A Master Index for All Canadian Legal Journal Literature?

A rant / proposal on Canadian legal journal indexes:

As many SLAW readers will know, there are two main products that index Canadian legal journal literature:

– the Index to Canadian Legal Literature (ICLL), available in print from Carswell and online on each of Westlaw Canada and LexisNexis Canada (early 1980’s to current but I believe the print purports to include some pre-1980 content).

– the Index to Canadian Legal Periodical Literature (ICLPL) (print only, from 1960 to current but with a large publishing lag/delay (i.e., I believe the 2005 annual volume was published circa 2008).

[I am intentionally not mentioning the so-called “American” law journal indexes (such as LegalTrac or the Index to Legal Periodicals) that include some Canadian content].

Some might argue that the ICLPL has better indexing but given its print-only status, it is hugely under-utilized (and I don’t want to ruffle feathers of the hard-working people responsible for either publication by claiming one is better than the other).

Wouldn’t it be nice if either index (or a newly created venture) could index the entire Canadian legal literature back to the turn of the century? (the other century, not this one).

Since the majority of researchers want or are satisfied with recent journal literature, the reality is that pre-1980’s journal literature is ignored or not pursued since there is not a single easy way to search for the pre-1980 journal literature. As such, the existing situation of only ICLL or ICLPL is likely satisfactory for most researchers needing only current content.

The following two techniques work to source older Canadian journal literature but take extra initiative:

1) Searching HeinOnline, by country (Canada) and title or full-text keyword searches.

HeinOnline contains a number of Canadian law journals with start dates that precede the existing indexes (e.g., McGill Law Journal starts in 1952, University of Toronto Law Journal starts in 1935, and so on). The foregoing technique allows you to find older articles by searching by title or full-text keywords, e.g.: G.H.L. Fridman, “Trespass or Negligence?” (1971) 9 Alta. L. Rev. 250.

2) Searching the Canadian Bar Review on the CBA website (free to search but you need to be a member to get the full-text PDF article).

Unfortunately, the Canadian Bar Review is not on HeinOnline, but since it started in 1923, and since, as many would argue, it is one of the better quality sources of Canadian law journal articles, it should not be over-looked for pre mid-1980’s content (e.g., Paul Martin, “The Declaratory Judgment” (1953) 31 Can. Bar Rev. 540 is one result I came across last week while conducting research).

Ideally, one would not need to go to multiple sources (e.g., ICLL, HeinOnline and the CBA website) to run an “exhaustive” (historical and current) search on all Canadian journal literature.

Any takers out there on developing a master journal index that would incorporate all of this content into a single (online) index? Surely the amount of pre-1980 journal literature is not so voluminous as to make this a huge undertaking . . . .


  1. Ted, this is likely the perfect project for a wiki. If you hear from a sufficient number of people that they’d be prepared to put in some work on it, I’d be glad to construct a wiki here at Slaw to house the effort (and to put in some time myself, of course).

  2. It’s a good idea to index the pre-1980 content, but then how do you get access to the full text of the articles as they slowly become more difficult to find? Wouldn’t it be better to make this into a digitization project with indexing?

  3. Well CLIC published the two volumes of Boult’s Bibliography of Canadian Law which was the best single source for the pre-1975 material. [Boult btw was the Librarian at the SCC – Reynald Boult, bibliothécaire de la Cour suprême du Canada, Ottawa.].

    This was a new and bilingual edition of Bibliographie du droit canadien, établie pour le compte du Comité international pour la documentation des sciences sociales, sous le patronage de l’Association internationale des sciences juridiques, avec le concours de l’Association canadienne de droit comparé et du Centre canadien de droit comparé. Préface de Pierre Azard. Montréal, Wilson et Lafleur, 166, 393 p.

    This is of course an index, not a full text source. But it covered all of the legal newspapers, which were the main source of legal information before the Canadian Bar Review started in 1923. And it was excellent on Québec material. The taxonomy was idiosyncratic but comprehensible once one realized that the basic structure was civilian. The work was one volume with a supplement.

    CLIC wound down and cannot object on copyright grounds.

    I’ve no idea whether Madame Boult is still alive – though I doubt it.

    It should be possible to try and contact the estate to see whether they would have any objection to that source being digitized and then fed into another database.

    Or the aggressive view would be that copyright exists only in the organization of the material, not in the raw content, so that consent wouldn’t be needed.

  4. Short of digitization — a matter of money, copyright and much time — an online index could link to library catalogues, referring users to locations where the actual paper exists. If $ is had for digitization, full text material could be linked to as it arrives (presumably with copyright licences).

    I think Balfour Halevy has been working on a bibliography of Canadian law; but I don’t know whether it extends to journal articles.

  5. I like the idea of a user built wiki index, and would certainly participate.

  6. I know Ted that you intentionally are not mentioning American indexes such as the ILP, but it is a decent tool for sourcing pre 1960 Canadian Legal Literature.

    For example the 1934 – 1937 volume indexes the Alberta LQ, Canadian Bar Review and, the UofT LJ.

    Most of the other major journals begin later. Here is a sampling:

    UofT Fac Law Rev: 1942 –
    UNB: 1947 –
    McGill: 1952 –
    Osgoode: 1958 –
    UBC: 1959 –
    Ottawa: 1966 –
    Queens: 1971-
    Dalhousie: 1973 –

    The 1955 – 1958 volume does include McGill, but not the UofT Fac Law Rev or UNB.

    By the time we get to the 1958 – 1961 volume on the eve of the appearance of the ICLPL, UNB, Osgoode and UBC are also indexed. Not perfect, but still a very useful tool for the few pre-1960 Canadian journals.

  7. Thanks John for mentioning the Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective: 1908-1981, which I assume is the produce described here.

    I think I knew about that product (but clearly forgot).

    Have you or any other SLAW readers used it? I expect the cost for law firms may be expensive but will inquire. I like that they appear to be able to link into full-text articles on HeinOnline.

    If the cost is not too bad, perhaps this is the solution to my initial request.