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The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (McGill Guide): Introduction

The McGill Law Journal and the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation are affiliated with the Faculty of Law of McGill University (Montreal).  Informally known as the McGill Guide, the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation was developed for the advancement of legal scholarship and is a uniform system of legal citation for the Canadian legal system.  With rules governing citations in both official languages (English and French), it allows those within the legal system (lawyers, judges, law professors, students, and publishers) to conduct legal research efficiently and provides the author with a standardized method of communicating their intended message to the reader.

The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 9th Edition, provides all the rules for citing (or referencing) legal information (legislation, jurisprudence, secondary materials) in your essays and assignments.

The McGill Guide citation style is used mainly in legal studies and the humanities where the citation of legal cases, legislation, legal decisions, etc. is required.  Used mainly for citing legal cases, a citation serves two main purposes: 1) it allows the reader to find the decision, and 2) it conveys valuable information about the case such as the year it was handed down, court level, jurisdiction, and case history (if included).  A citation will only achieve these purposes for the reader if it is accurate.  Accurate citations direct the reader where to locate the law.

Follow the McGill Guide when you are required to cite legal information in your essays and assignments. Check your assignment rubric or with your professor and/or TA as to citing non-legal information; they may require an additional citation style such as APA or CMoS.

For more McGill support, read the tip sheets on McGill Citations for various sources and Using the Canadian Guide for Legal Citations.

The McGill Guide requires the following:

Footnotes

In legal writing, footnotes are the most common way of citing (referencing) material. There are two types of footnotes: textual and citation. Textual footnotes reference material or research of related interest to the subject, but which does not directly impact the focus of the paper. Citation footnotes cite the source of the argument or quotation used. A single footnote can contain both textual and citation information.

In the body of your paper, footnotes are indicated by superscripted numbers. When paraphrasing, place the footnote at the end of the sentence after the punctuation.1 If citing just one word,2 the footnote number is placed directly after the word.  When quoting from a source (and writing in English), place the footnote after “the quotation marks”3 and/or “the punctuation”.4 (See the McGill Guide for the applicable French rule).

In-text citations

In legal writing, the standard is to use footnotes to cite all materials. There are exceptions to this rule for certain types of documents, namely Memorandum and Factum.

Memorandum

  • Include the reference immediately after the text, in parentheses.

  • Follow the rule for footnotes when referencing material the first time. Should a reference be repeated in the text, include a short form after the first citation.

  • The short form of the reference should be used each subsequent time the reference appears in the text and should include the pinpoint reference information (McGill Guide section 3.6.1).

  • Use ibid (McGill Guide section 1.4.2) and supra (McGill Guide section 1.4.3) as appropriate.

Factum

  • Use the short form in parentheses immediately after the text.

  • Write out the complete reference at the end of the paragraph. This reference must be indented from both margins and use a smaller font than the font used for the body of the text.

  • References should be organized in the order in which they appear in the text.

  • Use supra rules (McGill Guide 1.4.3); do not used ibid or infra in a factum.

Short forms

  • Provide a short form for a source if you will be referencing it multiple times, especially if the source is longer than three words.

  • Place the short form of the source in square brackets at the end of the first note for the source. Italicize the short form, but not the square brackets.

  • If appropriate, use the author's last name for subsequent references, unless you have multiple sources by the same author, where a short form would be useful. Indicate the date of the decision if multiple cases with the same name are cited.

Case:
Rodriguez v British Columbia (AG), [1993] 3 SCR 519 at para 12 [Rodriguez].

      Note: Subsequent citations would simply be “Rodriguez, supra note #.”

Author:
Murray D Segal, The 2018 Annotated Ontario Highway Traffic Act (Toronto: Carswell, 2018) at s 130.

      Note: Subsequent citations would simply be "Segal, supra note #..."


Pinpoint citations

  • To properly credit other sources, one might identify the precise page, paragraph, or section number of the source, called a pinpoint, within a footnote.

  • To refer the reader to a specific part of a source, such as a page, paragraph (use para or paras for singular or plural), section (s or ss for singular or plural), etc. The pinpoint comes after the citation—i.e., “...at para. #.”

  • Separate consecutive pinpoints with an em dash (—) and non-consecutive pinpoints with a comma (e.g., at 260, 263 means at page 260 and 263; at 260—263 refers to pages 260 through to 263. 

Examples of Commonly Cited Materials


1) Legislation, such as statutes and Bills (McGill Guide section 2)

Statutes (s 2.1):

Title, | statue volume | jurisdiction | year, | chapter, | other indexing elements, | (session or supplement), | pinpoint.

Example (McGill Guide s 2.1.1):

Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, CQLR c C-12, s 10.

Tip: Additionally, if the statue is revised or re-enacted, indicate using RS. For annual volumes, abbreviate statutes to S.

Annual Volume Example:

Canadian Bill of Rights, SC 1960, c 54, s 2.

Revised Statues Example:

Children’s Law Reform Act, RSO 1990, c C.12.

Constitutional Statutes (s 2.2):

It is important to note that pinpoint references for the Constitutional Act, 1982 and the Canadian Charter appear directly after the title; otherwise, they follow the format of: Legislation: Statues.

Example:

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 7, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

Bills (s 2.4):

Number, | title, | session, | legislature, | jurisdiction, | year, | pinpoint | (additional information).

Federal Bill Example:

Bill C-26, An Act to Establish the Canada Border Services Agency, 1st Sess, 38th Parl, 2005, cl 5(1)(e) (as passed by the House of Commons 13 June 2005).

