By Gerry Power, Access Librarian, May 2008. Updated by Heather Memess, Legal Research Support Librarian,
September 2011.


The IALS Library has a comprehensive collection of primary and secondary material for Canada as a whole, with, in addition, significant holdings for the Canadian provinces and territories. 

Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories.  The provinces are: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.  The three territories are: Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.


Among the key constitutional characteristics of  Canada, as discussed by Monahan (Monahan, P. (2002) Constitutional law. 2nd ed. Irwin Law, pp.11-17) are:

  • Canada is a federal state with a distribution of legislative power between the Federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures.
  • Canada is a constitutional monarchy.  The Queen (the UK Monarch) is the Head of State, but the Governor General of Canada is the Queen’s representative in Canada.
  • Canada guarantees individual and group rights.

The Constitution of Canada includes

    • the Constitution Act, 1867, (previously known as the British North America Act, 1867), and
    • The Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11, and including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Print sources of the Constitution include the Statutes of Canada, and Laskins Canadian Constitutional Law (1986), published by Carswell. 

Electronic sources are best for the most up-to-date versions: CANLII and Hein Online, which has the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, as amended to 1999, available in English and French.

Canada has two official languages: English and French.  Some published series give parallel texts in English and French, e.g. the Canada Gazette, the Supreme Court Reports, and the Federal Courts Reports.  Many primary and secondary sources for the province of Québec are in French.  The IALS Library catalogue will generally indicate the language of a particular series or other publication.  A quick search of the catalogue reveals that approximately one seventh of our holdings for Canada are in French.

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The Constitution Act 1867 provides for the distribution of legislative powers between the Federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures.  In brief, the Parliament of Canada makes laws concerning peace and order, the regulation of trade and commerce, the postal service, employment, the military and the navy, banking, and other issues.  The provincial legislatures make laws concerning provincial taxation, prisons, marriage, property in the province, civil rights, etc.

Print sources of federal legislation include

Revised Statutes of Canada: consolidations of 1886, 1927, 1952, 1970, and 1985 and see also the Canada Statute Citator.  The RSC has now ceased publication.

Canada Statutes / Statutes of Canada, annual volumes, since 1840.

Orders in Council for 1874 and 1889

Statutory Orders and Regulations: consolidations of 1949, 1955 and 1978, and annual vols from 1947

Also of note for historial purposes, IALS has War Proclamations, 1914-1918, and War Orders and Regulations 1942-1945

Electronic sources of federal legislation

Federal legislation is also published on CANLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute. CANLII aims to make Canadian law available for free on the internet.  It is a non-profit organisation created by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and is funded by member societies.  The website is produced by the legal technologies firm LexumThe federal legislation available on CANLII includes the Constitution, the Consolidated Statutes of Canada, and the Consolidated Regulations of Canada.  CANLII's interface supports browsing and searching of the content, with tips on advanced searching.  The federal statutes and regulations are reproduced on CANLII with the permission of the Department of Justice.  English and French versions of CANLII are available.

The Consolidated Acts and Regulations of Canada are also available in English and French on the Laws site of the Canadian Department of Justice, as are the Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Annual Statutes.  From June 1, 2009, the consolidated Acts and Regulations on the Justice Laws website are considered to be the "official" versions.  The Justice Laws website offers simple searching and an advanced search for point-in-time access.  The data is frequently updated.

Legislation of the Provinces and Territories

IALS has good representative holdings of legislation for the provinces and territories, as illustrated in this table:

Province / Territory Legislation Series Note
British Columbia

Revised statutes of British Columbia, 1979-1981 consolidation. 

Statutes of British Columbia, annual volumes, to 2002.

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.

Citators include the British Columbia statute citator, 1996-, and

Statutes of British Columbia judicially considered, 1979-, looseleaf


Revised statutes of Alberta 2000

Statutes of the Province of Alberta (annual volumes) 1906- 2003.

Alberta Gazette (1985-2003) for secondary legislation.

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.

The citator available is Statutes of Alberta judicially considered, 2002.


Statutes of Saskatchewan, 1998-, looseleaf.

