Friday, November 30, 2007

Irish Law Reform Commission on Liability of Good Samaritans

This week, the Law Reform Commission of Ireland published its Consultation Paper on the Civil Liability of 'Good Samaritans' and Volunteers.

The Paper is in response to a request from Ireland's Attorney General after a parliamentary debate in late 2005.

The Attorney General asked the Commission to consider whether the law should impose a positive duty on citizens, members of the caring professions or members of the national police or the Defence Forces (when not engaged in duties in the course of their employment) to help injured people.

The Commission has provisionally recommended that there "should be no reform of the law to impose a duty on citizens in general, or any particular group of citizens, to intervene for the purpose of assisting an injured person or a person who is at risk of such an injury" (Page 127).

The Commission concluded that it was unlikely that any such duty would promote volunteering or active citizenship: indeed, the groups consulted by the Commission indicated that imposing any such duty might have the opposite effect.

The Commission has also provisionally recommended that, to deal with any anxiety on the part of those who decide to be Good Samaritans or who volunteer in society, the relevant rules should be put in a statutory form.

The proposed law would provide for a full defence against a civil liability claim for Good Samaritans and voluntary rescuers, unless there is gross negligence, that is, negligence falling far below the standard to be expected in the circumstances, in line with similar laws in place in many countries.

The consultation paper has a section on "Good Samaritan Statutes in Other Jurisdictions" starting on p. 109. It looks in particular at Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:24 pm 0 comments links to this post

UK Law Commission Consultation on Bribery

The Law Commission in the United Kingdom is holding a consultation on how to reform that country's bribery and corruption laws.


"Our review considers the full range of structural options for a scheme of bribery offences. It takes into account the issues and views that have emerged since the introduction of the draft Bill in 2003. The review compares the law of England and Wales with the law operating in other jurisdictions and takes into account international conventions and the body of experience around their implementation".

"The review also looks at the wider context on corrupt practices to make it clear how existing provisions complement the law of bribery".
Earlier Library Boy posts about bribery and corruption include:
  • Political Corruption Resources (April 8, 2005): "Canada has been rocked by recent devastating testimony at the Gomery Commission hearings about alleged corruption in the administration of federal government advertising/sponsorship budgets. Many resources exist out there to track the phenomenon of political corruption on the international scale."
  • Gomery Report Resources (November 1, 2005): "The public trust in the system of government was subverted and betrayed, and Canadians were outraged, not only be cause public funds were wasted and misappropriated, but also because no one was held responsible or punished for his misconduct. [quote from the Phase 1 report of the Gomery Commission into the federal Liberal sponsorship scandal] Justice Gomery's report into the sponsorship mess was released this morning. Here are resources relating to the commission and its findings."
  • Lobbyist and Government Ethics Resources in the U.S. And Canada (January 12, 2006): "Last week, in a huge scandal that is reverberating through the halls of Capitol Hill in the United States, lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials, including high level Republicans in the Bush administration. The Washington Post has compiled a large collection of material on the case, including articles on topics such as the legality of lobbying and the relationship between Abramoff and political heavyweights."
  • Global Corruption Report 2006 (February 4, 2006): "Transparency International, an international non-governmental organization dedicated to combating corruption across the world, has just released its Global Corruption Report 2006. The major focus of this year's report is the impact of corruption in the healthcare sector in developing countries."
  • 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (November 8, 2006): "The international NGO Transparency International just released its 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, 'a composite index that draws on multiple expert opinion surveys that poll perceptions of public sector corruption in 163 countries around the world (...) It scores countries on a scale from zero to ten, with zero indicating high levels of perceived corruption and ten indicating low levels of perceived corruption'."
  • Government Ethics Watchdog Site Voted World's Best Blog (November 14, 2006): "The U.S.-based Sunlight Foundation website has been voted the world's best blog by an international jury put together by Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcasting service. DW, as it is known, is the equivalent of Radio Canada International... The Sunlight Foundation was founded in early 2006 to help U.S. citizens harness the power of digital technology to 'help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy' according to the Foundation website."
  • International Report on Judicial Corruption (June 8, 2007): "The international organization Transparency International recently released its Global Corruption Report 2007. This year's report takes a close look at judicial corruption around the world. Judicial corruption can involve outright bribery or political interference in the judicial process."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Social Tagging Does Badly In Search Effectiveness Study

On her websearchguide.ca blog, Gwen Harris summarizes the results of a recent study that compared the effectiveness of search services that employ tagging (so-called folksonomies used by social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us) with that of the more traditional directories and search engines.

The study, entitled Tagging and Searching: Search Retrieval Effectiveness of Folksonomies on the Web, is part of a thesis at the College of Communication and Information of Kent State University.

The study looked at measures of precision, retrieval and recall in information retrieval for 5 types of information queries: factual, known site or document, selection of documents, news, and entertainment.

Overall, search engines have the highest precision (number of relevant search results divided by total number of results retrieved). The engines also do much better than folksonomies at recall (defined for the study as the number of items retrieved by a search system divided by the total number of relevant items in the collection):

"The paper is interesting for showing the strengths of search engines and directories. Folksonomies do not come out well, being weak even in news and entertainment where we would expect better performance. They are also not good for factual answers or known site".

"But this doesn't mean writing off folksonomies. A url that is found through a folksonomy and a search engine is likely to be of higher relevance (someone 'voted' for it) suggesting that search engines would be stronger if they included the content of folksonomies" (...)

"Searches submitted to the search engines for factual queries had the highest precision (44.1%), and search engines also performed well for specific item queries (35.4% precision, 26.8% recall) and queries for a range of documents (43.5% precision, 9.6% recall). The directories and folksonomies performed worst in specific item searches in precision, and worst in factual answer searches in recall. The folksonomies performed best when executing queries that required a selection of relevant documents – in that case, the precision was 16%".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:34 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Farewell to The Right Honorable Antonio Lamer, Former Chief Justice of Canada

The Right Honorable Antonio Lamer, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court between 1990 and 2000 who passed away on the weekend, is lying in repose in the Main Hall of the Supreme Court buildingas I write this, his casket attended by 5 soldiers of the Governor General's Foot Guards and a Mountie in ceremonial red serge uniform.

Lamer was Honorary Colonel of the Foot Guards.

Numerous members of the public and the legal profession have come to pay their last respects and have been filing by all afternoon long.

A few minutes ago, I popped down to the Main Hall. The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and the Leader of the Official Opposition, Stéphane Dion, were there, talking with Lamer's family and the current Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

A religious ceremony will be held at the Marie‑Reine‑du‑Monde Cathedral in Montreal on Friday, November 30, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. The family will receive visitors from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2007, and from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, November 30, 2007, at the Centre funéraire Côte‑des‑Neiges, 4525 Chemin de la Côte‑des‑Neiges, in Montreal.

A private memorial ceremony by invitation only will be held at the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 3:00 p.m.

More:

  • The Legacy of the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer: A Model of Judicial Independence (James Stribopoulos, The Court, November 27, 2007): "Justice Lamer arrived at the Supreme Court on the eve of the Charter’s entrenchment. He quickly stood out amongst his colleagues as a judge with a perspective on the Charter that was as clear as it was ambitious. It took Justice Lamer very little time at all to offer what remains to this day the strongest defence of the Charter and the role of the judiciary under it ever offered by a Canadian jurist. Very much aware of the fact that the Charter was viewed with much skepticism in many quarters, including by many conservative judges, Justice Lamer was unapologetic in explaining how and why everything had changed (...) For Justice Lamer the role of the judge was to do what was right, irrespective of whether or not it also happened to be popular. As he explained to Macleans during a 1998 interview: 'Let’s not forget there are no jobs in the world that enjoy our tenure of office. You can’t fire a judge. He can’t be terminated except by both houses of Parliament. The sole justification for that is to make it possible for him to do the unpopular thing, without fear of losing his job, when it’s the right thing to do. You don’t usually need judges to do the popular thing - politicians do it for them'."
  • Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer Dies (Library Boy, November 26, 2007): "Lamer had little patience with political critics who accused him - or any of his fellow judges - of unwarranted activism or of usurping the role of elected legislators. As chief justice for the decade from 1990 to his retirement in 2000 he staunchly defended his record in speeches and letters to the editor. 'When I read, when I hear, that the court has become activist, well it hasn't become activist under my stewardship, it has always been activist,' he said."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:37 pm 0 comments links to this post

Federal Legislation On Independent Tribunal For Native Claims

Yesterday, the federal government introduced the Specific Claims Tribunal Act in the House of Commons.

