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Guide to research sources for Canadian and BC law.

Case Law

This page provides links to key resources for locating case law for Canada and British Columbia which are available to KPU users.

About case law

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Case law is the written or verbal record of judges' decisions in courts. The case law records not only the outcome or decision made by the judge(s) but also the reasons for the decision and the sources (legislation, precedents in previous cases, etc) upon which the decision is based. It is sometimes referred to as "judge-made law".

Case law is one of the two main types of primary law in Canada, which means it is binding in court. The other type of primary law is government-made legislation (also called statute law).

It is helpful to understand how the Canadian court system works in order to search for case law effectively. Click on the "Courts in Canada" tab above more info.

 If this is your first time researching case law, you may want to read the library's Case Law Guidepost.

Outline of Canada's Court System in a hierarchical chart with names of BC courts

Tools for locating case law

These comprehensive databases include case law from Canadian federal and provincial courts:

For more tips on searching for cases, see the sub-pages on this guide:

Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decisions are available online from many sources, including CanLII and LawSource. The SCC publishes its decisions through this website:

All the key sources listed in the previous tab include BC cases. You can also directly search decisions released by the three levels of BC courts:

Until about 25 years ago, judges’ decisions were only available either at the courthouse where the case was decided, or in published collections of cases called LAW REPORTS (also called "law reporters"). These law reports are still being published, both in print and online versions.

Law reports only include selected cases which are considered to be significant. They typically include "value-added" material provided by the publisher, such as extra headnotes, expert commentary, and finding aids which help you locate and understand relevant cases.

Explanation of KeyCite flags and treatment codes used in LawSource, Criminal Source and Labour Source databases

Keycite Flags, Icons and Treatment Types: explains 4 ooloured flags used in WestlawNext Canada databasesKeycite Flags, Icons and Treatment Types: explains case treatment descriptions used in WestlawNext Canada databases

Source: WestlawNext Canada. (2020, May). KeyCite Flags, Icons and Treatment Types: Quick reference card.

Writing a Case Brief