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How Do I Find Canadian Case Law?

Guide to Canadian case law reporters available at McMaster.

A Case ...

A Case ...

  • is a decision a judge renders after hearing all of the arguments in a dispute
  • decision may include a lot of detail about the case (key facts, witnesses, etc.), but it does not generally include a script of the actual testimony
  • decision is often published in a case-law reporter; some reporters focus on a specific subject (e.g., criminal cases, labour); others focus on a specific jurisdiction (e.g., Ontario cases regardless of the subject)
  • is not always reported; a significant case can, however, be published in more than one reporter.
  • reporter is commonly cited by its abbreviation (e.g., C.R.R. stands for the Canadian Rights Reporter).

Four Ways to Find Citations to Cases

  1. Note key cases cited in footnotes and bibliographies of books and articles on your topic.
  2. Browse indexes to the key case law reporters in your subject area (e.g., civil, criminal, human rights, labour, etc.)
  3. Use a case digesting service. Examples include:
    • Canadian Abridgment, MILLS Library Periodicals (3rd floor) KE 173.C35 (Subscription Cancelled)
    • Canadian Charter of Rights Annotated, MILLS Library Reference (3rd floor) KE 4381 .A29C36, vols. 1-6.
    • Brown & Beatty's Canadian Labour Arbitration, INNIS Collection Reference, MILLS Library (3rd floor) KE 3206 .B7, current (loose-leaf service)
  4. Search databases containing Canadian case law. Examples include:
    • BestCase - search for Canadian cases by word or phrase, catchline, date, citation, party name, judge, case law reporter, and more.
    • Nexis Uni - to search Canadian cases, select Advanced Search > select  Cases-Canada from the Select a specific content type drop-down menu > search for terms, case name, citation, summary, date,  jurisdiction, judge, counsel,  headnotes and/or docket  number. 
    • CanLII (Canadian Legal Information Institute) - browse or search for Canadian cases by word, name, citation, date, jurisdiction, etc.
    •  HeinOnline - browse or search Canada Supreme Court Reports (listed under Case Law) or search for a case citation in HeinOnline using the Case Law tab
    • First Resort (Lancaster House) - contains articles and full-text cases dealing with labour, employment and human rights issues across Canada; search by keyword, date and/or jurisdiction.
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