The new legislation will create an independent tribunal made up of superior court judges to help resolve the "specific claims" of First Nations.

"Specific claims" refer to outstanding grievances that First Nations may have regarding Canada’s fulfilment of its obligations under historic treaties or its administration of First Nation lands or other assets under the Indian Act.

Negotiations will continue to be the first choice to resolve claims, but the proposed tribunal would have the power to make binding decisions on claims that have been rejected for negotiation, when negotiations fail or after three years of unsuccessful negotiations.

The independent tribunal would be made up of the equivalent of six full-time sitting superior court judges.

I provided background on the issue of unresolved specific claims in my Library Boy post of June 13, 2007 entitled Federal Government Proposes Special Tribunal to Settle Aboriginal Claims.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Upcoming Conference on Judicial Independence

The University of Toronto and the Law Society of Upper Canada are organizing a conference on judicial independence later this week in Toronto.

Called Looking Back, Looking Forward: Judicial Independence in Canada and the World, the conference "brings together scholars in different disciplines from Canada and around the world as well as public policy makers to discuss the important connection between judicial independence and democracy and link the discussion of the issue in Canada to broader events around the world."

The opening speech will be given Thursday by Justice Richard J. Goldstone of South Africa.

The conference website also provides an extensive bibliography on the subject of judicial independence.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:40 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 26, 2007

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer Dies

The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1990 to 2000, died Saturday in Ottawa at age 74.

He was known to many as a champion of the late 20th-century rights revolution.

Coverage:
  • Antonio Lamer, 74: Supreme Court chief justice (Toronto Star): "During his 20 years on the Supreme Court of Canada, nearly 10 of which he sat as chief justice, Lamer was part of a bench that grappled with the big issues of our day: abortion, euthanasia, aboriginal and minority rights, and the possible secession of Quebec. ... A tough judge, he occasionally invited counsel back to his office for tea after an especially tough grilling by the bench. He was a 'Saturday morning aficionado of hot dogs' on Rideau St. where vendors only knew 'he liked relish and mustard,' not that he was a chief justice of Canada, said Meehan [Eugene Meehan, who served as Lamer's first executive legal officer at the Supreme Court of Canada]."
  • Antonio Lamer, 74 (Globe and Mail, Toronto): "After the Charter was enacted in 1982, the first cases began to filter up to the Supreme Court judge as Mr. Lamer was hitting his stride. A troika of Chief Justice Brian Dickson, Madame Justice Bertha Wilson and Judge Lamer viewed the Charter as a vital document that would be unstintingly used to strike down legislation and reform controversial areas of law. When he retired in 1999 after being the court's chief justice for almost a decade, Mr. Lamer was strongly identified with the protection of the rights of the accused... At a time when the Supreme Court bench was staggered by illness and strong-minded individualists who frequently wrote their own concurring or dissenting reasons for judgment, Mr. Lamer managed to forge a strong record for administrative efficiency. He eliminated the court's backlog and issuing timely judgments.His major decisions ranged from the rights of accused people to a revolutionary aboriginal-rights case known as Delgamuukw. Mr. Lamer played an especially instrumental role in interpreting the moral culpability involved in certain crimes, the right to legal counsel, and the right to be free of improper search and seizure."
  • Former top judge dead at 74 (CanWest News Service): "Lamer had five guiding principles during his time as chief justice - to eliminate delays in the court's administration, to protect minorities, to help Third World countries set up their own judicial systems, to ensure that law-enforcement agencies respected citizens' rights, and most of all, to reinforce the independence of the judiciary. He believed he had made 'great progress' on these objectives. He often spoke out on the independence of the judiciary, saying it's key to a sound justice system. 'Progress in these other areas is dependent on our having an impartial and independent judiciary,' he once said. 'Without an independent and impartial judiciary, there is no justice. And if there is no justice, there can be no liberty'."
  • Lamer remembered as man who kept common touch, despite trappings of office (Canadian Press): "On sunny summer weekdays he frequently fled the austere confines of the court to stroll the Sparks Street Mall in downtown Ottawa at lunchtime, grazing on the fare offered by street vendors. Saturday mornings often found him among the shoppers at the Loblaw's supermarket a few blocks to the east along Rideau Street. 'I would see him sitting at the snack bar with a hotdog and a Coke, shooting the breeze with whoever else was there taking a break from groceries,' recalled Eugene Meehan, a prominent Ottawa lawyer and longtime friend. 'I doubt anyone knew his day job'. Renowned for his expertise in criminal law, Lamer built a reputation on the bench as a man who could see through the legal maze to the human issues at stake in the courtroom. 'He was a champion of rights and liberties,' said Bernard Amyot, president of the Canadian Bar Association ... Lamer had little patience with political critics who accused him - or any of his fellow judges - of unwarranted activism or of usurping the role of elected legislators. As chief justice for the decade from 1990 to his retirement in 2000 he staunchly defended his record in speeches and letters to the editor. 'When I read, when I hear, that the court has become activist, well it hasn't become activist under my stewardship, it has always been activist,' he said."
  • Antonio Lamer n’est plus (La Presse, Montréal): "Jacques Bellemarre parle de son côté d'un homme «coloré». «Il utilisait un langage vivant mais jamais vulgaire, dit-il. Comme sa mère était une anglophone, d'origine irlandaise, sa compréhension des deux langues était impressionnante. Cela dit, il a beaucoup contribué à franciser la Cour suprême.»"
  • Une influence historique (La Presse, Montréal): "Quand la charte des droits est entrée en vigueur, une nouvelle école avait pris le pouvoir à la Cour suprême et ne tarderait pas à s'imposer.En 1992, Antonio Lamer ne cachait d'ailleurs pas ses couleurs: «L'adoption de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés représente une révolution comparable à l'introduction du système métrique, aux grandes découvertes médicales de Louis Pasteur, à l'invention de la pénicilline et au rayon laser.» ... Lamer est rapidement devenu un brillant avocat de la défense, une vedette du barreau de la fin des années 50 et début 60. Il avait connu les méthodes policières musclées de l'époque, et le juge qu'il est devenu a évidemment été marqué par cette expérience. Aucune perquisition, aucune écoute électronique, aucune fouille de l'État ne peut avoir lieu sans autorisation judiciaire, a-t-il martelé en interprétant la charte, ce qui a forcé à modifier le Code criminel et les pratiques policières au fil des ans - et pas toujours dans la joie."
  • Décès de l'ancien juge en chef de la Cour suprême Antonio Lamer - Le Canada perd un grand défenseur des droits et libertés (Le Devoir, Montréal): "Comme il l’expliquait en entrevue au Devoir en avril dernier, Antonio Lamer prenait la Charte très au sérieux, s’interrogeant des nuits entières sur un article ou un autre. Sa santé s’en est lourdement ressentie, devait-il admettre. Il estimait dans cette entrevue que la Charte avait eu des conséquences positives. Elle a d’abord amené les Canadiens à développer une «culture des droits de la personne», ce qui rejoignait son esprit libertaire. «Je crois, disait-il, que les Canadiens aujourd’hui pensent davantage aux droits de la personne qu’avant.» La Charte est venue aussi encadrer l’exercice des devoirs de l’État. «Les hommes ont délégué à un certain nombre de personnes, non pas des droits, mais le pouvoir de voir à ce que les droits de chacun soient respectés, faisait-il remarquer. L’État n’a pas de droits; l’État n’a que des obligations vis-à-vis des individus et de la collectivité. La collectivité, ce n’est pas l’État mais la somme des individus. [...] L’État a une arme, la loi, qu’on lui donne pour me protéger et vous protéger. Ce n’est pas son droit, c’est son devoir. C’est mon droit par contre d’être protégé.» ... Souvent étiqueté comme de gauche, ou interventionniste, le juge Lamer préférait se dire «libertaire». Il a maintes fois réfuté les accusations de «militantisme» injustifié et les critiques politiques voulant que lui ou d’autres juges usurpent le rôle des législateurs élus. "

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Canadian Lawyers March in Support of Pakistani Colleagues

This morning in Ottawa, some 150 lawyers marched to the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada building to support the lawyers and judges of Pakistan and to demand the restoration of the rule of law in that country.

In early November, Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf suspended his country's constitution and purged its Supreme Court. Thousands of Pakistani lawyers and others marched in protest against the imposition of a state of emergency and the attack against fundamental democratic principles. Hundreds were beaten by riot police and jailed.

The Ottawa march, organized by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and the County of Carleton Law Association, was led by CBA president Bernard Amyot.

In his comments, Amyot said:

"Today, in front of the Supreme Court of Canada - a symbol of the rule of law - we express our outrage at the treatment endured by our colleagues in Pakistan".

"We wish to reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of the independence of judges and lawyers, and of the rule of law in a free and fair society".

"Without these key democratic ingredients, no state can be held accountable (...) "

"Unfortunately, our colleagues in Pakistan are denied such guarantees. Thousands have risked their lives to [protest] the arbitrary use of state power".

"It is our duty - not only to grant - but to show them our full support and admiration (...)"
Pictures from the demonstration:

1) Start at the Delta Hotel on Queen Street:



2) March down Wellington St.:



3) Arrival on the grounds of the Supreme Court of Canada:



4) Speeches on the steps of the Supreme Court building:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:40 am 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ontario Civil Justice Reform Project Report Published

On thursday, the Ontario provincial government released the Civil Justice Reform Project: Summary of Findings and Recommendations.

In June 2006, the government had asked the Honourable Coulter Osborne, a former Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, to propose recommendations to make the province's civil justice system more accessible and affordable.

Mr. Osborne carried out province-wide consultations, researched civil justice studies and reforms in other jurisdictions, and reviewed over 60 written submissions from legal associations, lawyers, members of the judiciary and the public.

The summary report contains 81 recommendations touching on 18 areas of procedural and substantive law, including unrepresented litigants, small claims, trial management, appeals, technology, courtroom civility and proportionality.

More background:

  • Report calls for expansion of small claims court system (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, November 22, 2007): "An expansion of Ontario's small claims court system is among more than 80 recommendations released by the province Thursday to reform the civil justice system and resolve disputes more quickly, and cheaply."
  • Justice for all: A blueprint - Landmark report calls for swift action to make Ontario's civil courts more accessible, more affordable – and faster (Toronto Star, November 23, 2007): "With civil litigation so time-consuming and costly that many are representing themselves in court, a new report is calling for sweeping changes to make Ontario's justice system more affordable and easier to use (...) As part of a Toronto Star series of 'Access to Justice' stories published earlier this year, the cost of a three-day civil trial was determined to be $60,738 – more than a year's income for most households. But pursuing justice in the civil court system often takes longer and can easily grow more expensive. For example, KathrineFarris, a Toronto real estate consultant who is suing for wrongful dismissal, spent $197,443 in lawyers' fees. With another $219,658 still owing to her lawyer, she began representing herself earlier this year. Farris commended Osborne on the depth of his report and said she hopes Attorney-General Chris Bentley won't 'sweep it under the carpet'."
  • BC proposed civil procedure rules released (Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, August 20, 2007): "The Civil Justice Working Group of the BC Justice Review Task Force has released their Proposed New Rules of Civil Procedure. The draft Rules represent a major overhaul of the BC Supreme Court Rules of Civil Procedure with the objective of making civil procedure more proportional to the issues in dispute."
  • Canadian Civil Justice Reform Database (Library Boy, August 11, 2007): "The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice at the University of Alberta has created what it calls a knowledgebase of civil justice reforms in Canada: 'The Inventory contains descriptions of reform initiatives from across the country, each described according to a standard format that includes information on the purpose, development, implementation, and evaluation of the reform. The initial focus of our research over the summer of 2007 is selected issues relating to the cost of access to justice: point-of-entry assistance, caseflow management, expert evidence, discovery, and proportionality'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:25 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Association of Law Libraries 2008 Conference Website Available

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) has posted its 2008 conference website. The conference will take place May 25-28, 2007 in Saskatoon.

So far, in terms of programming content, only the main plenaries are mentioned.

The Courthouse and Law Society Libraries Special Interest Group of CALL is working on a number of possible panels or presentations for the conference, such as courthouse security and privacy protection of sensitive information in court documents available on the Internet.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:18 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Federal Identity Theft Bill Introduced in House of Commons

The federal government has introduced Bill C-27 - An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct) .

According to the Justice Canada press release:

"The misuse of another person's identity information, generally referred to as identity fraud, is covered by current offences in the Criminal Code , such as personation and forgery. But the preparatory steps of collecting, possessing and trafficking in identity information are generally not captured by existing offences. The proposed legislation would create three new offences directly targeting aspects of the identity theft problem, all subject to five-year maximum sentences:

  • obtaining or possessing identity information with intent to use it to commit certain crimes;
  • trafficking in identity information with knowledge of or recklessness as to its intended use in the commission of certain crime;
  • and unlawfully possessing and trafficking in government-issued identity documents."
Commentary and background:
  • University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist: "This is good and long overdue legislation. It is not a complete solution, however. While penalties for identity theft are needed, Canada also needs to take steps to allow Canadians to self-protect against identity theft, to create incentives for companies to safeguard personal information against the prospect of identity theft, and to address some of the activities used to facilitate identity theft. There are two obvious issues that should be addressed. First, anti-spam legislation, which would include phishing and spyware, is similarly long overdue. Second, Canada needs a mandatory security breach notification law so that Canadians are advised when their personal information may be at heightened risk for identity theft."
  • Privacy Commissioner of Canada Statement on Government Identity Theft Measures: "I welcome these measures, but feel the government must move further in addressing what has become an increasingly global problem. Some countries have accused Canada of being a harbour for spammers – people who attempt to hoax individuals around the world of their personal information. With this information, these fraudsters acquire goods online and in real life, as well as steal the identities of their victims. We remain the only G-8 country without anti-spam legislation. I am encouraged to hear that the government is considering taking action on this far-reaching problem."
  • Tory legislation to target identity theft (TV interview with David Fraser, privacy law specialist)
  • Identity theft resources from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:28 pm 1 comments links to this post

Supreme Court of Canada Library: New Titles

The list of new library titles added to the Supreme Court of Canada collection for the period of November 1st to 15th, 2007 is 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 10:31 am 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Canadian Rate of Incarceration Increases

Statistics Canada reported today that that rate of incarceration in Canada increased for the first time in more than a decade in 2005/2006.

The rate moved from 107 to 110 prisoners per 100,000 population.

"Canada's incarceration rate tends to be higher than most western European countries, yet far lower than that of the United States. For instance, Sweden posted an incarceration rate of 82 and France a rate of 85 per 100,000 population in 2005/2006. By comparison, the incarceration rate in England and Wales was 148, and in the United States the adult rate stood at 738 (the United States excludes youth from its rate)".
In contrast, the number of youth in custody continued to decline. There has been a 58% decline in the number of youth in custody from 2002/2003. The report attributes this to the impact of the Youth Criminal Justice Act passed in 2003. The Act provides for the diversion of less serious youth crimes and first-time offenders away from the criminal court process.

And adults in remand (in custody while awaiting trial or sentencing) for the first time outnumbered convicted offenders serving a sentence of imprisonment in provincial or territorial institutions. Over the past 10 years, the proportion in remand has approximately doubled in most jurisdictions.

