Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Library of Parliament Research Publications

The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament recently published new legislative summaries and research briefs:
  • Bill C-47: The Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act: "Intellectual property law consists of a set of legally enforceable rights that attach to certain types of information, ideas, innovations or other concepts in their expressed form. A trade-mark is a distinctive sign or symbol used to uniquely identify products and services to consumers, and to distinguish them from competing products or services. In Canada, trade-mark rights are protected under the federal Trade-marks Act (...) Bill C-47 creates a separate legal framework for Olympic trade-marks in anticipation of the Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver in 2010. The bill gives the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (the Organizing Committee) considerable powers to prevent the use of Olympic marks by businesses or individuals seeking to profit from an unauthorized association with the 2010 Games. "
  • Bill C-48: An Act to amend the Criminal Code in order to implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption: "The bill makes technical amendments to the corruption and offence-related provisions of the Criminal Code to allow Canada to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which came into force in December 2005 (...) The UN Convention against Corruption has been described as “the most important international initiative against corruption in the world today."
  • Bulk Water Removals: Canadian Legislation: "On 10 February 1999, the then Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, and the then Environment Minister, the Hon. Christine Stewart, announced a strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water, including removal for export, from major Canadian water basins. They noted that the strategy responded to Canadian concerns about the security of Canada’s freshwater resources (...) The purpose of this paper is to outline, in chart form, the initiatives thus far taken by the federal government, each of the provinces, and the Yukon within their respective jurisdictions with regard to bulk water removals. In each case, references are made to the relevant sections of the appropriate statute and/or regulations."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:33 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Many Federal Departments Flunk in 2006-2007 Information Commissioner Report Card

In his first annual report, the new federal Information Commissioner Robert Marleau concludes that a great many Canadian government agencies show a serious lack of transparency when it comes to access to government documents under the Access to Information Act.
"Despite much progress since 1983, there remain impediments to the full realization of Parliament’s intent as expressed in the Act. Too often, responses to access requests are late, incomplete, or overly-censored. Too often, access is denied to hide wrongdoing, or to protect officials or governments from embarrassment, rather than to serve a legitimate confidentiality requirement. Year after year, in the pages of these reports, information commissioners recount what is going wrong and offer views on how to make it right".

In theory, for five bucks, any Canadian can ask federal agencies for a range of files, from expense reports to briefing notes. Agencies are supposed to respond within 30 days, or at least provide good reasons why they need more time.

In a series of departmental report cards, Marleau gives an F grade to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Privy Council (the internal administration that serves the prime minister and federal cabinet), the Border Services Agency, Health Canada and, sad to say, Justice Canada.

The failing mark was awarded to all agencies which did not meet the legally mandated maximum response deadlines for more than 20% of the information requests received.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Preservation of Web-Based Government Documents in Canada

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries recently released an April 2007 update of a report by Andrew Hubbertz entitled Collection and Preservation of Web-Based Provincial/Territorial Government Publications.

I posted about the original report on April 4, 2005 (New Report on Preservation of Web-Based Provincial Government Publications).

The update provides a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction description of the current state of affairs relating to the collection and preservation of web-based government information in Canada.
"In the 2005 report, it was found that there were no significant programs for collecting web-based government information in seven of our thirteen provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Happily, we can report that this number has been reduced. This time, we can report on developments for the first time in: New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; Nunavut".
Hubbertz declares that there is still little progress to report regarding Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island or the Yukon.

Among the general observations that he makes:
  • There is clear progress in building collections of provincial/territorial government information
  • There is still a long way to go. There are jurisdictions lacking significant, formal efforts to collect and preserve this information
  • Every jurisdiction is pursuing its own strategy
  • Some significant materials are not collected (serials such as Gazettes and Hansards in particular)
  • Libraries have had little opportunity to address long-term preservation: "Legislative materials (hansards, bills, etc.) are generally under the control of the legislative offices, and laws (statutes and regulations) are under queen’s printers or justice departments. These are of course 'trustworthy' institutions, committed to preserving materials and their integrity, but we do not know whether they have or are building expertise in long-term preservation. Unlike libraries and archives, they are not intrinsically 'memory' institutions."
  • Most collections are fully available online.
  • Collections are catalogued, but bibliographic records are not being contributed to Amicus (Canada's national union catalogue)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:17 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, May 28, 2007

New Global Study on Internet Filtering and Censorship

I have posted before about the international human rights project known as the OpenNet Initiative whose primary aim is to document and combat censorship on the Internet [see Report on Internet Filtering in Tunisia, Nov. 21, 2005; Internet Filtering Map, June 2, 2006].

Earlier this month, it released the results of a global study of Internet filtering. The Initiative has also produced many country and region profiles on its website. It looked at techiques used by governments in more than 40 countries to block different types of content in areas such as dissent, free expression, human or minority rights, sex, drugs and hate-speech.

More from:
  • Global net censorship 'growing' (BBC): "The study of thousands of websites across 120 Internet Service Providers found 25 of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of content filtering. Websites and services such as Skype and Google Maps were blocked, it said. Such 'state-mandated net filtering' was only being carried out in 'a couple' of states in 2002, one researcher said. "
  • The internet's fading promise (Open Democracy): "In Europe, according to the report, filtering 'is the norm, not the exception'. As with Canada, whether or not this filtering is private or mandated by the state is somewhat blurred, as state actors often use the threat of new legislation to persuade ISPs to conform to 'voluntary' schemes. What gets filtered includes child pornography and content that falls foul of European hate-speech and defamation laws. Illegal gambling and copyright infringement have also been proposed as activities that could legitimately lead to content-filtering. So if even 'we're' up to it, is this the end of the unfettered internet? For those who know how to use the right tools, it's hard to see how. The protocols which power the network of networks are such that filtering by any of the means so far discovered by the ONI can be circumvented by those dedicated enough to try. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be the ones 'we' might justifiably try to contain. It is the people for whom the internet held so much promise - the dispossessed, the under-represented and the over-burdened - who are slowly seeing that promise starting to fade."
  • Internet est toujours censuré dans au moins 25 pays ("The Internet is still censored in at least 25 countries", Le Monde): "D'après les auteurs de l'étude, cette augmentation de la censure est essentiellement liée au taux de pénétration d'Internet dans les pays concernés. Il faut donc s'attendre encore à une augmentation dans les prochaines années, notamment lorsque le Net sera plus présent en Russie ou en Egypte, où l'étude n'a rien pointé pour l'année 2006. [According to the authors of the study, this increase in censorship is essentially tied to the level of penetration of the Net in the countries in question. One must therefore expect an additional increase in the years to come, as the Internet becomes more present in Russia and Egypt, where the study found nothing in 2006]"

The OpenNet Initiative is a partnership between the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme at Cambridge University, and the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Videos on "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy"

The ID Trail Project, which looks at issues about online privacy, has created 2 films relating to what is known as reasonable expectations of privacy.

"They were used at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) 2007 conference in Montreal, Canada (...)

The first film, 'Tessling-Just the Facts', is a brief dramatization of the facts that gave rise to R. v. Tessling [2004], a criminal case which addressed the concept of the 'reasonable expectation of privacy' with respect to forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology".

(...)

"The second film, 'CFP-Interviews', is a documentary that provides the viewer with a taste of various public interest perspectives on how to conceive of 'reasonable expectations of privacy'."

Among those interviewed are well-known Canadian lawyer Clayton Ruby, Andrew Clement of the University of Toronto, David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Pippa Lawson of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

Both movies are in .mov (Quicktime) format.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:12 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Webcasting of Ontario Court Proceedings To Start Soon

At the end of last week, the Ontario Attorney General's office announced it was going forward with certain recommendations of the Panel on Justice and the Media, including the live streaming of some proceedings of the Court of Appeal for Ontario:

"DVD copies of proceedings will be provided to the media twice per day and will be available for use by journalism and law schools and other organizations for educational and training purposes. Proceedings will also be archived on the site for 90 days to ensure round-the-clock public access".

