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About Primary Legal Research Sources
Primary sources of law are the laws and regulations themselves. These include: constitutions, statutes/acts and their amendments, regulations, legal cases and judicial decisions.
There are many sources of law/regulations at various political levels and in various locations/areas. This is called
When consulting primary legal sources it's important to be clear on the jurisdiction of interest. Consider whether the legislation is at the federal, provincial or municipal level.
Be aware that law
changes over time through amendments and new case law. Make sure the resource you are consulting is appropriate to the point in time you are researching.
What are Statutes?
Statutes are acts of legislature. They are laws enacted at either federal or provincial/territorial levels. While statutes should be consistent with the Constitution they are less stable undergoing regular amendment and revision. Except for historical purposes, the most current revision of a statute should be used.
What are Regulations?
Regulations are made by entities Parliament appoints such authority, rather than by Parliament itself. This allows for greater efficiency within government as Parliament need not be consulted to frequently enact or amend statutes. As such, regulations are a subordinate form of law. While regulations have binding legal effect they typically state general rather than specific rules.
Constitution - Canada
In Canada the Constitution consists of the Constitution Act of 1867 and the Constitution Act of 1982.
CONSTITUTION ACT, 1867
Establishes Canada's system of federalism and addresses the rights and responsibilities of both federal and provincial level governments.
CONSTITUTION ACT, 1982
Offers an amendment to the 1867 constitution, establishes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, and more.
Transfers the constitutional amending process to the Canadian Parliament from the British Parliament.
Statutes & Regulations - Canada & Alberta
Statutes are acts of legislature. They are laws enacted at either federal or provincial/territorial levels. Regulations are made by entities Parliament appoints such authority, rather than by Parliament itself.
Case Law [Common Law] & Case Law Digests - Canada & Alberta
Case law, also known as common law, is comprised of judicial decisions or judge-made law.
Case law digests are useful for finding cases with similar facts or dealing with a similar issue. Related U. of Lethbridge Library subject headings:
Case Law - Database Indexes
Legal indexes assign each case relevant key terms or subjects which can be searched. The LexisNexis Academic database has an index of Canadian and U.S. cases searchable by citation, parties involved, jurisdiction, judge or topic.
What is a Constitution?
The Canadian Encyclopedia
The ultimate authority of law in a country, a constitution sets out the state's mode of organization, establishes state institutions, regulates department functions and governs the relationship between the individual and the state.
Why is Case Law Important?
Case law can be binding depending on jurisdiction and court level. Cases pertaining to statutes are important because if a court rules a section is to be interpreted in one way that interpretation becomes law.