I'm doing some housekeeping in our bylaws, and we have a number of bylaws that aren't anything more than bylaws to rescind other bylaws.

For example, in the municipality I represent we have this bylaw:

By-Law #1617

A By-Law for the purpose of rescinding By-Law #1590.

There is literally nothing else in the bylaw matter of this bylaw other than to rescind a previous bylaw.

There are a couple of bylaws on the books like this, and I'm trying to figure if there's a way we can get them off the books (meaning, take them out of our library of bylaws in effect), or if there's a better way of repealing old bylaws. I'n my mind we can't go about repealing this bylaw now, because as soon as we repeal Bylaw #1617, then #1590 will no longer be repealed, so we'd need a bylaw to repeal both #1617 and #1590 wouldn't we?

We did just recently pass another bylaw that repealed several dozen ancient bylaws all at once. Would it be best practice to maintain a single Repealed Bylaws bylaw, and merely amend it every time we have another bylaw we want to repeal that won't be superseded by a new updated or consolidated bylaw?

What's the best practice for repealing old and outdated bylaws when they won't be superseded by anything new?

  • It sounds to me like you need a "codified bylaws" document that would not need to record bylaws such as 1617 or 1590. 1617 would remain valid, but the code would be the first point of reference for people who want to know what bylaws govern their behavior. – phoog Oct 13 '16 at 19:37
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    Could you simply pass a new resolution that repeals all previous bylaws and replaces them with a specific set of bylaws? – Viktor Oct 14 '16 at 4:17
  • What "Viktor" is proposing is often called an "Amended and Restated" set of bylaws that expressly repeals all prior bylaws. You still need to keep the old ones for purposes of determining the historical state of the law, but the Amended and Restated set would give you a solid foundation going forwards without resort to research in the bylaw index. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 21:28

Why would you want to do this? Your collection of by-laws is a living document - just because one has been repealed doesn't mean that it is no longer relevant. For example, if someone were to take legal action, the outcome of which depends on if a particular repealed by-law was in force at the relevant time or not, then when (and possibly why) it came in and out of force is crucial.

If this is simply a desire for neatness then either leave well enough alone or use technological measures to do so. For example, the Australian Legal Institute database (www.austlii.edu.au) allows searching for laws as made, as they currently are or at a point in time. This is a sophisticated digital infrastructure the needs constant maintenance, in other words, it's expensive and may not be worth it for you.

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  • I just barely finished reading a bylaw from 1901 that's still in effect which repeals another bylaw from the same year. I'm referring specifically to bylaws that are repealing bylaw which are no longer relevant. – ShemSeger Oct 13 '16 at 21:21
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    @ShemSeger but they were relevant at the time and administrative and judicial decisions may have been reached at that time and shortly thereafter. The rich tapestry or mess if you prefer is necessary for these decisions to make sense. – Dale M Oct 14 '16 at 2:13

According to the Municipal Government Act (R.S.A., 2000, M-26), ss. 62-69 discuss revision of bylaws: s. 69 allows you to consolidate your by-laws, which I believe is what you are proposing. Doing a search for consolidation by-laws didn't show anything though, which is not surprising considering that it doesn't affect any current by-laws. You may want to contact other municipalities (particularly Calgary and Edmonton) and the Department of Municipal Affairs to see what their recommended methods are.

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The issue of concern would be whether it is possible to determine what the present state of the laws is. There is a town with some Bylaws online, with three dog laws. There is no statement of what the current law is, and it looks like this created some incoherence, because the original law addresses dog regulations, then an amendment (1454) was added with a section (g) that allows dogs and cats to be disposed of in certain ways (the law specifies 72 hours for dogs.. and what time period for cats?). The first disposition is a less specific version of the existing option already in section (f), and the result seems to allow an arbitrary choice of costs for adoption. The second change is to allow euthanizing the dog or cat. A second amendment was passed a year later which changed the time specified in the original law (from 72 hours to 3 working days) – it recognises this as a change – and then they add a section (g), but they already have a section (g). Since no Bylaw seems to have been passed that repealed Bylaw 1454, one would suppose that you take the union of the sections: "{earlier clause} a dog or cat that is impounded and not claimed by the owner within the time provided in section 20 may (1) Be adopted for such prices as has been established; or (2) Be euthanized by lethal injection...by a veterinarian... {later clause} If after three (3) working days the animal is not claimed by the owner or is not adopted, the veterinarian and the Bylaw Officer at their discretion may have the animal euthanized". Can cats be euthanized? Since section 20 specified no time periods for cats, can they be euthanized when impounded? Is a vet necessary?

My guess is that in amending the original bylaw, they are saying "It's as though the intermediate bylaw didn't happen", and that sweeping cats into the dog law was a mistake which they undid, or at least put off until they added a cat-euthanization bylaw the next year. They need consolidation of the bylaws into a single organized legal code. It sounds like you might be having a similar problem.

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