Legal Citation

The purpose of this tutorial is to provide students with a quick quide to the most frequently used McGill Guide citation rules.   The UBC Guide to Legal Citation is available online - please be aware that it does not follow McGill Standards in some cases so if you are required to use the McGill Guide always double check the source

Legal Citation

Correct citation allows researchers to identify and locate cited sources by providing the maximum information in an efficient and consistent manner. The following is a brief introduction the McGill Guide citation style. Only the most frequently used features are highlighted here. To ensure you are following the correct McGill Guide citation format, make sure you check the full guide.  

1) Citation Guides
2) Citing Cases/Jurisprudence Generally
    2a) Citing a reported case if a neutral citation is NOT available
    2b) Citing an unreported Case if a neutral citation is NOT available
    2c) Citing a Case with a neutral citation
    2d) Citing electronic Cases
3) Citing Statutes
4) Citing Federal Regulations
5) Citing Provincial Regulations
6) Citing Texts/Books
7) Citing Journals
8) Citing Electronic Sources
9)  Citing Legal Encylopedias (Encyclopedic Digests)
10) Plagiarism

1)  Citation Guides 

There are several legal citation guides.


  • The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 8th ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2014).
    [KE 259 .C34 2014 Course Reserves].
    (Always referred to as the McGill Guide)

    U of T Law students use the "McGill Guide" to cite all Canadian, British and American legal resources, unless instructed otherwise

The McGill Guide provides comprehensive rules for citing case law, legislation, periodicals, books and parliamentary material for Canada, the U.K., the U.S. and other jurisdictions. It also includes a section on citing international documents.


  • The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 19th ed (Cambridge, Mass. : Published and distributed by the Harvard Law Review Association, 2010)
    [KF 245 B58 2010 Course Reserves]

    When writing for publication in an American journal, The  Bluebook  will be your standard citation guide.  See the Introduction to Basic Legal Citation  for a description of Bluebook citation style with examples. CiteusLegalus is an automatic Bluebook Citation Generator that may make Bluebook citation easier.  Always check the results against the rules though.

2) Citing Cases/Jurisprudence Generally

See McGill Guide, Chapter 3: "Jurisprudence"

Case citations should be listed in the following order (Rule 3.1)

  • Neutral Citation (a unique identifier provided by the courts) if available
The neutral citation simply includes the year of the decision, a tribunal identifier and the decision number. 2002 SCC 10 for example
Since neutral citation does not always aid the reader in locating a case and since older cases do not have neutral citations, the rules require that each case citation includes at least two sources. More than two citations are acceptable if they helpful in identifying and locating a case.
These additional sources should be cited in the following order:
  • Official Reporters (e.g. Supreme Court Reporter) or  Semi-Official Reporters for provincial jurisdictions (e.g. Ontario Reports),
  • Other sources such as online databases, unofficial reporters. (Rule 3.1)

2a) Citing a reported case if a neutral citation is NOT available

See McGill Guide, Rules 3.2.2 and 3.7

Reported cases are those that have been published in print and reproduced online by commercial providers or under the auspices of a particular court. A typical citation for a reported Canadian court case without a neutral citation includes these basic elements:

i) style of cause (in italics)
ii) year of decision in parentheses followed by a comma
iii) the volume, title, series and page of the case reporter
iv) pinpoint  (if a direct quotation is used)
v) parallel citation (if available)
vi) jurisdiction and court (if necessary)
vii) judge  (if a direct quotation is used)
viii) prior and/or subsequent history (if relevant to the argument)
ix) short form in cases if  he case is to be cited more than once  (in italics)

Example: R  v Barr (1982), 16 Man R (2d) 1 at 14 (Co Ct), Ferg CCJ.

i) Style of Cause - R v Barr

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.3

The style of cause identifies the parties to the action and is always italicised. The "v" stands for "versus" and is always abbreviated and italicized. Rule 3.3 specifies how to create the style of cause in a variety of specific instances but  if the style of cause is provided by the print reporter don't change it..

In civil cases, the name of the party who has instituted the action, i.e. the plaintiff, appears first.

In criminal cases such as R v Barr, the state, represented by the Crown, has instigated the action and so appears first. The Crown is abbreviated to "R," for Rex (King) or Regina (Queen).