"Several factors might explain why remand counts are rising relative to sentenced counts. For instance, court cases have become more complex, resulting in longer processing times and, consequently, longer stays on remand. For example, in 1994/1995, about 34% of those in remand were being held for more than one week; by 2004/2005, this proportion had grown to 45%. Longer stays mean higher average counts".

"Also, offenders are spending less time in sentenced custody because courts are giving credit for time spent in remand when determining sentence length. This, in turn, decreases counts of sentenced custody".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:02 pm 0 comments links to this post

Launch of New Government of Canada Web Archive

Library and Archives Canada has launched its searchable Government of Canada Web Archive.

Since late 2005, it has been periodically harvesting the web domain of the Federal Government of Canada. The archive can be searched by keyword, department name, URL, and by file format.

Library and Archives Canada used open source software tools to create the archive.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Official Languages Commissioner Report on Bilingualism in Canada’s International Relations

Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, today released a report on how well Canada's 2 official languages are being represented in the country's foreign relations.

The report looks at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Privy Council Office

It is a follow-up to the 2004 study entitled Doorway to the World: Linguistic Duality in Canada’s International Relations.

Of the 29 recommendations made in the 2004 study, 10 were implemented, 14 were partially implemented and five were not implemented.

From the press release:

"The Commissioner made a point of emphasizing that Canadians often turn to missions abroad when they are in vulnerable situations, whether it be a conflict situation, lost passport or other emergency, and service in both languages is essential. The follow-up study shows that while consular services are provided in both official languages, there is still work to be done to improve bilingual security services. 'Linguistic duality is a key Canadian value and a distinguishing feature of our collective identity. Our network of over 260 diplomatic and consular offices in 150 countries is Canada’s most visible international presence and security services are often the first point of contact,' said the Commissioner. 'Ensuring services in both official languages is not only a question of safeguarding our image of a welcoming country internationally, it is a question of respect for Canadian citizens'."

"The Commissioner also indicated his concern about cuts that were made to DFAIT’s Public Diplomacy Program as well as the elimination of the Francophonie Promotion Fund and called on the Department to assess the impact of the elimination of the Fund on its capacity to contribute to promoting linguistic duality internationally. 'Any weakening in the capacity to promote official languages in Canada’s international affairs is a step backward. Instead, the governement should be taking concrete steps to highlight the importance of projecting Canada’s linguistic duality in our international relations'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:56 pm 0 comments links to this post

Annual Report 2006-2007 of the Australian Law Reform Commission

The Australian Law Reform Commission's annual report for 2006-2007 is available online.

Among the highlights of the Commission's work last year were:

  • a review of sedition laws in Australia
  • a review of privacy laws
  • a review of client legal privilege in the course of federal investigations and royal commissions

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:46 pm 0 comments links to this post

Hack, Mash & Peer: Crowdsourcing Government Transparency

George Mason University professor Jerry Brito has posted a working paper entitled Hack, Mash & Peer: Crowdsourcing Government Transparency on the Social Science Research Network:

"In order to hold government accountable for its actions, citizens must know what those actions are. To that end, they must insist that government act openly and transparently to the greatest extent possible. In the Twenty-First Century, this entails making its data available online and easy to access. If government data is made available online in useful and flexible formats, citizens will be able to utilize modern Internet tools to shed light on government activities. Such tools include mashups, which highlight hidden connections between different data sets, and crowdsourcing, which makes light work of sifting through mountains of data by focusing thousands of eyes on a particular set of data".

"Today, however, the state of government's online offerings is very sad indeed. Some nominally publicly available information is not online at all, and the data that is online is often not in useful formats. Government should be encouraged to release public information online in a structured, open, and searchable manner. To the extent that government does not modernize, however, we should hope that private third parties build unofficial databases and make these available in a useful form to the public".
The context for the article is the U.S. situation but it contains a fascinating description of how independent third parties such as NGOs and citizen think tanks have created hacks to publish, in a structured format, data that the government has either not published online or not made easily accessible.
"The most important contribution all these hacks make, however, may not be the accessibility they provide to individual users, but the fact that their hacked data is offered in a structured and open format. This allows yet other third parties to tap into the now useful data to create new applications. As Joshua Tauberer [creator of Govtrack.us] has explained, 'Gathering the information in one place and in a common format gives rise to new ways of mixing the information together'." (pp.18-19)
The article takes a look at many projects, including:

  • Govtrack.us
  • LOUIS—The Library of Unified Information Sources (search engine that indexes Congressional Reports, the Congressional Record, congressional hearings, the Federal Register, presidential documents, GAO reports, etc.)
  • Metavid (captures and archives video of Congressional proceedings)
  • OpenSecrets.org (campaign finance data, lobbyist tracking, financial disclosure forms of Congress members, and executive officers)
  • MAPLight.org (searchable database that highlights the connections between campaign contributions and how members of congress vote)
  • etc.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:21 pm 0 comments links to this post

U.S. Lobbying Reform Resources

American legal publisher BNA has just published an online bibliography on Lobbying Reform.

It includes resources on lobbyists and campaign reform, including legislation; government, congressional committee and NGO reports; links to watchdog groups; and blogs.

It is the latest issue of BNA Webwatch, a feature that can be useful for finding online resources dealing with controversial U.S. issues. "Here you will find links to government, industry, and academic resources on selected topics spanning the breadth of BNA coverage. New subjects will be posted weekly, and new resources will also be added to existing topics."

For Canadian material on the subject of lobbyists:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:03 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 19, 2007

Canadian Bar Association Solidarity March For Pakistani Legal Community

The Canadian Bar Association is organizing a protest march to the Supreme Court of Canada building on Sunday, November 25 to support the rule of law in Pakistan:

"On Sunday, November 25 in Ottawa, the CBA will be holding a march in solidarity with the defenders of the rule of law in Pakistan. CBA President Bernard Amyot will lead the procession of CBA Bar Leaders, lawyers, law students and other members of the legal community from across Canada. The County of Carleton Law Association is also giving its full support to the march to the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada. Bar Leaders will address the marchers and participants will have the opportunity to sign a petition of support for Pakistan lawyers, judges and the rule of law".

"All lawyers, their families and champions of the rule of law are invited to join in this Ottawa event to show their concern".
Demonstrators should gather at the Delta Hotel Ottawa (361 Queen Street) around 10:00 a.m.. The protest march will leave at 10:30.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:12 pm 0 comments links to this post

2006-2007 Annual Report of the Judge Advocate General

The 2006-2007 Annual Report of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) on the administration of military justice in the Canadian Forces was tabled late last week in the House of Commons.

The National Defence Act requires the JAG to report annually to the Minister of National Defence. This report covers the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007:

"From all the information examined it is evident that the military justice system is functioning very well, and that both the chain of command and the individuals who participate in the system have confidence in it as an effective tool for maintaining discipline amongst CF [Canadian Forces] members. In my view, the Canadian military justice system is second to none in the world, yet with its many strengths, three areas have been identified where enhancements can be made to improve the overall health and effectiveness of the military justice system".
The annual report provides an overview of court martial tribunal activity, statistics, military justice training activities, and legislative, regulatory and policy initiatives.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:54 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trade Agreement Database

I forgot to mention this item earlier.

The Canadian collaborative blog slaw.ca referred last week to the Preferential Trade Agreements Database.

The goal of the database is to "provide the text-searchable electronic versions of all the Custom Unions, Free Trade Agreements, and Preferential Arrangements that have been notified to the World Trade Organization's Committee on Regional Trade Agreements, and are in force, plus many that have not been notified to the WTO".

