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CanLII Features

What is CanLII?

CanLII is a non-profit organization that has been engaged by the law societies of Canada that are members of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to establish, operate, maintain and provide to the law societies a website dedicated to providing continuous access to a virtual library of Canadian legal information. CanLII’s goal is to make Canadian law accessible on the Internet.

The canlii.org website provides access to court judgments, tribunal decisions, statutes and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions. CanLII’s secondary website, CanLII Connects, hosts a database of case commentary and case summaries submitted by lawyers, scholars and others with professional competency in legal analysis.

Scope of coverage

The databases on CanLII and their date range are listed in the Scope of Databases link on the CanLII home page.

Search options

Home page search

The CanLII home page contains three search boxes that allow full text keyword searches, searching by name or citation, and noting up primary law.

For a summary of CanLII search syntax as compared to other research tools, see Search syntax for Quicklaw, WestlawNext Canada and CanLII and Search syntax for court websites.

Jurisdiction search

One way to restrict your search by jurisdiction is to click on the name of a jurisdiction from the list on the home page. From there, you can search all databases for that jurisdiction or restrict your search to individual databases within that jurisdiction.

You can also enter by jurisdiction to browse a collection, such as a list of legislation from a 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.

Search results

Ranking

The search results are ranked by relevance. They can be re-sorted by

  • date
  • citation frequency
  • court level

Cases are listed with computer-generated keywords and snippets showing the first few occurrences of your search terms in context.

Refining

The search results page allows you to modify and refine your search or note-up by:

  • modifying the query, and
  • restricting the results
    • by one or more jurisdictions
    • by type of collection

If you select Cases as the collection type, these refinement options are available:

  • Jurisdiction refinement will generate a list of cases from the jurisdiction(s) you select, and give the option to include Supreme Court of Canada cases.
  • Courts and tribunals refinement allows you to
    • remove either cases or tribunals from your results
    • restrict your results to appellate cases
    • restrict your results to tribunals in a particular area such as human rights
    • type in the names of particular courts or tribunals to customize your database selection.
  • The Date filter contains various options to simplify restricting your results by date.

If Statutes is selected as the collection type, you can refine the results by jurisdiction(s), remove either statutes or regulations from your results, expand your results to include all versions rather than just the latest version, or look for the version in force on a particular date.

Selecting Commentary as the collection type restricts the search to results from CanLII’s e-book collection.

Viewing

When viewing a document, the highlight tool allows you to specify which terms you want to locate. Uncheck a search term that you do not want to locate to.

Click on the URL link to go to the static URL for the CanLII document. You can then create a hyperlink to the CanLII document in other documents such as legal memoranda.

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.

Legislation

Browsing

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.

Searching

Searches can be carried out:

  • from the home page across all collections on CanLII, and then limited to the Legislation collections and by Jurisdiction on the results page
  • within all legislation for an individual jurisdiction, by selecting a jurisdiction from the home page
  • within an individual statute or regulation.

Tip: To search within an individual statute or regulation, enter words from the name of the statute or regulation in the 2nd box, and put the keywords in the 1st box.

View and compare

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
    • this feature does not function for large BC statutes that are published by the Queen’s Printer in parts
  • the box also links to regulations enacted pursuant to the statute
  • each section and subsection links to note-up results
    • this feature does not function for large BC statutes that are published by the Queen’s Printer in parts

Noting up legislation

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.

RefLex and noting up 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.

Reflex also has algorithms that look at parallel citations in documents automatically. This generates records to allow searching of cases by multiple citations, including those from Westlaw and Quicklaw. This system relies on properly formatted parallel citations to work: there are places where a case is cited differently in multiple places without overlapping parallel citations. In this case the cases will not display on CanLII as being linked.

CanLII tools

RSS feeds for queries, and new legislation and cases

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.

rss 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.

Static links to documents and internal references

Each decision and statute on CanLII has a static URL that can be used to insert a permanent link into user documents. Access this URL by clicking on the URL link in the document header.

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.

Hyperlinking tool

The CanLII hyperlinking tool automatically creates links between citations in an HTML 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 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.

Limitations in the RefLex database mean that some citation formats will not be recognized by the CanLII hyperlinking tool.

Browser plugins

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.

Commentary

CanLII publishes a small collection of commentary on the CanLII site. The commentary can be accessed from a link on the CanLII home page, and is also searched whenever a search is run from the CanLII search box.

A related website called CanLII Connects has been created. That site publishes case summaries and case comments posted by registered contributors. Each post is linked to the case on CanLII.

The CanLII site also links to CanLII Connects. The Show Headnotes link in a CanLII case opens to a page that contains, in addition to case history and judicial consideration, a link to CanLII Connects. That link goes directly to posts on CanLII Connects about the case.

Searches on the CanLII site do not incorporate searches of the case summaries or case comments published on CanLII Connects. However, keyword searches and various field searches can be performed on the CanLII Connects site.