Where the plaintiff/defendant dichotomy is absent, procedural phrases can be used to reflect this fact. Re Smith, for example, means "in the matter of a party named Smith". "Ex parte Smith" means "on an application of a party named Smith." (See Rule 3.3.18)

ii) Year of Decision – (1982)

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.4

The year follows the style of cause. Canadian publishers number the report volumes in two different ways:

1) Annual volumes - Date in brackets [1982]

In this instance, each volume in a series is identified by the year in which it was published and then, if there was more than one volume published in that year, by its volume number. The Supreme Court Reports employ this system.

 A typical citation for a case reported in an annual volume series would be: R. v. Finn, [1997] 1 S.C.R. 10.

Note: the comma goes immediately after the style of cause, and that the date appears in brackets.

2) Consecutive volumes - Date in Parentheses

The year of the decision is always included in parentheses when citing a report series where all volumes in a series are numbered consecutively rather than by each year. The date shown is the date of publication rather than the date of the judgment.

A typical citation for a case reported in a consecutive volume series would be: R v Barr (1982), 16 Man R (2d) 1 (Co Ct).

Note: The comma follows the date in parentheses.

Note: If there is no neutral citation and f the year of the reporter and the year of the decision are different use both years as in the following example:  R v Lipman (1986), [1987] 1 SCR 425

iii) Volume, Title, Series and Page of the Case Reporter - 16 Man R (2d) 1

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.7 generally

From this citation, a reader would be able to locate the full-text of R v Barr in Volume 16 of the Second Series of the Manitoba Reports at page 1.

Always identify the series of the case reporter to ensure the reader can locate the case. Many law reports are now in their second, third, or fourth series. Volume 16 of the Manitoba Reports publishes cases from 1906, while Volume 16 of Manitoba Reports (2d) has cases from 1982.

iv) Pinpoint - at 14

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.6. generally

When citing to a print reporter, cite to the page from which the quotation or idea is taken. Always cite to the most official reporter which should be mentioned first in the citation as per Rule 3.1.  If you have included a short title you can let the reader know which reporter you are citing by adding a “cited to …” note in the short title area. (Rule 3.6.2)

v) Parallel citation

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.7

Any other source cited, if available, should be selected according to the hierarchy established in Rule 3.1.

  • Then cite to an official or semi-official series before a commercial one.
  • Cite to a general series before a topical one unless you are writing for a specialized audience
  • Cite to those covering larger geographical areas before those covering smaller geographical areas.

Depending whether your other source is a reported in a print reporter or an electronic service, follow the rules as established for that type of reporter.

vi) Jurisdiction and Court: (Co Ct)

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.9

Identify the jurisdiction and level of court in parentheses at the end of a citation.

When a reporter series covers decisions of only one court, it is not necessary to identify the court. For example, since the Supreme Court Reports only publish cases decided by the Supreme Court of Canada citing to the reporter would automatically tell the reader that the case was a Supreme Court case.

In another example, R v Barr is reported in the Manitoba Reports which only publishes Manitoba decisions and so the only further information required is the level of court that rendered the decision: the County Court.

If R v Barr had been reported in the Dominion Law Reports (DLR) - which publishes decisions from various levels of court across Canada - it would be necessary to indicate that the case was a Manitoba County Court decision: (Man Co Ct).

Appendix A-1of the McGill Guide lists the jurisdiction abbreviations  and Appendix B lists the court abbreviations.

vii) Name of the Judge - Ferg CCJ

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.10

Only Include the name of the judge when a direct quotation is taken from the case. The judge's name is placed at the end of the citation and is followed by his or her office in abbreviation (Rule 3.10 of the McGill Guide provides abbreviations for judges' offices). There is no comma after the judge's name.

If you are citing a dissenting opinion add the word dissenting after the judges office

vii) Prior and/or Subsequent History

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.11

When providing prior and subsequent history always refer back to the first citation.

Prior History

Provide the prior history of the case only if it is relevant to your argument.  Prior history indicates whether the case you are presently discussing has affirmed or reversed a previous decision.