The Faculty of Law at McGill University maintains the website.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Top 10 Computer Security Threats for 2008

IT security firm McFeee has published its Top 10 Threat Predictions for 2008
"As 2007 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the current threat landscape. The past 12 months comprised a record-breaking year. McAfee® recorded well over 100,000 new viruses and Trojans, a 50 percent jump in the total number of threats ever cataloged. The Nuwar virus (a.k.a. Storm Worm) grew into the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) botnet to date, while TJ Max revealed the largest data breach in history. Other areas saw significant growth as well, from phishing attacks to crimeware, from vulnerabilities disclosed to zero-day exploits; 2007 was a big year for threats. At the same time, there was an explosion in the adoption and usage of new technologies such as voice over IP (VoIP), virtualization, and, of course, Web 2.0. As we look ahead to 2008, we expect the threat landscape to continue to expand. Attackers will exploit the new technologies while revisiting tactics that were successful in the past. McAfee Avert® Labs has identified the following ten noteworthy trends expected to unfold in 2008..."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Justice Ministers Meet in Winnipeg To Discuss Tougher Sentences

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice and public safety met in Winnipeg last week to discuss issues relating to youth justice, drugs, organized crime, and policing.

The provincial ministers failed to reach agreement with their federal counterpart on how to pay for more police officers or on funding for legal aid.

However, there was agreement on many other issues.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson agreed to propose changes to the Criminal Code to make gang-related homicides automatically qualify for first-degree murder charges.

And the ministers agreed that it is necessary to reduce the 2-for-1 sentencing credit given for criminals remanded in custody while awaiting trial to a maximum of 1.5 months for every month of jail time served before trial.

There is no timeline for the proposed changes.

More from the November 17, 2007 Globe and Mail article Stiffer penalties for gang-related deaths sought - First-degree murder charges should be automatic, federal Justice Minister agrees, as provinces seek more tools to fight organized crime.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:24 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, November 17, 2007

International Database on Carbon Emissions

Earlier this week, a U.S.-based thinktank released the Carbon Monitoring for Action Database.

It contains information on the carbon emissions of over 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies worldwide.

"The objective of CARMA.org is to equip individuals with the information they need to forge a cleaner, low-carbon future. By providing complete information for both clean and dirty power producers, CARMA hopes to influence the opinions and decisions of consumers, investors, shareholders, managers, workers, activists, and policymakers. CARMA builds on experience with public information disclosure techniques that have proven successful in reducing traditional pollutants".

"For several thousand power plants within the U.S., CARMA relies upon data reported to the Environmental Protection Agency by the plant operators themselves as required by the Clean Air Act. CARMA also includes many official emissions reports for plants in Canada, the European Union, and India. For non-reporting plants, CARMA estimates emissions using a statistical model that has been fitted to data for thousands of reporting plants in the U.S., Canada, the EU, and India. The model utilizes detailed data on plant-level engineering and fuel specifications. CARMA reports emissions for the year 2000, the current year, and the future (based on published plans)".

"CARMA also aggregates data on individual plants to the level of operating companies, parent corporations, and several geographic entities (continents, countries, states/provinces, and cities worldwide, with additional reports for U.S. metro areas, congressional districts, and counties). The database is updated quarterly to reflect changes in ownership, construction, renovation, planned expansions, and plant retirements. CARMA is meant to be a repository of the best available information on power sector carbon emissions. Our policy is to correct any errors or omissions if suggested revisions are verified by an independent third party".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:55 pm 0 comments links to this post

Statistics Canada Report on Police Forces in Canada

Yesterday, Statistics Canada released a report on Police Resources in Canada, 2007.

Highlights:
  • In 2007, police services saw the second largest annual increase in the number of police officers in the past 30 years in Canada. There were over 64,000 police officers in Canada in 2007, a 2.7% increase from the previous year.
  • The largest percentage increases in police strength between 2006 and 2007 were seen in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, each up 6%. Over the past decade, Newfoundland and Labrador (+15%) and Saskatchewan (+12%) have seen the biggest gains in police strength.
  • Despite recent increases, police officer strength has remained relatively stable over the past 30 years. In 2007, the rate of 195 officers per 100,000 population was 5% lower than the peak of 206 reached in 1975.
  • Saskatchewan continued to report the highest rate of officers per capita (207 per 100,000 population), followed by Manitoba (204) and Quebec (198). The lowest rates were reported in Prince Edward Island (164), Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta (both 165).
  • Police clearance rates, one measure of police performance, have increased in each of the past two years. In 2006, police cleared (solved) 36% of all Criminal Code incidents, up from 32% in 2004. Similarly, clearance rates for violent crime have increased from 69% in 2004 to 72% in 2006. However, clearance rates for violent crimes had generally been declining since peaking (76%) in the mid-1990s.
  • The number of female officers continued to rise (+6%) in 2007 at a faster pace than the number of male officers (+2%). Females now account for almost one in five officers in Canada, compared to approximately one in ten a decade ago.
  • In 2006, expenditures on policing totalled $9.9 billion, a 4.4% increase over 2005 after adjusting for inflation, resulting in a cost of $303 per Canadian. This was the tenth consecutive constant dollar increase in policing costs, increasing an average of 3% annually.
  • Ontario ($268) and Quebec ($246) reported the highest per capita costs for municipal and provincial policing, while Prince Edward Island ($149) and Newfoundland and Labrador ($165) had the lowest.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Ottawa Engineers Win International Award for Library of Parliament Renovations

The Institution of Structural Engineers, the world's leading professional body for structural engineering, has awarded its Heritage Award for Buildings 2007 to the Ottawa firm of Adjeleian Allen Rubeli Ltd. for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the neo-Gothic Library of Parliament.

The institution's Structural Awards are considered the world's leading honour for structural engineering excellence:
"The Library of Parliament is recognised by Canadians as an important symbol of their heritage and history. Built in the capital city of Ottawa in the 1860s as part of the Canadian Parliament building, the Library survived a major fire in 1916 which destroyed the rest of the Parliament complex".

"In 1998 it was decided to rehabilitate and upgrade the building to ensure at least another 50 years of service to the community. The scheme presented a number of challenges to the structural engineers, including conservation of the original fabric, upgrading to meet the current National Building Code requirements including seismic resistance improvements, construction of an underground link to an existing loading dock and, most challenging of all, the construction of an underground mechanical plant room".

"To accommodate the plant room the bedrock beneath the Library had to be excavated, which required major alterations to the vertical load paths within the building. The numbers of columns were reduced from 76 to 12, eight placed close to the inner ring wall and four central columns carried right through the plant room. The excavation work required careful sequencing and constant monitoring of the existing buildings for movement and vibration. Pits were excavated for the central columns. Once these were placed the rock could be removed in 2m deep concentric excavations. The two collection storage level slabs were constructed as rock removal proceeded".

"The care, courage and inventiveness exercised by the structural engineers make this project a worthy winner of the Heritage Award for Buildings".
From June 1999 to June 2000, I worked at the Library of Parliament, in one of the annexes in downtown Ottawa. I often had to go to the central Library building on Parliament Hill and had butterflies in my stomach each time I entered the central room (I am an architecture geek).

The Supreme Court of Canada Library is practically next door.

Earlier Library Boy posts about the Library of Parliament renovations include:


  • Library of Parliament Renovations Finally Over (May 17, 2006): "The renovations started in 2002 and are part of the large-scale modernization project of the Parliamentary Precinct, which includes one of the finest collections of neo-Gothic buildings in the world. The Library of Parliament is a veritable architectural gem and is a well-known icon of the Precinct."
  • Renovated Library of Parliament Officially Reopens (May 31, 2006): "Yesterday, the 4-year upgrade to preserve and enhance the Library of Parliament building was officially completed. The project cost $136 million. A ceremony with the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Honourable Michael M Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, was held to mark the end of the rehabilitation work."
  • Bibliography on Library of Parliament Renovations (June 11, 2007): "The historic Library of Parliament, an architectural treasure here in Ottawa, underwent major renovations from 2002 to 2006. The Supreme Court of Canada building where I work is next door. Last week, the website of the Parliament of Canada posted a bibliography of materials telling the story of the work that was accomplished."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:09 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Canada Orders Review of Use of Tasers After Video of Polish Immigrant's Death Released

Public Security Minister Stockwell Day told the federal Parliament today that he is ordering a review relating to the use of Tasers, weapons that paralyze subjects by administering shocks of 50,000 volts.

Day's announcement came after eyewitness video was released that shows police at Vancouver International Airport using a Taser stun gun more than once last month against Robert Dziekanski, an unarmed Polish immigrant.

