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How to read Law

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Preambles Some acts begin with a preamble. The preamble is part of the act and may be used to interpret the act. Definitions Most acts contain a definition section that lists, in alphabetical order, definitions of terms used in the act.  The definition section is usually at the beginning of the act.  However, definitions that are restricted in their application to a section, part, division or other portion of an act may be at the beginning of that section, part, division or other portion. Marginal Notes and Section Headers (Sidenotes) Marginal notes and section headers (sidenotes) are not part of the statute and should not be relied on to interpret the act.  They are included only for convenience of reference and may be changed editorially whenever appropriate. Sections, Subsections, etc. Every act is composed of numbered sections, cited as section 1, 2, 3, etc. many sections are further divided into two or more subsections, cited as subsection (1), (2), (3), etc. some sections and subsections contain clauses, cited as clause (a), (b), (c), etc., subclauses, cited as subclause (i), (ii), (iii), etc.,paragraphs, cited as paragraph (A), (B), (C), etc., and subparagraphs, cited as subparagraph (I), (II), (III), etc. Decimal Numbering The numbering system can be easily understood by regarding each section number as if it were followed by a decimal point and some zeros that are not shown; that is, section 4 can be thought of as 4.0 or 4.00 etc. In applying the system, only one decimal place is usually needed, so that between sections 4 (4.0) and 5 (5.0) sections 4.1 to 4.9 can be added (4.10 is not used since it is the same as 4.1), for a total of nine sections. By later amendments, up to nine more sections can be added between any two sections by using two decimal places, for example: between section 4 and 4.1, sections 4.01 to 4.09 can be added, between sections 4.1 and 4.2, sections 4.11 to 4.19 can be added, and between sections 4.9 and 5, sections 4.91 to 4.99 can be added and in the same manner a further nine sections can be added between any of those sections by using three decimal places. If it is necessary to add more than nine sections in the same place at the same time, then some of the sections are numbered using an additional decimal place. The same rules apply to adding new subsections, clauses, subclauses and paragraphs, so that subsections are numbered (1.1) to (1.9), clauses are numbered (a.1) to (a.9), subclauses are numbered (i.1) to (i.9), paragraphs are numbered (A.1) to (A.9), and subparagraphs are numbered (I.1) to (I.9). Parts, Divisions Some acts are divided into numbered parts, cited as Part 1, Part 2, etc.  A part may be divided into divisions cited as Division 1, Division 2, etc. Transitional Provisions If an act or provision cannot come into force on an intended day without hardship or confusion occurring, the act may contain a transitional provision.  Transitional provisions are used to provide for the transition from an earlier act to the act that replaces it, or to phase in how a new or an amending act applies to persons affected by it.  A transitional provision may be included in an act if, for example, certain provisions of the previous act will apply for a significant period of time or if the provisions may affect many persons. Transitional provisions are usually located near the end of the act. Consequential Amendments Consequential amendments in an act amend other acts that are affected by that act. Consequential amendments are included in the acts as published in the annual volume. In the loose-leaf statutes and office consolidations, all amendments are incorporated into the amended acts. If an act made consequential amendments to other acts, an editorial note to that effect is included in the consolidated amending act. Repeal Provisions Provisions repealing other acts are placed near the end of the act, immediately before the coming into force section. Coming Into Force Provisions Within the statute, the parts not yet in force are usually noted within highlighted boxes with a note stating when section will be coming into force. The Royal Assent date is on the first page of each act in the annual statute volume, following the chapter number. If an act, or a portion of an act, comes into force in a manner other than by Royal Assent, the last section of the act will set out the method.  The act, or portion of the act, may come into force on proclamation or on a named future date, or may be deemed to have come into force on a named previous date. Citations (Historical References) Each section of a consolidated act is followed by the citation for that section and the citations of any amendments to that section.  Citations do not form part of the act.  They are added editorially. Click Here for an example on reading legislation in Ontario.
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