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Legal Citation with the 9th edition of the McGill Guide

This guide provides an introduction to legal citation in Canada.

How to Cite a Case - Pattern #2 (Without Neutral Citation)

The case does not have a neutral citation: the citation pattern to use

PATTERN: style of cause, year of decision [if not part of main citation], law reporter volume number, law reporter abbreviation, law reporter series, page number, pinpoint [if needed], parallel law report/source, jurisdiction and court [if not indicated by reporters], judge [if needed].

EXAMPLES:

Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192, 112 DLR (3d) 67.

Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423, [1982] OJ No 3144 (QL) (H Ct J).

Let's examine each part of the citation for two cases without neutral citations to understand how they are constructed:

1. Style of Cause

The considerations are identical to a case with a neutral citation.

example 1: Hopp v Lepp

example 2: Fucella v Ricker

2. Year of Decision [if not part of reporter citation]

To determine if we need to insert a year after the style of cause, we need to look at the reporters we are citing to. If the year of the case is not indicated by the main citation itself, we need to insert it here.

In example 1, the two citations provided are [1980] 2 SCR 192 (main citation) and 112 DLR (3d) 67 (parallel citation). Since the citation to the Supreme Court Reports (SCR) includes the year, we do not need to include the year again next to the style of cause.

In example 2, the two citations provided are 35 OR (2d) 423 (main citation) and [1982] OJ No 3144 (parallel citation). Since the main citation does not indicate the year of the case, we need to add it in parentheses.

example 1: Hopp v Lepp,

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982),

3. Law Report Volume Number

There are two ways a reporter series may be numbered:

i. volume designated first by year, then by volume within the year, which requires the use of SQUARE BRACKETS. There is a new sequence of volume numbers that begins with each new year. 

example 1: Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192

This citation indicates that the case can be found in volume 2 of the 1980 Supreme Court Reports, starting at page 192. The year - 1980 - is critical to locating the case, as there would be a volume 2 issued every year.

ii. consecutive volume numbers are used by the majority of series and simply begin at volume one and continue on indefinitely until the publisher decides to start a new series.

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423

This citation indicates that the case can be found in volume 35 of the second series of the Ontario Reports, staring at page 423. The date is not necessary for finding the case - there is only one volume 35 in the second series of the Ontario Reports. The volumes are not issued by year. We added the year in the previous step (in parentheses) simply to indicate the year of the case.

Note:

  • Year in Parentheses: this refers to the date the judgment was issued (the year of decision).
  • Year in Square brackets: this refers to the date the judgment was published in the case reporter.
  • a comma follows round brackets but comes before square brackets.

What to do when the year of decision and the year of publication in the reporter are different:

In most cases, the year of publication coincides with the year the decision was handed down. Sometimes, however, there is a time lag between when a case was decided and when it was reported. To be sure of the year of the decision, look at the beginning of the case itself.

Include both years in the citation: the year of decision in parentheses (followed by a comma) and then the year of the reporter in square brackets.

In this example, the case was decided in 1987 but not published in the Federal Court Reports until 1988. This requires both years to be included in the citation:

Swiss Bank Corp v Air Canada (1987), [1988] 1 FC 71.

The parentheses clarify that the decision was handed down in 1987. The square brackets refer to the law report volume in which the case appears.

4. Law Reporter Abbreviation

  • A law reporter is always referred to in the citation by a standard abbreviation of its title.
  • There are a great many court reporters. It is not necessary to memorize the abbreviations for each; Appendix C of the McGill Guide provides a list of common reporter names and their abbreviations. For more information, see the section on Finding Abbreviations for Law Reports and Journals.
  • The reporter series number, if there is one, is also abbreviated and placed in parentheses directly following the report title. The abbreviations used are (2d), (3d), (4th), (5th) and so on. The series numbers should not be in superscript.
  • Note that (2d) and (3d) are used in lieu of (2nd) and (3rd).

example 1: Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192

Appendix C of the McGill Guide indicates that SCR stands for Supreme Court Reports, which, as explained in the previous section, are published by year and volume number. This is volume 2 of 1980.

The McGill Guide also indicates that the Supreme Court Reports are official, so they are cited to first.

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423

Appendix C of the McGill Guide indicates that OR stands for Ontario Reports, which, as explained in the previous section, are published with consecutive volume numbers. This is volume 35 of the second series.

The McGill Guide also states that the Ontario Reports is a preferred source, so it is cited first.

5. Page Number

The first page of the case is the final element in the reporter citation. In the reporter citation so far, we've already indicated the volume in which to find the case and the name of the reporter. This last element will direct the reader to the first page of the decision as published in that particular reporter.

example 1: Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192

The case will begin at page 192 of volume 2 of the 1980 Supreme Court Reports.