Provincial Bill Example:

Bill 21, An Act to Regulate Retirement Homes, 2nd Sess, 39th Leg, Ontario, 2010.

Tip: When providing the number, add a C- for bills coming from the House of Commons and S- for bills coming from the Senate.

2) Jurisprudence or cases (McGill Guide section 3)

Most courts assign a neutral citation to a decision indicating the year of the decision, the court/tribunal, and a decision/ordinal number. A neutral citation identifies a particular case independent of whatever an official reporter or other (electronic) source published at a later point. When available, a neutral citation should always be the main citation (as in the R v Law example below) because it holds the highest authoritativeness. However, if a neutral citation is not available, include a parallel citation to the official case reporter.

Style of cause, | main citation | pinpoint, | parallel citation | [short form].

Examples:

R v Law, 2002 SCC 10 at para 25 [Law].

R v Oakes, [1986] 1 SCR 103 at paras 12-14, 26 DLR (4th) 200 [Oakes].

      For the above citation, 26 DLR (4th) 200 is the parallel citation, and 1 SCR 103 is the neutral citation.

Online database services (s 3.8):

When citing a published judgment (in a printed report) or a judgment with a neutral citation, use the following format:

Study of Case, | main citation | pinpoint, | parallel citation with online database or (electronic service).

Examples:

Caisse populaire de Maniwaki v Giroux, [1993] 1 SCR 282, 1993 CanLII 151.

      This source notes “1 SCR 282” as the neutral citation, and “1993 CanLII 151” as the parallel citation to
               the online database, CanLII.

R v Askov, [1990] 2 SCR 1199, [1990] SCJ 106 (QL).

      This source notes “2 SCR 1199” as the neutral citation, and “SCJ 106 (QL)” as the parallel citation with the
               electronic source in parentheses because the online database or provider was not obviously found.

Tip: A list of abbreviations for online database services can be found in Appendix C-2 (with printed reports) and Appendix E (for various services) of the McGill Guide.

3) Secondary sources and other materials (McGill Guide section 6)

Journal article (s 6.1):

Author(s), | “Title of Article” | (year) | volume: | issue | abbreviation of journal | first page # | pinpoint | (electronic source or database).

Example:

Roderick A Macdonald, “The Fridge-Door Statute” (2001) 47 McGill LJ 11 at para 51 (QL). 

Tip: Keep this information in mind while creating journal article citations:

  • For two or three authors, separate them using an ampersand (&).

    • e.g., Author First and Last Name & Author First and Last Name,

    • e.g., Author Name, Author Name, & Author Name,

  • For more than three authors, cite the first author’s name and et al.

    • e.g., Author Name et al,

  • If the author has a title (such as The Honourable, Madam Justice, etc.), include them in the citation. You must also include name suffixes (such as Jr or IV).

  • In Appendix D of the McGill Guide, a list of periodical abbreviations is available. If the periodical cannot be found, follow the abbreviation rules that can be found in section 6.1.6.

Books (s 6.2):

Author(s), | Title of book, | edition | other elements | (place of publication: | publisher) | pinpoint | (electronic service).

Example:

Angela Swan, Jakub Adamski & Annie Y Na, Canadian Contract Law, 4th ed (Markham: LexisNexis Canada, 2018) at 43. 

Tip: If necessary, other elements are where you would indicate information such as the name of the translator, number of volumes, volume title, loose-leaf or other necessary information regarding the book. You only need to include the electronic service if you retrieve the book from an online source.

Editor or revisor of the text or author (e.g., textbooks; s 6.2.2.3):

For books that include editors and no author, use the following format:

Editor(s), | ed(s), | title, | edition | (publication information).

Example:

Christine Boyle & David R Percy, eds, Contracts: Cases and Commentaries, 6th ed (Toronto: Carswell, 1999).

For books that contain both authors and editors, the following format should be used:

Author(s) | title, | edition | ed(s) by | Editor(s) | (publication information).

Example:

SA De Smith, Judicial Review of Administrative Action, 5th ed by Lord Woolf & Jeffery Jowell (London, UK: Sweet & Maxwell, 1995).

Bibliography

In legal writing, bibliographies are divided into sections: Legislation, Jurisprudence, and Secondary Materials. The Secondary Materials section may be further divided into subsections by type and the materials themselves divided into Domestic Sources and Foreign Sources.

Within each section, list your entries in alphabetical order. Legislation is to be sorted by title, jurisprudence by style of cause and secondary materials by surname of author. The McGill Guide provides specific rules for each section, including formatting requirements.

Tip: The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation is updated every four years. The most recent edition (9th) was published in 2018. To ensure that you are citing your legal sources correctly to eliminate potential plagiarism queries and to meet the requirements of your essays and assignments, reference the most recent edition of the guide.

The Ontario Tech University library has reference copies under the call letters KE259.C35 2018; a quick guide is also available online on the Library's citation and writing web page.

More information about the journal and cite guide can be found in the McGill Law Journal

McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 9th edition, Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2018). Queen’s University, Legal Research Manual (May 17, 2022), online: http://library.queensu.ca/law/lederman/legalcitation.

Ontario Tech University, "McGill Citation Style: Your Quick Guide to Citing Legal Sources based on Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation The"McGill Guide" McGill Law Journal, 9th Edition (2018)" (December 2019), online: Ontario Tech Library Citation <https://guides.library.ontariotechu.ca/citation

For more McGill support, read the two tip sheets: McGill Citation for Various Sources and Using the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation


1McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 9th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2018) at 1.3.2.
2Ibid.
3Ibid.
4Ibid.