Dziekanski, who had never been on an airplane before and who didn't understand a word of English, had flown to Canada to live with his mother in Kamloops, British Columbia. He had spent more than 10 hours in the airport being processed and no doubt grew increasingly exhausted and confused.

After being tasered, Dziekanski collapsed and died.

Yesterday's Globe and Mail recounts Tasered man's last moments and provides links to the 10-minute amateur video of Dziekanski being shot with the Taser, convulsing and screaming in pain, being subdued by police and then going silent and no longer moving. [The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also links to the video]

Background on taser use:
  • Taser FAQs (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation): "... Steve Palmer of Canadian Police Research Centre — a partnership among the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, and the National Research Council Canada — said there have been several international studies that demonstrate their harmlessness (...) Canadian police say Tasers have saved 4,000 lives since police forces started using them in this country in 1999. Still, Staff Sgt. Peter Sherstan, of the RCMP's Emergency Response Team in Edmonton, says Tasers should not be considered non-lethal (...) 'There are still risks. There could be a situation where a person hit with a Taser shot could fall and hit his head. But we have to balance that out. We have several cases where if Tasers weren't present, guns would have been the alternative'. Amnesty International Canada has been calling for a suspension in the use of Tasers until studies can determine how they can be safely used. The organization repeated that call after two people died in one week after being shocked with a Taser by police in October 2007."
  • Taser-related deaths in Canada: "In Canada, at least 18 people have died shortly after police officers shocked them with a Taser."
  • Task force rejects call to stop using tasers in Quebec (Globe and Mail, October 23, 2007): "The head of the task force, Ronald Bélanger, a Quebec police academy specialist on the use of force, argued that the taser has played a useful role as an alternative weapon when employed by trained police officers (...) In Quebec, eight police forces, including the Sûreté du Québec, have used the taser as far back as 2001. Guidelines were introduced last February, but, with the recent deaths, the government is looking to impose a protocol to be followed by all police forces. For instance, the task force will recommend that police clearly identify individuals who may be at risk from taser use, including people who may be suffering from mental illnesses or showing signs of excited delirium. It will also call for more restrictive procedures before and during the use of the gun, as well as improved training of officers employing the weapon."
  • Review of Conducted Energy Devices (Canadian Police Research Centre, August 2005): "Definitive research or evidence does not exist that implicates a causal relationship between the use of CEDs [tasers] and death. Existing studies indicate that the risk of cardiac harm to subjects from a CED is very low. Police officers need to be aware of the adverse effects of multiple, consecutive CED cycles The issue related to multiple CED applications and its impact on respiration, pH levels, and other associated physical effects, offers a plausible theory on the possible connection between deaths, CED use, and people exhibiting the symptoms of ED [excited delirium]. It would be unwise and counter-productive for any police service or government body to develop policies and procedures that explicitly specify in what kinds of circumstances a CED may or may not be used. The application of best practices relating to the safe use of CEDs should lead to an increase in public confidence in CEDs as appropriate law enforcement tools."
  • Canada - Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers (Amnesty International, November 2004): "As the taser has become a more widespread and established weapon in law enforcement officers’ non-lethal arsenal, Amnesty International has received numerous reports that the taser is being used not only in situations which do not warrant such an extreme level of force but as a routine force option to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not present a danger to themselves or others. In some of the cases reported, Canadian police subjected individuals to multiple force options, deploying the taser in combination with pepper spray and/or dangerous restraint holds. Agencies deploying tasers claim they reduce injuries and save lives by providing officers with an alternative to using their firearms or batons. However, Amnesty International’s research shows that, in both the USA and Canada, tasers are being used in situations where police use of lethal force – or even batons – would never be justified."
  • Canadian Government Response About Tasers (Response to UN Human Rights Committee during its review of Canada’s fifth report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, October 2005): contains a synopsis of investigations into the deaths of individuals who died after being tasered, an overview of regulations for the use of taser guns by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well the policies and procedures in place for the use of tasers in certain provinces
  • Nationwide Independent Taser Study Results Suggest Devices are Safe (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, October 2007): " 'This study is the first large, independent study of injuries associated with Tasers. It is the first injury epidemiology study to review every Taser deployment and to reliably assess the overall risk and severity of injuries in real world conditions,' said William Bozeman, M.D., the lead investigator and an emergency medicine specialist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. 'The injury rate is low and most injuries appear to be minor. These results support the safety of the devices.' Bozeman will present the study results at the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Research Forum in Seattle, Wash., Oct. 8. In a review of nearly 1,000 cases, 99.7 per cent of those subjected to a Taser had mild injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, or none at all. Only three subjects (0.3%) suffered injuries severe enough to need hospital admission. Two had head injuries suffered in falls after Taser use. A third subject was admitted to a hospital two days after arrest with a medical condition of unclear relationship to the Taser. Two subjects died, but autopsy reports indicate that neither death was related to the Taser. Earlier partial results involving 597 cases were published in the September issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:15 pm 0 comments links to this post

Comparative Study: How Long Can Terrorist Suspects Be Held Without Charge?

The UK civil liberties group Liberty has published a survey of the number of days terrorist suspects can be held without being charged in court in 15 countries, including Canada.

The document is entitled Charge or release: terrorism pre-charge detention comparative law study and finds that the British practice exceeds that of other democratic nations.

"None of the other countries surveyed have found lengthy pre-charge detention necessary in order to deal with the threats and challenges from international terrorism. Indeed, none allows their police to hold suspects for anywhere near the 28 days currently permitted in the UK. Despite being a major terrorist target the United States, for example, allows only two days’ pre-charge detention. Spain, another recent target of terrorist attacks, only allows its police to detain suspects for five days before the equivalent of charge. These significantly shorter pre-charge detention periods have not prevented the successful charge and conviction of terrorists as the recent conviction of 21 individuals, involved in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, illustrates".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Resources on Extraordinary Rendition

Last week, Maher Arar was back in the news again as his U.S. lawyers argued in front of a U.S. Court of Appeal panel for the right to restart a lawsuit against the policy known as "extraordinary rendition".

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian engineer, had been intercepted by U.S. authorities in 2002 on his way home via the U.S. from a trip abroad. He was then shipped off to Syria where he was held in prison - without legal recourse and totally beyond the reach of the law - and tortured as an Islamist terrorist suspect.

After his return to Canada, a commission of inquiry cleared him of any connections to terrorist extremism and the Canadian government officially apologized.

There are quite a number of resources out there that discuss the topic of extraordinary rendition, in other words, the informal, usually incognito, transfer of suspects to abusive regimes so they can be subjected to torture:
  • Law Librarian Blog described many of these resources last week - On Rendition (Not the Movie).
  • JURIST, the legal news site run by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, has an entire section devoted to the subject.
  • And the Federation of American Scientists has posted a report from the Congressional Research Service entitled Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture: "Although the particularities regarding the usage of extraordinary renditions and the legal authority behind such renditions are not publicly available, various U.S. officials have acknowledged the practice’s existence. Recently, there has been some controversy as to the usage of renditions by the United States, particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture, purportedly with the knowledge or acquiescence of the United States. This report discusses relevant international and domestic law restricting the transfer of persons to foreign states for the purpose of torture."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:07 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Senate Reform Back on Legislative Agenda

Yesterday, the federal government reintroduced two Senate reform bills that would abolish the government's absolute control over the appointment of Senators and limit the terms.
The bills had been introduced during Parliament's last legislative session but died on the order paper when that session was prorogued.

The first bill, the Constitution Act, 2007 (Senate tenure), would limit the time Senators serve to a maximum of 8 years [background on the LEGISinfo site]. Right now, they can sit in the Upper House of the Canadian Parliament until they reach the age of 75.

The other bill, the Senate Appointment Consultations Act, calls for a referendum in a province or territory to allow electors to vote on potential nominees for vacant seats. The prime minister would then choose senators based on the results. [background on LEGISinfo].

