Generally, when citing cases, provide references to two sources, if there are two. Provide references to just one source, or more than two sources, if you have been instructed to do so.
To determine which sources to use, use the following guidelines, in the priority given. After the neutral citation, if there is one, choose sources that readers will be able to find as readily as possible, and that suit your intended audience. For example, if writing a paper related to family law, you may wish to use citations from the Reports of Family Law (RFL) rather than a mixture of other reporters simply to adhere to a set of guidelines.
Case Name, neutral citation, reporter, parallel citation + jurisdiction and other citation elements if relevant.
See sections below these examples for further details on specific citation elements, especially pinpoint references, judges, and jurisdiction.
Examples, applying the general guidelines from the previous section:
Neutral citation only is available:
R v Baldini, 2012 BCCA 206.
Neutral citation and print reporter are available:
Kerr v Baranow, 2011 SCC 10,  1 SCR 269.
No neutral citation is available (use two print reporters):
Frame v Smith,  2 SCR 99, 42 DLR (4th) 81.
One print reporter only is available:
McLean v Pilon (1978), 7 BCLR 99, 1978 CanLII 237 (SC).
Unpublished judgments, available online:
Hareid v Holstad, 1995 CanLII 3083 (BCSC).
Kovinsky v Detroit and Windsor Subway Co,  OJ No 196 (QL) (SCAD).
This case is summarized in Ontario Weekly Notes (38 OWN 170) but the full text is only available on Quicklaw. The citation is a Quicklaw (QL) identifier only. OJ stands for Ontario Judgments. Quicklaw has similar databases for each of the provinces (AJ, BCJ, MJ, etc.). Canadian readers would readily recognize the citation as being a case found on Quicklaw and so adding (QL) is superfluous. However, for readers outside of Canada, this piece of information may be helpful.
Wahn v United Keno Hill Mines Ltd, 1999 CarswellOnt 1424 (WL Can) (Sup Ct).
The full text of this case can be found on WestlawNext Canada. Canadian readers would readily recognize the citation as being a case found on WestlawNext Canada and so adding (WL Can) is superfluous. However, for readers outside of Canada, this piece of information may be helpful.
Unpublished and not available online:
David v Evans (26 January 1995), Toronto 91-CQ-5100 (Ont Gen Div).
The case name is the abbreviated title, or style of cause, of a decision. The case name is derived from the style of cause, which includes the full names of the parties and their role in the proceeding. The case name provides a concise way of referring to a case for all purposes and for all time.
Generally, you will be using information provided to you. Use the case name provided by print law reporters. Where a case name is not provided, use the following guidelines and consult the Case Naming Guidelines if more detail is required. These Guidelines were adopted by the Canadian Judicial Council on May 7, 2009. Effectively, all reported cases and all cases found online, since 2009, have properly formatted case names.
Example from the Supreme Court Reports ( 1 SCR 87):
The parties are listed as: Karen King Appellant; and George Low and Barbara Jean Low Respondents.
The following shortened version is also provided: King v. Low.
When citing this case, use the case name formatted as follows: King v Low
Example from the Dominion Law Reports (343 DLR (4th) 1):
The parties are listed as: Momentous.ca Corporation, Rapidz Sports and Entertainment Inc., Rapidz Baseball Club Inc. and Zip.ca Inc. (Appellants) and Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball Ltd., Inside the Park LLC, Greg Lockard, Dan Moushon, Bruce Murdoch, City of Ottawa and Miles Wolff (Respondents)
The following shortened version is also provided: Momentous.ca Corp. v. Canadian American Assn. of Professional Baseball Ltd.
When citing this case, use the case name formatted as follows: Momentous.ca Corp v Canadian American Assn of Professional Baseball Ltd
The following general rules apply to all case names:
Antares Shipping Corporation (Plaintiff) Appellant; and The Ship “Capricorn” (also known as the Ship “Alliance”), Portland Shipping Company Inc. and Delmar Shipping Limited (Defendants) Respondents
Antares Shipping Corp v The Ship “Capricorn”
If you have to create a case name, specific rules for particular circumstances follow. Use these rules only if a print reporter does not provide a case name or if the case is published online prior to 2009.
In cases involving young offenders, and in certain other situations, initials are used in place of a surname. Use the initials as provided.
Person Acting for Others
When a person named in a style of cause is acting in a representative or official capacity for someone else, use only the name of the person being represented.
Example: Between: Evelyn Lorraine Smoliak (Plaintiff) And: Clint James Smart, an infant by his Guardian Ad Litem, Holly C. Saxelby and Carman Dion Kane (Defendants).