Earlier Library Boy postings on media access to the courts include:

  • Report on TV Cameras in Ontario Courtrooms (August 24, 2006): "A report released today by Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant recommends that cameras be allowed in some courts in the province. This would include TV cameras. The list of Courts would cover the Ontario Court of Appeal and lower courts where no witnesses would be examined (...) The full text of the report includes a useful bibliography on the issue of media and the court system."
  • UK Courts to Accept TV Cameras (November 14, 2006): "The British media is reporting that civil and criminal trials in the UK may soon be televised. According to the Nov. 13, 2006 Reuters article Courtroom TV could be a step nearer, '(P)roposals that could lead to television cameras being installed in courts could soon be set out by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, head of the judiciary. A five-week pilot was started in Nov 2004 in the Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice in London and the consultation process was completed in the summer of 2005'."
  • Report on Televising U.S. Supreme Court and Other Federal Court Proceedings (November 29, 2006): "The Federation of American Scientists has made available on its website a report by the Congressional Research Service entitled Televising Supreme Court and Other Federal Court Proceedings: Legislation and Issues (...) 'This report also discusses the arguments that have been presented by proponents and opponents of electronic media coverage of federal court proceedings, including the possible effect on judicial proceedings, separation of powers concerns, the purported educational value of such coverage, and possible security and privacy concerns. Finally, the report discuses the various options Congress may address as it considers legislation, including which courts should be covered, whether media coverage should be authorized or required, possible security and privacy safeguards, and the type of media coverage that would be permitted'."
  • Maryland Appeals Court to Webcast (December 1, 2006): "The Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, will provide live webcasts of its proceedings, 'hoping to be ready in time to broadcast arguments set for Dec. 4 in a high-profile case involving gay marriage,' according to an Associated Press agency story reprinted in the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 27, 2006. Maryland will thus join other U.S. states. The newspaper story explains that '(A)bout half of the appellate state courts (...) allow coverage of hearings on the Web or on cable channels'."
  • U.S. Judiciary To Make Court Proceeding Recordings Available Online (March 19, 2007): "The legal news site JURIST is reporting that the Judicial Conference of the United States has approved a pilot program to make free audio recordings of court proceedings available online."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:35 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Government Librarians Use Blogs and Wikis to Fight Closure Threats

The American Library Association has set up a Federal Libraries wiki to allow members of the profession to anonymously "share and track information on federal library threats, re-organizations, and closings".

Under the Bush administration, there have been reported threats to such government libraries and/or public reading rooms as the ones at the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Housing and Urban Development, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In Canada, I had mentioned in my May 10, 2007 post entitled CALL Conference 2007 - AGM Highlights that the annual general assembly of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries voted earlier this month "to send a letter to the Premier of British Columbia and to the Speaker of the province's legislative assembly to protest the possible reduction in access to the collection of the B.C. Legislative Library. The Library is closing down indefinitely for a seismic upgrade, and there is widespread concern it won't reopen".

Supporters of the Library have taken to the blogosphere to campaign against the attack.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:44 pm 0 comments links to this post

Course on Managing Overflowing E-Mail Inboxes

This is a follow-up to the May 19, 2007 posting entitled 10 Tips To Reduce E-mail Headaches.

The online tech news service CNET is offering a course to help you Manage Your Outlook E-mail:

"Running out of space in Outlook? In this course, you will learn strategies for managing Microsoft Outlook 2003 e-mail data files on your own PC".

"In this course, you’ll learn how to: Organize the e-mail in your Outlook 2003 Inbox; How Outlook 2003 stores your information; Archive old e-mail; Compact your data files; Back up your e-mail; Move your e-mail to a different computer"
Here is a list of all online courses from CNET.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:28 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 24, 2007

April 2007 Phishing Attacks Report

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an international coalition of industry groups whose aim is to combat Internet identity theft, just released its April 2007 report on phishing trends.

Phishing involves the use of messages made to look like they come from a legitimate website such as a financial institution in an attempt to get consumers to divulge personal data that can then be used for fraudulent ends.

"The number of unique phishing websites detected by APWG rose to 55,643 in April 2007, a massive jump of nearly 35,000 from March resulting from aggressive sub-domain phishing tactics by which phishers started using the tactic of putting a large numbers of phish URLs on the same domain (...) April 2007 saw a the number of brands being attacked rise (to) 174 and notes that more non-financial brands attacked including social networking, VOIP, and numerous large web-based email providers were attacked".

"Financial Services continue to be the most targeted industry sector at 92.5% and the APWG notes that several large US banks are among the most-attacked brands. Furthermore, two top banks have been targeted for at least two months in a row. A large number of European banks were targeted in April with seven of the most-targeted 20 brands in that month belonging to European banks. In addition, one of the top 20 was a Canadian financial institution".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:29 pm 0 comments links to this post

CALL Conference 2007 Presentations Online

Many of the presentations from the recent annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Ottawa are now available online.

The conference took place May 6-9 at the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Mentors and Mentees in Librarianship

The most recent issue of the British information industry newsletter FreePint has an article by Australian business researcher Heather Carine on Mentors and Mentees: Structuring a Professional Relationship.

It explains the reasons to seek out a mentor, how to structure a mentoring relationship, and how to maximize the benefits from the experience.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:18 pm 0 comments links to this post

Amnesty International's Concerns Regarding Canada

This is a follow-up to yesterday's posting Amnesty International Report 2007.

The human rights organization Amnesty International had a range of concerns when it comes to Canada:
  • lack of a strategy to address violence against Indigenous women
  • the long-standing land dispute with the Lubicon Cree in Alberta
  • discrimination in child protection policies for Indigenous children
  • cuts in the budget of Status of Women Canada
  • excessive use of force involving taser guns
  • the use of security certificates issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • the rendition of dual Canadian nationals tortured abroad
  • the lack of a Refugee Appeal Division for refugee applicants who are turned down

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:09 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Amnesty International Report 2007

Amnesty International's annual report on human rights states that policies like those linked to the "war on terror" are creating a more polarised and dangerous world.

This year's report intelligently uses all available technologies: print, web, audio, photos and video (including YouTube).

Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General, declared in her introductory comments in the report that governments are either too weak-willed to prevent the "downward spiral of human rights abuses" or are encouraging it.

"Human rights - those global values, universal principles and common standards that are meant to unite us - are being bartered away in the name of security today as they were then. Like the Cold War times, the agenda is being driven by fear - instigated, encouraged and sustained by unprincipled leaders".

"Fear can be a positive imperative for change, as in the case of the environment, where alarm about global warming is forcing politicians belatedly into action. But fear can also be dangerous and divisive when it breeds intolerance, threatens diversity and justifies the erosion of human rights".
On a related note, the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative journalism foundation, has just come out with the report Collateral Damage that shows how "the influence of foreign lobbying on the U.S. government, as well as a shortsighted emphasis on counterterrorism objectives over broader human rights concerns, have generated staggering costs to the U.S. and its allies in money spent and political capital burned".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Global Report: "Equality at work: Tackling the challenge"

The International Labour Organization has just issued a report on discrimination in the workplace.

Entitled Equality at work: Tackling the challenges, this is the ILO's most comprehensive report to date on job-related discrimination worldwide, including material on issues such as gender, race, religion, as well as age, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status and disability.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:24 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Judicial Council 2005-2006 Annual Report

The Canadian Judicial Council has released Justice Matters, its 2005-2006 Annual Report.

"In 2005-06, the Council approved several important initiatives created by its committees to support judges in improving access to justice. These tools include principles for dealing with self-represented litigants, model policy on access to court records, research into alternate models of court administration, and jury instructions designed to minimize the risk associated with dismissed cases".

"The Council also continues to carry out its important mandate of reviewing complaints against federally appointed judges. Canadians expect and deserve the highest standards of conduct from their judges, and the Council fulfills a key responsibility in this regard".

The Council is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, and consists of 39 chief justices and associate chief justices.

