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Canadian Law & Legislation

This library guide will provide you with information to complete your Canadian criminal law research.

Legal Sources of Information

  • Primary sources include case law (reports of cases that were heard in the courts), legislation (laws at any level of government - provincial, federal, etc.) and/or statistics that apply to the issue you are researching and grounds your arguments.
  • Secondary sources are used to define and understand the issues. Background sources, such as legal dictionaries and encyclopedias, provide an overview of an area of law. Articles in academic journals, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, and digests give more in-depth perspectives related to your topic. Commentary on cases are also considered a secondary source and could be found in journals or magazines as well as on blogs or websites. It is important to be critical of your sources - investigate the author's credentials and where they are getting their information from.

Our Court Systems

Legal Terminology

Act "A decree proclaiming the law in an area, passed by a competent legislative body, that may proclaim new law, alter or modify existing law, or repeal previously existing law."

Bill "In legislation, a document submitted to Parliament or a provincial legislature for its consideration and/or enactment. If approved it becomes law in the form of a statute."

Case "An action, cause, suit or controversy at law or in equity; a trial; the evidence and argument on behalf of the parties."

Case law/Common law "The system of jurisprudence, which originated in England and was later applied in Canada, that is based on judicial precedent rather than legislative enactments ... Common law depends for its authority upon the recognition given by the courts to principles, customs, and rules of conduct previously existing among the people. It is now recorded in the law reports that embody the decisions of the judges, together with the reasons they assigned for their decisions."

Headnote "A summary of the relevant facts of a case and concise synopsis of the points of law decided therein. Placed at the beginning of a case report, the headnote is not an official portion of the reported judgement."

Jurisprudence "A term denoting the collective course of judicial decisions."

Legislation "Acts or statutes passed by a governing authority. Statutes and instruments of Parliament are referred to as federal legislation. Likewise, enactments of the provincial legislatures are referred to as provincial legislation."

Statute "An act of the legislature; in Canada an act of a provincial legislature of the Federal Parliament adopted pursuant to constitutional authority. Statues constitute a primary source of law and are enacted, for example, to prescribe conduct, define crimes, create inferior government bodies, appropriate public monies, and in general promote the public good and welfare."

Regulation "A form of subordinate legislation" that gives the power to enforce statutes to a specific person or agency.

Summary See Headnote



Yogis, J.A. & Cotter, C. (2013). Canadian law dictionary (7th ed.). Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series.

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