The Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Program
The Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment (MSLA) Program was established in 1975 by the Department of Justice with the approval of the Cabinet. Since the MSLA Program was established, 12 Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Acts have been passed, in 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2015 and 2017.
The MSLA Program is a periodic legislative exercise administered by the Legislative Services Branch – Specialized Legislative Services Section of the Department of Justice. It is used to correct anomalies, inconsistencies, outdated terminology or errors in federal statutes. The MSLA Program allows minor, non-controversial amendments to be made to a number of federal statutes at once, in one bill, instead of making such amendments incrementally, when a particular statute is being amended (in the context of a separate legislative initiative).
Procedure and Program Criteria
The legislative process for introducing a Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment bill in Parliament is different from the usual legislative process in that a document containing proposed amendments is tabled in Parliament for review by a committee of each House before the bill is introduced.
The legislative process for introducing a Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment bill in Parliament involves four main steps: preparation of a document containing the proposed amendments; tabling of that document in Parliament and its review by a committee of each House; preparation of a bill, based on the committees’ reports, that contains the proposed amendments approved by both of them; and finally, introduction of the bill in Parliament.
To qualify, a proposed amendment must meet the following criteria:
- not be controversial;
- not involve the spending of public funds;
- not prejudicially affect the rights of persons; or
- not create new offences or subject a new class of persons to an existing offence.
The document containing the proposed amendments is tabled in the House of Commons and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It is also tabled in the Senate and referred to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Those committees will review the proposed amendments in the document and will each prepare a report of their findings which will be presented to their respective Houses.
Perhaps the most important feature of committee review is that, since a proposed amendment must not be controversial, approval of a proposed amendment requires the consensus of the committee and therefore, if a single member of a committee objects to a proposed amendment, that proposed amendment will not be included in the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment bill.
After committee review, the Legislative Services Branch – Specialized Legislative Services Section then prepares a bill, based on the reports of the two committees, that contains the proposed amendments approved by both of them. Once the bill is introduced in Parliament, it is subject to the ordinary enactment procedures; however, the bill usually receives three readings in each House without debate since the amendments contained in the bill have already been considered and approved by committees of both Houses.
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