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Legal Citation Library Session


Today I hope to talk a little bit about legal citation, when to use it, and where to find information about it.  This will hopefully better prepare you for the next library session, where I will focus on how to find information using CanLII to support your course assignment.  Today I will cover

  • How to cite case law
  • How to cite legislation
  • How to cite a bill

You have also been asked to complete an assignment (you can view it and download it here). 

Why do we recommend the use McGill?!

CRJS is unique in that we often must consult a variety of government documents, including legal documents to support our assignments.  However, APA , Chicago and MLA citation manuals do not provide sufficient examples of Canadian law.  Therefore, when we are referring to primary law in our writing, which refers to case law/jurisprudence, legislation (statutes and regulations), bills, and debates, we advise you apply the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, or commonly referred to as The McGill Guide or sometimes "the red book".

**Only use McGill citation style when we are making reference primary legal resources. If there is an example of what you are trying to cite in a (eg: journals, books, websites), please use APA!

Where to find Legal Information Resources?

There are a variety of resources available that will help you cite Canadian law available to you:

CRJS Citation Guide - customized guide co-created by Scharie, myself, and members of SLS.  There are two online access points.  A link to the pdf is available at the bottom of the Citations page on the library website, and the document is uploaded on the Citations tab on the Criminal Justice library subject guide (this guide).

Other universities have also published online resources adherent to McGill 9th edition that gives direction on how to cite Canadian law.  I recommend the following 

Queens University Library 

UBC Legal Citation Guide

*Always confirm with your instructor about how they would like you to treat Canadian legal citation, particularly in courses outside of CRJS!


What are "primary sources" of law? 

Case law (jurisprudence)

  • Courts
  • Tribunals

Statute law (legislation)

  • Statutes
  • Regulations
  • Parliamentary Materials

Infographic: How new laws are made in Canada (Government of Canada, 2021).

Why should we conduct legal research? 

  • To find a law on a specific topic or issue (discovery)
  • To determine what the law says or means (interpretation)
  • To better understand the origins of the law; to relate laws to issues in criminal justice (relevance)

Note: It is recommended to always start with secondary material (articles, texts & treatises, digests) before you dive into primary research. Secondary resources help direct us to relevant laws and ground our understanding on key issues and events relating to primary law. 



Caselaw Basics

Precedent/Stare Decisis - In common law jurisdictionsa precedent is a judicial decision that establishes a legal principle or rule that a court or other judicial body follows when deciding subsequent cases with similar facts. Stare decisis means to "stand by that decision". Principle that judges should apply previously binding decisions of their own jurisdictional court or higher courts.  Example: R v Oakes, 1986 CanLII 46.

A precedent can be binding or persuasive.  For example a case heard in Alberta is usually bound by decisions of similar nature also made in Alberta or at a higher court like the SCC, but can be persuaded by extra-jurisdictional decisions (BC or Ontario decisions or even foreign law). 

To cite a case, generally, you need three pieces of information:

  1. The Style of Cause
  2. The neutral citation
  3. Pinpoint

Style of cause is legal terminology for the parties involved.

If a case is R v Someone, that means you are looking at a criminal case. (is the regnal name or the Queen or King; Regina or Rex). Because we live in a constitutional monarchy, if a person commits a crime, they have committed a crime against the Queen or King. 

If you are looking at a case Someone v Someone, you are looking at a civil case.

Different language can be used to describe cases; jurisprudence, case law, judicial decisions, judgments etc. they all essentially mean the same thing. 


Neutral Citations

Neutral citations are attributed to cases directly from the courts.  They will always take the following format: Year, court, numeric order in which the case was heard.  For example, R v Terrigno, 2008 ABPC 240  is the 240th case that was heard at the Alberta Provincial Court in 2008. 

Parallel citations or case reporters are often also listed in addition to a neutral citation.  These are published by a publishing company (normally issued as a serial in multiple volumes).  They usually include a unique headnote, or paragraph summarizing the key points of the case, preceding the case.  These headnotes differ, depending on the publisher which is why it is important to cite the version that you consulted.

McGill style stipulates that when citing a case, you should cite the neutral citation, followed by the reporter in which you consulted (if you consulted a reported version of the case.  For the purposes of the program, you only need to cite one source, and it should be the version of the case that you have read. 

