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Legal Citation

This guide provides an introduction to the citation of cases, statutes and regulations, books and journal articles, and electronic sources.

How to Cite a Case - Pattern #1 (With Neutral Citation)

The case has a neutral citation: the citation pattern to use

PATTERN: style of cause, neutral citation, pinpoint [if needed], law report/other source, judge [if needed].

EXAMPLE: Clearbrook Iron Works Ltd v Letourneau, 2006 FCA 42, 46 CPR (4th) 241.

Let's examine each part of the citation for a case with a neutral citation to understand how it is constructed:

1. Style of Cause

  • a case is identified by the names of those who were parties to the litigation
  • in general, one uses only the last name of the first mentioned party on each side. For example, "John Smith et al v Mary Jones" becomes Smith v Jones
  • "v" is an abbreviation for versus and is pronounced "and" in civil cases and "against" in criminal cases
  • the names of the parties and the "v" are italicized
  • For more information, consult section 2.3 of the McGill Guide

example: Clearbrook Iron Works Ltd v Letourneau


"Indexed as": for recent cases, an "indexed as" title will appear at the beginning of a case. If you are ever in doubt as to what the style of cause for a case should be, this is a useful bit of information. Check the first page of the judgment and if the case has an "indexed as" reference, use it for citation purposes.

Reference to the Crown: As an element of constitutional monarchy, Canadian executive government authority is formally vested in the Queen, hence the use of "R" for the Latin word for queen, regina, in legal citations. This is used mainly for criminal cases prosecuted by the state, although you may also see R as part of a citation for a civil case, in place of such terms as "The Queen", "The Queen in right of," etc.


  • R v Smith (criminal case brought by the Crown)
  • Smith v R (a private case brought against the State)

2. Neutral Citation

Use the neutral citation as given by the court.

example: Clearbrook Ironworks Ltd v Letourneau, 2006 FCA 42

3. Pinpoint [if needed]

Include a pinpoint if you are citing to a particular passage in the judgment. Since your case has a neutral citation, make sure you cite to the paragraph number.

example: Clearbrook Ironworks Ltd v Letourneau, 2006 FCA 42 at para 3

4. Law Report/Other Source

At least two sources (if available) should be cited for any case. The McGill Guide counts a neutral citation as one source, but you still need to cite to another source.

There is a hierarchy of preferred sources. They are:

a. Official reporters (SCR, FC, or Ex CR).

b. Semi-official reporters (check Appendix C-2 of the McGill Guide).

c. Other sources (unofficial reporters, electronic sources, etc.).  For more guidance on citing to online databases, consult 3.81 of the McGill Guide. 

LexisNexis Quicklaw gives the neutral citation and then indicates that Clearbrook Ironworks was also reported in 46 CPR (4th) 241 and 145 ACWS (3d) 809. Looking up CPR and ACWS in Appendix C of the McGill Guide, we see that CPR stands for Canadian Patent Reporter and ACWS stands for All Canada Weekly Summaries. They are both listed as unofficial reporters. Since our case does not appear to be reported in an official reporter or a semi-official reporter, we can cite it to either of the unofficial reporters. We've chosen the Canadian Patent Reporter. The citation given - 46 CPR (4th) 241 - corresponds to volume 46 of the Canadian Patent Reporter, fourth series, beginning at page 241.

example: Clearbrook Ironworks Ltd v Letourneau, 2006 FCA 42 at para 3, 46 CPR (4th) 241

5. Judge [if needed]

If relevant, the judge's name may be included, followed by "J" for Justice, "JA" for Justice of Appeal, etc. (consult 3.10 of the McGill Guide).

example: Clearbrook Ironworks Ltd v Letourneau, 2006 FCA 42 at para 3, 46 CPR (4th) 241, Sexton JA.