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Case citators

There are two comprehensive electronic citators for Canadian case law: QuickCite on Quicklaw, and KeyCiteCanada on WestlawNext Canada. Reflex on CanLII is not as comprehensive and does not assign treatment codes. However, it is a good starting point for updating recent case law.

Electronic case citators

KeyCite

While using WestlawNext Canada, KeyCite results are accessed from tabs above the case being viewed. KeyCite can also be accessed using the Find by Name feature, or by conducting a citation search in which the case citation is preceded by the command kc:

KeyCite results can be sorted and refined in various ways, including:

  • sorted by treatment type, date, court level, citation frequency, depth of treatment
  • filtered by date, depth of treatment, jurisdiction, court level, treatment type, citation frequency
  • refined by keyword search

QuickCite

While using Quicklaw, QuickCite results are accessed using the Noteup with QuickCite link at the top left of the screen, or by clicking on a status icon in a results list. You can also access QuickCite from the Quicklaw start page, using the Note up with QuickCite feature.

QuickCite results can be sorted and refined in various ways, including:

  • sorted by date, court name, court level or to show negative treatment first
  • filtered by positive or negative treatment, or by jurisdiction, court or court level
  • refined by keyword search

CanLII

CanLII offers the ability to note up cases, using its Reflex database. The Reflex Record link provides case history for cases decided from 2006.

To access citing cases, click on the Cited by link near the top of a case to see a list of cases citing the case you are viewing. Alternatively, click on the “cited by” link for any case in a search result list. Treatment codes are not provided.

You can search within the list of citing cases using the search box at the top of the list. The list of citing cases can also be refined by jurisdiction, and sorted by relevance, date, citation frequency, and court level. When viewing a citing case, the highlight tool locates to references to the cited case.

The RSS features in CanLII allow you to be notified when a case on CanLII is cited in a new case.

Comparison of KeyCite and QuickCite coverage and features

You should be familiar with the scope of coverage of any service you use for noting up cases, and be aware of the different features offered by each citator.

KeyCite coverage QuickCite coverage
KeyCite commenced coverage of judicial consideration of appellate unreported cases in 1987, and all superior court cases in 1992. Originally QuickCite did not cover unreported decisions dated prior to 1993. More recently, many decisions have been added that pre-date 1993.
For cases before 1987, KeyCite may not include cases that merely refer to the cited case. QuickCite includes cases that merely refer to the cited case.
KeyCite has excellent historical coverage, starting in 1867. Originally QuickCite’s coverage did not start until 1940, except for decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada and Privy Council. More recently, many decisions have been added that pre-date 1940.
KeyCite adds citing cases more quickly than QuickCite, but they do not have a treatment code assigned when first added. QuickCite includes judicial consideration by courts of board and tribunal decisions released after 1994.
KeyCite features QuickCite features
A KeyCite results link to a citing case goes directly to first reference in the citing case to the cited case, and also locates to subsequent references. QuickCite locus page and paragraph references are shown in citator results with link. Citing case opens to first page unless Locus link is clicked on. Once in citing case, Hits does not locate to citing references.
Cases in LawSource display a KeyCite status flag, indicating whether the case is still good law and whether it has history or has been considered. Cases in Quicklaw display a QuickCite status symbol indicating whether the case is still good law and whether it has history or has been considered.
Citing cases listed in a KeyCite report also display a KeyCite status flag. Citing cases listed in a QuickCite report also display a QuickCite status signal.
Direct history usually contains a description for each case listed. Direct history for older cases usually does not contain a description for each case listed, but direct history description is available for newer cases.
KeyCite is designed to quickly tell you whether a case is good law, through status flags and organising results by treatment code. Results can be re-sorted by date, court level, citation frequency and depth of treatment. Results can also be filtered by date, depth of treatment, jurisdiction, court level, treatment type, and citation frequency. QuickCite results first show a summary of treatments for the case. The citing cases are shown by default in reverse chronological order. They can be easily sorted and filtered in various ways, including by jurisdiction, by court, by level of court, by date, and by negative or positive treatment.
KeyCite allows refinement of results by conducting a keyword search within the KeyCite results. QuickCite allows refinement of results by conducting a keyword search within the QuickCite results.
KeyCite allows refinement of citator results by citation frequency. QuickCite does not allow refinement of citator results by citation frequency.
KeyCite includes references to secondary sources that have considered the case, such as the CED and journals. KeyCite also links to legal memoranda citing the case and to court filings from selected cases (pay-per-use or additional subscription). QuickCite includes references to secondary sources that have considered the case, such as Halsbury’s and journals.

 

Comparison of KeyCite and QuickCite treatment codes

The treatment codes assigned in various citators can be quite different for the same case. It is not always wise to rely on the treatment code in determining whether you should review the citing case.

The status flags and signals used in KeyCite and QuickCite to indicate whether a case is still good law should not be blindly relied on without reviewing the citator results in more detail.

The KeyCite status flags indicate that the case has been reversed or not followed within the same jurisdiction (red flag), the case has some negative history or treatment (yellow flag), the case has direct history (a green H), or the case has been the subject of some consideration (green C).

The QuickCite signals indicate that the case has negative information (red hexagon), caution should be used (yellow triangle), the case has some positive treatment (green diamond), the case has some neutral treatment (purple circle), the case has citation information (blue hexagon with C).

The treatment codes used by KeyCite and QuickCite are set out below:

 

KeyCite
Overruled Cited case not followed by higher court in same jurisdiction or by SCC.
Not followed Cited case not applied or judged to be bad law.
Distinguished Cited case inapplicable because of difference in facts or law.
Followed Principle of law in cited case adopted or decider’s reasoning applied.
Considered Some consideration given to cited case.
Considered in dissent Cited case considered in minority or dissenting opinion.
Referred to Cited case is referred to.
Referred to in dissent Cited case referred to in minority or dissenting opinion.
QuickCite
Followed The citing case in a majority or plurality opinion applies a principle of law from the cited case. The judge expressly relies upon the cited case as a precedent on which to base a decision.
Followed in minority The citing case, in an opinion other than a majority, plurality, or dissent applies a principle of law from the cited case.
Explained The citing case adds to, expands upon or interprets the cited case. The cited case is not decisive but it is given some kind of consideration.
Dissenting The cited case is cited in a dissenting opinion.
Distinguished The cited case is held to be inapplicable because of a difference in fact or law.
Questioned The citing case criticises the conclusion or reasoning of the cited case, without refusing to follow it. Alternatively, legislation in force at the time the cited case was decided has been amended to the extent that the cited case might have been decided differently under the amended legislation.
Not followed The citing case overrules or refuses to apply the cited case for some reason other than it was distinguishable.
Mentioned The case is cited with no explicit treatment. The citing case provides no more information about the cited case than what was available in the cited case itself.

 

 

Canadian Case Citations

The primary Canadian print tool for noting up cases is the Canadian Case Citations portion of the Canadian Abridgment. To use this tool, look up the case in the following Canadian Case Citations volumes:

main volume

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annual supplement

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quarterly cumulative supplement

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monthly issues of Canadian Case Citations

 

References

Queen’s University Faculty of Law, Legal Research Materials, Case Law Research.