Cite as: Smoliak v Smart
Estate of a Deceased Person
Use the name of the estate and not the executors or administrators. If no plaintiff or defendant is included, use the name of the estate, modified by Re.
Corporations, Partnerships, and other Organizations
Do not change the name of organization and do not abbreviate words that are spelled out in the style of cause. Omit definite articles such as “The” unless they cannot be segregated from the full name. Omit narrative descriptions of corporate status.
Use the common geographical name of a place, without abbreviations. Modify the place name with its descriptive designation, except for provinces and countries.
Use the name of the government body, modified by the name of the subsidiary body.
The Crown in Civil Cases
Use the common geographical name and omit references to the Crown, Her Majesty the Queen, etc.
The Crown in Criminal Cases
Use R, which stands for Rex (The King) or Regina (The Queen), rather than the full name provided in the judgment.
Variations in Case Name
Sub nom is short for sub nomine, which means ‘under the name.’ Sometimes the same case is reported under different names in different law reports, or will be given a different name at different stages. Use the case name given in the reporter being cited. If both reporters are being cited, introduce the case using the phrase ‘sub nom.’
Brantford (City) v Montour, 2013 ONCA 560, 367 DLR (4th) 200, (sub nom Detlor v Brantford (City)) 310 OAC 360.
You will find examples of other case naming situations in the Canadian Citation Committee’s Case Naming Guidelines, and other citation guides listed on the Home tab of this Legal Citation Guide.
The year of the decision must always directly follow the style of cause. If the year of the decision is not indicated in the first listed reference to where you can find the case, then you must add it in parentheses after the style of cause.
Cinar Corp v Robinson, 2012 SCC 25.
Lipson v Canada, 2009 SCC 1, 301 DLR (4th) 34,  1 CTC 314.
Kirzner v R (1977),  2 SCR 487.
Lavoie v R,  1 SCR 193.
Canadian courts, and many administrative tribunals, adopted a unique identification system for cases in the late 1990s. The implementation dates vary by province and court or tribunal. Alberta was an early adopter in 1998, with the Ontario Superior Court participating in 2010. Specific implementation dates and abbreviations can be found in the Canadian Citation Committee document, “A Neutral Citation Standard for Case Law.”
Neutral citations are the preferred citation and are issued by the court or tribunal; you cannot create a neutral citation.
Neutral citation format: Case Name, year | court/tribunal | decision number | pinpoint if applicable, other source if available.
Example when only the neutral citation is available: R v Baldini, 2012 BCCA 206 at paras 56-65.
Example when neutral citation and print reporter are available: Kerr v Baranow, 2011 SCC 10,  1 SCR 269.
Be careful not to confuse a database identifier (e.g., 1993 CanLII 1150 (BCCA)) with a neutral citation.
Year, Volume and Series of Reporter
Most law reporters are published as volumes in a series. With the volume number and the series number, you can easily find the volume you need. You don’t need to know the year in which the case was decided.
Abbreviate the series designation as 2d for second series, 3d for third series, 4th for fourth series, NS for new series, etc. If there is no series designation, it is the first series.
A few law reporters publish one or more volumes each year and restart the numbering of the volumes each year. In these cases, the year is integral to the volume designation and is always put in brackets. You will need both the date in brackets and the volume number, if any, to find the volume you need.
Most law reporters provide an abbreviation that should be used. If this information is not given, use the Law Report Abbreviations tab above. If you are providing two sources for a case, and the case has been reported in several law report series, you should follow the guidelines in the General section above.
Only cite to an electronic service if there is no neutral citation and there is no, or only one, print reporter. Refer to the section above on Citing Cases for further details.
Case Name, print reporter citation, database identifier, + jurisdiction and other citation elements if relevant
The most common abbreviations for electronic case law services in Canada include: CanLII, QL, and WL Can. For cases from the United States, use the abbreviations Lexis and WL. Use CanLII references where possible because this source will be freely available to anyone.
One print reporter only is available:
McLean v Pilon (1978), 7 BCLR 99, 1978 CanLII 237 (SC).
Henwood v Henwood, 1993 CanLII 2852 (NWT SC).
R v Hekob,  AJ no 227 (QL) (CA).
If you wish to refer to a particular passage in a case, you will need to let the reader know where to find it. For older cases, you will need to refer to the page number in a printed law report. Newer cases use paragraph numbers, both in the print law reports and in online versions of the same case. Be careful when using databases such as Quicklaw or Westlaw – especially for older cases; these databases often use their own paragraph numbering systems, which would not be helpful unless the reader was using the same database as you.
