Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Canadian Legal Research

Case Law

Online Links

To find cases online use:

  1. Quicklaw (Harvard affiliates - IP access- click Product Sign-In in corner and then click Quicklaw)
  2. CanLII (Free to the world)
  3. Westlaw 

Structure of the court system

As in the United States, Canada has two parallel systems. In addition to the National Federal Court system, each province and territory has its own court system. (Canada also has a military court system and a special tax court.) The Federal system consists of three levels: (1) the Federal Court (trial level); (2) the Federal Court of Appeals and (3) the Supreme Court of Canada. In the provincial system, each province has three levels of courts. Each province has a provincial (or territorial) court, followed by a superior court and then by a provincial court of appeal. The Canadian Supreme Court constitutes a fourth layer, because it is also the court of last resort for provincial cases. While the provincial and territorial superior courts can hear all matters except those which are specifically excluded by statute, the Federal Court may only hear matters that are precisely mentioned by federal statute.

For more detailed information regarding the Canadian court system, its organization and jurisdictional details, including a diagram of the court's hierarchy, click here.  

Locating decisions of the federal and provincial courts in Canada

Decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada are published in print within the Supreme Court Reports (KE 140 .A23) and the Dominion Law Reports (KE 132 .A23). Online access is also available to the decisions of the Supreme Court here and here and to the federal courts.

For provincial and territorial case law decisions, there is a provincial or territorial reporter for each province.  Additionally, some regional reporters report cases from multiple provinces, such as the Western Weekly Reports (KE 156 .W47). The law school library also has access to its predecessor, Western Law Reporter ( Harvard Depository CAN 503 WES) for researchers looking for earlier decisions.

 

Decisions of administrative tribunals may be found in print and online. In print, they are published within the Administrative Law Reports (KE 5015.A45 A35). 

Locating Canadian case law when you don't have a citation.

If you don't have a citation, the The Canada Digest in Quicklaw allows you to identify cases by looking up keywords used in the decision. Additionally, numerous online sources, such as the Canadian Legal Information Institute, provide key word searching in either English or French, and pertaining to particular jurisdictions or within many jurisdictions at once.