MRU library doesn't subscribe to case reporters (and they are only available in select libraries in the city), so we generally do not have access to these resources, nor are they available online.  The only publisher that also makes their case publicly available is the Supreme Court Reporter (SCR).  

Generally, we can access case law in two places: 


Supreme Court Reports

Therefore, you cite the neutral citation, or if it is an SCC case, you can use the SCR citation. 

Example: R v Grant, 2009 SCC 32; [2009] 2 SCR 353 ***note square brackets indicate year of publication.


Headnotes - cases found in case reporters are preceded by a proprietary head note or summary.  Cases on CanLII, with the exception of SCR judgements will not have a publishers headnote.  Headnotes are like abstracts and should be used as a guide to understanding a case, rather than a substitute for reading the case!

If you ever need to figure out what an acronym for a reporter stands for, Cardiff Index to Legal Citation is a helpful resource.

When there is no neutral citation

Occasionally, there will be a CanLII citation in place of a neutral citation.  CanLII's scope generally includes digitized jurisprudence beginning in the late 1990s.  Sometimes there are requests to digitize cases that occurred earlier, especially if they are particularly significant to Canadian law. Use the CanLII citation when you cannot easily see a neutral citation. Example. R v Bernardo is probably one of the most notorious serial killer trials in Canada, so this case was later published by CanLII. You would cite this case as R v Bernardo, 1997 CanLII 2240. 

Citing a Case

On your References List

  • If you cite multiple cases in your paper, list them in alphabetical order as per the style of cause. 
  • You do not have to include a url. 
  • McGill does not require punctuation.
  • You only need to include one citation (preferably the neutral citation or the SCR citation, if applicable)
  • You do not need to include a pinpoint.

Example: R v Pickton, 2010 SCC 32

Within your paper

  • If you are referring to a specific part of a case or quoting directly from a case, you should include a pinpoint/paragraph number. 
  • Most cases will have the paragraphs numbered already, and they appear in the left margins.
  • Unless you are using footnotes consistently throughout your paper, use parenthetical in-text citations
  • If you are citing the case multiple times, it is okay to apply a shortened version of the in-text citation, after you have used the complete citation the first time.

Example: (R v Pickton, 2010 SCC 32 at para 56).

Subsequent citations in your paper (Pickton, at para 90). 


Legislation Basics

Citation of Statutes

Revised Statutes - all laws in force at the date of their revision are cited to their chapter number at the time of the last revision (last federal revision was in 1985 and last AB provincial revision was in 2000).  Example: Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46.

Annual statutes - all laws subsequent to the last revision are cited to the annual statute volume in which the law was passed.  Example: Respect for Communities Act, SC 2015, c 2.

Continuing Consolidation  - all laws are now online and updated in real time, but we still adhere to the printed citation practice.

To cite legislation, the following four pieces of information is required: 

  1. Short title 
  2. Volume title abbreviation (includes jurisdiction and year)
  3. Chapter
  4. Section

Again, with legislation, a variety of terms are applied (legislation, laws, statutes).  

Statutes are sometimes referred to as enabling legislation.

The title is in italics eg: Traffic Safety Act, RSA 2000, c T-6.

The volume title abbreviation includes the jurisdiction and the year the publication year eg: eg: Traffic Safety Act, RSA 2000, c T-6.

The chapter number refers to the specific chapter number in which the statute has been assigned in the volume eg: Traffic Safety Act, RSA 2000, c T-6.

Periodically the federal and provincial governments unite all current laws in force as of a particular date.  (In the print days, think of a set of volume books).  These are referred to as Revised Statutes and Revised Regulations.  The last time Alberta statutes were combined into a set was 2000, and the last time the federal government put together the Statutes of Canada was 1985.  

Reminder - Statutes are also published in annual volumes eg: SA, or SC.  These contain both new and amending statutes that have received royal assent within that year. These annual volumes also include acts that amend existing acts.

Eg: An Act to amend the Traffic Safety Act, SA 2005, c 34.

*If it is a new law that was created post-consolidation, you will cite it as an SA. If the law existed pre-consolidation, the amendment act will be incorporated in the existing act, and you can still cite the RSA.  Sometimes annual statutes can amend a number of different laws.

Example of a law created since 2000. 

**Unless you are doing historical legislation research, always cite the  most current law.

Finding Legislation

There are a number of places to find legislation.  Generally for this program, you will likely consult the following:


Justice Laws Website

Alberta Queens Printer

If you are looking for extra-provincial laws, Alberta Law Libraries has a great table with links

If you are looking for foreign law or international law, NYU has a comprehensive guide. 

