Law of Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia law consists of the constitution, the common law, federal statutes and regulations, provincial statutes and regulations and some English or British statutes.


The Canadian constitution is only partly written. The principal written parts affecting Nova Scotia are three British statutes, namely,

The largely unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom is not reproduced in the Constitution Act, 1867.

Common Law and Statutes

Upon the establishment of Nova Scotia as a British colony, it received the common law and statute law of the United Kingdom, except to the extent that that law was inherently inapplicable or unsuitable to Nova Scotia. Upon the first meeting of the Nova Scotia Legislature on October 3, 1758, the "received law" of England was fixed and unaffected by subsequent changes in the English law. It could be amended, repealed or added to by the Nova Scotia Legislature.

With the creation of the Canadian federation on July 1, 1867, the power to enact laws for Nova Scotia was divided between a federal Parliament of Canada, composed of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons, and a provincial Legislature of Nova Scotia, composed of the Lieutenant Governor and the House of Assembly. This division of powers is set out in the Constitution Act, 1867.

The establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms placed restrictions on the powers of the Parliament of Canada and the Nova Scotia Legislature to enact laws.

Up until the enactment of the Statute of Westminster, 1931 on December 11, 1931, the British Parliament could still pass laws affecting Canada. (Up until the enactment of the Canada Act 1982 on April 17, 1982, the British Parliament could enact amendments to the Canadian constitution on the request of Canada.)


Regulations (sometimes called by-laws, ordinances, etc.) are subordinate legislation; they are made by the cabinet (governor in council), ministers of the Crown, municipalities and other persons or bodies authorized by Parliament or the Legislature. Regulations must always be authorized by statute.

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This page and its contents published by the Office of the Legislative Counsel, Nova Scotia House of Assembly, and © 2008 Crown in right of Nova Scotia. Updated December 24, 2008. Send comments to