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Green Papers Introduction

Green papers, like white papers, originated in Great Britain. The term was coined by London newspapers from the colour of the covers of this type of document. The first "green" paper was introduced in the British House of Commons in 1967.(1) It was "a statement by the Government not of policy already determined but of propositions put before the whole nation for discussion".(2) This document set the example for the continuing use of discussion or consultative papers.

In Great Britain, these documents are easily identifiable. They are published in green covers with the generic name "Green Paper" and their titles are listed in H.M.S.O. Catalogues.(3)

The difficulties in compiling a list of green papers put out by the Canadian federal government are numerous. In Canada, green covers are not used consistently so the colour of the cover cannot be used as a guide. Furthermore, the name "Green Paper" does not always appear in the title nor are these documents always tabled in the House of Commons or listed in any official source.

For the purposes of this compilation, a green paper is taken to be an official document sponsored by Ministers of the Crown which is issued by government to invite public comment and discussion on an issue prior to policy formulation.(4) You will find here the documents which conform to the above stated definition and which were found through the sources consulted. This listing is offered as a working tool rather than a definitive inventory.

  1. GREAT BRITAIN. PARLIAMENT. HOUSE OF COMMONS. Parliamentary Debates. 5th ser., v. 744, April 5, 1967. col. 245.
  2. Ibid. v. 747, June 5, 1967. col. 651.
  3. Ford List of British Parliamentary Papers 1965-1974, together with Specialist Commentaries. Ed. by Diana Marshallsay and J.H. Smith. Nendeln, KTO Press, 1979. p. xxxviii.
  4. See Appendix for other definitions of "green paper".

Updated on: 2016.09.20

Revised on: 2016.09.26

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