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Using the Canadian Abridgment

Page history last edited by Cecilia Tellis 12 years, 2 months ago

The following are various procedures for finding cases in the Canadian Abridgment[1].


       Searching by Subject / Legal Issue - Key and Research Guide method

The organizational scheme of the Canadian Abridgment makes this kind of search relatively straightforward. Each case in the Canadian Abridgment is designated one or more key numbers, according to the subject headings and subheadings under which the case is classified. Cases with the same key number are grouped together in the main work.

To conduct a search using the Key and Research Guide, follow these steps:

1.    Turn to the "Subject Titles Table" at the beginning of the Key. Scan the list of titles and try to find the subject title most relevant to your topic.

2.    Once you have found an appropriate title, turn to that title in the Key and Research Guide . You can now narrow your search by finding more specific sub-titles. The 'Scope Note' at the beginning of each title will tell you what issues are included in the title and where related issues may be found.

3.    Make a note of the key number that corresponds to the title and subtitles you have located.

For example, under the Criminal Law title of the Abridgment, "test for obscenity in films and videotapes" is classified as key number VII.2.c.v:

Criminal Law (the general area of law) (Volume R9) public morals and disorderly conduct (VII) obscenity (2) test for (c) films and videotapes (v)

Go to this key number in the main work of the Abridgment. You will find cases addressing the specific legal issue you are researching. The fact that cases addressing a certain issue are grouped together will help to ensure that your search is comprehensive.

4.    Check the soft cover supplement to the volume you are using, to see if any recent cases have been digested under your key number. Repeat this process using Canadian Current Law.

5.    Check the "Key Supplement" (on the yellow pages at the beginning of the key section), if there are any, under the relevant title for any changes in the classification system.

       Searching by Case Name

Look up the style of cause in the Consolidated Table of Cases .

          After the style of cause you will find citations to the reporters in which the full-text version of the case can                be found and, at the end of the entry, references to digests of the case in the Abridgment. For example:

R. v. Barr

(1967), 64 W.W.R. 57 (Alta. Dist. Ct.)

R11C Reis.


Style of Cause

Citation to those law reports that carry the full-text decision of the case

Volume of the Abridgment in which a digest of the case can be found. More than one volume can be listed. R=Reissue, Supp=Softcover Supplement, CCL=Canadian Current Law

Paragraph number within the volume indicated, at which a digest of the case can be found. When more than one paragraph is listed for a volume, it means that the case was digested more than once within that volume


Note: When digests of a case appear in several different volumes of the Canadian Abridgment, it could mean that the case raises more than one legal issue. You should remember that not all digests of a single case will be the same - different digests will focus on different legal issues.

You should conduct your search of the Consolidated Table of Cases in the following order:

1.    Hard cover index volumes. If there is a listing, make sure it refers to a volume of the main work dated 1995 or earlier (check the spine of the volume for its date). If the volume has been reissued since 1995, the reference you find will not be accurate. You will have to use the soft cover index volumes to find the updated listing.

2.    Soft cover index volumes. These volumes, replaced every year, list cases appearing in volumes of the main work published after 1995, as well as cases appearing in the soft cover supplements to the main work.

3.    Canadian Current Law. Cases that post-date both the main work and its supplements will be found in Canadian Current Law. Each issue of Current Law, up to the most recent issue, should be checked. There is a Table of Cases at the front of each issue, which will refer you to the location of the case within that issue of Current Law.


       Searching by Subject - General Index method


1.    Locate the General Index binder of the Abridgment and look under the section entitled "General Index." Locate the topic headings and sub-headings most relevant to your research. Beside each subheading are key numbers that will direct you to the relevant digests in the main work of the Canadian Abridgment.

2.    Consult the yellow pages at the end of the "General Index" to see if there is a supplementary index. The supplementary index directs you to digests in the soft cover supplements to the main work.

3.    To ensure that your search is completely up to date, you should consult the indexes in issues of Canadian Current Law that were released after the publication of the supplementary index. Canadian Current Law publishes a cumulative edition four times a year. Begin with the most recent cumulative supplement, then consult individual issues that post-date its publication.


     Searching by Word or Phrase

At some point, you may need to determine how a word or phrase is legally defined. To search for a word or phrase in the Abridgment, you can use the following tools:

1.    The Words and Phrases (Revised) volumes of the Abridgment are comprised of an alphabetical list of words and phrases that have been judicially considered. The volumes excerpt portions of judgments, and provide references to applicable case digests in the main work.

2.    The General Index' s Words and Phrases Table may contain more current information. The table is divided into two sections, the first of which lists words and phrases alphabetically and cites relevant digests in the main work. The second section is organized by subject title, listing words and phrases considered under each title.

Whether you use Words and Phrases (Revised) or the General Index, it is important to ensure that the information you find is current. To do so, consult the "Words and Phrases" Table in the most recent cumulative edition of Canadian Current Law. Then, consult the same table in issues of Current Law that post-date the publication of the cumulative edition.


The Abridgment is also accessible online through LawSource in WestlaweCarswell


[1] Excerpted from University of Toronto's Bora Laskin Law Library Guide to Legal Research, online: <http://www.law-lib.utoronto.ca/Resguide/chapt4a.htm#4.5%20Canadian%20Case%20Law>.



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