Its role is to improve the quality of judicial service. The Council’s work also includes investigating complaints from the public and from government regarding the conduct of federally appointed judges.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:17 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Chicago-Kent "Back to the Future of Legal Research" Symposium

Last week, the Chicago-Kent College of Law (Illinois Institute of Technology) held a symposium called Back to the Future of Legal Research.

The conference handouts as well as links to conference podcasts are already online.

Bonnie Schucha of WisBlawg (University of Wisconsin Law School) was there blogging:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, May 21, 2007

Online Survey On Blog Preservation

There are still 2 days left to participate in an online survey from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science.

Entitled Blogger Perceptions on Digital Preservation, it seeks to gather bloggers' opinions about what, if anything, should be preserved in the blogosphere. Preliminary survey results will be presented later this year at a digital libraries conference.

"The purpose of this research is to survey bloggers’ own perceptions on digital preservation. It is hoped that the results of this study will inform development of recommendations for impacting stewardship of weblogs at the level of creation, and the development of strategies for capturing the content of blogs for perpetuity".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:06 pm 0 comments links to this post

BarfBlog - New International Food Safety Blog

Great name!

The International Food Safety Network at Kansas State University recently launched BarfBlog, which describes itself as "a central location where IFSN researchers provide rapid and brief commentary about food safety issues, post videos, powerpoint presentations and podcasts".

According to the May 11, 2007 press release about the launch:

"The geographic scope of the bloggers is currently fairly limited: they write from either Kansas or from [Network member Ben] Chapman’s home city of Guelph, Ontario. But they plan to expand their coverage, and hope to allow guest commentary from members of the food safety community at universities like UC Davis and Rutgers. In the tradition of web-savvy marketing, the IFSN is using more than just the BarfBlog to develop a reputation in the digital world".

"Beyond their four electronic newsletters, they have left their mark on high-traffic websites - initial projects included editing Wikipedia articles and starting a group on the popular social networking site Facebook.com. Plans are also in development for a daily video series on YouTube that would spark an interest in their cause".
BarfBlog mixes the serious science and policy issues with items that are more pop culture in orientation, with categories for things like Celebrity Barf (e.g. an item about Johny Depp's daughter's E. Coli scare) and Yuck Factor (e.g. an item entitled "Don't eat poop" - hey, I do not make these things up).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Statutory Interpretation at the Supreme Court of Canada

Pierre-André Côté and Stéphane Beaulac, both professors of law at the Université de Montréal, have co-authored an article to be published in the forthcoming issue of the Revue Juridique Thémis.

Entitled Driedger's Modern Principle at the Supreme Court of Canada: Interpretation, Justification, Legitimization, it is available on the Social Science Research Network:

"In the last 20 years, Elmer Driedger's modern principle has emerged as THE expression of the Supreme Court of Canada's preferred approach to statutory interpretation. The authors examine this fundamental development in Canadian law, including the variable relations between Driedger's quote and the Court's use of it, the different circumstances in which the principle is invoked and its influence on the caselaw of other superior courts in the country".

"Follows an appraisal of the impact of the modern principle on Canadian law. The principle is shown to serve three clearly different functions. It is used in the interpretation of statutes, it provides judges with a justification framework for interpretative decisions, and it is also instrumental in the legitimization of the judicial function in statutory interpretation".

"No doubt, the modern principle has brought about some advances in the law relating to statutory interpretation in Canada. However, the authors reckon that it constitutes an over-simplified reflection of the actual practice of Canadian jurists, including judges. As a result, Driedger's principle provides neither a valid method for interpreting statutes nor a suitable structure for the courts' justification of interpretative decisions. One should not see in it more than a good starting point for statutory interpretation".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:27 pm 0 comments links to this post

Lobbyist Influence Grows in US Court Elections

This is a follow-up to the August 30, 3006 Library Boy posting entitled U.S. State Supreme Court Elections - The Role of Big Money, Lobbies, and TV Air Wars.

That post explained the work of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School that has been tracking "the rapidly growing influence of big money in judicial elections for state supreme courts."

The Justice at Stake Campaign, a national U.S. coalition fighting to protect the fairness and impartiality of the American judicial system, has just released a new report that documents the rise of large campaign contributions in judicial elections south of the border.

Among the key findings:

  • TV ads in high court campaigns ran in 10 of 11 states with contested elections, compared to four of 18 states in 2000. Average television spending per state was $1.6 million (US), a new record. An overwhelming majority of independent expenditure television advertising was sponsored by groups on the political right.
  • Median fundraising by candidates for state high courts hit a record high of $243,910 (US). In other words, getting to the bench has never been so expensive for so many.
  • State Supreme Court elections attracted record sums from business interests, a reflection of the importance of state courts in setting corporate damage payments. Campaign finance analysis shows that business gave $2 for every $1 donated by lawyers directly to candidates, and independent committees aligned with business interests dramatically outspent groups on the left.
  • Judicial candidates presented a united front in overwhelmingly rejecting pressure-filled questionnaires from special interest groups. For example, only 17 percent of candidate’s for seats on Florida’s trial courts responded to a question demanding their position on same-sex marriage.
  • Television advertising has become a major weapon for groups doing battle over state high courts. In 2006, pro-business groups accounted for 90 percent of all independent spending on TV ads in high court races.

[Source: Docuticker]

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:02 pm 0 comments links to this post

10 Tips To Reduce E-mail Headaches

I'm always looking for tricks and tips on how to reduce information overload.

Anne Fisher of Fortune Magazine offers 10 ways to get a grip on your e-mail:

"Here is a startling bit of arithmetic: If you get and send 100 e-mails a day, that adds up to 24,000 messages annually, on which you probably spend an average of 100 workdays. If you could manage to reduce the amount of e-mail you send and receive by 20%, you'd free up 20 workdays a year to use for other things, like thinking up new ideas that could help further your career or, heck, taking a longer vacation".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:57 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 18, 2007

Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching

Howard Katz of Charlotte Law School and Kevon Oneill of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law have made their research paper entitled Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching: A Primer for New Teachers available on the Social Science Research Network. Its aim is to provide a "detailed and comprehensive advice on how to teach a law school course - from choosing a book and designing a syllabus to orchestrating the classroom experience to creating and grading the final exam".

From the Introduction:

"(...) this article will stress the need to be transparent with your students — to be open in revealing the structure of your course, identifying key points to be retained from a given lesson, and flagging important transitions as you move through the semester".

"Other themes flow from this fundamental point. Our emphasis on planning — selecting and discarding in advance particular goals, topics, and approaches for your course — is designed to prevent students from perceiving your presentation as formless and rudderless. We advocate something akin to the 'message discipline' successfully employed by modern presidential campaigns".

"Your chances for successful communication will be greatly enhanced if you sit down far in advance of your first classroom session, select a modest number of goals, topics, and approaches, and then stress those selections throughout the semester".

"Throughout this article, we stress the importance of strategy in conjunction with technique. It is easy to think of improvements in teaching as merely adding a few innovations or 'tricks' to one’s repertoire. We do not underestimate the importance of specific classroom methods, but we try to make the case that prior strategic planning — of what you want to accomplish and how you’ll go about doing it — is just as important as any particular tactic, if not more so".

"Finally, a word about politics. The advice contained in this article can be employed regardless of your ideological perspective and regardless of whether you teach from that perspective. Our approach neither advocates nor discourages the incorporation of such perspectives as feminist theory, critical race theory, or law and economics. Our principal concern is with effective communication. The content of that communication is up to you. We believe that the approach we suggest will enhance your ability to reach your students, regardless of the message you are trying to convey".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

UN World Drug Report 2007

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime just released its Annual Report.

"In 2006, UNODC's announcement of a record opium harvest in Afghanistan grabbed the world headlines and reinforced the Office's reputation for providing the gold standard for drug cultivation data. But UNODC also raised the alarm about growing cocaine use in Europe in 2006, paid special attention to the crime of trafficking in persons and worked to generate momentum against another global problem within its mandate: corruption".
The Office produces many other publications in areas such as alternate development, corruption, human trafficking by organized crime, demand reduction strategies, drug testing, etc.

