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Finding sources of Canadian law

Page history last edited by Cecilia Tellis 11 years, 12 months ago

General information on the Canadian Legal System

*       Canada’s System of Justice (Department of Justice Canada)

*       Common Law & Civil Law Traditions

Guides on conducting legal research

*       Best Guide to Canadian Legal Research

*       Doing Legal Research in Canada – Canadian Primary Legal Resources 


*       Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations

*       Appendices in books (e.g. McGill Guide)

*       Listed in the introductory pages of a book 


*       uOttawa Library catalogue

*       Start catalogue search broadly. Use "keyword" and do not place date, language or other limits unless necessary.

*       Take note of the call number and location of the items.

*       Not available at uOttawa? See how to Borrow from other libraries




Databases/websites to search:



Reported (published) cases

*    Only about 20% of law cases are reported.

*    Reported cases have a citation, which includes: case name, year, volume number, case reporter abbreviation, page number, and court.

*    Example: R. v. Morgentaler (1988), 44 D.L.R. (4th) 385 (S.C.C.).

*    Start by looking up the case reporter abbreviation in an abbreviation guide (see “Abbreviations” above).

Unreported Cases

*       Unreported cases have a docket or file number rather than a citation.

*       These are generally unavailable in print

*       Many recent cases are available through the specific court’s page. 

*       They are also available on WestlaweCarswell or Quicklaw. 

If you know the name of the case

*       Check first in electronic legal databases. Use the “Find by name” option if available.

*       If the case is too recent, check on the court’s website.

*       No luck online? Try checking the Consolidated Table of Cases in the Canadian Abridgment. Cases are listed by party name and you can find a citation to the case in print.

If you have a citation to a case

*       Check first in electronic legal databases. Use the “Find by citation” option if available.

*       If the case is too recent, check on the court’s website.

Finding summaries of cases

*       See Canadian Current Law. Case Digests. FTX General KE 173 .C3212 [latest copy at FTX Reserve]


Finding cases on a subject/legal issue

Consult secondary sources like:

*       Canadian Abridgment: provides topically organized case digests, or summaries, of issues decided by Canadian courts and administrative tribunals (use the Key & Research Guide OR the General Index)

*       Textbooks (see especially their Table of cases)

*       Encyclopedias (e.g. Canadian Encyclopedic Digest)

*       Annotated codes (e.g. Modern First Nations legislation annotated) 

Tracing the judicial history of a case

*       Electronically: Use the QuickCITE feature in Quicklaw or the Keycite feature in WestlaweCarswell

*       In print: Use the Canadian Case Citations: contain the citations, history, and judicial treatment of cases by Canadian courts and tribunals 


Finding cases that consider a statute, regulation or rule of practice

*       Electronically: Use the “Keycite a Document” option in WestlaweCarswell to find the citing references; From the “Find a Document” option, select “Note up a case or statute” from the drop-down menu in Quicklaw

*       In print: Canadian Statute Citations: include judicial considerations of statutes and rules of practice



General statements of the law

*       Use the library catalogue to find textbooks

*       Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (in print or through WestlaweCarswell)

*       Halsbury’s Laws of Canada (in print; various titles available), FTX Reference KE 444 .H35 

Government publications

*       Locate Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal Canadian Government Information on the Web (Custom Google Search)


*       See Canadian Government Information (Government Information Centre @ uOttawa)

Journal articles/case comments










*       Index to Canadian Legal Literature (through WestlaweCarswell) or in print

*       WestlaweCarswell > search “Index to Canadian Legal Literature”. Type in party names in the “Case” field.

*       Quicklaw > search “Journals” (default is “All Canadian Legal Journals”, 33 academic journals)

*       LegalTrac

*       Index to Legal Periodicals Full-Text

*       Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective

*       HeinOnline

*       Legal Scholarship Network




Databases/websites to search/browse:

To find current statutes electronically

*       See Legal Resources on the Web: Canada > Federal & Provincial





To trace the legislative history of a statute

*       In print: Canadian Current Law. Legislation.

*       See guide entitled “Tracing Canadian Acts from the Pre-Internet Era 

Statutory instruments (e.g. Regulations)

To find current statutes in print or electronically

*       See Legal Resources on the Web: Canada > Federal & Provincial


To find the legislative history of regulations and bills, see Canadian Current Law. Legislation.


See: How to Find Theses and Research Papers (uOttawa)

Words and phrases


*       Quicklaw > Commentary > Canadian Legal Words & Phrases

*       Duhaime’s Legal Dictionary

In print:

*    The Dictionary of Canadian Law by Daphne A. Dukelow (Scarborough, ON : Thomson Carswell, 2004. FTX Reference KE 183 .D83 2004

*   Words & Phrases judicially defined in Canadian courts and tribunals (Toronto: Carswell, 1993 - ). FTX Reference KE 173 .W67


[1] Some text excerpted from University of Calgary Law Library, “Beginning your research in the law library”, online: University of Calgary Law Library <http://library.ucalgary.ca/branches/lawlibrary-startingpoints/generalsources.php>.


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