Answered By: Jonathan Faerber
Last Updated: Oct 08, 2020     Views: 240

Since 1998, a growing number of courts throughout Canada have standardized the publication and organization of cases in a “neutral citation” system. In this system, courts consecutively number each case in a series progressing from the beginning to the end of every year, and use this decision number for the case in conjunction with the title of the case, year of the decision, and the abbreviated name of the court to categorize and identify the case (McGill Law Journal, 2018, E-43, Decision Number section). For example, the first case before the British Columbia Supreme Court in 2020 resolved a legal dispute between individuals involved in a vehicle collision, as represented by their last names in the case title below:

Roemer v Shafi, 2020 BCSC 1.

In this citation, “Roemer v Shafi” identifies the two parties involved in the case, “2020” refers to the year the British Columbia Supreme Court released their judgment on this case, “BCSC” is the abbreviated name of the court, and “1” indicates the decision number of the case that year (the first in a long sequence of around 2000 decisions).   

The years in which this classification came into effect vary by the court, with several (the Provincial Court of Manitoba and Ontario Court of Appeal) beginning to adopt neutral citations as recently as 2007, so the years decisions are released by particular courts will determine whether to use a neutral citation when referencing individual cases from each court. Please review the Canadian Citation Committee’s list of courts using the neutral citation for an overview of when and where neutral citations came into effect, and for further examples, please see the “How to Cite a Case - Pattern #1 (with Neutral Citation)” section of the Queen’s University Library's Legal Citation with the 9th Edition of the McGill Guide.


McGill Law Journal. (2018). Canadian guide to uniform legal citation (9th ed.). Thomson Reuters.

Queen’s University Library. (n.d.). How to cite a case - Pattern #1 (with neutral citation).