Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Access to Information Database Updated to April 2005

Syracuse University professor Alasdair Roberts has updated his http://track.foi.net, a searchable database of requests for information submitted to federal institutions under Canada's Access to Information Act(ATIA).

The database has now been updated to include 2447 requests logged in April 2005.

ATIA requests submitted by journalists and Members of Parliament are usually tagged by federal agencies for special attention, which may cause delay in the processing of requests.

In some agencies, these requests are said to be "amberlighted." Roberts produces a monthly Amberlight Monitor. The one for April 2005 lists 191 new ATIA requests from the media or Parliament marked for "special handling" - impress your friends, explain to them what the government is worried about letting the public know.

On that note, the Canadian Newspaper Association last week released the findings from the Freedom of Information audit, the first of its kind as reported in the Toronto Star. 89 reporters from 45 daily newspapers requested information from government offices across Canada in an effort to determine how well officials were following the laws that give the public the right to know.

The first requests were made in person and, if the reporters were so directed, by phone. If unsuccessful, these attempts were followed up by the reporters with the forms, fees and letters required by the access-to-information laws fo the jurisdiction in question (federal, provincial or municipal).

According to The Star, reporters "visited city halls, police forces, school boards and federal government offices across Canada to test how bureaucrats administer laws protecting the public's right to government information. They found a confusing patchwork of policies across the country. Officials handed over records to just one in every three requesters who came in person. The rest remained locked tight in government filing cabinets as applicants were told they had to file time-consuming — and often expensive — formal requests under provincial or federal access laws."

"Even when the reporters then filed formal access requests, only 62 per cent of applicants ultimately won at least partial release of the basic public information."

In one typical case, a Toronto woman worried about the state of local parks made an access request to city officials to find out about park maintenance budgets. She was told she would have to pay costs of $12,960 for access to records on playground repairs.

Here is a list of the test questions used in the audit:

City Hall:
  • When is the city going to repair (a street in my community)?
  • May I have a copy of the priority list for road-repair projects in (my city/town) for this year?
  • How many employees work for the municipality?
  • Can I get a full report of sick days in 2004 for all municipal workers, by department and day of week?

Law enforcement:

  • Number of public complaints filed against the local police service in 2004.
  • Number of officers placed on suspension (paid or unpaid) in 2004 and the reasons.
  • Number of sick days and amount of overtime logged by officers in 2004.

Public Health:

  • How many local restaurants violated or failed to comply with health and safety standards in 2004?
  • Provide a list of them, including all those charged or issued with warnings.
  • Is (name of a local restaurant) safe to eat in?
  • How many tests of drinking water in (this area/region) failed to meet provincial safety standards for drinking water?


  • What are the classroom sizes, grade by grade, at (name of a local school) as of Jan. 31?
  • How many incidents of violence and bullying have been reported at (the same local school) to the school board since the start of the 2004-2005 school year?
  • How does this compare to the average?

Federal departments:

  • How much did your department spend in the last budget year on sick leave and temporary personnel?
  • Please also state the number of employees and total payroll of your department
The conclusion of the audit: Canadians' right to know what governments are up to is being stifled by a "culture of secrecy".

And it is growing worse.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:53 pm 1 comments

Monday, May 30, 2005

Research on Legal and Economic Barriers to Immigrant Integration

Earlier this month, the Crown corporation Canadian Race Relations Foundation, in conjunction with the Centre for Scoial Justice, released the report Working Precariously.

The report concludes that immigrants and minorities suffer lower employment rates and income regardless of educational level, often because of discrimination as well as regulatory policies such as those that exclude foreign-trained professionals from their profession because of the non-recognition of their credentials in Canada.

In connection with this, another Crown agency, the Law Commission of Canada, today requested "proposals from interested individuals or teams to engage in community-based research to canvass the legal and policy barriers that might be impeding successful immigrant settlement and to identify the relevant program and policy implications, including the need for law reform".

Among the research questions the research project seeks to address are:

  1. What are some of the legal barriers, lacunae, and/or impediments that are hindering the best efforts of community organizations to help immigrants settle and integrate into Canadian society?
  2. What efforts are being made to address these issues?
  3. Are there examples of effective ways in which the law and government policies enable, facilitate and support programs and organizations for immigrant settlement?
  4. What changes are needed in both the law and social policy to assist immigrants to achieve prosperity in Canada?

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:25 pm 0 comments

Thursday, May 26, 2005

New Government Resources - First Ministers' Meetings

While looking into the debate about Canada's "fiscal imbalance", I came across a very interesting historic overview of the first ministers' meetings by the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat, going back to 1906.

The document covers more than 70 meetings and contains agendas, lists of First Ministers attending the meeting, any communiques or notes that resulted.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:31 pm 0 comments

New Government Resources - Great Lakes Environmental Report

Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have released Our Great Lakes, a public-friendly, plain-language report which outlines the major issues concerning the health of the Great Lakes.

The report addresses the safety of water for drinking and recreational activities, the edibility of fish, the health of fish, birds and wildlife, and the impact of non-native species.

And it calls the impact from non-native species the greatest threat to the Great Lakes in the 21st century.

There is also a brief "backgrounder" report (or FAQ) available.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:03 pm 0 comments

New Government Resources - Health

Health Canada launched a searchable online database that allows direct access to the latest reported adverse drug reactions as recorded in Health Canada's Canadian Adverse Drug Reaction Information System (CADRIS).

Before the launch of Health Canada's new online database, adverse reaction reports from CADRIS were available only by request, with a minimum wait time of two weeks.

The database can be searched by the name of the product or active ingredient, the date a report was received, patient age and gender, and the outcome of the adverse reaction.

As the CBC reports, "(T)he move comes 15 months after CBC News made a version of the database available online, following a five-year struggle with Health Canada to obtain the information in database format under Canada's federal Access to Information Act."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:39 pm 0 comments

More US Government Research Tools

I must be jinxed.

Everytime I get a reference question that requires me to search some obscure American government sources, I come across another wonderful article that could have helped me cut down on my time and effort.

LLRX.com has a new feature article on New Tools For Government Research.

The article covers:
  • Elegus : searches the text of US federal and state government web sites
  • Clusty Gov+: combines a metasearch of FirstGov, MSN limited to the ".gov" domain, DefenseLink, political news from Reuters, the Associated Press, and CNN, and a number of prominent American think tanks
  • FirstGov Directory of US government RSS feeds
  • Government Information Online: a virtual reference service specializing in answering questions about US government information, sponsored by the Illinois State Library, OCLC, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, with more than 30 government, academic and public libraries involved

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:53 pm 0 comments

Law Library Conference Materials Available Online

Materials from presentations at last week's 2005 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries are available online.

Topics include:

  • Cool Things I Am Doing in My Law Library: blogs and job swaps
  • Experiences with Chat Reference in the Legal Context
  • Electronic access to court records and privacy
  • Generations in the Workplace
  • Business Records Classification - Developing a Taxonomy for Information Management Lessons Learned in Libraries
  • Finding and Using European Union Resources
  • Marketing Success: Yours and Mine

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:47 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Upcoming Copyright Reform Article

Staying with the copyright theme, law prof Michael Geist writes on his website that the upcoming issue of the Literary Review of Canada includes an essay of his, The Upcoming Copyright Clash.

In it, Geist argues, among other things, for protecting the public domain, for the creation of a national digital library and for greater usage rights for content created by the CBC, Canada's public broadcaster.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:57 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Copyright Law Review 2004

A comprehensive paper by Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP lawyers reviews legislative and case law developments during 2004.

Entitled Canadian Copyright, Design and Related Legislation and Jurisprudence – 2004, it was originally prepared for the Law Society of Upper Canada’s continuing legal education program 9th Annual Intellectual Property Law: The Year in Review.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:21 pm 0 comments

File Swapping Copyright Law Update

On May 19th, the Federal Court of Appeal released its decision in the so-called "file swapping" case in BMG Canada Inc. v. Doe. The decision is available online on the court's website.

Ted Tjaden of the Copyright Committee of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries has provided some analysis.

In a message to the CALL listserv, Tjaden writes:

"The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the motion by the plaintiffs (various record producers represented by the CRIA). The CRIA had sought an order from the trial court for the service providers to release the names of 29 'John Does' who they allege were major 'file-swappers' on services such as Kazaa (by 'major', the plaintiffs were alleging over 1,000 songs per defendant were being downloaded)."

"One of the main reasons for their defeat at both trial and on appeal appears to have been because of the inadequate affidavit evidence they provided regarding the alleged infringement and because of the delay in bringing the claim (the fear being that the evidence was stale and might result in the incorrect people being identified). The appeal was dismissed, though, without prejudice to the right of the CRIA to bring another motion for the order sought with better evidence. The appeal court specifically did not comment on issues of whether file-swapping was per se copyright infringement."


The lower court found:

"There was no evidence of copyright infringement. In particular, the downloading of a song for personal use does not amount to infringement ... and there was no evidence that 'the alleged infringers either distributed or authorized the reproduction of sound recordings' but that they 'merely placed personal copies into their shared directories which were accessible by other computer user via a P2P service..."

"There is not 'a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service since 'in either case the preconditions to copying and infringement are set up but the element of authorization is missing'..."

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that:

"There were legitimate conflicting interests between the concern of record producers about potential copyright infringement versus the privacy concerns of Internet users and ISPs (paras. 1-5)."

"(I)f the plaintiff delays between the time of its investigation of alleged infringement and the time it seeks an order for disclosure of the identities of the defendants, the court might refuse an order for disclosure since there is a risk that the information used to identify the alleged infringers is inaccurate (para. 43) In addition, the plaintiffs must limit their request to only information dealing with copyright infringement..."

"If private information irrelevant to the copyright issues is extracted, and disclosure of the user's identity is made, the recipient of the information may then be in possession of highly confidential information about the user. If this information is unrelated to copyright infringement, this would be an unjustified intrusion into the rights of the user and might well amount to a breach of PIPEDA by the ISPs, leaving them open to prosecution.(para. 44)"

The copyright committee page of the CALL website will be updated with a full analysis of the case in the next few days.

The CIPPIC website (Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa) has links to various news reports and commentary.

David Fewer of CIPPIC is quoted extensively in an online article on the P2PNet digital media news site.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:59 pm 0 comments

Monday, May 23, 2005

Guide to U.S. Dockets Research

A new article on LLRX.com describes the many unique features of the growing number of online docket search tools and websites for tracking and monitoring active cases in the American courts.

It covers: Courtlink, PACER, WestDockets, Mealey's, