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Canadian Legal Research Guide

Finding Canadian cases on a topic

The following strategies will help you find cases on a topic.

1. Secondary Sources 

To find significant/leading cases on a topic, use the following secondary sources - they will discuss the leading cases extensively and have already done the work for you!

  • find Canadian print and e-books on the topic by using the catalogue.
  • find journal articles on the topic by using the journal indexes listed on the Journals tab in this guide.
  • find commentary on the topic by using encyclopaedias such as Halsbury's Laws of Canada.

2. Case Digests 

The following digests are arranged alphabetically by topic and contain case summaries, which link to the full text of the cases.

WestlawNext Canada (UniMelb staff & student access) 

  • The Canadian Abridgment Digests on contains summaries of most Canadian reported cases since 1803, and every reported or unreported case since 1986, with the exception of Quebec civil law cases. 
  • The Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (CED) includes commentary, cases and legislation on your topic.

The Canada Digest on Lexis Advance  (UniMelb staff & student access) contains summaries of cases from all jurisdictions including Quebec. It includes cases from the Supreme Court, Federal Court and federal and provincial administrative boards. Coverage: from 1893 to current.  

3. Cases Databases

To look for leading cases, use:

  • Recent cases at the highest court possible for the jurisdiction; and
  • Cases that have been followed or considered in a significant number of other cases.

To search more extensively for eg: all cases on your topic, use keyword searches in one of the following Canadian databases which contain the full text of all available reported and unreported decisions from Canadian courts and tribunals.

Cases and Decisions on WestlawNext Canada (UniMelb staff & student access). Searches can be narrowed by jurisdiction and topic. A sophisticated Advanced Search feature allows very specific searches. For more information on the content and coverage of this database (dates, courts and report series), see WestlawNext Canada's 'What's in LawSource' and 'What's in Law Source - Tribunals'. Individual cases link to the topic in the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (CED) and the Canadian Abridgment Digests, so you can find more cases on your topic.

Canadian Court and Tribunal Decisions on Lexis Advance (UniMelb staff & student access). Go to Lexis Advance Change the jurisdiction from Australia to Canada >>Click on Search: Everything>> Content Type>> CA Cases. As well as adding your search terms, you can filter the search by eg: court, date and/or legislation judicially considered. TIP: use the catchwords/summary box for more targeted searching, rather than the free text box.

CanLII (open access) can be browsed by jurisdiction, court and year - or searched by keyword, and narrowed by, for example, jurisdiction. For information on the content and coverage of the CanLII databases (courts and tribunals, date ranges etc), see Scope of Databases.

An interactive tutorial by the Courthouse Libraries BC, Legal Research Essentials: Finding Cases on Point, demonstrates how to locate Canadian cases on a particular point of law.