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canadian legal research, researching canadian law

Courts and Case Reporters

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in Canada, was established in 1875. 

Federal Court

The lower court, also created in 1875, was the Exchequer Court of Canada. In 1971, the court was renamed the Federal Court. 

Provincial Courts

The provinces also publish the decisions of their courts. These case reports can be found in MNCAT using the following subject: law reports digests etc [name of the province]. The Dominion Law Reports include decisions from the highest courts of the provinces as well as the Supreme Court and Federal Court.


Also very helpful is the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (Library holdings end in 2003), which is a legal encyclopedia covering federal and Ontario law.  This source contains articles on various subjects. Extensive footnoting provides references to federal and state cases and statutes.  A comprehensive subject index is included.  In each title there is a table of cases and statutes referred to in that title. Each title is updated by yellow sheets in the front of the title.  The date on which the sheets are issued is indicated on each page.  A "Research guide and Key", which should always be consulted before using this source, is also provided in this service.

The National Reporter (Library holdings end in 2003) allows a subject approach to federal cases since 1973.  The publisher, Maritime Law Book Ltd., has created a topic and number system similar to West's.  Each case has headnotes at the beginning with assigned topics and key numbers.  Every 10 volumes, covering approximately two years, a digest volume is published which digests cases by the topic and number system.  Each digest volume also includes a topical digest using key words.  After the latest digest volume, one must use each volume of the National Reporter to update the digest.  Advance sheets are also published, but the Library's holdings end in 2003.  A table of cases is included.

A Butterworth publication, Supreme Court of Canada Reports Service (Library's holdings end in 2003), has a subject index and table of cases to every supreme court decision since 1875, regardless of where it was published.  A subject index that is a companion to the official reporter of the Supreme Court of Canada, entitled Index to the Supreme Court of Canada Reports (KE140.5 .I53x 1952), covers the years 1876 to 1950.  A table of cases is also included.


The Dominion Law Reports also have a citator that allows you to determine whether any case reported in D.L.R. has been cited in any other court in Canada.  Since D.L.R. claims to report cases from all the courts of Canada, this should allow you to determine where any case from any Canadian court has been cited by any other Canadian case. Cases are listed by the D.L.R. cite.  This set is updated by an annual cumulative volume.

The National Reporter  (KE138 .N37x; Library holdings end in 2003) also provides a citator service in the ten volume digests and the reporters.  This service lists those cases cited by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Canada. It is arranged alphabetically by case name.

Administrative Decisions

Administrative decisions may be published by the agency or in commercially prepared looseleaf services, much like the United States. Most can be found online; search the web for the relevant agency. 

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