The Canadian Legal Information Institute, or CanLII, was created to enable free access to authoritative versions of Canadian case law and statutes on the Internet through a uniform search interface. CanLII is a non-profit corporation funded by all of the law societies across Canada. The CanLII site is developed and operated by Lexum.
CanLII's goal is to publish a comprehensive collection of Canadian case law dating from January 2000, as well as earlier material made available by the courts. CanLII publishes statutes and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions. CanLII is also publishing rulings of some tribunals.
The databases on CanLII and their date range are listed in the Scope of Coverage link on the CanLII home page.
The CanLII home page contains a search box that allows full text key word searches (line 1) and also allows searches by name or citation (line 2).
- Terms are searched as though AND were inserted between them.
- Boolean and proximity connectors can be used if desired. Information on search syntax is available by clicking on HELP in the search box.
- Use quotation marks for phrase searching.
- Plural forms of your terms and basic word variants will be searched automatically.
- Searches by citation for cases decided in 2010 and later must use neutral citation.
Tip: The AND, OR and NOT connectors must be capitalized in CanLII search queries.
The home page search is run on all of the content in the CanLII collection unless you de-select collection types or restrict the date range.
You can restrict your search by jurisdiction, by clicking on the name of a jurisdiction from the list on the left of the home page. From there, you can search all databases for that jurisdiction or restrict your search to individual databases within that jurisdiction.
The page for each jurisdiction contains external links for legal information relevant to that jurisdiction. The page for individual courts displays lists of recently added cases as well as links to practice directions and rules of court.
The Advanced Search template appears when you click on Advanced Search at the bottom left of the home page.
In addition to the search features described above, the Advanced search template allows you more choices regarding search parameters.
- Customize which jurisdictions are searched.
- For administrative tribunals, select the type of tribunal to be searched.
- For court cases, restrict your search to appellate decisions.
The Database Search template appears when you click on Database Search at the bottom left of the home page. It allows you to select in which databases you want to search.
Tip: If you want to restrict your search to the courts from your jurisdiction and the Supreme Court of Canada, the Database Search is the way to do it.
The search results are ranked by relevance, but can be re-sorted by date or by citation frequency. Cases are listed with computer-generated keywords to assist in quickly determining their relevance. The result list shows the first few occurrences of your search terms in context.
The search results page allows you to refine your search by:
- modifying the query
- restricting your search by date, jurisdiction, court level or type of collection.
- restricting your note-up results by keyword, jurisdiction, date or court level
When viewing a document, the highlight tool allows you to specify which terms you want to locate.
Cases can be viewed and printed in HTML or PDF format. Neutral citations, and parallel citations within the scope of RefLex, are included to allow proper citation to reported cases. Case history (for cases decided from 2006) and judicial consideration is available from links on the case header.
Cases contain links to cited legislation. A link to a section number goes directly to the section cited, unless the statute is published in parts.
Statutes collections include tables listing statutes by name with links to associated regulations. Earlier versions of the legislation are included and can be searched if desired.
The currency of each legislation collection depends on the frequency with which the government updates its own consolidation.
Searches can be carried out:
- across all legislation collections on CanLII
- within all legislation for an individual jurisdiction
- within an individual statute or regulation.
Tip: To search within an individual statute or regulation, enter the name of the statute or regulation on Line 2 of the search box, and the keywords on Line 1.
When a statute is viewed:
- the box at the top of the screen lists the different versions on CanLII
- select two versions and click on COMPARE to view the versions in a side-by-side comparison with the changes highlighted
- the box will not appear when the statute is printed
- the box also links to regulations enacted pursuant to the statute, and to note-up results for the legislation.
- each section and subsection links to note-up results
- there is a convenient feature allowing easy copying of the full legislative citation from a link at each section number.
The legislative note-up feature on CanLII has been improved significantly.
Access it from the note-up tab, or by clicking on the section number when viewing the legislation. You can note-up by section or by subsection.
There are some caveats. The results will not include cases outside of CanLII's scope of coverage, the note-up tool is dependent on a properly formed citation appearing in the case, and there will be some "false positives" where references to an older revision are included in the results.
Despite these issues, the current legislative note-up is quite effective and will retrieve most citing cases.
The RefLex database of case and legislation citations on CanLII enables creation of links between documents, generation of note-up results, and the addition of parallel citations to cases.
Tip: RefLex results showing cases that have judicially considered a particular case can be refined further using the search box that appears at the top of the results list.
The Noteup feature is dependent on hyperlinks created using the RefLex database. Prior to 2010, the Reflex database was based on reporter citations for cases published in several commonly-used case reporters, as well as neutral citations. The RefLex database has never included QL or WL Canada citations.
For cases decided after mid-2009, the Reflex database uses only neutral citations. As a result, for cases decided after mid-2009 the CanLII note-up feature will show only those citing cases in which the cited case appears with a neutral citation. It is therefore advisable to do an additional keyword search using distinctive terms from the style of cause of the cited case to complete your note-up on CanLII.
The Related Decisions link shown on each case lists case history only for decisions from 2006. It is advisable to go beyond the Related Decisions link to check case history - particularly for cases decided before 2006.
RSS feeds are available for CanLII databases. You can subscribe to receive:
- updated results for any search carried out on CanLII, sent to you by RSS feed as soon as a new document is added to CanLII that meets your search criteria
- updated note-up results, sent by RSS as soon as a new citing case is added to CanLII
- all decisions released by a court or tribunal for publication on CanLII
- all amendments to legislation from a particular jurisdiction
- amendments to particular statutes and regulations.
To subscribe to receive all decisions or legislation from a particular source, click on the Tools link at the bottom of any page on CanLII, follow the link to the RSS feeds page, and subscribe from there.
To subscribe to receive updates to an individual statute, click on the RSS icon beside the name of the statute when viewing the statute. To receive updated search query results, click on the RSS icon on the search results page.
Each decision and statute on CanLII has a static URL that can be used to insert a permanent link into user documents. CanLII has gone further and inserted anchors at paragraph numbers (for decisions) and section numbers (for legislation) that allow links to those internal references. For example:
- to link to para. 4 of a case, add #par4 to the CanLII URL for the case
- to link to section 4 of a statute, add #sec4 to the CanLII URL for the statute
- to link to subsection 4(2) of a statute, add #sec4subsec2 to the CanLII URL for the statute.
The CanLII hyperlinking tool automatically creates links between citations in a document and the cited cases and legislation on CanLII. This service is free for up to 1,000 citations per month. It is accessed from the Tools link at the bottom of any page on CanLII.
The user submits a document in Word, RTF or HTML format and a copy of the document is returned with hypertext links inserted. The document is submitted to a server managed by Lexum, and Lexum destroys the submitted document within 24 hours of receipt.
For cases decided after mid-2009, only neutral case citations and S.C.R. citations will be recognized by the hyperlinking tool, because of limitations in the RefLex database.
Users who install a CanLII browser plugin can search CanLII directly from their web browser rather than going to the CanLII site. For the best results, searches should be done using CanLII syntax.