Canadian Legal Research


This research guide is designed to assist students and scholars in researching Canadian law. The guide details resources for conducting research on the Canadian Constitution, federal and provincial statutes, court cases, and regulations. It also provides information on relevant secondary sources and helpful websites.
The call numbers listed in this guide link to Ross-Blakley Law Library catalog records, which provide information about location and availability of items in the Library collection. Many of the Library’s print international resources can be found in the Foreign & International Collection in the basement of the Library: they appear in the online catalog with the location code “Law Foreign & International.” Electronic resources are indicated in the online catalog with the location code “Online access.” Some electronic resources listed in this guide are only accessible to Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law students, faculty, and staff.
Introduction to the Canadian Legal System
Canada is a democratic constitutional monarchy, with the British Sovereign as the head of State and an elected Prime Minister as the head of Government. The country has a federal system of parliamentary government, in which government responsibilities are shared between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. There are three branches of government: the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.    The Executive branch of government is made up of the British Sovereign, the Cabinet (which includes the Prime Minister), and the administration. The Legislative branch consists of Parliament, and the Judicial branch is composed of the courts of the National Federal Court system as well as the provincial and territorial courts. The federal courts and the court system in nine of the ten provinces and the three territories are based on English common law; in Québec the court system is based on French civil law.   

Journals and Other Secondary Sources

Below is a short list of sources for locating journals published in Canada or articles published about Canadian law. 

  • International & Non-U.S. Law Journals  (HeinOnline) This HeinOnline library contains journals focused on international law topics as well as journals published outside of the United States.
  • Canada Journals – WestlawNext This WestlawNext database contains the full text of nearly 40 Canadian legal journals and periodicals, as well as a number of newsletters and law reports. Coverage varies by source. 

Other Secondary Sources

  • The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research (2010)The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research provides an excellent overview of print and electronic resources for locating Canadian law. The book covers legal encyclopedias and dictionaries, periodicals, case law, statutes, regulations, Quebec law (based on French civil law), and more. 
  • Canadian Encyclopedic Digest   The Canadian Encyclopedic Digest is the only Canadian legal encyclopedia. It is available on WestlawNext.
  • This guide to Canadian legal research is written by Catherine Best, a research lawyer in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The guide provides a step-by-step plan for conducting legal research and recommends both print and online sources for conducting research on Canadian law.   Please note that the author often references QuickLaw (a LexisNexis product) and LawSource (a Westlaw Canada product) for Canadian law – many of the primary materials contained in these databases can be accessed in the WestlawNext law school database (password required).
  • Canada Treatises (WestlawNext) This WestlawNext database contains Canadian treatises covering all aspects of Canadian law.


The Canadian constitution is not one single document, but rather is comprised of multiple pieces of British and Canadian legislation.
This Canadian Department of Justice website provides access to the Constitution Acts and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Statutes and Regulations

Federal Statutes

The Canadian Department of Justice website provides an official version of the federal Consolidated Acts. The related Table of Public Statutes provides a list of legislative amendments since the last official revision of the Consolidated Acts. The Canadian Legal Information Institute also makes the
The Canadian Department of Justice website provides access to the Public General Acts in the form that they were originally enacted by Parliament from 2001 to the present.
This Parliament of Canada website provides electronic access to a wide range of information on legislation before Parliament, including bill versions, votes, details on the bill’s passage through Parliament, and legislative summaries.
Federal Regulations

Consolidated Regulations 
The Canadian Department of Justice website provides an official consolidation of federal regulations. Laws are available in both English and French. Updated regulations are also available online within the Canada Gazette: Part II.  
Provincial/Territorial Statutes and Regulations 

Provincial and territorial statutes and regulations are available on CanLII and WestlawNext.  In addition, the University of Toronto Bora Laskin Law Library website provides a chart with links to internet sources of Canadian federal, territorial, and provincial legislation and regulations.


Court Cases

The Supreme Court of Canada is the nation’s final court of appeal. Decisions of the Supreme Court from 1907 to the present are available on the Court’s website. 
  • Supreme Court of Canada decisions are also available on CanLII (partial coverage from 1876-1906, full coverage from 1907-present) and WestlawNext 1977-present).
 Federal Court of Canada and Federal Court of Appeal of Canada
The Federal Court is Canada’s national trial court. It hears disputes arising under federal law, claims against the Canadian government, civil suits in federally-regulated areas, and challenges to federal tribunal decisions. The Federal Court of Canada was established in 1971 and split in to two separate courts in 2003: the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. The Federal Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Federal Court, from the Tax Court, and from certain federal tribunals. Decisions of the Federal Court from 1990 to the present (with the exception of the years 1992-1994) and decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal from 1988 to the present (with the exception of the years 1990-1995) are available online. 
  • Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal decisions are also available on CanLII (1988-present) and WestlawNext (1979-present).
The Tax Court of Canada hears appeals from assessments under the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and the Employment Insurance Act, among other acts. Judgments of the Tax Court from 1996 to the present, as well as information on Court acts, rules and procedures, are available on the Court’s website.  
  • Tax Court judgments are also available on CanLII (1998-present) and WestlawNext (1979-present).

Provincial/Territorial Courts

Provincial/territorial court decisions are available on CanLII and WestlawNext.


Helpful Websites

  • CanLII  The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) is a non-profit organization managed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada that makes Canadian federal and provincial law available for free on the internet. The CanLII website provides access to court cases, tribunal decisions, statutes, and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions. Materials can be both browsed and searched. Coverage varies – see the Database Scope table for specific jurisdictions. 
  • Canadian Judicial Council The Canadian Judicial Council is a federal body which promotes efficiency, accountability, and quality in the superior courts of Canada. The Judicial Council’s website has a Resource Centre which offers information on how the Canadian court system is organized and where to find Canadian case law.
  • Canada Treaty Information The Treaty Law Division of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade website lists all treaties to which Canada is a party. It has both basic and advanced search functions.
  • The Canadian Bar Association The Canadian Bar Association is a voluntary professional organization for Canadian barristers. The Association’s website offers information about practicing law in Canada and provides links to various legal organizations and resources. 
  • Canadian Legal Citation Guide The Queen's University Lederman Law Library provides an online legal citation research guide with information on how to properly cite Canadian cases, statutes, regulations, books, journal articles, and electronic sources.

Updated 1/2015


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