Duhaime's Law Dictionary

By-Law Definition:

A municipal, local or corporate rule or regulation.

Related Terms: Regulation, Ordinance, Statutes

By-law: a law or regulation or rule (with force of law) of a local government such as that of a town or city; also a governance rule adopted by a corporation.

A word used to denote laws passed and enforceable by a local authority.

For example, a zoning by-law.

Certain agencies - such as local governments (eg. cities and towns) or corporations - owe their rule making authority to a law (i.e. a statute).

These bodies have no direct legislative authority except what their enabling statute has given it, and usually restricted to a defined territory (i.e "local" government) or group.

Thus, the word "by law" refers to the source of the local government's authority, being "by law". The rules of the agencies, rather than being called "laws" or "statutes", are called by-laws or regulations, even though they are no less enforceable upon the members of the group or territory.

Judicially, in terms of municipal government, the term was used in City of Victoria v Meston 1903 11 BCR 341 (BC Court of Appeal) as follows:

"A by-law is not an agreement but a law binding on all persons to whom it applies whether they care to be bound by it or not. The by-law has the same effect within its limits and with respect to the persons upon whom it lawfully operates as an Act of Parliament has upon the subjects at large."
By-law is also used to refer to the rules of a corporation that relate to governance, as in Mackenzie v Maple Mountain Mining Co. 1910 20 OLR 615 (Ontario Court of Appeal):
"A (corporate) resolution is not necessarily a bylaw, but a by-law may be enacted in the form of a resolution where the object to be accomplished is the subject of a by-law, that is to say, a rule or law of the corporation for its government.

"A by-law differs from a resolution, in that a resolution applies to a single act of the corporation, while a by-law, as in the present case, is a permanent continuing rule, which is to be applied to all future occasions.

"The function of a by-law is to prescribe the rights and duties of the members with reference to the internal government of the corporation, the management of its affairs, and the rights and duties existing between the members."

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