As an example, in the case cited below, the Supreme Court decision ended up reversing the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Multiple Access Ltd v McCutcheon, [1982] 2 SCR 161, rev’g (1978), 19 OR 516 (2d) (CA).

Subsequent History

Provide the subsequent history if the case you are discussing has been affirmed or reversed by a subsequent decision.

In the case cited below the original decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal, and the reversal of the Court of Appeal's decision was affirmed by the House of Lords.

Beswick v Beswick, [1966] Ch 538, rev'd [1966] 3 All ER 1 (CA), rev'd [1968] AC 58 (HL).
Prior and Subsequent history

A complete prior/subsequent case history will cite the decisions of all the courts that heard the case, and will indicate whether appellate courts affirmed or reversed the original. When noting whether a particular case was affirmed or reversed on appeal, always refer back to your primary citation.

viii) Short Title

See McGill Guide, Rule 1.4.1

The full names of the parties will be found at the beginning of each case report. If the style of cause is lengthy and if you are citing a case more than once, provide a [short title] after the first reference and then use the short title in all subsequent references to that case. Short titles for cases and legislation are italicized.

2b)  Citing an Unreported Case without a Neutral Citation 

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.12

Unreported cases are those that have not been published in a print based commercial reporter series.  These cases likely do not have more than one location.

A typical citation for an unreported Canadian court case includes these basic elements.

i) style of cause
ii) date
iii) judicial district
iv) docket number (provided by the court)
v) JE Number (for cases from Quebec only)
vi) jurisdiction and court

Example: R v Smith (7 September 1956), Willowdale 123456 (ONSC)

2c) Citing a Case with a Neutral Citation: 

See McGill Guide, Rules  3.2.1 and 3.5

If a neutral citation is available cite:

i)  style of cause (in italics)
ii)  neutral citation (the year, tribunal identifier and decision number as provided by the courts)
iii)  pinpoint (always cite the paragraph number)
iv) parallel citation  (if available, cite according to the hierarchy established in rule 3.1 and depending whether your other source is a reported in a print reporter or an electronic service, follow the rules as established for that type of reporter)
v)  judge (if applicable)
vi)  prior or subsequent history (if relevant)
vii)  short title (if necessary)

Example:  Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada, 2009 ONCA 59 at para 64, 94 OR (3d) 82, Rosenberg JA [Torstar].

2d)  Citing a Case in an Online Database

See McGill Guide, Rule 3.8

With Neutral Citation

If an electronic case is published with a neutral citation or has been published in a print reporters, include the neutral or print citation and indicate from which electronic source you retrieved the case (Rule 3.8.1). Prefer CanLII over commercial databases.

Example with neutral citation: R v Wilkening, 2009 ABAC 9, 2009 CarswellAlta11 (WL Can)

Without Neutral Citation


i)  style of cause (in italics)
ii)  online database indentifier
iii)  pinpoint reference (if appropriate)
iv)  jurisdiction and/or court

Example: R. v. Brazel, 2006 CanLII 2081 (ONCA)

Commercial Databases

A typical citation for an electronic Canadian court case not available in hard copy and that does not have a neutral citation includes these basic elements (Rule and

i)  style of cause (in italics)
ii)  online database indentifier
iii) Database (QL) or (WL Can)
iv)  pinpoint reference (if appropriate)
v)  jurisdiction and/or court

Example from Westlaw Canada without neutral citation: Harbus v MacIver,1995 CarswellOnt 3185 (WL Can) (ONCA)

3)  Citing Statutes

See McGill Guide, Chapter 2: Legislation

A typical citation for Canadian statute includes these basic elements:

i)  title (in italics - short title can be used)
ii)  statute volume
iii)  jurisdiction
iv)  year
v)  chapter
vi) other indexing element (schedules or appendices)
vi)  session or supplement (if applicable)
vii)  pinpoint (if applicable - usually to a section number)
viii)  amendments and repeals (if applicable)

There are specific instructions for Constitutional Statutes (Rule 2.2) and Codes i.e. from Québec (Rule 2.3) and  that should also be referred to if necessary.

