given a number; for example, Bill C-78.


Take a walk around your neighbourhood. What do you see that needs changing? How can you change things, or get your government to change them? Talk to members of your family and your friends. What issues are important to them?


Any idea for a new law or a change to current law is written down. The idea is now called a bill. The bill is printed and read in the House it is starting from.


The bill is given a Second Reading in the House it is starting from, where parliamentarians debate the idea behind the bill. They consider questions such as, “Is the idea behind the bill good?” “Does it meet people’s needs?” “Who will be affected by this bill?” If the House votes for the bill and it passes this stage, it goes to a committee of the House, which usually meets in a smaller committee room outside the Chamber.


At the Committee Stage, the bill is studied carefully. Committee members hold hearings or special meetings where different people inside and outside government can make comments about the bill. The committee can ask for government officials and experts, or witnesses, to come and answer questions. The committee can suggest changes or amendments to the bill when it gives its report to the House.


At the Report Stage, the committee reports the bill back to the House. All parliamentarians can then debate it. During this stage, those who were not part of the committee that studied the bill can suggest changes to the bill.


The bill is then called for a Third Reading. The parliamentarians debate it again. Sometimes they can change their minds about a bill. They might vote for it at Second Reading but not at Third Reading if they do not like the changes made to the bill. If it passes Third Reading, the bill then goes to the other House where it goes through the same stages.


Once both the Senate and the House of Commons have passed the bill in exactly the same wording, it is given to the Governor General (or his or her appointed representative) for Royal Assent (final approval), and it can become law.