In common law systems, cases heard before courts set precedent for further judgements and decisions. Reports of cases further our understanding of the law. Statutes cannot be drafted to consider every eventuality in life. For this reason, the courts must apply the law to specific situations and their judgments are reported in case reporters. Not all cases that go to court are reported. What does get reported are cases that further our understanding of the law.
Cases are compiled together based of jurisdiction (e.g., Ontario, Nova Scotia, federal), by court (e.g., Supreme Court, Appeal Court), and by topic (e.g., business law, construction law, tax law). The citation includes the name of the parties, the year of the decision, the reporter information, and the court jurisdiction and level.
You can use a free database like CanLII to locate cases, or professional databases like LexisNexis Advance and WestlawNext Canada, which require a password (Dal law students only). The law library also has an extensive print collection of case reporters. Canadian, American, UK, and Commonwealth case reporters are in the Primary Sources Room on the main floor (2nd floor) of the library. Case reporters on international law are shelved in the stacks on the first floor and can be located by call number.