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Guide to the Canadian House of Commons

The Canadian Parliament

Who's Who in the House

A Working Day in the Commons Chamber

Parliamentary Highlights

Making Canada's Laws

The Role of a Member of Parliament

Being Part of Parliament

Making Canada’s Laws

How a bill becomes law
The legislative process
First Reading
The bill is considered read for the first time and is printed.
Second Reading
Members debate the bill’s principle.
Committee Stage
Committee members study the bill clause by clause.
Report Stage
Members can make other amendments.
Third Reading
Members debate and vote on the bill.
The bill follows a similar process.
Royal Assent
The bill receives Royal Assent after being passed by both Houses.

When you fly in an airplane, visit a national park or buy a product in a store, you are doing something that has probably been touched by a law made in Parliament.

An idea to make a new law or to change an existing law starts out as a "bill." Each bill goes through several stages to become law. At first reading, the bill is considered read for the first time and is printed. There is no debate. At second reading, Members debate the principle of a bill — is the idea behind it sound? Does it meet people's needs? If a bill passes at second reading, it goes to a committee of the House.

Committee members study the bill carefully. They hold hearings to gather information. They can ask for government officials and experts to come and answer questions. The committee can propose amendments, or changes, to the bill.

When a committee has finished its study, it reports the bill back to the House. The entire House can then debate it. During report stage debate, Members can suggest other amendments to the bill.

Once report stage is over, the bill is called for third reading debate. Members who voted for the bill at second reading may sometimes change their minds at third reading after seeing what amendments have or have not been made to the bill. After a bill has passed third reading in the House of Commons, it goes through a similar process in the Senate. Once both Chambers pass the bill in the same form, it is given Royal Assent and becomes law.

The chart shows the usual path followed by government bills introduced in the House of Commons.

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