Statutes of Saskatchewan, 1906-1994.  Annual volumes. 

Regulations of Saskatchewan, 1995-.

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.

The citator available is Statutes of Saskatchewan judicially considered, 1979-.


Continuing consolidation of the statutes of Manitoba, 1987-, looseleaf. 

Statutes of Manitoba, 1890-, annual volumes.

Manitoba regulations, 1974-

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.

Revised statutes of Ontario, 1990- = Lois refondues de l'Ontario

Statutes of the Province of Ontario, 1868-, annual volumes

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.

The citator available is Ontario statute citator, 1981.


Lois refondues du Québec, 1978-, looseleaf.

Statutes of Quebec, 1867-, annual volumes.

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.
New Brunswick

Revised statutes of New Brunswick, 1973-

New Brunswick acts, 1824-, annual volumes.

New Brunswick Regulations, 1964-2004.

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.
Nova Scotia

Revised statutes of Nova Scotia, 1989-, looseleaf

Nova Scotia acts, 1836-, annual volumes.

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.
Prince Edward Island

Revised statutes of Prince Edward Island, 1988

Laws of Prince Edward Island, 1817-, annual volumes

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.
Newfoundland and Labrador

Revised statutes of Newfoundland, 1990

Newfoundland acts, 1836-, annual volumes

Newfoundland gazette, index of subordinate legislation, 2007

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.
Yukon Territory

Republished statutes of the Yukon, 1986-1990

Statutes of the Yukon Territory, 1982-, annual volumes

Previous consolidations are in the reserve collection.
Northwest Territories

Revised statutes of the Northwest Territories, 1988-

Revised regulations of the Northwest Territories, 1990


Canlii offers the statutes and regulations of all Canada's provinces and territories.  For each province / territory, the interface gives search and browse options and a note on the source and currency of the data.

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Law reports

In his online guide to Researching Canadian law, Ted Tjaden accounts for the proliferation of Canadian case law in recent decades.  IALS Library has a very good collection of Canadian law reports, from the 19th Century onwards.  A list of some of the prominent series includes:

Dominion law reports. 1912-.  This is a weekly series of reports of cases from all the courts of Canada.  Now in its 4th series.

Canadian patent reporter. 1942-.  IALS has all this series, the current one being the fourth.

Canada Supreme Court reports = Recueil des arrêts de la Cour Suprême du Canada. 1876-.  Official publication of the Supreme Court reports. 

Federal courts reports = Recueil des décisions des Cours fédérales. 1971-.  Before 2004, this series was entitled Federal Court reports.

Canadian criminal cases. 1898-

Western weekly reports. 1912-  The current series is subtitled “reports of cases decided in the courts of Western Canada and certain decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada”.

Canada tax cases. 1972-.  Judgments of the Supreme Court, Federal Court, Tax Court of Canada and provincial courts on taxation matters.

Reports of family law = Recueil de jurisprudence en droit de la famille. 1971-.  Now in its 6th series.

Canadian insurance law reporter. 1934-.

Canadian cases on the law of torts = Recueil de jurisprudence canadienne en resonsabilité civile. 1976- The 3rd series is the current one.

Canadian environmental law reports = Recueil de jurisprudence canadienne en droit de l’environnement. 1978-.  The 3rd series is the current one.

Business law reports = Recueil de jurisprudence en droit des affaires. 1977-. Now in its 4th series.

Federal trial reports. 1986-.

Canadian labour law reporter. 1980.- Loose-leaf

Canadian human rights reporter. 1980-.

The Library also maintains good collections of the law reports of the provinces of Canada. Again, older materials and series for provinces and territories are kept in the reserve collection. Among the current / recent series which are available on open access are:

British Columbia law reports. 4th series. 2002-

Alberta law reports. 5th series. 2009-

Saskatchewan reports, 1980-

Manitoba reports. 2nd series. 1979-

Ontario reports. 3rd series. 1991-

Recueil de jurisprudence du Québec (up to 2001)

New Brunswick reports. 2nd series. 1969-

Nova Scotia reports. 2nd series, 1970-

Newfoundland & Prince Edward Island reports, 1971-

Electronic sources of Canadian case law include Lexis Library, Westlaw and CANLII.  Lexis Library and Westlaw are available at IALS to academic users only.  Lexis offers good coverage of Canadian cases, with the Supreme Court Reports, the Federal Court Reports, and material from many of the provinces.  Westlaw also offers good coverage for Canada, in single source databases and some group sources e.g. Canada-all-cases.  Many series published by Carswell are included in Westlaw.

