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Canadian Law Guide: Start here...

This is a general guide to help you research all aspects of Canadian Law. See also the Canadian page on our Refugee and Asylum Seeker Law Research Guide, and the Canadian page on our Human Rights Law Research Guide.

Supreme Court of Canada
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Canadian legal research books

Online research guides

Ted Tjaden, Researching Canadian Law on Globalex: overview of the Canadian legal system, how to find legislation, case law, secondary sources and key Canadian law texts.

Queen's University Law Library's Legal Research Manual provides information on all aspects of legal research.

The Canadian Legal Research and Writing Guide provides information on all aspects of legal research.

The Law Society of Upper Canada Great Library's Legal Research Guides: topics include finding Canadian caselaw, legislation and journal articles.

The University of Ottawa's Principles of Legal Research: a series of learning modules on legal research topics.

Ted Tjaden's Legal Research and Writing guide

A good place to start Canadian legal research....

The following encyclopaedic resources are a good starting point to obtain overviews of Canadian legal topics. They are arranged alphabetically by subject, and include scholarly commentary and references to significant cases and legislation. A note of caution: some parts of these encylopaedias are not as up-to-date as others, so always check the currency of the information in the section in which you are interested.

Introduction to the Canadian Legal System

The Canadian legal system was created by the British North America Act 1867 30 & 31 Victoria c 3 (UK), which became the Constitution Act 1867. This Act united the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick and created the federal and provincial governments.

All provinces except Québec inherited the system of common law from the British, while Québec has a hybrid legal system - it inherited both the common law and civil law and the French civil code. Québec's private law is based on the civil law, and its public law is based on the common law. 

Canada's two official languages are English and French. Federal legislation, and legislation from Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick are published in both English and French, as are decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. 

For good introductions to the Canadian Legal System, see:

Image source: JuriGlobe - World Legal Systems 

Doing Business in Canada

Country information

For general information on Canada, including geography, population, history and economic information, see eg:

Canadian Legal Dictionaries

Print

Online

  • Words and Phrases Judicially Defined
    • Canadian Words and Phrases on WestlawNext Canada is an alphabetical index of judicial interpretations of words and phrases in Canadian court and tribunal decisions (UniMelb staff & student access).
  • Words and Phrases defined in Canadian legislation
    • Use the Statutes and Regulations advanced search template on WestlawNext Canada and enter the word or phrase in the 'Defined Term' box at the bottom of the screen (UniMelb staff & student access). 

Canadian Legal Citation Style Guide - McGill

The preferred Canadian legal style is the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, known as the ‘McGill Guide’. The Law Library has the latest edition of this (8th ed, 2014) in print at K 114 CANA. Link to catalogue record.

There is no free online full version. However, useful guides to using McGill style have been produced by:

For more information on guides to citation style, see the Law Library's Legal Citation Guides webpage. 

This Research Guide is maintained by Robin Gardner, Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School. Please contact Robin at law-libraryresearch@unimelb.edu.au with corrections, suggestions or comments about the Guide.