It also offers an online Legislation/Legal Library with the full text of laws and regulations promulgated by many States.

Earlier Library Boy postings that deal with the drug trade include:
  • Criminal Intelligence Service 2006 Annual Report on Organized Crime (August 19, 2006): "The Service coordinates the criminal intelligence units of Canadian law enforcement agencies at the federal and provincial levels of government. It is chaired by the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This year's report underlines the geographic expansion of organized crime (...) Organized crime activities involve production and distribution of narcotics, firearms smuggling, vehicle theft, financial fraud, identity theft, counterfeiting, human trafficking and money laundering."
  • UN World Drug Report 2006 (August 22, 2006): "It provides one of the most comprehensive overviews of illicit drug trends at the international level. In addition, it presents a special thematic chapter on cannabis, by far the most widely produced, trafficked and used drug in the world. The analysis of trends, some going back 10 years or more, is presented in Volume 1. Detailed statistics are presented in Volume 2."
  • RCMP Drug Situation Report 2005 (January 11, 2007): "In the past few years the problem of illicit synthetic drugs has evolved from a concern for Canadian law enforcement to a national priority. To accurately reflect the ever growing role that Ecstasy, methamphetamine and chemical precursors play in the Canadian illicit drug trade, a full section has been dedicated to each of these commodities."
  • U.S. Annual Report on International Drug Trade and Money Laundering (March 3, 2007): "The 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in Calendar Year 2006. Volume I covers drug and chemical control activities. Volume II covers money laundering and financial crimes."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

AustLII Needs Bucks

AustLII, the free online portal for Australasian law, is suffering from a bit of a cash crunch. AustLII, of course, is the Down Under counterpart of CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute and a member of the worldwide Free Access to Law Movement.

"Until 2007 AustLII obtained major funding for the development of its services from the Law Foundation of NSW [New South Wales](1995-99) and the Australian Research Council LIEF fund (2000-2006). For the past seven years grants from this academic fund (...) have averaged $650,000 and have accounted for over 50% of AustLII’s annual budget. Although ARC LIEF funding for individual specific projects may be possible in the future, ARC funding for general expansion of AustLII services has now ceased. Consequently AustLII must seek stakeholder contributions from many institutions that have not provided them in the past".

"As a consequence of this drastic budget reduction, AustLII has, since December 2006, been forced to reduce its staff by more than one third, from 10 to 6.5 (...). Although as yet largely confined to a reduction of our international projects, the effect of these staff cuts will soon be felt in relation to AustLII’s Australian services. As of early 2007, AustLII’s recurrent funding from stakeholders will contribute only about half of the budget AustLII needs to maintain its core services. To balance its budget in 2007 AustLII needs to raise an additional $400,000. Otherwise there will be a reduction in AustLII services commencing in mid-2007. To achieve a stable core budget, AustLII needs to increase its number of recurrent stakeholder contributors to 100, assuming a $10,000 annual average contribution, or to find more substantial stakeholders representing the major sectors to which AustLII provides services".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:33 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Assisted Suicide Debate Back in the News

The case of a Quebec man accused of helping his very sick uncle hang himself may reignite the debate in Canada over the law on assisted suicide.

The nephew is being charged under s. 241 of the Criminal Code:

"Every one who

(a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or

(b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide,

whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years".

In 1993, the "right-to-die" debate reached the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sue Rodriguez case. Rodriguez, who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a terminal condition, took her case all the way to Canada's highest court to have assisted suicide legalized. She lost her appeal. Rodriguez succumbed to her illness a little while later.

The debate over the issue has been boiling below the surface since then. As recently as 2005, an opposition MP introduced a private member's bill on the subject but it died on the order paper when the previous Liberal minority government fell.

For background:

  • The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament last year updated its Current Issue Review 91-9E Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada originally published in 1992.
  • In 1995, the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, published its final report, Of Life and Death. The report has sections on terminology, palliative care, pain control and sedation practices, withdrawal/withholding of life-saving treatment, assited suicide and euthanasia.
  • The Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University in Halifax provides access to material on a number of end of life topics in its Reading Room. The Withholding & Withdrawal section of the Electronic Library / Bibliography lists material on assisted suicide.
  • Professor Valerie J. Vollmar of Willamette University College of Law has created the Physician-Assisted Suicide website. Three reports are provided every year, dealing with subject-matters such as litigation and legislation within the US; medical developments; and events taking place in other parts of the world.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:18 pm 0 comments links to this post

Supreme Court of Canada: New Library Titles for April 2007

The list of new library titles added to the Supreme Court of Canada collection for the period of April 1st to 30th, 2007 is now available on the Court website.

The web page explains: "The Supreme Court of Canada Library does not lend materials from this list, which is provided for information only."

But, once the material goes into the general collection, after about a month, the works do become available for inter-library loans to authorized libraries.

It is possible to subscribe via e-mail to receive the list.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:07 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nominations Open for 8th Justicia Awards

The Justicia Awards recognize outstanding broadcast and print stories that foster public awareness and understanding of any aspect of the Canadian justice system, or the roles played by institutions and participants in the legal system.

The nomination period for the 8th annual Awards is now open. The deadline is June 15, 2007 for entries covering stories that were published or broadcast between May 16, 2006 and May 15th 2007.

The awards will be presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Bar Association in Calgary on August 11.

They are sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association and the Department of Justice Canada.

Earlier Library Boy post on the subject:
  • 7th Annual Justicia Awards for Legal Reporting (August 14, 2006): "Société Radio-Canada’s TV show Enjeux and the Vancouver Sun's Peter McKnight are this year's recipients of the Justicia Awards for Legal Reporting (...) Enjeux won an Award for its March 2006 program 'Tribunal des Toxicomanes' that dealt with Vancouver's groundbreaking Drug Treatment Court. McKnight won his Award in the print category for his column that showed how hard it is to come up with any clear definition of what 'judicial activism' really is, if it even exists at all."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Annual Report 2005-06 of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) today released its annual report for the fiscal year 2005-2006.

Entitled Moving forward strategically, the report describes the activities of the Office's various branches: Trade-marks Opposition Board, Patent Branch, Patent Appeal Board, and Copyright and Industrial Design Branch.

Among the more interesting highlights I picked up about the activities of our federal Crown agency in charge of intellectual property matters:
  • CIPO is expanding its range of electronic databases, launching the Industrial Designs Database last year and making its Trade-marks, Patents and Copyright databases more user-friendly
  • the Office has created a number of online tutorials to help visitors to the site in using the Trade-marks and Patent databases
  • Proctor & Gamble made the most trade-mark applications in 2005-2006: 252
  • The top copyright applicant was Pearson Education Canada, with 376 applications
  • The top industrial design applicant was Microsoft at 213 followed by Nike at 211
  • Research in Motion, the company that makes the Crackberry (sorry, I mean the Blackberry) filed the greatest number of patent applications: 376
  • 40044 patent applications were filed. 5348 applicants were residents of Canada; 2698 were from Germany; 2571 from Japan; 1517 from the UK; 1475 from France; 1393 from Switzerland; 574 from the Netherlands. The greatest number of patent applications were from US residents, at 19121

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

Official Languages Commission Annual Report 2006-2007

In his first official report, released today, Canada's new Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser faults the federal government for its lack of leadership in promoting the rights of linguistic minorities in Canada.

Fraser, who was appointed to the position last year, praises the government for its formal commitment to defending and promoting Canada's linguistic duality. But he explains that the words are not being followed by action.

And he comes down hard on the Conservatives for their abolition of the Court Challenges Program which provided funding to minority groups to help mount challenges to government policies in court.

Fraser said dozens of cases before the courts have lost their funding because of the decision.

The Commissioner added that the slashing of the program caused an "avalanche" of 117 complaints to his office, which acts as an ombudsman for language minorities.