Examples with a neutral citation:
Examples from a print reporter:
Example with parallel citations:
You must always let the reader know the jurisdiction and court in which the case was decided. If this information is not obvious from elsewhere in the citation, you must include it in parentheses.
Jurisdiction: Use standard abbreviations for jurisdictions, not postal code symbols. Current provinces use the following abbreviations: Alta, BC, Man, NB, NL (formerly Nfld), NWT, NS, Ont, PEI, Que, Sask, YT. Source: Natural Resources Canada. Nunavut has no official abbreviation yet, but is sometimes shortened to Nu or Nvt.
Court: Commonly used abbreviations for Canadian courts include the following.
CA Court of Appeal
Ct J Court of Justice
FC Federal Court
H Ct J High Court of Justice
Prov Ct Provincial Court
QB Court of Queen’s Bench
SCC Supreme Court of Canada
SC Supreme Court
Sm Cl Ct Small Claims Court
TCC Tax Court of Canada
Terr Ct Territorial Court
Do not leave any spaces if you are using all upper case letters (e.g., BCCA). If the abbreviations include both upper and lower case letters, you will need to leave spaces where appropriate (e.g., PEISC (Fam Div), BC Prov Ct (Sm Cl Div)).
If a case was decided in chambers, include that information (e.g., Re Canadian Petcetera Limited Partnership, 2009 BCCA 255 (in Chambers)).
R v Baldini, 2012 BCCA 206 at paras 56-65.
Stroub v Kazakoff (1977), 2 BCLR 262 (SC).
Re D and S, 1980 CanLII 1128 (Ont Div Ct).
Betts v Sanderson Estate (1989), 53 DLR (4th) 675,  2 WWR 113, 31 BCLR (2d) 1, 44 CCLT 97 (BCCA).
If it is relevant to the point you are making, you may add the name of the judge to the footnote, along with an indication for dissenting opinions.
Use the last name of the judge followed by the abbreviation for the office (e.g., CJC for Chief Justice of Canada, JA for Justice of Appeal, J for Justice, JJ for Justices).
At times, it will be important to let the reader know the full history of a case. Even though it is called “history,” it refers to what happened earlier and later to a particular case. For example, if you are discussing a case from the British Columbia Court of Appeal, you may want to let the reader know where to find the trial level decision as well as that the case went to the Supreme Court of Canada. Further, you will want to let the reader know if the Court of Appeal decision is affirming/reversing the earlier decision and whether the Court of Appeal decision was affirmed/reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
There are three possible ways to sequence a case history; use the most appropriate format given your circumstances.
Use prior history if you are discussing the decision of the highest court the case has reached and want to refer to the lower court decisions. Signal the treatment by aff’g for affirming or rev’g for reversing.
Note that the punctuation after the treatment is important. If the citation following the signal used (e.g., rev’g, aff’g) refers to a law report series that uses a year designation (see the Printed Reporters section above), do not add a comma. If the citation following the signal used does not indicate the year of the decision, you must add the year of the decision in parentheses, followed by a comma. The following two examples should make this clear.
Use subsequent history if you are discussing the decision of a case that has since gone to a higher court level. Signal the treatment by aff’d for affirmed or rev’d for reversed. The signals always refer back to the earliest decision cited.
Note that the punctuation after the treatment is important. See explanation in the Prior History section above.
Prior and Subsequent History
Use prior and subsequent history if you are discussing an appeal that was later appealed. Follow all of the rules for prior and subsequent history above. Remember that each treatment signal refers back to the first case cited.
Leave to Appeal
If a case has been appealed and the case has yet to be heard, or will not be heard, you would generally want to let the reader know. Append this information to the case citation.
Citation of decision for which leave is requested, court and decision if available, citation to the decision if available.
Decisions in Printed Reporters
Use the same citation rules as for cases above. If the administrative body is not clear from the name of the print reporter, include it in parentheses as you would for the jurisdiction and court for cases. Use the abbreviation that the administrative body uses; if there is no abbreviation, spell out the name in full
Many decisions are available on commercial databases such as CanLII and Quicklaw. Cite to these as for cases (see Electronic Services above).
If you find the decision on the administrative board website, use the following format:
Style of Cause (date), decision number if available, online: name of board <website homepage>
You may wish to let the reader know that you are not simply referring to a case, but to a particular aspect of that case. This could be a factum, oral argument, evidence, etc. The particular document or other aspect of the case should be added parenthetically.