Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Ordinance Definition:

An executive decision of a government which has not been subjected to a legislative assembly (contrary to a statute).

Related Terms: Regulation, By-Law, Statutes, Police Power

It is often detailed and not, as would be a statute, of general wording or application.

In Metcalfe v. Cox, Justice Herschell wrote:

"The word ordinance has no technical signification; it means no more than an instrument embodying an order or direction. If the word 'ordinance' had not been used in the statute, it is, I think, the name which would naturally have been applied to all orders of the Commissioners determining within the limits of their powers what should be the future constitution, management, or arrangements of the universities or colleges. It is an apt word to denote the document which embodies the orders of a quasi-legislative body such as the Commissioners are."

In R v Markin, Justice Seaton of the British Columbia Supreme Court adopted these words to describe an ordinance:

"... a rule established by authority; a permanent rule of action; a law or statute ... an authoritative direction, decree, or command; e.g. of a sovereign, a local body, etc."

This term is in disuse in many jurisdictions and the words regulations or bylaws are preferred.

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