Court decisions may also be referred to as judgments, reasons for judgment, or reasons. These are different than court orders which are generally only available directly from the court that issued the order and not available online. Not every decision is reported or formally published, some are delivered orally.
Reasons for judgment can be delivered immediately or reserved, when reserved the matter will be considered before the judge issues the judgment.
Written court decisions may be found in a few places; freely online, through paid databases and/or in print law reports.
For most provinces, decisions from about the late 1990s onwards are available online for free.
Most cases are assigned a unique neutral citation by the courts. It consists of the year, province abbreviation, court level and a sequential number. (ie. 2018 ABCA 102)
- Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII) – provides free full-text access to Canadian case law. The scope of coverage varies by jurisdiction and court.
- HeinOnline – Includes Canada Supreme Court Reports in PDF
- Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
- vLex Justis
- Westlaw Canada – Includes access to the Canadian Abridgment
- CanLII – Federal – includes Supreme court, Federal Court, Tax Court and others.
- Canada Supreme Court Reports (SCR)
- Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Decisions
- Administrative Tribunals in Canada
- Supreme Court of Canada – access to reasons for judgment, factums, memorandums, judgments in leave applications
The official version of the reasons for judgment is the signed original or handwritten endorsement in the court file. If there is a question about the content of a judgment, the original court file takes precedence
- CanLII – Alberta Provincial Court judgments
- CanLII – Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judgments
- CanLII – Alberta Court of Appeal judgments
Alberta Labour Relations Board
This website includes decisions of the Board from 2001, with some earlier decisions dating back to 1988.
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Decisions
This website includes the Tribunal decisions from 1997 to the present.
Court of Appeal and Supreme Court
This website includes decisions from 1990 to the present.
CanLII – Provincial Court
This website includes decisions from 1999 to the present.
British Columbia Reports
This website includes decisions from 1867-1948
Unreported B.C. Decisions
Using this index you can search unreported B.C. decisions held in the Vancouver Courthouse Library.
CanLII – Manitoba Court Decisions
The Manitoba government does not maintain its own database of court decisions, but CanLii includes decisions from Manitoba courts, and some administrative tribunals, from 1998 to the present.
Manitoba Human Rights Commission
This website includes the Commission’s decisions from 1997 through the present.
CanLII – New Brunswick Court Decisions
The New Brunswick government does not maintain its own database of court decisions, but CanLII includes decisions from New Brunswick Courts, and some administrative tribunals, from 1990 to the present.
Newfoundland and Labrador
CanLII – Newfoundland and Labrador Court Decisions
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador does not maintain its own database of court decisions, but CanLII includes decisions from Newfoundland and Labrador Courts, and some administrative tribunals, from 1993 to the present.
Labour Relations Board Decisions
This website includes decisions rendered by the Board from 1975 to the present.
Northwest Territories Court Decisions
This bilingual website includes decisions from 2006 to the present. The database also includes brief digests for some older decisions, where the full-text is not available online.
Nova Scotia Court Decisions
This website includes decisions from various Nova Scotia courts, 2003 to the present, together with some selected older decisions.
CanlII – Nova Scotia Court Decisions
Includes decisions from Nova Scotia courts and various administrative tribunals from 1991 – present.
CanLII – Nunavut Court Decisions
The government of Nunavut does not maintain its own database of court decisions, but CanLII includes decisions from Nunavut courts from their creation in 1999 to the present. (Note that prior to 1999, Nunavut was part of the Northwest Territories.)
Decisions of the Court of Appeal for Ontario
This bilingual website includes decisions from 1998 to the present.
CanLII – Ontario Court Decisions
CanLII includes decisions from Ontario Courts and various administrative tribunals, mostly from 2002 to the present.
Prince Edward Island
CanLII – Prince Edward Island Court Decisions
CanLII includes decisions from Prince Edward Island Courts and some administrative tribunals, from 1993 to the present.
Décisions des tribunaux du Québec
This French-language website includes decisions of various Quebec courts and administrative tribunals, from 1987 to the present.
Centre d’access a la information juridique (CAIJ) – a natural language tool for searching Quebec caselaw and doctrine (Law Collection – Ecole du Barreau)
Selected decisions, 2004 to the present, have been unofficially translated into English.
CanLII – Saskatchewan Court Decisions
The government of Saskatchewan does not maintain its own database of court decisions, but CanLII includes decisions from Saskatchewan courts, and some administrative tribunals, from 1994 to the present.
Saskatchewan Case Digests
This database contains case digests of Court of Appeal, Queen’s Bench, and a selection of Provincial Court judgments from 1987 to the present.