General Example: National Archives of Canada Act, SC 1987, c 1, s 2

Sources: If a jurisdictions electronic version is the official version. Rule 2.1.3 has a list of these then use the online version, if no then use the official print version. Official versions are cited just like the print versions. No reference to online or the URL is needed.

i) Title - National Archives of Canada Act 

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.4

Statutes often have really long titles and so are often given a short title that should be used for citation. . The short title is usually found in the first section of the act.  Always italicize the title of the act.

ii) Statute Volume - RS or S

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.5

Statute volume in this case does not refer to a volume number but instead indicates whether the item comes from a revised (RS) or annual volume (S) of the statutes.

Some provinces also print loose-leaf versions of the statutes - Rule 2.1.6 of the McGill Guide tells you which loose-leafs can be cited and which cannot, as well as how to cite them.

If you are citing to an official electronic version of a statute it should be cited in the same way as the printed statute. 

Example 1, Revised Statutes of Canada: Access to Information Act, RSC 1985, c A-1.

Example 2, Statutes of Canada annual volume: National Archives of Canada Act, SC 1987, c 1

iii) Jurisdiction: RSC

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.7

The jurisdiction immediately follows the statute volume. The jurisdiction is usually abbreviated to the first letter of each word in the name of the country or province. (RSC in this case stands for Revised Statutes of Canada, RSO would stand for Revised Statutes of Ontario)

iv) Year, Session and Supplement – 1987,

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.8

The year always follows the jurisdiction, followed by a comma. If you are citing to a looseleaf volume check Rule 2.1.6 for the appropriate format

v) Chapter - c l

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.9

Each statute is assigned a chapter number. Chapter is abbreviated with a small c. You must indicate this chapter number after the year and a comma. Use the alphanumeric designation as shown in the volume.

vi)  Supplement (if applicable)

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.8

Supplement referes to statutes that were passed after the 1985 Revised Statutes of Canada were complied but before they came into force. Supplement information is provided in parenthesis after the chapter number.

Example: Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c 3 (2d Supp).

vii) Pinpoint - s 2

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.10

If you are citing the specific provisions of the statute, then indicate the section number after the chapter number.

vii) Amendments,  Repeals and Re-enactments

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.1.11

Only indicate that a statute has been amended, if it is relevant to your argument. Always indicate if a statute has been repealed. If there has been more than one change, separate each citation with a comma.


Cite both the original act and the amending act. If the name of the amending act is different from the original statute it must be included. Otherwise, it may be omitted.

Example 1, When the statute being discussed has been amended by a subsequent act:
 Municipal Taxation Act, RSA 1980, c M-31, s 24(1)(b), as amended by School Act, SA 1988, c S-3.1, s 249(a).

Example 2, When the statute being discussed amends an earlier act:
Act to Amend the Elections Act, S.Y. 2009, c. 14 amending  RSY 2002, c 6.


Cite both acts and the relationship between them.

Example 1,  When the statute being discussed has been repealed by a subsequent act:
Environmental Contaminants Act, RSC 1985, c E-12, as repealed by Canadian Environmental Protection Act, RSC 1985,  c 16 (4th Supp),  s 147.

Example 2, When the statute being discussed repeals and earlier act:
An Act to enact and amend various Acts with respect to the protection of health information, SO 2004, c 3, Sched. A, ss 82, 99 (2) repealing Health Cards and Numbers Control Act, 1991, SO 1991, c 1. 

4)  How to cite Federal Regulations

See McGill Guide, Rule 2.5.1

Revised Regulations

A typical citation for revised federal regulation includes these basic elements:

i)    title in italics
ii)   CRC (which stands for Consolidated Regulations of Canada)
iii)  chapter
iv)  pinpoint (to the section number quoted if applicable)
v)   year (optional)
vi)  amendments,  repeals and re-enactments (if relevant)
(use Rule 2.1.11 for statues as a guide)

Example:  Western Grain Stabilization Regulations, CRC, c 1607,  s 8 (1978).

