Shaunna Mireau on Canadian Legal Research

Tips on Canadian legal research from the Library at Field LLP.
Postings are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the firm.

September 28, 2010

Fabulous advice from a U of A Law student

Graham Purse, a 3L writing at the U of A Faculty of Law Blog, has some great advice about looking for specific documents with Google:

I can often phonetically enter a style of cause in Google and return the right case. Best of luck trying that on Westlaw or Quicklaw.

Here is an example:

1) On, I type in "Dunsmur" and the first thing I get is “Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick”. Simple!

2) On Westlaw, I type in "Dunsmur" and get the dreaded "Results: 0 Documents". Fail!

3) On Quicklaw, I type in "Dunsmur" and get the equally dreaded "No Documents Found". Fail!

I had some great luck looking for a Texas State Bar CLE paper cited last week by our Supremes in their recent Progressive Homes decision. (Why the SCC is looking to non-peer reviewed papers from Texas as authority for Canadian legal principles is something to think about, even if it is a really great paper). Graham describes this journal search with Google process eloquently:
As long as you've got the author's last name and a couple of words from the title, you can find almost anything. The most technophobic and marginally-intellectually-enfranchised Luddites could surely find almost any source, even if it didn't conform to the rightfully-maligned McGill guide.
Way to go Graham.

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September 14, 2010

McGill Guide - the new citation rules

A former Field summer student wrote this on my Facebook Wall:
"I read your post on Slaw, but I can't tell: what do you think of the new McGill changes? Are they retroactive-- should we cite old cases with the new style? Won't that make it difficult or impossible to do effective Westlaw citation searches? Do we *have* to follow the dumb 'no periods!' suggestion despite it being totally ridiculous? I've noticed the new AB courts judgments haven't changed their style. If the SCC doesn't start using the new guide suggestions (esp. the periods thing) in the upcoming term, does that mean I can ignore it? Plus, you're right about persistent URLs. The McGill guide editors have apparently never looked up anything. That's like citing an article title and then, instead of the publication name, just writing ": Books."
This is such a good topic for discussion that I had to respond with a blog post.

Ted Tjaden wrote a great example for case citation in an earlier Slaw post:
  • Former: Gould Estate v. Stoddart Publishing Co. (1998), 39 O.R. (3d) 545 (C.A.)
  • New 7th edition: Gould Estate v Stoddart Publishing Co (1998), 39 OR (3d) 545 (CA) [i.e., no periods after the "v" or after "Co" or for the abbreviations for the Ontario Reports Court of Appeal]
My friends comments are exceptionally relevant. If we are sending off a case to the SCC today (notice no periods in the court abbreviation :-) how do we cite cases?

The McGill Guide is officially adopted by a long list of journals, including the Alberta Law Review. It is only officially adopted by the following courts:
  • CA for NB
  • CA for Saskatchewan
  • QB of Saskatchewan
  • SC of the Yukon Territory
For the Supreme Court of Canada, the SCC Rules say nothing regarding citation in the section about books of authorities. Neither do the Alberta Courts discuss specifics of citation in their practice notes.

The Canadian Judicial Council does have a Canadian Citation Committee. In 2009, this body created a standards document titled The Preparation, Citation and Distribution of Canadian Decisions. The references to citation in this document are to the Neutral Citation Standard. There is no punctuation in a neutral citation. This document supercedes the Neutral Citation Standard, but more information on Neutral Citation, now adopted by all Canadian Courts, is available here
The Canadian Citation Committee has not specifically adopted anything from the latest McGill Guide. Their reference to case citation is described as:

4.3 Citation to Case law
[61] When citing a case, include its neutral citation, if it has one. If you add parallel citations place them after the neutral citation, which should immediately follow the case name.
Smith v. Jones, 2006 NBQB 435, 87 D.L.R. (4th) 334, [2006] N.B.J. No. 198 (QL).
[62] Add pinpoint references to paragraph numbers where available, preceded by "at para." or "at paras."
Smith v. Jones, 2006 NBQB 435 at paras. 34 and 36-39.
On another note, if you ever wondered how cases are named, here is the guide.

So, to sum up.
  • You MUST use the new McGill guide to cite materials to journals listed in the "adopted by" list in the guide including the Alberta Law Review.
  • You MUST include a Neutral Citation at least as a parallel citation when submitting something to the courts.
  • Until the Canadian Judicial Council's Canadian Citation Committee says otherwise, I would cite cases as they do when they write judgments.

Finally, in the immortal words of Tony Fell, my cataloging instructor at Grant MacEwan University:
It is better to be consistent than correct.
Cross posted to


September 08, 2010

The Latest at WorldLII

Thanks to a tip from Library Boy, I learned about some new offerings at WorldLII. Check out his post:

WorldLII Launches International Law Library

WorldLII (World Legal Information Institute) yesterday launched the International Law Library , a free online collection of decisions of International Courts and Tribunals, treaties and international agreements, and international law journals and law reform materials.

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