The annual report comes with a series of backgrounder documents on the performance of the 200 federal government institutions subject to the Official Languages Act, a description of the Act and of the role of the Commissioner's office, statistics about official languages in Canada, and polling data on the state of Canadian public opinion about bilingualism.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Effectiveness of Sexual Offender Treatment Programs

Public Safety Canada has just released a research summary entitled Sexual Offender Treatment Outcome Research: CODC Guidelines for Evaluation, Part 1, Introduction and Overview. User Report 2007-02.

A committee of international experts in research evaluation was formed with a mandate to critically review the literature about the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs for offenders who have committed serious crimes, particularly sexual offenders.

On average, sexual offenders who attend treatment have lower recidivism rates than offenders who do not. These findings have not been persuasive to skeptics, however, who attribute the observed differences to bias in the way the research was conducted. Reviewers agree that most of the current studies have significant limitations, but they disagree about which studies are the most informative.

The experts did manage to define what should be the characteristics of a high quality study on the effectiveness of treatment programs. The committee identified 20 key features that should be considered when making these ratings.
"This document focuses on sexual offenders, but much of the discussion is also relevant to the evaluation of other extended, complex behavioural interventions where failure results in harm to others, where failure is not observed in treatment, and where failure may not even be noticed until years afterwards (e.g., domestic violence, impaired driving)".

(...)

"Since 1980, there have been more than 20 reviews of the effectiveness of treatment for sexual offenders. Although the treatment groups, on average, show lower recidivism rates than the comparison groups, all reviews have noted problems with the available studies, thereby limiting any strong conclusions. If the Committee’s aspirations are fulfilled, future researchers will be able to present conclusions with increasing confidence and precision, and future reviewers will be better able to evaluate treatment outcome research.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Law Library Podcasts

The May 2007 issue of the AALL Spectrum has an article entitled Are You Podcasting? Current uses of podcasts in law libraries.

Author Christine L. Sellers provides an overview of the different ways in which law libraries are using the podcast technology for audio tours, as a delivery tool for supplemental material in academic law courses and as legal research guides.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:39 pm 0 comments links to this post

Podcast on Social Networking Technologies

Last week's episode of the Check This Out! podcast by Jim Milles of the University of Buffalo Law School was about Social Networking Technologies.

"This episode is a presentation I gave at the Association of Law Libraries of Upstate New York (ALLUNY) Spring Institute on Friday, May 4 at Syracuse University College of Law on social networking technologies".
The episode covers the Social Science Research Network, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and a whole range of other relatively new tools. The podcast divides social networking technologies into social networking sites and collaborative tools.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:33 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Legal Wikis Spreading

The article Legal Wikis Are Bound to Wow You from Law Technology News on Law.com provides an overview of innovative ways in which the collaborative writing and editing tools known as wikis are being used in the field of law.

Examples include online glossaries, legal encyclopedias, copyright clearinghouses, news sites on IP or family law, as well as a log of U.S. death penalty cases.

The article is written by Robert J. Ambrogi, writer of the legal information blog LawSites, the media law blog MediaLaw, and creator of the Lawer2Lawyer podcasts in the United States.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:09 pm 0 comments links to this post

National Center for State Courts (US) CourTopics Database

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) in the United States has put together a database of resource guides on more than 130 court-related issues.

Called CourTopics, the database provides access to original NCSC reports and publications, material from outside organizations, research, journal articles and more.

Here for example is the section on Cameras in the Court.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:53 pm 0 comments links to this post

Day in the Life of Law Librarians Photo Contest

In February of this year, the American Association of Law Libraries asked people to submit photos for its Day in the Life contest:

"During the month of February, AALL members took a wide range of photographs of law librarians working, meeting, teaching, and doing all that law librarians do in a given day or week. About 45 AALL members from 34 different law libraries across the country submitted more than 150 photos to the contest. Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to each and every member who participated and shared their photos with AALL".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:30 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 11, 2007

2006 Annual Report of the Military Police Complaints Commission

In the latest Weekly Checklist of Canadian government publications is the most recent annual report of the Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada.

The Weekly Checklist is a listing of book and serial titles which have been released each week by the Parliament of Canada, federal departments, and Statistics Canada. It is produced each week by the Depository Services Program.

The Military Police Complaints Commission was established on December 1, 1999 to provide independent, civilian oversight of Canada’s military police service. It is similar to the civilian agencies or police boards that oversee police services across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other countries.

The Commission’s mandate is found in Part IV of Canada’s National Defence Act,which sets out how complaints about the conduct of military police and complaints of interference with military police investigations are to be handled.

"By way of highlights of 2006, the number of complaints under review or investigation by the Military Police Complaints Commission was double the number from 2005. Of the investigations completed by the Commission during 2006, several will have signifi cant, long-term impact on military police practices".

"As an example, the Commission’s investigations of interference complaints in 2006 have led the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal to revise the Military Police Policies and Technical Procedures to clarify the proper role and responsibilities of military police supervisors in respect of supervisory interventions. These investigations have also added clarity to the proper relations between the military police and the chain of command. In bringing a clearer defi nition to what does and does not constitute prohibited interference, it is hoped that both command staff and military police personnel will benefi t in their relationships and the performance of their duties".

"In 2006, the Commission undertook the first public hearing in its seven-year history which will be reported on early in 2007 – and launched three new public interest investigations into especially serious or broadly publicized complaints about military police conduct. One of these cases – involving a complaint by a former sniper with the Canadian Forces who was honoured by the U.S. military for his outstanding service in Afghanistan – was the subject of national media attention in 2006, including the cover of Maclean’s magazine".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

Impact of Globalization on International and Foreign Law Information

Claire Germain, Law Librarian and Professor of Law at Cornell University, was at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Ottawa that I attended earlier this week.

I was curious and did a search on her name. I discovered one of her recent papers from the Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper Series on the site of the Social Science Research Network: Legal Information Management in a Global and Digital Age: Revolution and Tradition

"This article presents an overview of the public policy issues surrounding digital libraries, and describes some current trends, such as Web 2.0, the social network. It discusses the impact of globalization and the Internet on international and foreign law information, the free access to law movement and open access scholarship, and mass digitization projects, then turns to some concerns, focusing on preservation and long term access to born digital legal information and authentication of official digital legal information It finally discusses new roles for librarians, called upon to evaluate the quality of information; teach legal research methodology; and be advocates in information policy. Law librarians are encouraged to join professional associations and undergo continuous professional education. A recent development in the U.S.A., to add a legal research test on the bar exam, is of interest to the whole world, because it signifies the importance of a sound legal research training to the competent practice of law".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Human Rights Report on Environmental Sensitivities

As part of its research report series, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has just released a study on The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities:

"Approximately 3% of Canadians have been diagnosed with environmental sensitivities, and many more are somewhat sensitive to traces of chemicals and/or electromagnetic phenomena in the environment. People experience neurological and numerous other symptoms, and avoidance of triggers is an essential step to regaining health (...) This report addresses issues such as the definition and prevalence of environmental sensitivities; recognition by medical authorities; education and training within the medical community; origins, triggers and symptoms of sensitivities; impact of environmental sensitivities in the workplace; government policies and standards for building codes, air quality and ventilation as they affect individuals with environmental sensitivities; and guidelines for accommodation within the workplace".
Other reports in the Commission's research program include:
  • National Security and Human Rights Concerns in Canada: A Survey of Eight Critical Issues in the Post-9/11 Environment: "This report examines eight critical issue areas where there is some overlap between national security imperatives and human rights concerns in Canada, post-9/11 (...) The eight issue areas examined include: The evolution of national security policy in Canada since September 11, 2001; New legislative measures; The application of pre-September 11 powers; Key federal government agencies in the national security domain; Measures of accountability and review of national security agencies; Federal government responsibility and capacity to protect Canadians abroad; International liaisons in national security work; The role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in fostering knowledge"
  • Managing the return to work : the human rights perspective: "In many complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a dispute arose between employer and employee when the employee returned to work after a prolonged absence, such as sick leave, a workplace accident or maternity leave (...) The purpose of this paper is to describe how matters stand in relation to employees returning to work after a prolonged absence. The issues raised in our research may be used to develop guidelines for employers to facilitate efficient management of absences that respects the fundamental rights of employees. The first part of the paper surveys the characteristics of long-term absenteeism in Canada. The second addresses the means available to employers for monitoring the state of an absent employee's health, while respecting his or her fundamental rights. The third deals with protection from discrimination provided by the Canadian Human Rights Act and the resulting duty to accommodate. The fourth gives
    examples of accommodation measures required by the courts in cases of drug or alcohol dependence, psychological illness, pregnancy or family obligations. Lastly, the fifth presents a series of measures to facilitate the efficient management of long-term absenteeism."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:44 pm 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 10, 2007

CALL Conference 2007 - AGM Highlights

The AGM (annual general meeting) portion of the recent 2007 annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Ottawa was split into 3 mini-sessions over 3 days.

