How do you find a decision using a citation? What does a citation even mean? Well, a citation provides all the information you need to find a case.
To illustrate, we can use a decision referred to in a book from the shelves at the Great Library:
Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd.,  2 S.C.R. 229
We can determine the following information from this citation:
- The name of the case, or style-of-cause:
- “Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd.”
- The date of the case:
- “” (See Square or Round for an explanation of what the use of brackets and parentheses means in Canadian legal citation)
- An abbreviated form of the title of the law report in which the case was published:
- The volume number of the law report in which the case was published:
- Note that the volume number appears before the law report title abbreviation – in this case, it is volume 2 for 1978
- The page number on which the case starts:
To locate a copy of the case, you will need to know which law report is represented by the “S.C.R.” abbreviation. One of the best ways to determine the meaning of a legal citation abbreviation is to refer to the appendices located in the Canadian Guide to Legal Citation, commonly known as the “McGill Guide”. Another excellent resource is the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations, which is freely available online. Searching either resource will indicate that, for this Canadian decision, “S.C.R.” stands for Supreme Court Reports.
At this stage, you have enough information to locate the decision in print format at the Great Library, or online via the website for Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. You can also search Lexis Advance Quicklaw, WestlawNext Canada, and CanLII for the decision. Licensees of the Law Society of Ontario, articling/LPP students, and law firm summer students may access Lexis Advance Quicklaw and WestlawNext Canada free of charge at the Great Library.
Citations are a powerful means to connect with the information you need; all the more reason to practice and get them right. If you need help, just ask a law librarian.