Citing a Statute

On your References List

  • List laws in alphabetical order in relation to your other sources (in this case, we follow APA guidelines).
  • You do not have to include a url.
  • You don't need to include a pinpoint or section.

Example: Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46

Within your paper

  • If you are referring to a specific part of a statute or quoting directly, you should include a pinpoint/section/subsection number. 
  • All statutes have the sections and subsections labeled for you.
  • Unless you are using footnotes consistently throughout your paper, use parenthetical in-text citations.
  • If you are citing multiple sections within your quote or paraphrase use ss to indicate more than one section (Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, ss 320.12, 320.13).
  • If you are citing an Act multiple times, it is okay to apply a shortened version of the in-text citation, after you have used the complete citation the first time.

Example: (Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 320.19(1)(a)(ii)). 

Subsequent occurrences within your paper after you have already cited it once: (Criminal Code, s 320.19(1)(a)(iii)).


Regulations Basics

Delegated by parliament to government.  Sometimes referred to as subordinate legislation, delegated legislation, administrative enactments, statutory orders statutory instruments. Example.

To cite a regulation you need the following information:

  1. Title 
  2. Jurisdiction
  3. Year 
  4. Number
  5. Section

Regulations are passed under the authority of an existing statute, hence statutes are referred to as enabling legislation, and regulations are referred to as subordinate legislation. They are also periodically consolidated.

The title is in italics.

To locate a regulation, the easiest way is to know the "enabling" statute".

Where to find regulations


LawsJustice (federal)

Alberta Kings printer (provincial)

Federal Regulations

Federal regulations are also referred to as statutory orders (SOR) and are cited with the year they were filed and a number. 

Eg: Approved Drug Screening Equipment Order, SOR/2018-179

Consolidated regulations of Canada (CRC) are cited with a chapter number and the last revision was in 1978. You will not likely need to cite these in the program.

Provincial Regulations

If a provincial regulation amends a federal act, it is cited as a statutory instrument (SI).  In Alberta, provincial regulations can be cited as Alta Reg. or AR.  

Example - Regulations under the Criminal Code click under the Regulations tab. 

Citing a Regulation

On your Reference List

  • If you cite multiple cases in your paper, list them in alphabetical order as per the style of cause. 
  • You do not have to include a url. 
  • You do not need to include a pinpoint.
  • For provincial regulations, it is okay to use either Alta Reg. or AR


Provincial: Distracted Driving Regulation, Alta Reg 113/2011 OR Distracted Driving Regulation, AR/113/2011

Federal: Antique Firearms, Regulations Prescribing, SOR/98-464

Within your paper

  • If you are referring to a specific part of a regulation or quoting directly, you should include a section/subsection number. 
  • Regulations will have the sections numbered already.
  • Unless you are using footnotes consistently throughout your paper, use parenthetical in-text citations
  • If you are citing the regulation multiple times, it is okay to apply a shortened version of the in-text citation, after you have used the complete citation the first time.

Example: (Distracted Driving Regulation, AR/113/2011, s 5).

Subsequent occurrence in your paper if you have already cited it once: (AR/113/2011, s 5).

Quick Activity

Which one IS an example of an Albertan act?
2015 ABQB 142: 4 votes (66.67%)
SS 2004, c T-18.1: 0 votes (0%)
RSNWT (Nu) 1988, c M-16: 1 votes (16.67%)
RSA 2000, c T-6: 1 votes (16.67%)
Total Votes: 6

Bills - Basic Information

In Canada, bills can be introduced by the government, by a minister, or a private member (detailed info availalbe here). A government bill is a written legislative initiative submitted to Parliament by the government for approval, and possibly for amendment, before becoming law. They are drafted by the Department of Justice and are introduced in either the Senate (numbered S-1 through S-200) or the House of Commons (numbered C1-C-200). In order for a bill to become law, it has to go through a number of very specific stages in both the Senate and House of Commons.  These stages include:

  • Introduction or First Reading
  • Second Reading
  • Committee Consideration
  • Report Stage
  • Third Reading
  • Passage and or Royal Assent

To cite a bill, it is important to know what stage it is in or it has reached.  You need the following information: 

  • Number
  • Title
  • Session
  • Legislature
  • Jurisdiction
  • Year
  • Pinpoint
  • Any additional information (eg: ascension date, in force date etc). 