Among some of the highlights and reports that caught my attention:

  • motions were adopted by the membership to encourage the use of the new proposed Uniform Case Name Guidelines as a means of standardizing the style of cause in legal citations; to encourage vendors to publish a case summary in English when the case is available in French only ; and to send a letter to the Premier of British Columbia and to the Speaker of the province's legislative assembly to protest the possible reduction in access to the collection of the B.C. Legislative Library. The Library is closing down indefinitely for a seismic upgrade, and there is widespread concern it won't reopen.
  • CALL 2008 will be in Saskatoon, May 25-28, 2008. It was in Saskatoon in 1983 that the CALL conference moved out of university dorms for the first time. From that year on, annual conferences have been in major hotels and conference centres
  • the new CALL executive will be led by new president Anne Matthewman, of the Metropolitan Toronto Lawyers Association, and by the new VP, Rosalie Fox, director of the Supreme Court of Canada Library (my boss)
  • CALL Oral History Project: a few years ago, CALL decided to embark on an oral history project to collect interviews with past executives and key figures on the association's life as we approach its 50th anniversary. So far, edited transcripts and tapes have been deposited with the University of Manitoba for: Dr. Margaret Banks (the author of the well-known book Using a Law Library), Viola Bird (Bird Report 1975 on law library resources in Canada) and Roger Jacobs (president of CALL when it became independent of the American Association of Law Libraries). In progress: Dr. Marianne Scott, McGill Law Librarian, first president of CALL, former National Librarian of Canada; and Shih-Sheng Hu, author of standards for courthouse and law society libraries
  • Vendor Liaison Committee: the committee is pressing editors to develop best practices related to the frequency of updates, contents, pricing and physical format of loose-leaf materials; as well, guidelines for client-vendor problem solving will soon be published on the CALL site
  • Canadian Abridgment editorial advisory board
    - Canadian Encyclopedic Digest: the board has had questions regarding the publisher's plans to address the currency of the work. The publisher, Carswell, says new authors have been retained and a more formalized schedule for updating is being implemented
    - Index to Canadian Legal Literature: access has been obtained to materials of the Alberta Law Society Libraries cataloguing database and more CLE materials are being added; Carswell is considering digitization of the first volumes of the Index
    - eDigests - the Board wants judges' names, docket numbers, courts and dates added to the electronic updating service

In the weeks to come, additional decisions and presentations will, I am told, be posted to the CALL website's members-only section. I will attempt to report on any announcements that could be of general interest.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:07 pm 0 comments links to this post

CALL Conference 2007 - Press Bans, Privacy and Access to Information

The Tuesday plenary session at this year's annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Ottawa was a panel discussion entitled "Are We Becoming a Secret Society? Press Bans, Privacy and Access to Information".

The speakers were Barbara McIsaac, senior counsel, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Ottawa; John Reid, former Information Commissioner of Canada; and Rick Dearden, of Gowlings Lafleur Henderson LLP Ottawa.

McIsaac is co-author of The Law of Privacy in Canada, one of the major Canadian privacy law texts. She served as Senior Counsel to the Somalia Inquiry and Senior Counsel for the Government of Canada to the Arar Inquiry. She has also represented the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in front of the Cornwall Inquiry on the investigation of an alleged pedophile ring in Eastern Ontario.

McIsaac, who has been on both sides of the fence when it comes to access to official government information, made one essential point throughout her presentation that touched on the many dimensions of the conflict between the public's right to know, legitimate state interests to protect government sources in national security affairs, and the strong interest of private individuals to protect their reputations when they have never been charged or have had criminal charges dropped against them. That point was the natural tendency of bureaucracies to "overclaim" state interests in withholding information.

Dearden also made that same point. And he feels that things have been getting worse since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Over the years, Dearden has argued media law cases before every level of court in Ontario, the Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. He also acted for the Office of the Auditor General throughout the hearings of the Commission of Inquiry Into The Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities (Gomery Inquiry).

He most recently represented Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, whose home and office were raided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2004 as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information about Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian who was deported to Syria by the United States, suspected of ties to al Qaeda. Arar, of course, was tortured in Syria before being returned to Canada. A judicial commission, the Arar Inquiry under Justice O'Connor, cleared Arar of any taint of association with terrorism.

The sealed search warrants against Ms. O'Neill were executed under the Security of Information Act, which is normally intended to protect sensitive state or defence information from spies and traitors. Lawyers representing Ms. O'Neill and the newspaper launched a legal action to have the search warrants declared unconstitutional and quashed, and for police to return all items seized during the raids, including Ms. O'Neill's notebooks and computer files. The sections of the legislation under which the warrants were executed were struck down for arbitrariness and their unconstitutional vagueness. O'Neill could have faced up to 14 years in prison under the section of the Act that was declared to be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Like McIsaac, Dearden described what he sees as a government pattern to "overclaim" national security or secrecy interests. Often, officials made the broadest possible claims about the need to protect as much information as possible as an opening negotiating position and then unseal documents only if ordered to do so by a court of law. He argues that this belittles genuine national security interests that truly protect the public, as opposed to protecting the government from embarrassing leaks and revelations.

Former Information Commissioner John Reid, whose job for 8 years was to see to the application of the federal Access to Information Act, explained some of his powers under that legislation. For instance, he could take government departments to court on behalf of freedom of information requestors. Of course, he was also often sued back by officials seeking to prevent the release of information felt to be sensitive or injurious to government interests under various exceptions defined under the Act.

He explained that his record in front of the courts was excellent: according to Reid, he won 100% of the cases he initiated, and 94% of the cases when he was being sued by the federal government. His conclusion: the government obviously knew this. Which leads him to believe the government was using the court system to delay release of information to the point that any timeliness for the requestor practically disappeared.

Again, in the case of access to federal government information, the same pattern referred to by McIsaac and Dearden applied: overclaiming the need to protect.

Nonetheless, Reid stressed to the audience that the importance of the Access to Information Act could not be underestimated.

It is after all through the use of the legislation that the public discovered recently how Taliban fighters captured by Canadian troops in Afghanistan were being turned over to Afghan security officials despite reports from Canadian diplomats about the risk of mistreatment and possibly torture. As well, Maher Arar was able, through the Act, to get bits and pieces of information that ultimately, along with other information, helped show that he was a man innocent of any wrongdoing or connection to terrorist activity.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:25 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

CALL Conference 2007 - Cool Things Session

One of the more fun sessions at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries is "Cool Things" where librarians get to show off and explain interesting or pioneering projects and products. This year's conference in Ottawa was no exception.

1) Sonia Loubier of CAIJ (Centre d'accès à l'information juridique or Legal Information Access Centre, a library network associated with the Quebec Bar Association) gave a presentation on their JuriBistro Topo product. Launched in the fall of 2006, JuriBistro Topo is a massive knowledgebase containing thousands of legal research questions and answers based on the 20,000 plus questions local CAIJ outlets receive annually from laywers across Quebec. The CAIJ network includes 38 courthouse libraries, 8 regional libraries, 3 resource libraries and 27 local service points.

