Apologies to other Slaw readers in advance. This post is mostly for BC lawyers interested in using CanLII to note up specific Supreme Court Family Rules. I shared these tips recently in a paper for a CLE and thought the general principle or method might be helpful to a broader audience too.
I’ll preface this post to say that 95% of the time, CanLII is a simply phenomenal tool. Deeply customizable search operators and a clean interface/search template. It’s a killer app for lawyers and others seeking to know the law. It is, however, strangely ill-suited to note up specific rules under the Supreme Court Family Rules, BC Reg 169/2009 (“SCFR”). This is not necessarily CanLII’s fault, but a complication resulting from the way we numbered the SCFR here in BC. The SCFR convention of sub-numbering rules involves hyphens (e.g. “Rule 3-1 (2.1)” ) in contrast to other jurisdictions which tend to prefer simple section numbers and minimal punctuation marks beyond brackets or decimal points (e.g. Ontario’s “Rule 1.04(1.1)”).
While CanLII’s “Note up” search template field can correctly identify general references to the SCFR in over 500 cases in CanLII’s collection, the note up tool quickly falls to pieces when the “section” field is set:
- Note up fails when one enters a rule number with its hyphen (e.g. “Rule 1-3(2) Object of Rules – Proportionality). While at least ten cases have mentioned the SCFR rule on proportionality in recent years, CanLII will tell you “no matches found” if you type “1-3(2)” in the section field.
- And if you think following the suggested syntax for this field will save you (perhaps “Section 1(3)” will get you results for “Rule 1-3”, right?) you will soon discover that CanLII is looking at the stuff after the hyphen only. CanLII will note up all possible rules with a sub rule of “1(3)”, but it will ignore the head rule. Results for a search of “section 1(3)” are all over the map, and include cases on:
- “R. 18-1(3) Inquiries, Assessments and Accounts – Report and recommendation” alongside
- “Rule 12-1(3) Detention, Preservation and Recovery of Property – Allowance of income from property” and
- “Rule 9-1(3) Discovery and Inspection of Documents – Claim for privilege”
Quick Fix for Noting Up Supreme Court Family Rules on CanLII
Through testing, the best way I have found to note up a particular SCFR is to avoid the note up field altogether, and use a somewhat more verbose but certainly more reliable formula, typed into the “Document text” field:
The above formula will work for other SCFR rules and sub rules if you change the numbers accordingly. The string also works with decimal rules, like “Rule 2-1.1 – Determinations of Parenting Coordinators“.
This method will capture the vast majority (if not all) judicial references to the SCFR rule of interest, but it may trigger some false positives too since the Supreme Court Civil Rules (“SCCR”) use the same hyphenated format and are often discussed side by side with SCFR. I do not know if this problem is entirely avoidable, and in some instances false positives threaten to predominate — e.g. this formula applied to “SCFR Rule 8-1 – Amendment pleadings” produces at least four false positive cases confusing “SCCR Rule 8-1 – How to Bring and Respond to Applications”. In this event, adding an important term to the search string that’s integral to the application of the intended rule (and thus highly probable to be found in the written reasons) can mitigate the false positives, for example:
This string generates at least four (4) false matches out of 9:
Adding “amend” (or “amend*”) to the front of the string brings false matches down to only one (1) out of 6:
If a particular sub-sub rule is required, for instance “(2)” in “Rule 1-3(2) – Object of the Rules – Proportionality”, a proximity operator sometimes helps (e.g. “/n”). Adding this at the end of the string tells CanLII to locate that sub sub rule number close to the main rule–sub rule.
Adding “/1 2” to the first example (“Rule 1-3 Object of the Rules”) above captures only the sub sub rule (“Rule 1-3(2) Object of the Rules – Proportionality”):
Unfortunately, this last tip won’t work for rules like “Rule 6-5(5)”, “Rule 1-3(1)”, “Rule 6-2(6) or any other sub sub rule where a number from the main rule or sub rule is repeated (since any occurrence of this number then satisfies the search query and renders results that are no better filtered than before).
Clear as mud? Great!
Workable… for now
I devised the above method as a direct response to complaints from the family bar here in BC that resources like the British Columbia Annual Practice, or “White Book”, did not do as good a job as desired for family rules annotations. It is of course no substitute for a human annotation of the SCFR to ask CanLII for automated results, but it is workable.