Senators are legislators who participate in the creation of laws. Many bills come to the Senate after being studied in the House of Commons, but most bills can also start in the Senate, in which case they will go to the House of Commons after the Senate has reached a decision. Not all bills are the same.
Senators deal with three kinds of legislation: government bills, public bills and private bills.
A government bill is a piece of legislation that is part of the government’s legislative agenda. While these bills most commonly originate in the House of Commons, they can also be introduced in the Senate.
For example, the government decided to have Bill S-3 — which was an act aimed at eliminating discrimination in the Indian Act — introduced in the Senate. (Senators proposed amendments to strengthen the bill that the House of Commons ultimately accepted.)
A public bill is legislation that a senator proposes to address matters of general concern and of national or regional interest.
Senator Claude Carignan’s Public Bill S-231, for instance, provided legal protection to journalists who seek to protect the identity of confidential sources. It was introduced in the Senate in November 2016 and became law in October 2017.
A private bill is legislation that focuses on a particular individual or small group of people, such as legislation for the incorporation of a company. Private bills originate almost exclusively in the Senate, and nowadays they are fairly rare.
In 2016, Senator Dennis Dawson’s Private Bill, S-1001, became law. It authorized La Capitale Financial Security Insurance Company to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec.
To become a law, every bill needs to be passed by both houses of Parliament in identical form, regardless of where the bill originates.