Note that the phrasing "assented to" is indicative of a provincial bill, and "as passed by the House of Commons" is indicative of a federal bill.

Royal Assent means the Senate and the House of Commons have both passed the bill in identical form and approves the bill to become law on behalf of the Queen.

‘Coming into Force’ is the date that the legislation, or part of it, becomes enforceable. Laws can come into force in several ways:

  • Some laws come into force when they receive Royal Assent;
  • Some laws come into force on a day or days specified in the Act; and
  • Some laws come into force on a day or days set by the Governor in Council (the Governor-General, on the advice of the federal Cabinet).

You will find information and copies of federal bills on the Parliament of Canada website (LegisInfo).

You will find information and copies of Alberta bills on the Legislative Assembly website. 

Citing a Bill

Here is an example of the same bill cited at different stages

On your Reference page:

Bill C-45, An Act Respecting Cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, 1st session, 42 Parliament (third reading 1 June 2018)

Bill C-45, An Act Respecting Cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, 1st session, 42 Parliament, 2018 (assented 21 June 2018)

Within your essay: 

  • Instead of sections, we pinpoint bills as cl (clauses).
  • If you are citing the same bill multiple times, it is okay to apply a shortened version of the in-text citation, after you have used the complete citation the first time.

Example: (Bill C-45, An Act Respecting Cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, 1st session, 42 Parliament, 2018, cl 5 (assented 21 June 2018).

Subsequent occurrences within your paper (Bill C-45, cl 20). 





Quick Activity: What is the status of this bill

First Reading: 1 votes (33.33%)
Second Reading: 2 votes (66.67%)
Third Reading: 0 votes (0%)
Passed: 0 votes (0%)
Royal Assent: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 3

Where did this bill originate? 

The Senate: 1 votes (50%)
The House of Commons: 1 votes (50%)
Your Mom's House: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 2

Contact Madelaine, and she will help you!

If you need general citation support or help, please access the following resources:

  • Cite Sources: Learn the correct way to cite sources by using these guides, tutorials, and videos.
  • Referencing Webinars: APA & MLA. Referencing Webinars are 75 minutes long.  Registration is required.
  • Online Appointments: Personalized online 30-minute appointments with a Learning Strategist.

Session 2:Using CanLII to search for Criminal Cases and Laws

Today's session will cover the following:

  • Overview of CanLII 
  • Finding Case Law in CanLII
  • Finding Legislation (CanLII)
  • Finding Commentary (CanLII)
  • Quick Exercise
  • Brief overview finding Bills (AB Leg/LegisINFO)
  • Brief overview of finding commentary using MRU LIbrary/Google Scholar

Overview of CanLII

CanLII (The Canadian Legal Information Institute) is a freely available database powered and supported by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.  Content focuses on Canadian primary law sources that include: 

  • Jurisprudence (Federal and Provincial case law, tribunal decisions)
  • Legislation (Federal and Provincial statutes and regulations)

You can also search CanLII for secondary law sources or legal commentary using CanLII Connects (case summaries and commentaries) and CanLII Docs (books, journals, articles, reports and research papers).  Please note that this isn't an exhaustive database (there are other subscription databases with quite a bit more content and value added features), but CanLII is a great start that is accessible to all Canadians. 

Searching CanLII

Filter your results

Elements of a Case

Once you click on the case link, look at the following features

Tip: How to cite this: R v Nur, 2015 SCC 15 OR R v Nur,  [2015 ]1 SCR 773

In text: (R v Nur, 2015 SCC 15 at para 3). 

Why am I seeing square brackets and different acronyms? 

Example: R. v. Nur, 2015 SCC 15, [2015] 1 SCR 773

  • This citation is telling us that the case name or style of cause is Regina (abbreviated) v Nur
  • The first citation is the neutral citation, assigned by the courts.  It means that Nur was the 15th case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015. 
  • The second citation is a parallel citation. Parallel citations are case reporter citations (where the case has been officially published in).  These citations are formatted a little differently.  Square brackets denote the year of publication, not the year the decision was rendered, so sometimes the years are different in case reporter citations.  For this example, Nur was published in 2015 in the 1st volume of the Supreme Court Reports on page 773.  