CanLII – Yukon Court Decisions
The government of Yukon does not maintain its own database of court decisions, but CanLII includes decisions from Yukon courts from 1996 to the present.
Unreported and Oral Decisions (Canadian)
Unreported decisions are the written decisions of a judge that have not been published in a case law reporter. Alberta Law Libraries has a collection of Unreported Decisions from 1954-2009. All unreported decisions after 2009 are available on Canlii. For decisions prior to 2009 please visit the library or use our Ask a Law Librarian service to find out if we have the Unreported Decision you are seeking.
Oral decisions have no written reasons as the decision was given orally in court.
- For oral decisions you must request a transcript of the case. See “How to Order a court transcript across Canada” for information pertaining to each province.
Jury trials also have no written reasons. To determine the outcome of a jury trial you can try looking for newspaper or journal articles on the case.
Alberta Law libraries maintains a collection of unreported decisions from 1954-2008. This collection contains a few oral decisions as well. Many of these decisions can not be accessed remotely, except for those that are now on CanLII.
- Order a Provincial Court or Court of Queen’s Bench transcript online.
- Transcript management keeps cases for 10 years.
- There is a fee for this service based on the size of the document.
- If they no longer have a copy of a decision and the decision went to appeal the transcript of the oral decision is part of the appeal book and a copy may be requested through the registry at the Court of Appeal. There is a fee for this service.
- Older decisions and all of the court documents relating to those files may be available through the Provincial Archives of Alberta if you are unable to locate them elsewhere. They typically don’t receive materials until they are between 42-80 years old depending on the type of case. To search successfully the more information you have the better: names of the parties involved, judicial district, court level, case file no. or action no., and name of judge. Requesting through Provincial Archives takes some time. You can request through email email@example.com, phone 780-427-1056 or in person.
- Style of Cause – refers to the parties involved in the case.
- Headnote – summary of a case provided by a published case decision either online or written
- Neutral citation – refers to the unique citation given to a case by the court. They usually appear in the following format: (year) 2021 (Provincial abbreviation) AB (Court Level) QB (number) 122 – 2021 ABQB 122
- Transcript – refers to the orally transcribed reasons for a decision
Judicial Consideration (Noting-up)
Noting up a case involves researching its appeal history and the judicial consideration it has received in subsequent decisions. Judicial consideration refers to a decision being followed, distinguished, overruled or considered by a later decision. Searching for judicial consideration may help you determine if the case has been influential, locate similar cases, and see how the law has evolved in terms of a particular legal principle.
- Words & Phrases Judicially Defined in Canadian Courts and Tribunals. This multi-volume set with annual cumulative supplements is a component of Canadian Abridgment. It includes statutory and common law terms from every area of law. Negative definitions, as well as positive, are included. Available electronically in Westlaw Canada
- Sanagan’s Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims, Canada. 5th ed. by John D. Gardner & Karen M. Gardner. This is a multi-volume looseleaf set with definitions from Canadian courts.
- Words that bind : words and phrases judicially considered by the Supreme Court of Canada and by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to 1949 by Jean Cote.
You can note up your case using:
- Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) – From the home page using the noteup/discussion search bar or within the full text of the decision selecting the treatment tab.
- LexisAdvance® Quicklaw® Noteup using QuickCITE
- Westlaw Canada Noteup using KeyCite
- vLex Justis
When noting up watch the case treatment indicators to determine how the case was treated. ie positive, negative, cautionary etc.
- Australian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) This website provides access to decisions from various Australian courts and administrative tribunals, mostly from the 1990s to the present.
- British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) This website contains British and Irish case law, legislation and other materials (e.g. Law Commission Reports), and European case law.
- Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CommonLII) This website provides access to case law and legislation from 60 commonwealth and common law jurisdictions.
- Proceedings of the Old Bailey (London’s central Criminal Court) 1674-1913
- House of Lords
- Supreme Court
- HeinOnline – Includes the English Reports Full Reprint 1220-1867
- vLex Justis
- Legal Information Institute (LII) The LII collection of state legal materials gathers, state by state, Internet-accessible sources of the constitutions, statutes, judicial opinions, and regulations for the fifty states, plus D.C., and the U.S. territories and affiliated jurisdictions.
- Historic Supreme Court Decisions American
- HeinOnline – Includes early American case law and the U.S. Supreme Court Reports.
- World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) provides access to 1000+ databases from 100+ jurisdictions including Australia, Southern Africa and Asia.
- How to Order a court transcript across Canada
- Native Law Centre – Legal Pleadings – includes pleadings from noteworthy aboriginal law cases
- Reading and Understanding Case Reports: A Guide for Self-Represented Litigants
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