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Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.

Print Sources

A. Canadian Statute Citations (The Canadian Abridgment)

Canadian cases that have interpreted Canadian federal and provincial statutes, as well as some foreign statutes and international agreements, are listed in the Canadian Statute Citations volumes of The Canadian Abridgment. These are the grey books shelved in the reference area of the library (close to the main digest volumes of the Abridgment).

Canadian Statute Citations is the most comprehensive statute citator available in print. Its bound volumes are periodically updated and the date of currency is indicated on the spine of each volume. The main volumes are updated through more recent material which is published in annual soft-cover supplements. These are the light grey books which are shelved with each main volume. For even more current information, consult the monthly issues which are consolidated quarterly in a cumulative supplement and shelved at the end of the series.

Example: Locate cases which have judicially considered section 17  of Ontario's Child and Family Services Act

  1. Refer to the Appropriate Bound Volume - Check the Spine:  Browse the spines of the bound volumes to locate the jurisdiction you need. You will either search in "Canada" for federal statutes or by province for provincial legislation. Within each jurisdiction, statutes are listed alphabetically. Given that the Child and Family Services Act is an Ontario statute, locate the Ontario Volume covering the letter C. Searching alphabetically, locate the most recent version of the Child and Family Services Act and browse through to section 17.  Listed here are citations to cases that have considered or specifically referred to section 17 of the Act.

  2. Refer to the Annual Soft Cover Supplement for the Appropriate Bound Volume: Because the bound volume can be several years behind today's date, it is imperative to update for more current information. Check if there is a light grey soft cover supplement for the volume with which you are working. If so, search alphabetically for your Act to find newer cases considering the statute section. Search alphabetically as you did the main volume. Under Child and Family Services Act, locate the list of cases under s 17.

  3. Update in the Cumulative Quarterly and Monthly Soft Cover Supplements: Canadian Statute Citations publishes monthly supplements. These are consolidated quarterly into a cumulative supplement, shelved at the end of the series. Locate your statute name and then refer specifically to s. 17 for relevant cases.

Judicial Treatment Symbols

Once you locate the relevant list of cases for your search, you will note that each case citation is preceded by a code, indicated by symbols in small circles, which quickly conveys what treatment the statute received in that decision. The following table provides a complete guide to symbol interpretation:

  • U - Unconstitutional. A section of the statute has been found to unconstitutional or invalid, in whole or in part.
  • C - Considered. A section of the statute has been analyzed or interpreted in some way.
  • P - Pursuant to. The proceeding was undertaken pursuant to a section of the statute.
  • R - Referred to. A section of the statute has been mentioned by the court but not commented on directly.


Remember that each revised statutes consolidation changes section numbers. For cases prior to the latest revised statutes, you need to check the previous version of the section number.

It is possible to search for cases which have considered a statute generally or more specifically as in a particular part or section of that act. The citator lists information in a more general to more specific format. For example, cases judicially considering the Child and Family Services Act as a whole are listed prior to cases considering particular section numbers.

B. Statute Citators

The following citators contain references to selected cases that have considered federal or Ontario statutes. These citators are not nearly as comprehensive in listing cases as Canadian Statute Citations but they do remain somewhat useful for finding major cases on point.

1. Canada Statute Citator, RSC 1985 Edition

This loose-leaf service supplies references to a small selection of cases which the editors judge to be particularly important in interpreting sections of federal statutes. The Acts are listed alphabetically by short title, and for each a complete citation is provided including statutory provisions. The text of the amendments is also included, along with the case references where judged appropriate.

2. Ontario Statute Citator, RSO 1990 Edition

Like the Canada Statute Citator, this is a loose-leaf service organized alphabetically by statute short title, giving citations to the R.S.O. 1990 and later statutes to date; the text of all amendments, and a selection of cases from 1991 which have considered Ontario statutes.

C. Law Report Indexes

Many law report series also include tables of statutes judicially considered in their consolidated index volumes. This approach could be useful if you are researching a statute in a subject area for which there is a specialized law report series. For example, a section of the Criminal Code will be indexed in the two criminal report series, Canadian Criminal Cases and Criminal Reports. Similarly, cases which have considered a section of the Ontario Municipal Act will be indexed in the Ontario Municipal Board Reports, and so on.

D. Loose-leaf Services and Annotated Codes

Major statutes (e.g. tax, labour, criminal, corporations, family) have commercially published loose-leaf services or annotated statutes which contain the text of the legislation and refer to cases. Check Omni, our academic search tool.