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Legal Citation Style

This citation style guide is meant to help students looking to cite legal resources such as acts and case law. In-text and narrative examples given use APA formatting. This guide will be useful for criminology students in particular.


Style of Cause = shorter version of the official title of the case using names of parties italicized and typically separated by a 'v' (p. E-38)

Main Citations = the 1st citation for the case listed in the entire legal citation that should come from the highest level of source available (highest is neutral citation, second is from an official reporter, and third is from other sources such as databases); should be a neutral citation if possible (p. E-37)

Neutral Citation = is a citation generated directly from the court (does not include additional publication information from a reporter or database) and is made up of 3 elements (year, tribunal identifier, and decision number). If available, use this as the main citation for the case.

Guelph-Humber Library Services. (2020, Dec 14). Neutral Citation: Introduction [Video]. YouTube.


Parallel Citation = a 2nd citation for the case from another source (included so that a user can find the case in additional places if needed), it should come from the second highest quality of source available (such as a reporter or database). (p. E-37)

Definitions from Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation 9th edition (2018).

Common Abbreviations

BCSC = British Columbia Supreme Court

ONCA = Ontario Court of Appeal

SCR = Supreme Court Reports

DLR = Dominion Law Reports


When citing for legal citations, users will find information on how to cite cases under 'Jurisprudence' in the McGill guide. Please Note: CANLII gives citation information with its publications that may conflict with these rules. Check with your professor if these citations are adequate for your assignment. For more information about cases and finding cases, please check out UFV Library's Canadian Law LibGuide (link below).

Cases - Reference List

General Format = Style of cause, main citation pinpoint, parallel citation. 

e.g. Gordon v Goertz, [1996] 2 SCR 27 at para. 13, 134 DLR (4th) 321.



3.3 Style of Cause 

Use ‘v’ for cases in English and ‘c’ for French. (p. E-38) 

Gordon v Goertz

      3.3.1 Names 

Surnames of 1st party mentioned on each side only. (p. E-38) 

e.g. Gordon v Goertz

Include information identifying a company (e.g. Co., Ltd.). (p. E-39) 

e.g. National Hockey League v Pepsi-Cola Canada Ltd.,  [1992] 6 WWR 216, 70 BCLR (2d) 27.

Use common country names (no formal or abbreviations). (p. E-39) 

e.g. Mexico v Cargill, Incorporated, 2011 ONCA 622, 341 DLR (4th) 249.

Canadian executive government authority is formally vested in the Queen, hence the use of 'R' for the Latin word for queen, regina, in legal citations.

R v Beauchamp, 2015 ONCA 260 

3.4 Year of Decision 

Add year of decision (in parentheses after style of cause) when not indicated in main citation. 

e.g. Smith v Cane (1985), 

If year in main citation is different than year of decision, add year of decision (in parentheses after style of cause). 

e.g. Smith v Cane (1985), [1984] SRC 12, 59 BCLR (3d) 1. (please note: this example is fictional)

Do not add a year of decision if already have a neutral citation or if same year as main citation. (p. E-42) 

e.g. Victoria (City) v Adams, 2009 BCCA 563, 313 DLR (4th) 29.

3.5 Neutral Citation 

Do not make a neutral citation up on your own. Only use if already exists.

Always has these 3 elements: year of decision, tribunal identifier (usually abbreviations for jurisdiction and court type), and decision number. (pp. E-42 to E-43) 

e.g. Victoria (City) v Adams, 2009 BCCA 563, 313 DLR (4th) 29.

This example would be from the BC Court of Appeal decision number 563 from the year 2009.

e.g. R v Beauchamp, 2015 ONCA 260 

This example would be from the Ontario Court of Appeal decision number 260 from the year 2015.

3.6 Pinpoint 

Add this element only if needed. Begin this section with ‘at’. 

e.g. Gordon v Goertz, [1996] 2 SCR 27 at para. 13, 134 DLR (4th) 321.

Use 'para' for one paragraph or 'paras' to refer to multiple paragraphs when it is from a neutral citation or has official paragraph numbers, can use page numbers if not neutral citation or paragraph numbers not present. (p. E-44) 

3.7 Printed Reporter 

A printed reporter might be used as a parallel citation. Use most official reporter first. (p. E-45) 

e.g. Gordon v Goertz, [1996] 2 SCR 27 at para. 13, 134 DLR (4th) 321.

3.8 Online Database Services    

Can find a parallel citation from an online database. "Do not refer to a URL when citing an online database" (McGill guide, 2018, p. E-46). CanLII is preferred over other sources because it is freely available online. Identifiers usually are in this format: 

Year CanLII document serial number 

e.g. R v Adams, [1996] 3 SCR 101, 1996 CanLII 169.

(Do not need if you have a neutral citation). (p. E-47) 


The McGill Guide does not require URLs for citing cases. APA 7th ed. (2020) states including URLs are optional but can be included to help the reader to find the case (p. 358). Check with your instructor on their preference. 

e.g. Victoria (City) v Adams, 2009 BCCA 563, 313 DLR (4th) 29.

More information and official examples of citing cases can be found in the McGill Guide Chapter 3: Jurisprudence.

 Remember - these tips and examples were created by a librarian, please check with your instructor, assignment instructions, and/or official style guides for specific details.

Citing Cases in-text using APA

Parenthetical citation: (Name v Name, Year) 

e.g. The judge concluded that "the impact of the change of residence of the child was less detrimental to her than ordering a variation of custody" (Gordon v Gordon, 1996). 

Narrative citation: Name v Name (Year) 

e.g. In the case of National Hockey League v Pepsi-Cola Canada Ltd. (1992) the NHL's attempt to sue Pepsi-Cola was unsuccessful. 

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