Early 20th Century Ontario Law Reporting: A Brief Look Back

While full-text judgments are available today in multiple digital and print sources, this was certainly not the case in the early days of Ontario legal publishing. The number of regularly published law reports was small, and the cases they included were selective and primarily from the appellate courts.  

An Ontario case decided between 1900 and the early 1960s, if selected for publication, was likely printed in one of the following law reports:

  • Ontario Law Reports (OLR) – published from 1900 to 1931
  • Ontario Reports (OR) – the current incarnation of the ORs began publishing in 1931
  • Ontario Weekly Reporter (OWR) – a short-lived 1902-1917 series
  • Ontario Weekly Notes* (OWN) – published from 1909 to 1962

The Law Society of Upper Canada (now the Law Society of Ontario) played an active role in law reporting during this time period. The Ontario Law Reporter, Ontario Reports and Ontario Weekly Notes, were all published under the authority of the Law Society (although the printing was contracted out to commercial legal publishers). The Law Society was also empowered to appoint and pay the salaries of the law report editors and the official reporters who covered various Ontario courts. The early sixties brought several changes, including the end of the Law Society’s role in court reporting, the end of the Ontario Weekly Notes and the continuation of one Law Society sanctioned law report, the Ontario Reports.

*An interesting but, for many, disappointing fact about the Ontario Weekly Notes is that, as the name suggests, this series consisted of short notes of decisions written by a court reporter, rather than full judgments.