Reconsidering Citation Rules for Statutes

I was recently alerted to Louis Mirando’s post on the Osgoode Hall Law School Library Blog regarding the addition of the Revised Statutes of Canada to HeinOnline’s collection. I was struck by his comment that “now that there is a continuing consolidation of federal laws available online on the Dept. of Justice Justice Laws Website, there will never be another revision of the Statutes of Canada in print.” While I had long ago realized that revised statutes would no longer be a priority (if they ever were!) for either level of government with the move to online, continuously updated legislation sites, it struck me that perhaps, as this reality sinks it, it is time for us to reconsider how we cite statutes. 

Why should our citations be stuck in the ’80s or ’90s with a presumption that we intend to refer to the most recent edition (McGill Guide, section 2.1.11)? Why don’t we adopt a citation standard that more effectively communicates the existing presumption, and our reliance on online, consolidated sources? Is there any movement towards this in Canada (or elsewhere) at present? Any suggestions as to what such a citation should look like? Perhaps it would be similar to the current citation style for the Revised Statutes of Quebec (McGill Guide, section 2.1.5). Or would a hyperlink to the version referred to be sufficient (so long as the document in which the citation appears is intended to be read online), now that free sources like CanLII offer readily accessible point-in-time services?

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