CANLII is a free service available to everyone on the internet.  Over 500,000 cases are now included in CANLII, from the federal and provincial jurisdictions and from various boards and tribunals.  In recent years, the service has added significant older cases.  The search interface allows users to search for decisions of a single jurisdiction or across all courts.  Browsing court decisions by year is also possible.

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The Canadian Abridgement is available online in Westlaw to academic users at IALS  It covers over 850,000 digests or summaries of cases decided by the Canadian courts and administrative tribunals since 1803.

The Abridgement offers a comprehensive treatment, arranged by subject, of legal issues from Canadian case law, and helps researchers to track changes in the law.  Since 1998, it aims to include summaries of cases from all courts in common law jurisdictions in Canada.  It does include digests of Quebec cases of national importance, but excludes cases based exclusively on the Quebec Civil Code.  IALS holds all three print editions of the Canadian Abridgement, from 1935 to 2008.

Another digest is the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (Western), being “a complete statement of the federal laws of Canada and the provincial laws of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as derived from the cases and statutes”.  IALS has all three editions of this.  The 3rd edition (current) is a multi-volume loose-leaf work, updated to 2000.

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Tjaden's online guide, Researching Canadian Law, lists a number of Canadian law books on various topics, and the IALS Library holds recent editions of many of these in its collection.  Previous editions are available for many titles, and kept in the reserve collection. Check the IALS Library catalogue for more details.


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Research guides

Useful recent publications include

Tjaden, T.  (2004)  Legal research and writing. 2nd ed.  Toronto: Irwin Law.  This book aims to explain the skills needed for legal research and legal writing in both the print and online spheres.  See also Tjaden’s legal research guides on and Globalex.

MacEllven, D. T. et al.  (2003)  Legal research handbook. 5th ed. Marhkam, Ontario: LexisNexis Butterworths.  For students and lawyers, with lots of coverage of electronic research.

Iosipescu, M., & Whitehead, P. (2004)  Legal writing and research manual. 6th ed.  Markham, Ontario: LexisNexis Butterworths.  Introduction to legal research and writing for students.

McCormack, N. (2010)  Practical guide to Canadian legal research.  3rd ed.  Toronto: Carswell.  Introduction to various legal research materials aimed at legal practitioners, law students and academics.

Fitzgerald, Maureen  (2007)  Legal problem solving: reasoning, research and writing. LexisNexis, Canada.

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IALS has a good collection of approximately one hundred Canadian legal journals.  These include university law school titles, law society journals and bar reviews, yearbooks, and many law commission and law reform papers.

Among the finding tools at IALS to the legal literature of Canada are:

Index to Canadian legal periodical literature, 1961-2006 (annual).  This helps to find journal articles, case comments and book reviews.  It is arranged by subject, with cross-references from the French terms to the English.  Includes a list of publications indexed, an author and title index, a table of cases, and a book review index.  Available online in Westlaw.

Canadian legal literature = Documentation juridique au Canada, 1981- (8 per year).  This bilingual index forms part of Canadian Current Law, and indexes journal articles, books, official publications, and case comments.  It includes a list of journals, subject index, author index, tables of cases and legislation, and a book review index.  The subject index includes terms in English and in French.


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Online resources

CANLII - the Canadian Legal Information Institute, which aims to make the law of Canada available free on the internet.

Justice Laws Website, from the Department of Justice - an online source of the consolidated Acts and Regulations of Canada.

Best guide to Canadian legal research, written by Catherine Best.  This site provides practical guidance on conducting legal research with links to key Canadian legal sites.

Eagle-i Internet Portal for Law - access to legal information from around the world.  You can browse by jurisdiction and choose Canada to display details of over 150 primary and secondary resources on the law of Canada.

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