One can track the progress of the bills on LEGISinfo, where one can find the text of the bill at various stages; government press releases and backgrounders; legislative summaries from the Library of Parliament; important speeches at second reading; votes; and coming into force data. There are also RSS feeds for tracking the progress of each bill.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:20 pm 0 comments links to this post

Human Rights Blog Tracking List of Arrestees in Pakistan

HRCP Blog, the blog of the independent NGO Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, has been documenting the repression of members of that country's legal, human rights and academic communities since President Musharraf imposed a state of emergency earlier this month.

One of the major targets of what has been described as a coup has been the increasingly independent-minded judiciary of the South Asian country.

The blog has been trying to make sure that the names of people arrested remain in the public eye.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:03 pm 1 comments links to this post

Call For Nominations: 10 Blogs To Read

The library and information science collaborative site LISNews is calling for nominations for the 10 must read library blogs for 2008:

"What blogs do you read every day? What blogs help you learn? What blogs keep you informed? What blogs make you laugh? Who's the best writer out there? Think of it this way: 'I read many others, but these are the LIS blogs that read even when time is short'."

"Your list need not be complete, fair, or even have more than one blog listed. I'm looking for input from everyone so the final list is full of new faces. My goal again this year, 10 blogs that paint picture of what's going on in our little world."
Here are the previous years' "winners":

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:43 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Canadian Jurist Nominated to Head Inquiry Into Hariri Killing

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has nominated Canadian prosecutor Daniel A. Bellemare to lead the Hariri investigation.

The investigation is trying to find who is responsible for the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and many other killings in Lebanon. The commission was created by the United Nations Security Council.

Hariri died in a huge car bomb blast in Beirut in February 2005 that killed many others. He is one of many anti-Syrian political leaders, intellectuals and journalists to have been murdered in the past 2 years.

Preliminary reports by one of Bellemare's predecessors pointed to the possible involvement of high ranking members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments in Hariri's murder.

Bellemare was until recently Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Federal Prosecution Service, at Justice Canada.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:42 pm 0 comments links to this post

New Articles on Marketing and Impact of Law Libraries

The November 2007 issue of AALL Spectrum, a publication of the American Association of Law Libraries, contains 2 articles that are related to marketing:
  • Public Relations: Selling Law Librarianship: "Times they are a changin’—don’t you feel the pressure from your side of the desk in a law library? Many times librarians are unsure of what service it is that they provide, and, once they understand what that is, they wonder if they will provide the service adequately. The thought of selling yourself has, unfortunately, been tagged with a negative meaning. However, in relation to the current environment, it is a necessity. How do you begin to build a set of skills that will arm you to become more effective in today’s business conditions? The following criteria will help that process."
  • Perspective: What is Your Impact on Society: "The consumer is king. Today consumers have more options than ever before to access information. This access to information in turn gives them more power when making their decisions, whether it’s deciding where to shop for groceries or which physician to see. Even though libraries generally reside in the not-for-profit sector, they must address the consumer-driven world or risk a perceived lack of value or effectiveness (...) Law schools, law firms, and public entities, such as county or municipal governments, often see libraries as overhead in terms of cost or space and divert those resources to other purposes. This is where the social audit can have an impact (...) The social audit is a concept that can be used to evaluate library effectiveness based on qualitative standards and criteria. It is a method to look at outcomes from a social perspective and the impact an organization has on society, rather than through inputs such as the number of circulated items, dollars spent, and other resources. For too long, quantitative measurements have been used to evaluate libraries. As collection formats change and technology changes the way patrons use libraries, it is clear new ways of looking at library effectiveness need to be adopted. A social audit is one method that all types of libraries can use."

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

European Court of Human Rights Offers RSS Feeds

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, has started offering RSS feeds.

There are currently 3 RSS news feeds for news, webcasts of public hearings and monthly "information notes" (which provide details of cases of particular legal interest plus some statistics).

The Court is an institution under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that was drawn up by the Council of Europe. The Court website has excellent information about its history, structure and procedures.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:50 pm 1 comments links to this post

This Week in the History of the Supreme Court of Canada

On Nov. 12, 1995, Emmett Matthew Hall, former puisne judge to the Supreme Court of Canada, died at the age of 96. He is considered by many to be the father of medicare, Canada's national universal health insurance system.

On this day, Nov. 13, 1992, Mr. Justice John Major was appointed puisne judge to the Supreme Court of Canada. He retired from the Court in late December, 2005.

He now heads the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182. In 1985, Air India Flight 182 was blown apart by a bomb off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 people on board. The vast majority of the victims were Canadian citizens from British Columbia and Ontario who were en route from Vancouver to India to visit relatives. It is the worst terrorist atrocity ever in Canadian history.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:33 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 12, 2007

Start of Inquiry Into Actions of Disgraced Pathologist

The long awaited judicial inquiry into the work of Dr. Charles Smith began today in Toronto.

In late April 2007, the chief coroner of Ontario published a report that concluded Smith, a former leading Ontario child pathologist, had botched at least 20 autopsies involving the deaths of children. The coroner's announcement cast doubt on 13 criminal convictions.

Courts have since then reviewed a number of convictions based on Smith's conclusions.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered new trials for Marco and Anisa Trotta, who were convicted in the death of their eight-month-old son. According to a unanimous court, fresh evidence discredits testimony given by Smith in their 1998 trial.

In October, the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted William Mullins-Johnson. He had spent 12 years in jail for first-degree murder in the death of his four-year-old niece. His conviction had been based on testimony from Smith in the 1994 trial.

There is additional background information as well as a live webcast of the hearings at the inquiry website.

"The Inquiry's mandate is to conduct a systemic review and an assessment of the policies, procedures, practices, accountability and oversight mechanisms, quality control measures and institutional arrangements of pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario from 1981 to 2001 as they relate to its practice and use in investigations and criminal proceedings. The Commissioner is to make recommendations to address systemic failings and restore and enhance public confidence in pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario. The Commissioner is to deliver his final Report and recommendations to the Attorney General no later than April 25, 2008".
Earlier Library Boy posts about miscarriages of justice/wrongful convictions include:

  • Wrongful Conviction Resources on the Web (December 19, 2005): "The LLRX.com website has just published a bibliography entitled Wrongful Conviction and Innocence Resources on the Internet. It is divided into sections on current awareness, 'innocence projects' (groups and research projects that help investigate cases of wrongful conviction), government commissions, case profiles and case databases, reports on wrongful conviction published by the government, academics, various organizations and the media in the United States, courses, conferences and organizations." The post mentions other Canadian resources
  • James Driskell Wrongful Conviction Report (February 16, 2007): "This week, the Manitoba Attorney General has released the report of the judicial commission of inquiry in the James Driskell case (...) Driskell was wrongfully convicted in 1991 of murder. That verdict was overturned in 2005 by the federal government, which launched a commission of inquiry into how this miscarriage of justice could have happened. Driskell spent 13 years in jail. The commission report concluded that police and Crown lawyers failed to disclose crucial evidence that could have prevented Driskell's wrongful conviction. The jury was also 'seriously misled' on issues including the reliability of a key Crown witness."
  • Wrongful Convictions Database at University of Texas Law Library (April 12, 2007) : "The Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas has created an Actual Innocence awareness database that covers the area of wrongful criminal convictions in the United States."
  • Wrongful Convictions: Public Inquiry Called Into Actions of Ontario Pathologist (April 24, 2007): "The chief coroner of Ontario revealed last week that Dr. Charles Smith, a former leading Ontario child pathologist, made mistakes in 20 cases involving the deaths of children. The announcement cast doubt on 13 criminal convictions (...) As a result of the chief coroner's report, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant announced yesterday that he is launching a public inquiry with powers of subpoena for people and documents. Cabinet will name a senior judge tomorrow to lead the inquiry."
  • Annual Report on Applications to Review Miscarriages of Justice (June 12, 2007): "'Under Canadian law, the Minister of Justice has the legal authority to review a criminal conviction on the basis that there may have been a miscarriage of justice (...) This is the fourth annual report and it covers the period April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006. Under the regulations, the Minister's annual report must address the following matters: the number of applications for ministerial review made to the Minister; the number of applications that have been abandoned or that are incomplete; the number of applications that are at the preliminary assessment stage; the number of decisions that the Minister has made; and any other information that the Minister considers appropriate."
  • 50 Years Later, Truscott Murder Conviction Deemed 'Miscarriage of Justice' (August 28, 2007): "Almost a half century after the events at the heart of the case, the Ontario Court of Appeal today acquitted Steven Truscott of murder in the death of Lynne Harper in Clinton, Ontario. Fresh forensic evidence surrounding the time of death of the victim helped Truscott's case. At age 14, Truscott was sentenced to hang in 1959 in what became one of the most famous and controversial trials in the Canadian history. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He was paroled after 10 years in federal penitentiary."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:53 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More Sources On Pakistan Coup d'État

This is a follow-up to the Library Boy post of November 6, 2007 entitled Blawgs to Follow News of Pakistan Coup d'Etat....

