Legal Citations – The Core Citation or Printed Reporter (McGill Guide, 3.7 and APPENDIX C)

The core citation of a case law citation consists of the printed reporter information. In other words, the core citation provides the reader with the information required to quickly locate the version of the decision being cited. Since judicial decisions are often printed in several different reporters, it is very important that you use and cite to the correct case reporter. Otherwise, you risk confusing the reader!

Printed Reporters

Case law reporters are publications containing court decisions.They are issued through a variety of different bodies, both commercial and public. Basically, reporters are like journals or periodicals. However, instead of publishing articles of an academic nature, case law reporters collect and amass judicial decisions from courts and tribunals, and publish these in sets or volumes. It is important to note that not all cases are reported and that the publisher of a reporter ultimately decides which cases are published and how these cases are organized.

There are a number of different types of case law reporters and a clearly defined hierarchy of reporters for the purposes of citing case law. Many are organized by jurisdiction (e.g. Ontario Reports, Nova Scotia Reports, Western Weekly Reports, National Reporter), although some deal with specific legal subjects (e.g. Canadian Criminal Cases, Canadian Computer Law Reporter).It is always preferable to cite to an "official” reporter where possible. Where there is no official reporter, then a "semi-official” reporter will suffice. An "unofficial” reporter should only be cited where no other printed reporter is available.

Official Reporters (McGill Guide,

Not all case reporters are created equal! And, according to APPENDIX C of the McGill Guide, there are only three official reporters of Canadian case law. They are as follows:

Official reporters should always be listed first, after the neutral citation, before any other reporters.

Semi-Official Reporters (McGill Guide,

Semi-official reporters exist mostly at the provincial level, and you must always cite to these before any other reporter (other than official reporters, of course). Very few Canadian provinces and territories have semi-official reporters. A list of semi-official reporters can also be found on Appendix C of the 8th edition of the McGill Guide. Be aware that the McGill Guide occasionally contradicts itself regarding this list. For example, the Ontario Reports (Second Series) and (Third Series) are found under the list for semi-official reporters and non-official reporters. In this particular case, you should consider the Ontario Reports as always semi-official, despite this contradiction.

Unofficial Reporters (McGill Guide,

An unofficial reporter should only be cited when the decision has not been printed in an official or semi-official reporter. But beware! There are guidelines you should follow when determining which order to cite unofficial reporters:

Unreported Decisions & Electronic Reporters (McGill Guide, 3.12 and 3.8)

Not all cases are reported. Some decisions might only be available through an online service such as LexisNexis/Quicklaw, while others might only be available directly from the court itself. Online service providers sometimes have their own method of categorizing cases. You should become familiar with these.

Note that the citation to an electronic reporter should always be listed after any print reporters.