Law Reform Reports as Grey Literature

In my view, the definition of grey literature should include one too often overlooked source of research about the law, namely the reports of law reform institutes.

The Diana M. Priestly Law Library at the University of Victoria in British Columbia has a page of links to law reform commissions in various countries. The University of Calgary Law Library provides a slightly different list.

Among the finding tools are:

  • The British Columbia Law Institute has created a searchable law reform database that indexes over 7000 law reform materials from common law jurisdictions around the world
  • The WorldLII Law Reform Project “aims to make searchable from one location all of the databases specialising in Law Reform available on any of the Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) that are part of WorldLII”. The databases currently included are from the law commissions of Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and England
  • The World Law Reform Collection Jurisdiction and Subject Index from Manas Media is an index to law reform commission publications searchable by keywords, jurisdiction and date. This collection contains references to thousands of titles from 37 jurisdictions indexed by 6 major categories and 61 subcategories. Full text of most titles published after 1999 is available in PDF format to subscribing libraries. Earlier titles are on microfiche

For historical background, Justice Canada’s International Cooperation Group published a study on law reform agencies a few years ago. The study comes with an extensive bibliography.


  1. One of the more shameful things that happened under the Harris government in Ontario was the eradication of the Ontario Law Reform Commission. Sad, too, that the government never saw fit to put their many useful reports online, though, as I know, the technology was in place and there were digital copies of the more recent reports. I know because for a while I put some of the OLRC reports on the Osgoode Hall Law School website — but, and I’ve searched, believe me, they’re no longer around to be resuscitated.

    I notice that the B.C. Law Institute referenced above seems to let you search and recover information about some of the OLRC reports, and I wonder if they have digital copies or merely the metadata. If anyone knows, I’d be pleased to learn.

    Now that the new Ontario Law Commission is going to be starting up (and at Osgoode Hall Law School, too) I’ll do what I can to see to it that the old reports get scanned, if need be, and posted online.

  2. Simon,

    I don’t know if you’ve checked with the Law Society of Upper Canada Archives (, but there may be help there. At least for the source records, if not on-line versions of them.

  3. Like the Ontario Law Reform Commmison, the BC Law Institute was created in 1979 after the BC Attorney-General withwdrew funding from the BC Law Reform Commision. The website states:

    The Institute was created in response to a decision by the Ministry of Attorney General to withdraw program funding from the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia. The disappearance of the Commission, without replacement, had the potential to create a serious vacuum in the legal resources available to the people of British Columbia and carried a significant risk that the tangible and intellectual assets of the Commission would become dissipated and irretrievably lost. The Institute was created as a successor body to mitigate this loss.

    It provides an index to their own publicaitons and those of other common law jurisdictions around the world – you can obtain photococopies of available publications for a fee. The database gives index entries, and there are links to the digital versions where applicable. When I tested it today, the links were all inactive.

    Most of the commonwealth law reform commission material was published in microform by Manas media at They are a fee-based service described on their webiste:

    Manas Media has collected, indexed and microfiched law reform publications for the past 20 years. Our collection contains over 7200 titles from 37 jurisdictions indexed by 6 major categories and 61 subcategories.

    Our hard cover World Jurisdiction and Subject Law Reform index contains over 17,000 entries and is now available on the WEB and may be searched by a variety of methods including title key word. We are now offering a digital format of most titles published after 1999 in a PDF format from our web site. All tiles produced prior to 2000 are stored on microfiche.

    Worldlii has links to major commonwealth and franchophonie law reform commissions, as well as the US, and their law reform project has links to the documents from the law reform commission linked from the Worldlii site. These are current reform reports for the most part with limited retrospective coverage.

    Surprisingly, CANLII does not provide similar access to Canadian law reform commissoins.

  4. Sorry to disagree Jim, but the working papers of the OLRc were divided between the Provincial Archives on Grosvenor Street, with copies of the published working papers also being available at the Legislative Library. See

  5. I want to express my hearty agreement with the original post and comments about the importance and utility of law reform commission reports in legal research. When I was practising and working as counsel in Alberta, I made considerable use of the Alberta Law Reform Institute’s various types of publications (many of which are on line in pdf at – and I still do in Ontario, too. For example, the ALRI publications on reform of the Alberta Limitations Act from some years ago were of some assistance during the similar process here. And such is the cross-jurisdictional nature of law reform research generally.

    Many of those publicaations not available through the web site are available in print for free from ALRI, although some older ones are no longer in print. Also, if I recall correctly, reports and consultation memoranda are distributed freely as they are published to members of the Alberta bar.

  6. Simon,

    We have a complete set of the Ontario LRC’s reports in hard copy. I did some digging on our network and located only those on Coroners (1995 – Word/.doc), Rights & Responsibilities of Cohabitants under the Family Law Act (1993 – image based PDF), and Charities (1996 – text based PDF) in digital format.

    Best regards,

    Marcus Patz
    B.C. Law Institute