Unrevised Regulations

i) title  in italics
ii) SOR (which stands for Statutory Orders and Regulations)
iii) year and regulation number (for years up to 1999 use only the last two digits, for years after 2000 use all four digits).  
iv) pinpoint
v)   amendments,  repeals and re-enactments (if relevant) (use Rule 2.1.11 for statutes as a guide)

Example: Steering Appliances and Equipment Regulations, SOR/83-810 as amended by 86-1027

5)  How to cite Ontario Regulations

Each province has different rules, so once again check Rule 2.5.2 generally

See McGill Guide, Rule  for citing Ontario Regulations

Revised Regulations

i) RRO (which stands for Revised Regulations of Ontario)
ii) year of Revision
iii) Reg
iv) number
v) pinpoint
vi) amendments,  repeals and re-enactments (if relevant)
(use Rule 2.1.11 for statutes as a guide)
 Example: RRO 1990, Reg 1015, s 3

Unrevised Regulations

i) jurisdiction
ii) Reg
iii) regulation number
iv) pinpoint
v) amendments,  repeals and re-enactments (if relevant)
(use Rule 2.1.11 as a guide)

Example: O Reg 689/91 s 2

6) How to cite Books 

See McGill Guide, Rule 6.2

The general form for citation of law-related books is as follows:

i) author (First Name Last Name)
ii) title (in italics)
iii) edition
iv) Other elements (in order, name of editor or compiler, translator, total number or volumes or number of cited volume, volume title, series title and volume number within series, looseleaf). Each of these elements has its own rule so be sure to check the guide.
v) place of publication:
vi)  publisher
vii)  year of publication
viii)  at pin-point
ix (electronic service if applicable)

Example: Kent Roach, Access to Care, Access to Justice: The Legal Debate Over Private Health Insurance in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006) at 20.

Rule 6.2.1 has specific instructions and examples for books with multiple authors, edition statements and different formats. Capitalize the title according to the conventions of the language of the title.

Rule 6.2.6 has instructions for citing books in looseleaf  format.

7)  How to cite Journal Articles  

See McGill Guide, Rule 6.1

The general form for citation of law-related journal articles is as follows:

i) author (First name Last name)
ii) "Title of Article"
iii) (year)
iv) volume:
v) issue
vi) title of journal (in abbreviated format)
vii) series (if applicable)
viii)  first page of article
ix) at pinpoint
x) electronic service (if applicable)

Example: Trevor Knight, "Electoral Justice for Aboriginal People in Canada" (2001) 46:2 McGill LJ 1063 at 1070.

Rule 6.1 also has specific instructions and examples for citing multiple authors, articles published in parts, etc.

Appendix D has a list of journal abbreviations.

8)  How to cite Electronic Sources  

See McGill Guide, Rule 6.22

Rule 6.2, generally provides guidance and examplesof citations for sources that are solely electronic like blogs, facebook posts, tweets or reddit posts, ejournals, websites and other digital media including CD-ROMS and DVDs etc.

rule 6.22.1 also provides rules for items in online databases that have previously been published in print. Generally the rule suggests that the citation start with the traditional citation (if available) with additional information to identify the online source.

Example of a citation from a Website: Christine Hart, "Online Dispute Resolution and Avoidance In Electronic Commerce", online: Uniform Law Conference of Canada <>.

9)   How to Cite Encyclopedic Digests

The Canadian Encyclopedic Digest

Is known as the  CED and is cited as follows:

In print

CED (series, edition), volume, title, section.

Example: CED (Ont 4th), vol 31, title 82 at  § 126


CED edition (Online), subject matter series, detailed subject and subheadings (optional) (CED Subheading code)(also optional section

Example: ECD 4th (online), Animals "Dogs: Guide Dogs: Ontario (IX.4.e) at § 337.

Halsbury's Laws of Canada

In print

Halsbury's Laws of Canada, volume, subject matter (publication information) section update (if applicable)

Example: Halsbury’s Laws of Canada, “Construction”, (Markham, Ont: Lexis Nexis Canada, 2013) at para HCU-183 "Changes "


Also included in section 6.5 detailed instructions on citing to the various law-related encyclopedias from other jurisdictions.

10)  Plagiarism  

The University of Toronto has strict prohibitions against plagiarism in the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. In particular, under this Code, it is an offence for a student knowingly:

(d) to represent as one's own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another
in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of
academic work, i.e. to commit plagiarism.

In the context of your course work at the law school, the risk of plagiarism most likely arises by failing to properly document your sources. Students should consult "How Not to Plagiarize" from the University of Toronto Writing Centre.