The Intute Social Sciences blog proposes a number of links about the repression of human rights and judicial and legal independence in Pakistan.

Intute is a free online service that selects Web resources for education and research. The service was created by a network of UK universities and partners.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:13 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, November 09, 2007

Library of Parliament Legislative Summary of Federal Omnibus Crime Bill

This is a follow-up to the October 18, 2007 Library Boy post entitled Canadian Government Tables Omnibus Crime Bill.

The Library of Parliament has prepared a legislative summary of Bill C-2: An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to Make Consequential Amendments to Other Acts:

"Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, was introduced and received first reading in the House of Commons on 18 October 2007. The bill – short title: Tackling Violent Crime Act – groups together five bills that had been dealt with separately in the first session of the 39th Parliament. The five broad categories of legislative measures will create two new firearm offences and provide escalating mandatory sentences of imprisonment for serious firearm offences, reverse the onus on those seeking bail when accused of serious offences involving firearms and other regulated weapons, make it easier to have someone declared a dangerous offender, introduce a new regime for the detection and investigation of drug-impaired driving and increase the penalties for impaired driving, and raise the age of consent for sexual activity from 14 to 16 years".

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

Comparison of Common Law in Canada, Australia and the US

Mark Leeming from the University of Sydney in Australia has published a text entitled Common Law Within Three Federations. It is available on the Social Science Research Network.

"The three oldest common law federations: Australia, Canada and the United States of America, have quite different conceptions of common law, and have applied quite different structural approaches to its development. In particular, each federation resolves the following two basal questions differently:
(a) Are there distinct bodies of subnational common law?
(b) Is there a distinct body of federal common law? "

"While the common law of California is unquestionably a distinct body of law, there is no distinct body of law known as the common law of British Columbia or the common law of Queensland. However, Canada mirrors the United States and differs from Australia in having a distinct body of federal common law, and while the North American bodies of federal common law are interstitial rather than general, they have the unexpected property of overriding subnational statutes".

"This paper describes those divergences, how they came about, and why these issues continue to matter. The key to the first question is the structure of appellate jurisdiction, but the paper seeks to demonstrate that there are subtler considerations informing the result. There is no short answer to the why and how federal common law evolved or failed to evolve, but similar considerations continue to influence litigation to this day, not merely in questions of construction and the role of precedent, but also in the articulation of new rights, defences and immunities arising from federal law".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:28 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 08, 2007

This Day in the History of the Supreme Court of Canada

These little historical items float around the Supreme Court of Canada building so I thought I would occasionally share a few of them with you.

On November 8, 1875, the first puisne judges (William Johnstone Ritchie, Samuel Henry Strong, Jean-Thomas Taschereau, Télesphore Fournier, and William Alexander Henry) were sworn in to the Supreme Court of Canada. Puisne refers to all the judges who are not the Chief Justice.

And on November 9, 1893, Justice Jean-Thomas Taschereau, one of the original five puisne judges to the Supreme Court of Canada, died at the age of 78.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Follow-Up to World's Silliest Laws and Weirdest Cases

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post entitled World's Silliest Laws and Weirdest Cases.

I also posted the item on slaw.ca, attracting a comment about a new book on Canadian legal oddities. According to the comment, Bob Tarantino has written a book called Under Arrest: Canadian Laws You Won't Believe.

Good to see the Brits have decided to share the weirdness with the rest of the world.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Supreme Court of Canada Library: New Titles

The list of new library titles added to the Supreme Court of Canada collection for the period of October 16th to 31st, 2007 is 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 9:30 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

World's Silliest Laws and Weirdest Cases

The British Broadcasting Corporation has a report about a survey to choose the most bizarre and ridiculous laws still on the books in the UK.

Some 4,000 people took part in the poll by the British television channel UKTV Gold.

Among the silliest laws, according to the vox populi (or is that vox dei?):
  • It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament
  • It could be regarded an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen's image upside-down
  • In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants
  • It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour

The Globe and Mail (Britain's stupidest statutes, Nov. 7, 2007) and The Telegraph (Don't die in parliament, says stupidest law, Nov. 6, 2007) have the complete list of the most bizarre statutes in the UK and internationally.

And to ensure that the fun never, ever ends, The Times has launched a regular new feature entitled Weird Cases by columnist Gary Slapper.

To kick things off, Slapper has selected "20 of his favourite bizarre disputes, prosecutions and lawsuits from the archive". His top choice for weirdest case: the one about a Wisconsin man who sued his TV company for making his wife fat and transforming his children into 'lazy channel surfers'.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Statistics Canada Study on Development of Delinquency

Statistics Canada has released a study entitled The Development of Police-reported Delinquency Among Canadian Youth Born in 1987 and 1990.

The data are drawn from police reports for 1995 to 2005 in six provinces representing about half of the population of Canada. This is the first large-scale developmental study of delinquency in Canada based on police-reported data.

The study wanted to answer some of the following questions:

  • How much recorded crime are Canadian youth responsible for? What are the predominant types of recorded youth crime?
  • What proportion of Canadian youth are involved in recorded crime?
  • How much recorded crime does an average young offender commit during his or her childhood and adolescence? Do some young offenders commit very little crime, and others commit a great deal?
  • At what age do young people commit their first recorded crime? Does the first recorded offence tend to be a certain type of crime?
  • Do young offenders tend to specialize in one type of crime, or are they typically versatile in their recorded criminal behaviour?
  • Do children and adolescents tend to "graduate" from less serious to more serious types of crime?

Some of the findings (from the "Summary and conclusions" section):

  • By their 18th birthday, just under one-fifth (18.5%) of all persons born in 1987 had been recorded by police as having committed a criminal offence: one-quarter of boys and one-eighth of girls. One in 11 boys had allegedly committed an offence against the person, one in six an offence against property, and one in ten an other offence. Thus, particularly in the case of boys, recorded delinquency is fairly widespread among the population;
  • The number of children and youth involved in recorded crime increases with each year of age from very few 5 year olds to a peak of one in every 17 persons at the age of 16;
  • The amount of recorded crime committed by most child and teenage offenders is quite small and concentrated among the less serious types of crime. The term “delinquent career” is rather a misnomer for almost two-thirds of offenders born in 1987 - 59% of boys and 76% of girls - had only one recorded offence during the observation period;
  • About one-quarter (24%) of the offences allegedly committed by these youth were minor thefts, and 15% were either minor property damage ("mischief"), possession of stolen property, or fraud. Nine percent were minor assaults and 10% were drug offences, almost all being simple possession of cannabis. However, almost one-fifth (18%) were very serious offences: robbery, assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, sexual assault, other offences against the person, break and enter, and major theft. No evidence was found that delinquent careers tend to progress from less to more serious offences;
  • The number of offenders whose first recorded offence was in childhood (12 years and younger) is very low, and rises rapidly during the teenage years. 11% of offenders were childhood-onset offenders. The peak age for recorded onset of offending is 15, when 3.7% of all persons born in 1987 began their delinquent careers: 4.8% of boys and 2.6% of girls. The peak age for boys is one year later at 16, when 4.9% began their delinquent careers.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:52 pm 0 comments links to this post