LBST 313: Introduction to Canadian Labour Law

If you need help, please contact Moninder Lalli, Liaison Librarian for Labour Studies by email ( or Ask a librarian.

Searching for information on Canadian labour


Start with specialized legal research tools such as Canadian Encyclopedic Digests or Canadian Abridgment Digests, both of which can be searched through the Westlaw Next Canada database.  Searching primary sources directly for case law by keyword is usually not recommended since there are many unrelated hits in the search results.  An exception is if your topic has unique terminology.

For legal cases or scholarly articles in legal journals, try CANLII, LawSource, QuickLaw, Westlaw Next Canada  and other "legal" databases. 

For scholarly journal articles, newspaper stories or government reports, try CBCA Complete, Canadian Newsstream, Canadian Research Index  (government publications), and other Databases for social sciences.

For scholarly books, try SFU Library Catalogue search (Basic), or Advanced Search
To find a specific book, search by title of the book using Browse by title.

Primary legal literature

The following types of sources are considered to be "primary legal sources"

  • Case law
  • Judgments (decisions & reasons for decisions)
  • Legislation (Acts, Statutes, Regulations)

Law and legislation

Labour in Canada is regulated by federal or provincial legislation. The jurisdiction depends on the specific business or industry.

Federally regulated businesses and industries include banks, marine shipping, air transportation, railway and road transportation, telephone, telegraph and cable systems, radio and television broadcasting, businesses dealing with many First Nation activities, private businesses necessary to the operation of a federal act, and most federal Crown corporations. For a full list, click here.

Provincial law sets out the minimum standards that apply in most workplaces in each province. For British Columbia, click here for guidelines to evaluate whether the business or industry that you are examining is covered by provincial jurisdiction.

British Columbia


Secondary legal literature

Following types of sources are considered to be "secondary" legal literature

  • Articles from academic legal journals
  • Case commentary
  • Newsletters and digests by legal expert
  • Textbooks, books
  • CANLII  Largest free web resource providing access to legal documents from Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments for both legal practitioners and the general public. CANLII provides access to provincial and federal labour laws (Acts, Statutes, Regulations, decisions by Boards, Tribunals)
  • Westlaw Next Canada  Current Canadian legal information, including cases, legislation, law reports, and journal articles.
    Help guides and tutorials
    • Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (C.E.D)

The C.E.D. is a legal encyclopedia in which legal topics are summarized. Important cases and/or legislation relating to each topic are included in the extensive footnotes.

Encyclopedia entries can be found on a range of Canadian legal topics, providing a broad overview of the law as it stands now. These brief and up-to-date entries are an excellent way to begin legal research on a Canadian topic. Entries can be searched or browsed through the classification system. 

Cases covered are from Ontario and the four western provinces.

  • Canadian Abridgment Digest

    The Canadian Abridgment Digest (CAD) summarizes Canadian legal cases into a short paragraph or two, allowing for quick reviews of their relevance. All abridged cases are organized by a classification system, allowing you to locate similar cases at once.

    For instance, by browsing the classification tree, you can find cases organized under specific subjects such as: Criminal Law - Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Freedom of peaceful assembly.

    The scope of the the Canadian Abridgment is broad and deep, with over 750,000 Canadian cases abridged, from 1803 to present. The Abridgment covers all reported Canadian cases, and includes unreported cases as well from 1986 onwards. Updated daily. The Abridgment can be searched or browsed; for further help, please refer to our guide, Using the Canadian Abridgment.
    Video tutorial on using Canadian Abridgment Digests

  • LawSource  - also known as Index to Canadian Legal Literature - indexes Canadian legal journals. Use the "Advanced" search.  Access is through Westlaw Next Canada.
  • Finding a case by legislation cited

If you wish to find which cases have cited a particular section of law you are researching (for instance, sections of the Criminal Code of Canada), you can do so in WestlawNext Canada, using the KeyCite feature.

  1. Select "Statutes and Legislation".
  2. Once you have located your desired statute or regulation, click to a specific section it.
  3. If available, click on the green letter "C" hyperlink. This link should retrieve cases that have cited this section of the law.

KeyCite a Statutory Provision in WestlawNext Canada. (Video tutorial 2:20)

  • Negotech  Database of recent Canadian collective agreements.
  • QuickLaw  Canadian legal research sources.  Contains a large collection of law journal articles. Journal collections searched can easily be limited to Canadian or US/International only.
  • HeinOnline

Select "Law Journal Library" within the database to search articles from over 1,620 legal journals--US, Canadian, and international Content.

More Law databases

Databases for social sciences

Databases let you easily to search for articles from within scholarly journals for a discipline.

If the full-text of the article is not available within the database then use the "Get@SFU" link to find it or to initiate an inter-library loan request.

  • Academic Search Premier  - scholarly journals and magazines from a broad range of disciplines.  Limit your search to "scholarly" articles.
  • America: History and Life  - covers Canadian & United States history topics.
  • Business Source Complete  - covers business topics, including labour, human relations (HR), management and trade unions.
  • Canadian Electronic Library  Contains the full text of public policy documents from Canadian institutes, think-tanks and research groups.
  • Canadian Newsstream  - full text of over 350 Canadian newspapers from Canada's leading publishers.  Newspaper articles may identify key cases on a particular topic and discusses the case in plain language. Databases such as Canadian Newsstream index thousands of newspaper articles from many Canadian newspapers. Try a search for your topic keywords combined with the keyword "judgment". (Note: There is no "e" in judgment when referring to legal judgments).
  • Canadian Research Index  Canadian government publications. All documents found in the database are available in the Microlog microfiche collection (JL 044 37) on the Sixth Floor of the Bennett Library. Individual reports are filed by the MICROLOG NUMBER.  Also try searching for the report using a web browser such as Google, Firefox, etc.
  • CBCA Complete  Canadian Business and Current Affairs (CBCA) - index to scholarly journal articles, trade publications, dissertations, books, newspapers and magazines. For government & public policy. 
  • Political Science Complete   - full text for over 480 journals. Useful for government & public policy types of articles
  • Social Sciences Full Text  indexes social science journals.  Useful for government & public policy types of articles
  • Sociological Abstracts  indexes social science journals.  Useful for government & public policy types of articles

Selected journals

Find books

How to use the Library Catalogue 

Do a Library Catalogue search to see if the Library owns or provides access to the sources that you've identified. 

For known items it is best to check using "Browse by title" icon.

Search by topic, using Basic or Advanced Search

Note: In the searches belowyou can limit results to "Resource type" of "Books" and "Subjects"

Sign in (SFU Computing ID / Password) for access to electronic resources, to request items through Inter-Library Loans, to request a book from a branch, etc.

Topic: Organization of trade unions in Canada

(labour OR trade) AND union* AND organiz* AND Canad*

Combine different concepts using AND
Combine same concepts using OR
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase
Use brackets for synonyms
Use asterisk (*) for different endings of words
Note:  For Catalogue Search, when combining concepts, use CAPITAL letters ( "OR", "AND")

If you have found one book that is particularly relevant to your research, but need more, search that book in the library catalogue and use the subject headings associated with that book!

Selected books

Subject headings

Catalogue Search / Browse then change "Title" to "Subject" and enter your subject term

Writing help

For undergraduate students, thStudent Learning Commons provides assistance and numerous, helpful guides.

Library guides