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423

The case will begin at page 423 of volume 35 of the Ontario Reports, second series.

6. Pinpoint [if needed]

Include a pinpoint if you are citing to a particular passage in the judgment. Pagination and paragraphing for the same case may vary among reporters. Make sure you are citing to the page or paragraph number as published in the most official reporter, the one that is cited first. To make this clear to the reader, the pinpoint follows the citation to the first reporter.

example 1: Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192 at 201

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423 at 426

Cite the paragraph numbers from an online source if that is your main citation.  Do not cite the page numbers from online sources, as these can vary in different formats (e.g. PDF, txt, html).  If the paragraphs in an online source are not numbered, avoid using that source as your main citation.

7. Other Law Report/Source

At least two sources (if available) should be cited for any case - a main source and a parallel source.  There is a hierarchy of preferred sources.  The main source should be the higher source available, and the parallel source should be the second highest source available.  This is the hierarchy of sources:

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

b. Other sources (unofficial reporters, electronic sources, etc.).

There exists a further hierarchy within the category of 'other sources'.  Online databases that are readily accessible and unofficial reporters that are owned by most law libraries and provide complete access to decisions are to be preferred.  The preferred sources are listed in Appendix C-2 of the McGill Guide, marked with an asterisk (*).  If a choice is to be made between several unofficial reporters, the following guidelines can be applied to select the most appropriate one:

  1. Choose reporters that are readily available over more obscure reporters.
  2. Choose general reporters over subject-specific reporters.
  3. Choose reporters covering a large geographic area over ones covering a smaller geographic area.

It is important to keep the audience in mind.  It may be more appropriate to cite to a practice specific reporter if writing for a specialized audience.

example 1: Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192 at 201, 112 DLR (3d) 67

Hopp v Lepp was also reported in [1980] 4 WWR 645, 13 CCLT 66, 112 DLR (3d) 67, 4 L Med Q 202, 32 NR 145, 22 AR 361, JE 80-515, and 3 ACWS (2d) 129. We've already cited to the official reporter - the SCRs. The next step is to consider whether any of these sources meets the criteria for a preferred source.  The list of reporters found in Appendix C-2 of the McGill Guide shows that the Dominion Law Reports (DLR), Western Weekly Reports (WWR), and Alberta Reports (AR) are all preferred sources. Therefore, any of these sources can be used as our parallel citation.  Of these three preferred sources, the Dominion Law Reports (DLR) covers the widest geographic area and is probably the most readily available, therefore this is the source that we will choose. 

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423 at 426, [1982] OJ No 3144 (QL)

Lexis Advance Quicklaw lists two more citations for Fucella v Ricker : [1982] OJ No 3144 and 13 ACWS (2d) 110. The first citation - [1982] OJ No 3144 - is a case identifier given by LexisNexis Quicklaw. The second citation - 13 ACWS (2d) 110 - stands for the All Canada Weekly Summaries, Second Series, which is an unofficial reporter that provides summarized decisions. The McGill Guide instructs us to prefer sources that provide complete access to decisions, so we will use the Quicklaw identifier rather than the ACWS citation.  We have also added an abbreviation for the name of the database (QL) beside the online case identifier, as required by the McGill Guide.  

8 . Jurisdiction and Court [if not indicated by reporters]

A case citation should always indicate both the jurisdiction and court level. Neutral citations take care of this requirement, but for cases without a neutral citation, you need to consider whether this information needs be to added at the end of the citation. Before adding it, look at the names of the reporters to which you have cited. If either the jurisdiction or court is evident from their titles, there is no need to repeat this information at the end of the citation.

If you need to add this information, use abbreviations found in Appendix A-1 (for jurisdictions) and B (for courts).

example 1: Hopp v Lepp, [1980] 2 SCR 192 at 201, 112 DLR (3d) 67.

No information was added because the SCR (Supreme Court Reports) citation indicates that this is a case from the Supreme Court of Canada.

example 2: Fucella v Ricker (1982), 35 OR (2d) 423 at 426, [1982] OJ No 3144 (QL) (H Ct J)

The OR (Ontario Reports) citation indicates that this is an Ontario case, so we do not need to add the jurisdiction. However, because there is no indication of the court from the citation, the fact that it is from the High Court of Justice must be added at the end (using the abbreviation from Appendix B).

example 3: Graham v R, [1978] 6 WWR 48, 90 DLR (3d) 223 (Sask QB)

Neither the WWR (Western Weekly Reports) citation nor the DLR (Dominion Law Reports) citation indicates the jurisdiction or court, so both should be added. Using the appendices, Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench is abbreviated to Sask QB.