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Structure of Bills

A bill is composed of a number of elements, some of which are essential, such as the title, while others, such as the preamble, are optional. All bills must be drafted in both official languages. Following is a description of the various elements of a bill.


When a bill is introduced in the House of Commons, it is assigned a number to facilitate filing and reference. Government bills are numbered from C-1 to C-200, while Private Members’ bills are numbered from C-201 to C-1000. The numbering of Government bills commences with C-1 at the beginning of each session. Private Members’ bills are numbered consecutively for the duration of a Parliament.

Although private bills are rarely introduced in the House, they are numbered beginning at C-1001.

In order to differentiate between bills that are introduced in the two Houses of Parliament, the numbers assigned to bills introduced in the Senate begin with an “S” rather than a “C”.


The title is an essential element of a bill. A bill may have two titles: a full or long title and a short title. For example, the long title of Bill C-6 (2004) was as follows: An Act respecting assisted human reproduction and related research, while the short title was: Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

The long title appears both on the bill’s cover page, under the number assigned to the bill, and at the top of the first page of the document. It sets out the purpose of the bill, in general terms, and must accurately reflect its content. The short title is used mainly for citation purposes and does not necessarily cover all aspects of the bill. A bill that only amends existing Acts does not usually have a short title.


A bill may have a preamble, setting out the purposes and reasons for its introduction. The preamble appears between the long title and the enacting clause.

Enacting Clause

The enacting clause states the authority under which the bill will be enacted and consists of a brief paragraph: “Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:”


Clauses are fundamental elements of a bill and should each contain a single idea, most often expressed in one sentence. Clauses are numbered sequentially from the beginning of the bill to the end and may be grouped in parts, divisions and subdivisions. A number of related ideas will be set out in subclauses within a single clause.

Interpretation of Divisions

A bill may provide legal definitions of the key expressions used in the legislation and an explanation of how those expressions apply.

Coming-into-Force Provisions

A bill may contain a clause, usually at its end or at the end of a section or part, describing when the bill or certain provisions of the bill will come into force, either on a specific date or by order of the Governor in Council. If there are no coming-into-force provisions, the bill comes into force on the day it is assented to.


A bill may contain schedules that provide details that are essential to certain provisions of the bill. There are two types of schedules: those that contain material that cannot be put into the form of sections—tables, diagrams, lists and maps—and those that reproduce an agreement that falls within the Crown’s prerogative, such as treaties and conventions.

Royal Recommendation

Bills that involve the expenditure of public funds must have a royal recommendation made by the Governor General. The royal recommendation is not part of the bill but appears separately at the beginning of the bill.


Other parts of a bill include explanatory notes, summary, marginal notes, headings, and table of contents: these are not considered part of the content of the bill that is approved or amended.

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