A typical question and answer file will include the applicable legislation, case law and top sources of commentary on the issue.

The product uses the SirsiDynix Unicorn library management software with which many librarians will be familiar. Each question and answer file has been formatted as a MARC cataloguing record. MARC record fields have been modified, for example field 245 for title is used to capture the text of the question, field 592 is used to indicate the bibliographic information for secondary literature (commentary on a case or piece of legislation), etc.

2) Connie Crosby of WeirFoulds LLP in Toronto provided an overview of how wikis are being used behind her firm's firewall for a variety of purposes. For example, she set up a wiki for one of her lawyers who was teaching a municipal law course. In another case, a team of lawyers were able to use wiki tools to jointly write a book.

3) On a less technological note, Eve Poirier of Justice Canada explained her role in a project aimed at setting up a law library in the city of Juba in Southern Sudan, an area that recently emerged out of the nightmare of more than 20 years of vicious civil war. One of her suggestions is that the Canadian law librarian community should think of creating a mentoring network that people in developing countries could tap into for assistance.

4) Alicia Loo, my supervisor at the Supreme Court of Canada Library, gave a presentation on how we implemented an OpenURL resolver, a system to bring together in one single search interface bibliographic information and links to our 1200 print journal titles and the 4000 other titles from licensed electronic collections to which we have access. Alicia provided lots of detail about all the local customization work that went into constructing the knowledgebase that runs the resolver database: there was clean-up of often messy data received from aggregators, elimination of duplicate titles, the issue of missing ISSNs and an absence of data about journal resources from Quicklaw, Lexis and Westlaw, problems with title authority and with the presentation of bilingual titles, and finally the necessity to manually copy and paste the data about those 1200 print journals in our stacks. Alicia survived to tell the tale to conference attendees. I can say that people in the Court love the ability of the system to identify the many possible print and electronic sources for any given periodical.

There was a fifth presenter, but I unfortunately missed that part of the session.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:33 pm 0 comments links to this post

CALL 2007 Conference - Maritime Law Book Receives Award for Excellence in Legal Publishing

At this week's annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Ottawa, the Hugh Lawford Award for Excellence in Legal Publishing was awarded to Maritime Law Book.

Since 1999, the Award has been given by the Association every year to acknowledge the work that is done by publishers to provide the Canadian legal profession with high quality materials for use in understanding and researching the law.

From the announcement:

"Maritime Law Book is a Canadian owned and operated company located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It started operations in 1969 by publishing Canadian caselaw from jurisdictions not covered by other publishers. It now publishes 14 law reporters encompassing every common law jurisdiction in Canada. These reporters are available both online and in print. Maritime Law Book has developed a Key Number System to classify all its reported cases. This detailed and analytical indexing system was a fundamental legal research tool in the days before sophisticated online databases and search capabilities, and it continues to be a tremendously efficient and important way to research and find relevant Canadian caselaw online".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:21 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, May 07, 2007

CALL 2007 Conference - Public Access to Legal Information

At the 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries being held in Ottawa until Wednesday, there was a session today on "The Ultimate End User: the Public's Access to Law Libraries and Legal Information".

There were 3 presentations dealing with how law libraries and public libraries can respond to the growing number of self-represented litigants, as well with the generalized growth in the appetite of the public for legal information.

Johanne Blenkin, executive director of the British Columbia Courthouse Library Society, provided an overview of what her organization has been doing in recent years. She first cautioned that statistics show that only 10% of public legal information needs are actually related to any formal legal claims in the court system. And of these 10%, only 2% end in trial, which leads to the question whether those law libraries that do seek to help the public are not spending too much time or effort on the small number of information requests that deal with litigation or that come from self-represented litigants.

That being said, Blenkin described the B.C. model. The Courthouse Library Society is a non-profit agency whose mandate includes serving the public and assisting public libraries in making legal information accessible. The Society has become involved in a number of initiatives to accomplish that such as the Public Library Legal Resource project. The project involves putting basic legal collections in public libraries throughout the province. In 2007, this takes the shape of a pilot project in 3 public libraries.

Blenkin commented that public libraries can provide the expertise in user assessment. But in exchange, they are asking for training in collection development, in how to provide legal information as well as help with deciding what to keep and what to discard.

Joan Cavanagh, manager of information services at the Ottawa Public Library (OPL), provided the public library perspective. From her experience, members of the public with an information need tend to approach a public library with a set of very specific expectations: they expect to leave the library with everything they need, they think the public library should be a "one-stop shop" that will help them fully understand the information they understand. As well, in terms of legal information needs, they expect the public library to help them find a lawyer. Of course, the reality is often different.

In her overview of the OPL, Cavanagh explained that the collection includes basic materials such as statutes and regulations, citators, self-counsel legal books (which circulate a lot), research guides (which do not), bylaws and basic periodical indexes such as LegalTrac. What an institution like the OPL will not have: case law reporters, databases, forms and precedents, journals, the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest, the Canadian Abridgment system of case digests, case citations, statutory citations and words & phrases, and rules of court and rules of practice.

She said that reference staff in public libraries would like to receive training from experts, such as law librarians, in such areas as: the best websites for legal information, the basic sources law library pros use, ways to improve the process by which librarians refer people to agencies that can help (social agencies, government services, legal aid, etc.). Law librarians could even set up training sessions for public library reference staff who could then translate the new knowledge into tutorials or training sessions for the public.

The final speaker was Mona Pearce, Chief Librarian, Alberta Law Society Libraries. She described the Law Information Centres (LInC) Initiative that is intended to assist self-represented litigants in the province. The idea for the LInC Initiative comes out of a Self-Represented Litigant Committee report in 2005 composed of members of the judiciary, government and NGOs (e.g. Alberta Law Reform Institute, Native Counselling Services, Canadian Bar Association etc.). The report recommended setting up 4 LInCs across Alberta, essentially to help self-represented litigants through the system, thus reducing the time needed to deal with the increasing number of cases being litigated by often unprepared non-professionals in the province's courts.

Pearce explained that the LInC network is fully funded by Alberta Justice.

The first 2 LInCs opened in April 2007 in Edmonton and Red Deer. The next one opens next month in Grande Prairie and the Calgary LInC is scheduled for 2008.

In the first month of operation, the 2 currently operating Centres answered an impressive 2231 questions.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, May 06, 2007

CALL 2007 Conference - Canadian Courthouse Library Survey

The 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) officially opened today.

This morning was devoted to the meetings of various committees and SIGs (special interest groups).

I attended the meetings of the copyright SIG, the website committee and the Courthouse and Law Society Libraries SIG.

General suggestion about conferences: in a business meeting, it is wise not to raise your hand, make a comment or offer an opinion. If you do so, you will be "volunteered" to sit on a committee. Somehow, without realizing what I was doing, I managed to be "volunteered" for the CALL Copyright committee. Oh well, there are certainly more painful things in life.

Leaders of the Courthouse and Law Society Libraries SIG unveiled the results of a survey regarding public access. 32 libraries from across Canada responded.

