Canadian Legal Research


Scope

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

Journals
Below is a short list of sources for locating journals published in Canada or articles published about Canadian law. For more information on how to find international law journals, see the Ross-Blakley Law Library Guide titled How Do I Find International Law Journals?

  • 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.
  • Canadian Law Journals, Bar Journals, and Legal Periodicals – Westlaw This Westlaw database contains the full text of 35 Canadian legal journals and periodicals. Coverage varies by source. To access the database: International Materials > Canadian Materials > Law Reviews, Bar Journals, and Legal Periodicals.
  • Canadian Law Journals – LexisNexis This LexisNexis database contains the full text of 21 Canadian legal journals. Coverage varies by source. To access the database: Legal > Find Laws by Country or Region > Foreign Laws & Legal Sources > Canada > Journals
 

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. The print set is issued in two editions: the Western Edition, which covers the law of the four western provinces, and the Ontario Edition, which covers the law of Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. The Digest is also available through the Westlaw CED database.
  • Canadian Law Dictionary (1998) The Canadian Law Dictionary defines important legal terms, provides a guide to Canadian legal citations, and offers information on the Canadian legal system.
  • 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 LexisNexis and Westlaw law school databases (password required).
 

Constitution

The Canadian constitution is not one single document, but rather is comprised of multiple pieces of British and Canadian legislation.
 
The Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs Office website provides background on the Canadian Constitution, links to constitutional documents, and lists all Canadian constitutional amendments.
 
This Canadian Department of Justice website provides access to important documents related to the Canadian Constitution.  It also offers a Table of Contents view of the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982.
 

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. 
  • Current Canadian federal statutes are also available on Westlaw in English (CANFED-ST) and French (CANFED-ST-FR), and on LexisNexis (CANSTA).  
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.  
  • Current Canadian federal regulations are also available on Westlaw in English (CANFED-REG) and French (CANFED-REG-FR), and on LexisNexis (CANREG).
 
Provincial/Territorial Statutes and Regulations 
Province/Territory
Government website
Westlaw
Lexis
Alberta
Statutes: ALTA-ST
Regulations: ALTA-REG
Statutes: ALTLEG
Regulations: ALTREG
British Columbia
Statutes: BC-ST
Regulations: BC-REG
Statutes: BCSTA
Regulations: BCREG
Manitoba
Statutes: MAN-ST
Regulations: MAN-REG
N/A
 
New Brunswick
Statutes: NB-ST
Regulations: NB-REG
N/A
 
Newfoundland
Statutes: NFLD-ST
Regulations: NFLD-REG
N/A
 
Northwest Territories
Statutes: NWT-ST
Regulations: NWT-REG
N/A
Novia Scotia
Statutes: NS-ST
Regulations: NS-REG
N/A
Nunavut
Statutes: NUN-ST
Regulations: NUN-REG
N/A
Ontario
Statutes: ONT-ST
Regulations: ONT-REG
Statutes: ONTSTA
Regulations: ONTREG
Prince Edward Island
Statutes: PEI-ST
Regulations: PEI-REG
N/A
 
Quebec
Statutes: QUE-ST
Regulations: QUE-REG
Statutes: QUESTA
Regulations: QUEREG
Saskatchewan
Statutes: SASK-ST
Regulations: SASK-REG
N/A
Yukon Territory
Statutes: YUKON-ST
Regulations: YUKON-REG
N/A
 

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 in print within the Canada Supreme Court Reports (1971-2000), on CanLii (partial coverage from 1876-1906, full coverage from 1907-present), on Westlaw (CANSCC-CS, 1977-present), and LexisNexis (CANSCC , 1876-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), Westlaw (CANFC-CS, 1979-present), and LexisNexis (FEDCC, 1986-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), Westlaw (CANTCC-CS, 1979-present), and LexisNexis (CANTCT, 1993-present).

Provincial/Territorial Courts
 
Province/Territory
Courts website
Westlaw
Lexis
 
 
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland
Northwest Territories
N/A
Novia Scotia
Nunavut
N/A
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Yukon Territory
N/A
 

Helpful Websites

  • CanLII  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.
     

Updated 2/2013
  

JOHN J. ROSS - WILLIAM C. BLAKLEY LAW LIBRARY
PO BOX 877806 • 1102 S MCALLISTER AVE • TEMPE, AZ 85287-7806 • 480-965-6144 • FAX: 480-965-4283