For the purposes of your writing, citing the neutral citation in McGill citation style is the most important. At MRU we don't subscribe to case reporters, and the only reporter in Canada available publicly is the Supreme Court Reports. It is best practice to cite the version in which you consulted. 

If you want to know more about what a legal acronym stands for, you can check using the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations

Finding a Statute in CanLII

Explore what cases have cited particular laws

Research the History of a Law

Finding Commentary

If you are looking for information related to a legal topic (very specific to jurisprudence or the Criminal Code for example), it is recommended that you run a search in CanLII in addition to MRU library. MRU library subscribes to many amazing databases that focus more on commentary from social scientists and criminologists.  CanLII has a robust collection of legal commentary (lawyers, judges, students at law, and other members of the legal community).  Most of the material in the Commentary section in CanLII are from legal academic journals. **But beware.  Anyone who signs up for a Lexum account can add an article.  Make sure you are looking at something reputable (eg: Law School Journal).  Make sure you look at the author's credentials.  Sometimes blog posts and student commentary is published on CanLII and although most of the time these are great resources, sometimes there are inaccuracies in the legal interpretation. 

You will find information and copies of federal bills on the Parliament of Canada website (LegisInfo).

You will find information and copies of Alberta bills on the Legislative Assembly website. 

**When searching for a federal bill using a bill number, you will need to indicate whether it is a House or Senate bill. 

-Make sure you are looking at the right session (Bills start from 1 every time there is a new Parliamentary session or Legislature).


Group Exercise

For today's exercise, we will be breaking off into groups and using Jamboard to answer some questions about cases and legislation using CanLII. I have added some text to each Jamboard with problems to solve. Use the sticky note icon to add your ideas to the board.  We will take a look at the group responses as a group in 5 minutes!

Group 1 (Students whose birthdays are January-March)

Group 2 (Students whose birthdays are April-June)

Group 3 (Students whose birthdays are July-September)

Group 4 (Students whose birthdays are October-December)


Library Search

 **Please note that with the campus closure, the library is also closed with the exception of a select few study spaces and a computer lab that is accessible by card on the 1st floor.  You can request print material and other physical items in advance and pick them up curbside.  

Things to remember when using Library Search:

  1. Sign in to save searches, items, and to request materials.

  2. Use the pin icon to save books and articles. 

  3. Use the filters on the right. You will use Availability, Resource Type, and Date filters most often.

  4. Some items won't be available. You can request unavailable items using interlibrary loan.

  5. When viewing an item record, scroll down to the Get It or Full Text section to get the item.

You can search in a way to combine or omit different terms by telling the search engine exactly what you want…this can help you save some time (and frustration!)

  • Use quotation marks to keep phrases together - "care and control" 

  • Use  AND to combine search terms - Alberta AND "impaired driving" 

  • Use OR to connect two or more similar terms - "driving while intoxicated" OR "impaired driving" 

  • Use wild cards to substitute a letter or suffix with a symbol - Canad* (searches Canada, Canadian, Canadians)


Search Google Scholar

Google Scholar is another great way to find peer-reviewed/scholarly material. Google scholar has a nifty citation chaining function.  The Cited by function will forward you to indexed scholarly material that has cited an article that you may be interested in.  The Related Articles link will direct you to similar articles that may have the same metadata or keywords. 

The Advanced Search is found by clicking the menu icon (top left).
Besides providing links to articles in MRU databases, Google Scholar links to online repositories that contain articles the author has been allowed to upload. and ResearchGate are among the repositories searched by Google Scholar.

By clicking on the Settings icon, you can select library links to show library access for up to 5 libraries (type in Mount Royal and click on save).  If you are logged into MRU library, links should automatically populate if you are running a Google search in another window. 

Note: Google uses different commands: ~; -; +; but AND/OR also works

If you are searching Google (not Google Scholar), you can also limit your search to show specific websites. Eg:

  • (United Nations)
  • (Government of Canada)
  • (Alberta Parliament)
  • (Queen's Printer)
  • (Parliament of Canada)

Student Perceptions of Teaching

Student Perception of Teaching (SPoT)

I'd love to hear your feedback about your experience with my instruction in today's class,  Your feedback is important and I use it to inform my teaching practice and class content.  It is also a requirement of tenured faculty to elicit feedback about their teaching from students every term.  Please complete the evaluation form.  I greatly appreciate you taking the time to complete it.


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Madelaine Vanderwerff

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