Highlights:
  • Precisely 58.1% of the libraries participating in the survey were categorized as courthouse libraries followed closely by law society libraries at 35.5% with the remaining 6.5% were made up of non-profit society and government/court libraries
  • Responses identified that 86.2% received support from law societies, 34.5% from local lawyers association fees, and 27.6% and 10.3% respectively from provincial and federal governments. Also, 27.6 % received financial support from Law Foundation grants, user fees or internal revenues. Because of multiple possible sources of funding, totals add up to more than 100%
  • 30% of the respondents do not have any form of security (pass key, panic button or security guard) available to staff or patrons in their facility
  • 58.6% of survey respondents indicated they were open to the public
  • 41.2% of the respondents who offer public access reported they are in no way mandated to be open to the public
  • all libraries permitting access to the general public responded there are however restrictions on the public’s use of the library facility and or services in contrast to access and services available to lawyers. Restrictions include limits on staff assistance and reference services, the fact the public is not allowed to borrow material and no access to electronic resources and licensed databases
  • Only 18.8% of the libraries providing public access receive government funding in support of public access
  • Of those libraries not permitting access by members of the public, only 58.3% of the responses actually have a written policy or guidelines stating the access restriction. As a result, 41.7% libraries operate without a written policy
  • All libraries (100%) receiving requests for access indicated they made referrals to other libraries or organizations
  • 27.6% of libraries have developed resources to assist members of the public in finding legal information or legal advice consisting of prepared printed brochures and research guides. These materials included electronic sources, pathfinders, online forms and Internet sites
  • 34.5% of the libraries indicated they were involved in access to justice projects with other organizations: training sessions for public librarians and university students, moot court tournaments for high schools or newspaper article series on public legal education

During discussion, many librarians explained that they are seeing an increase in the number of self-represented litigants and that they also having to deal with "difficult" or "problematic" customers. Of course, some of the most "difficult" problem clients are often law society members and not members of the public who walk in from the street.

There was some discussion about security measures in courthouse and law society libraries. Some locations have no security at all. Others have perimeter security (electronic detection of firearms, ID checks, ...).

SIG members also proposed an interesting project. The idea is to come up with a list of social agency referrals for the general public that could be customized by local libraries. The list would include contact information for NGOs and agencies that deal with legal issues relating to landlord/tenant relations, tax, family law, sexual assault, etc.

As well, for thematic sessions for next year's CALL conference, people agreed that dealing with difficult clients (both of the lawyerly and the general public variety) and the difference between legal information and legal advice would make for interesting topics.

This year, the Courthouse and Law Society Libraries SIG is hosting a Monday afternoon session on The Ultimate End-User: the Public's Access to Law Libraries and Legal Information.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, May 05, 2007

CALL 2007 Pre-Conference: Managing Digital Collections

The 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries begins this weekend in Ottawa and continues until Wednesday, May 9, 2007.

Today, there was a pre-conference session on Creating and Managing a Digital Collection Project: From policy to technical requirements.

There were 3 presentations:
  • Sandra Wilkins, Law Librarian, University of British Columbia, described the British Columbia Reports Digitization Project: "The British Columbia Reports is a law report series that was first published in 1884 by the Law Society of British Columbia, with judgments dating back to 1867. The series ceased publication in 1948. This collection includes the full text of all decisions published in the series. The Reports, as a body of work, contains important social and legal history of this province, in addition to charting the development of British Columbia law through the course of its publishing history. The British Columbia Reports is an important resource for legal researchers, historians, genealogists, and British Columbians in general, due to the fact that it provides a collection of unique primary information on society and individuals living in British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries."
  • Anne Crocker, Gerard V. LaForest Law Library, University of New Brunswick, described the Allan Legere Digital Archive. It is an archive of documents and images related to the crimes, capture and trial of serial killer Allan Joseph Legere. Having escaped from a maximum security institution in New Brunswick in 1989, Legere was at large for 7 months, committed four brutal muders, terrorizing the Miramichi region of the province, and was the subject of the largest manhunt in RCMP history. His trial in 1991 was the first in which the new science of DNA typing was used to obtain a criminal conviction in Canada and was therefore a landmark in Canadian legal history.
  • William Wueppelmann, Electronic Systems Specialist, Canadiana.org , took attendees through a discussion of the technical and organizational issues involved in the planning and execution of a digitization project of any size. Canadiana.org is the creator of Early Canadiana Online which is a searchable collection of more than 2.5 million pages of Canada's printed heritage including official publications from early colonial times to 1900: acts, bills, committee reports, court rules, debates, journals, ordinances, official publications from France and Great Britain, sessional papers, regulations, royal and departmental commissions and reports, and treaties.

I have visited the headquarters of Early Canadiana Online, located in the Library and Archives Canada building in downtown Ottawa right next door to the Supreme Court of Canada. They have a very sophisticated and massive operation going on there.

The interesting thing about both the B.C. Reports project and the Legere Digital Archive is their relatively small size, so those experiences will be closer to what a local institution considering a modestly ambitious digitization project might face.

The most important things I retained from the discussion today were not technical. Rather, they had to do with the right attitude towards digitization which Anne Crocker touched upon in outlining what she described as the "lessons learned":

  • don't be afraid to start work, even if you aren't absolutely sure of what you are doing and how to do it
  • don't be afraid to ask for help
  • choose a project that is meaningful in terms of your jurisdiction and/or legal expertise
  • find your niche, leave the big projects to the heavy hitters
  • get support of the key players in your organization by making them understand you will be adding value to the enterprise
  • start small to learn about the hardware, the software, the required metadata, how to manipulate documents and enhance images
  • make sure you have the rights or permission to make available the material you intend to digitize
  • celebrate your achievements. The University of New Brunswick Law Library held a reception to launch the Legere Archive and notified the local and regional media. The PR success helped the library obtain funds for later projects

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:17 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Library of Parliament Summary of Act to Amend Canada Elections Act

The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament has released am updated legislative summary of Bill C-31: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

The bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is now at the second reading stage in the Canadian Senate.

"The changes proposed in the bill are a response by the government to a series of recommendations proposed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in its 13th Report in June 2006, entitled 'Improving the Integrity of the Electoral Process: Recommendations for Legislative Change'. The Committee developed its recommendations in conjunction with its review of the recommendations for legislative reform contained in the Chief Electoral Officer’s report on the 38th general election pursuant to section 535 of the Canada Elections Act, tabled in the House of Commons on 29 September 2005. The Committee’s review of the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendations, and its consideration of the areas it identified as requiring reform, was guided by three over-arching and interrelated themes: the integrity and accuracy of the National Register of Electors; voter identification at the polls; and voter fraud".
For complete information on the bill, including the text, votes in Parliament, departmental backgrounder as well as further readings and opposition party reactions, I recommend the LEGISinfo research service that offers full coverage as well as RSS feeds for bill tracking.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Parliamentary Report on Canada's Private Sector Privacy Law

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics has released its statutory review of PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

The Act, which is intended to protect privacy in the private sector, mandates a review of the statute every five years. This is the first such review.

The co-operative blawg Slaw.ca lists the 25 recommendations made in the report.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist has a less than enthusiastic reaction:

"The public sector privacy law has been waiting decades for reform with no sign of change and this first attempt at private sector reform suggests that the wait on PIPEDA may be just as long. With strong business opposition to reform, opposition to the law itself from the Bloc (which issued its own dissent to remind everyone that it opposes the law), and privacy commissioners facing pressures to moderate their public position on reform, I fear that it is going to be years before Canadian privacy law changes in any significant way".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:39 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New Auditor General Report: Justice Canada Can't Control Its Costs

In a report tabled yesterday in the House of Commons, Sheila Fraser, Canada's auditor general, reported that legal expenditures at Justice Canada have tripled over 14 years, but that the federal department lacks the systems to ensure citizens are getting their money's worth:

"The Department of Justice Canada can be characterized as Canada's largest law firm, with about 2,500 lawyers and a budget of close to $1 billion in
2006–07. The services it provides to the federal government and its departments and agencies include legal advice, drafting of legislation and regulations, and representation in court".

"The Report notes that since the last audit in 1993, the Department has made progress in its management of litigation risk and its management of legal agents. However, most areas have not fared as well".

"The audit found that while the Department is managing legal services to meet the needs of government, its current financial arrangements with client departments provide few incentives to control the costs and manage the increasing demand for legal services. The Department has been aware of this problem for several years, but its efforts to resolve the matter have resulted in little progress".

"The audit also found that the Department lacks information on its volume of work and use of staff time, information it could use to determine whether it is delivering legal services cost effectively. It needs to make better use of financial and human resource information for managing legal services".

"The Report says the Department would benefit from having a senior executive position with authority to lead the improvement of management practices and oversee the implementation of changes". [from the press release]

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:51 pm 0 comments links to this post