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A Neutral Citation Standard for Case Law
— Summary —


The Canadian Citation Committee (CCC) modified the standard on December 18, 2000. The "§" character has been replaced by "¶" as the symbol for paragraph referencing.

This document is a revised version of the summary published in 1999.

[1]  The neutral citation is consists of three (3) principal elements : (1) the style of cause , (2) the core of the citation and (3) the optional elements.

Example :

Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 2000 SCC 1, ¶ 21, 39, 41-43.
Style of causeCoreOptional Elements

(1) The Style of Cause

[2]  The style of cause appears in first position in front of the core of the citation.

[3]  The format of the style of cause is not covered by the present standard. It is recommended to prepare it with the help of the well known available guides such as the Canadian Legal Information Center's "Standards for Case Identification" (May 1990), the McGill Law Journal's "Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation" or Quicklaw's "Case Name Indexing Manual".

[4]  When the style of cause is prepared by the court, it is reproduced in the heading of the judgment, like the core of the citation.

(2) The Core of the Citation

[5]  The core of the citation is attributed by the court whenever it renders a decision, and it can't be changed afterwards. It is strongly recommended to reproduce it in the heading of the judgment — after the style of cause if there is one — near the date and docket information.
[Note from the CCC: since its approval on September 2002, the Canadian Guide to the Uniform Preparation of Judgments provides in further details the location and format of the citation in the heading of judgments]

[6]  The core of the citation is constituted of three elements, placed in the following order : (i) the year , (ii) the tribunal identifier  and (iii) the ordinal number of the decision.


  2002  ONCA   453 

(i) The year

[7]  The year of the decision is denoted by four digits ("1999" and not "99").

[8]  The year corresponds to the date when the decision is rendered and not when it is noted in the court registry.

(ii) The tribunal identifier

[9]  The tribunal identifier is determined by the judicial authorities of each jurisdiction. This should be achieved by the centralised body that offers the best possible coordination, such as the judicial council or the justice department of the jurisdiction.

[10]  With the exception of the Federal courts, the tribunal identifier has a prefix of two characters corresponding to the two-letter jurisdiction code attributed by the international standard "Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions -- Part 2: Country subdivision code" (ISO-3166-2:1998). To this prefix is added a specific suffix — of two letters, if possible — that corresponds to the acronym of the institution that renders the decision. All in all, the tribunal identifier should not contain more than eight (8) characters.

ONCA for the Court of Appeal of Ontario; and
QCCQ for the Cour du Québec.

Implementation of the tribunal identifier

[11]  Federal jurisdictions do not have prefixes. The "Canadian" dimension is represented only in international context, by the addition of the three-letter code "CAN" before the core of the citation.

Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, CAN 2000 SCC 1, ¶ 21, 39-41, 43.

[12]  The language used in decisions rendered by a tribunal may have an impact on the attribution of its identifier. We distinguish two main possibilities, depending on whether the tribunal has or has not the obligation to publish all its decisions in both Canadian official languages.

(1) Tribunals — unilingual or bilingual — that are not bound to publish their decisions in both official languages
The identifier may, at the tribunal discretion, be unique or different for each language. Although, the Committee recommends the following practices:
(2) Bilingual tribunals bound to systematically publish all their decisions in both official languages
In these cases, the tribunal identifier must be different for each language. The Committee recommends to form identifiers according to the acronym of the official name of the tribunal for each language.

the Supreme Court of Canada uses the identifier code CSC for the French version and SCC for the English version of a judgment.

If the official name of the tribunal is not adequate for direct development of distinct identifier codes, the language may be denoted by adding letters to the basic identifier code: "E" for the English version and "F" for the French version.

since the acronym for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, is identical in both languages, the identifier codes would be CRTCE and CRTCF.

(iii) The ordinal number

[13]  The ordinal number is the third element of the core of the citation. This number is attributed by the tribunal as soon as the decision is rendered. This number is unique and does not contain any internal separator. Normally, the sequence restarts at one (1) on each January 1st. Please note that the standard doesn't requires that the sequence be continuous for all distributed decisions; it may happen that the sequence be broken here and there.

[14]  An oral decision which is the subject of a later drafting or transcription will be assigned the next available number in the year when it has been rendered.

Implementation of the ordinal number

[15]  For simple structure tribunals, it is suggested to use a set of digits starting at one (1) each New Year.

[16]  For complex structure tribunals, where decisions may be issued from many different locations, and where there are no means to centralize the attribution of unique numbers, a good solution may be to add a prefix to the ordinal number. This prefix is a number associated with each registry or other relevant geographical division of the tribunal. The whole number, containing the prefix and the sequence number, must be of fixed length and zero-filled in a manner that allows the attribution of ordinal numbers for one typical year for this tribunal.

In Ontario, the 49 judicial districts could be numbered from 01 to 49. These numbers could be used as the prefix to the ordinal number. As for the ordinal number, its length must be established in relation to the maximum foreseeable number of decisions rendered in a year by the busiest district for that tribunal. Let's say that no court of the Toronto district renders more than 9,999 judgments for a typical year, the first ordinal number assigned will contain three zero filled digits and the number 1, that is 0001.
Here are examples of what would be the core of the citation for two decisions rendered in 2003 by the Ontario Court of Justice:
2003 ONCJ 090012 for the 12th decision issued by the Durham district (#09);
2003 ONCJ 462145 for the 2145th decision issued by the Toronto district (#46).

(3) The optional elements

[17]  Optional elements consist of pinpoint citations to paragraphs or notes in a decision.

[18]  Citation to paragraphs are introduced by the "¶" symbol. If the "¶" is not available on the computer system, "para" can be used instead.

[19]  There are three possible ways to make pinpoint citations to paragraphs:

1) Reference to only one paragraph
The paragraph number is placed after the "¶" symbol, like in the following example:
Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 2000 SCC 1, ¶ 21.
2) Reference to a set of consecutive paragraphs
The first and the last number of the suite are separated by an hyphen:
Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 2000 SCC 1, ¶ 39-41.
3) Reference to a set of non-consecutive paragraphs
The paragraph numbers or suites are placed in ascending order and separated by commas:
Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 2000 SCC 1, ¶ 21, 39-41, 43.

[20]  The reference to notes (footnotes or endnotes) is introduced by the word "note" and is used the same way as the reference to paragraphs:

Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 2000 SCC 1, note 2.

[B.M., 2000-12, revised by F.P., 2003-02-06]

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