Case Law

Adding Foundational Case Law to CanLII

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By Sarah Sutherland
Manager, Content and Partnerships
Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) 

Since CanLII’s founding, we have been working to make sure the law you need is available. As part of our project to add the Dominion Law Reports cases that have been cited in CanLII case collection that we announced last year, we are including historical cases that are foundational to understanding the context of Canadian law, including Browne v Dunn (1893), 6 R 67 (HL), which we are informed was the most requested case at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Great Library (Thank you to David Whelan for letting us know this was the case and sharing the scanned copy from the Great Library’s print collection!).

Case Mail

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casemailBy Melanie Hodges Neufeld

Case Mail volume 19, no. 5  (March 1) is now available on the Law Society website. Produced by the Law Society Library, Case Mail is a free semi-monthly electronic newsletter of digests of Saskatchewan cases with links to fulltext decisions on CanLII. Previous digests are also searchable in our Saskatchewan Cases Databases. All digests that appear in Case Mail and numerous case digests and summaries from other jurisdictions are also available on CanLII Connects.


Rare Fish

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rarefishBy Ken Fox

We at the library consider it a certainty that in due time all case law (as well as statutes and out-of-copyright textbooks) will eventually be available for free online. When exactly that happens in a particular case depends on many factors – the size of the collection, availability of copies, ownership of content, levels of interest, etc.

In the case of the Fisheries Pollution Reports, produced in five volumes from 1980 to 1992 by Environment Canada, the rarity of the reports has spawned their digitization. Digitization accomplishes two main goals: preservation and accessibility. A single copy of any rare book can feed the entire world.

Thus, with only a couple of copies remaining in Canadian libraries to serve all requests, the University of Toronto Bora Baskin Law Library and York University’s Osgoode Hall have partnered to make this endangered fish abundant once again.

The reports are hosted on, a site created by Grateful Dead fans to share concert recordings online. But has now become the De facto Internet archive, the default place where dead things come to life.

The reports, at first glance, are not easy to read – they display sideways, and the print is faint. Probably the best way to read them is to scroll down to the “Download Options” and click on PDF. There are other options, but that’s the one I chose. The file displays upright, and is clearly readable. You can also print pages, or download a copy to your computer, then open it in Adobe Reader.

If you know of other digitization projects  that we should be talking about, please let us know.

A Humble Beginning: 32 Years of Saskatchewan Case Digesting (Throwback Thursday)

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An acoustic coupler used in the 1983 movie WarGames

The year was 1982 , and …

Time Magazine‘s Man of the Year was the computer,
Commodore 64 was the most popular home computer,
Sony Walkman was the hot new gadget,
the first movie with extensive 3D CGI Tron was released by Disney,
and mobile phone… no, there was no mobile phone yet. The first consumer mobile phone didn’t come out until the following year and weighed almost 2 lbs. and measured about 12 inches tall and 3.5 inches thick.

And what cool tools did we have in Saskatchewan for legal research in 1982?

In the early ’80s there was generally a 6 to 12 month delay for Saskatchewan cases to be picked up by printed law reporters. QL Systems (Quicklaw) was the only online service available and was already popular in courthouses. Searching QL back then was over a phone line dialing into Canada’s packet switched network Datapac using a modem or an acoustic coupler with a data transfer rate of 1000 baud (approximately 10 million times slower than the download speed of a high speed Internet connection these days). Remember WarGames? Finding caselaw and getting cases to the lawyers in a timely manner was problematic and expensive.  There was a need to provide a local digesting service and This Week’s Law, commonly known as TWL, was the resulting product.

A Radio Shack TRS-80 computer
A page from TWL, 1986

The first issue of TWL was released in 1982. One copy was produced on a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. Copies for distribution were made on a photocopier because all office printers back then were dot matrix.  They were slow, noisy, and they printed on fanfold paper.  TWL was offered as a looseleaf subscription service with approximately nine releases a year. Over the years the contents of TWL expanded and many features were added. In 1998, the contents of TWL were imported into a new database platform that made searching on the Internet possible. This became the Saskatchewan Cases database. Data structure, search screens and reports were carefully designed to maximize the searchability of the contents and to take full advantage of the hypertext linking ability of HTML.  In order to enable fulltext searching of the judgments, a separate Fulltext database was created and linked to the Cases database.  The databases were initially available only for Law Society members for a subscription fee.  At the end of 1999 the benchers decided to make the databases available to the members for free.  A subsequent decision opened up the databases to the public. Since the databases were made available on the Internet and members have become more comfortable with computers and online searching , the demand for the printed TWL began to dwindle.  In 2002, after completing the 20th Anniversary volume, the Library decided to discontinue TWL.

Saskatchewan was the first law society in Canada to initiate an Internet-based search service for judgments. Today, Saskatchewan Cases database is one of the most popular databases produced by the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library. It is being used over 3,500 times a month. From the database we produce Case Mail, a twice monthly electronic newsletter of case digests. We also provide our case digests to CanLII Connects. All these were started from a need to provide current case law for our members, a vision, and a few people quietly doing what needed to be done behind the scene to provide a great service.

UPDATE: A recent inventory indicates that the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has contributed 18,639 case digests to CanLII Connects, making us one of the biggest contributors to the service.

R v Jordan Case Summary – The New Framework for Trial Within a Reasonable Time

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CanLIIconnectsBy Melanie Hodges Neufeld

The recent Supreme Court decision R v Jordan includes a summary of the new framework for calculating unreasonable criminal trial delay. For a summary of the decision, please see CanLII Connects for a commentary prepared by Drew Yewchuk (originally published on

While there, check out the other numerous commentaries on CanLII Connects – including the entire Law Society of Saskatchewan case digest collection.

Case Mail

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casemailBy Kelly Laycock

The February 15 issue of Case Mail (Volume 18, No. 4) is available on the Law Society website. It contains case digests from recent decisions from all levels of Saskatchewan court and links to the fulltext decisions on CanLII. Some of the highlights from this issue include a number of Family Law decisions (Loco Parentis, interim variations, support of adult children, to name a few), and also a wide variety of other topics, such as recent bankruptcies, civil procedure claims, criminal law issues and statute interpretation. Take a minute to check out what’s new! Our next issue will be available on March 1.


Turkeys and the Law (Throwback Thursday)

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

Rather than another dry tale of Thanksgiving’s history, the Legal Sourcery team did a bit a research to bring you these Thanksgiving-related cases. Admittedly some are a stretch, but enjoy!

R v ZL, 2015 ONSC 4498 – “Thanksgiving Family Feud”
“Why did you have to start something like this on Thanksgiving?”

Schell v. Truba and Hunter, (1989) 79 Sask R 27 – “The Case of the Thanksgiving Mistaken Identify”
The unfortunate experience lived by the plaintiff in this instance really stems from an equally unfortunate set of circumstances that neither he nor the defendants initiated.  “You are making a mistake. You’ve got the wrong guy. I had nothing to do with this.”

X (Re), 2009 CanLII 89089 – “Thanksgiving Immigration Fraud?”
I do not find the claimant’s explanation for not including Easter as an important date for a Christian, yet included Thanksgiving, which is not a Christian time of celebration, to be reasonable.

Hanisch v. McKean, 2013 ONSC 2727 – farmer cancelled her “Thanksgiving turkey flock” because of e-coli poisoned water caused by neighbour with shared water supply

Lilydale Inc v United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 1518, 2013 CanLII 77054 – union members overworked with extra turkeys in Thanksgiving season, unpaid overtime, etc.

Kandag v. Di Vora, 2007 BCSC 717 – “She recalled that from September to December 2003 he complained of aching in his arm and shooting pains and tingling in his fingers, such that he could not lift a turkey platter and pass it to the next person at Thanksgiving”

Happy Thanksgiving!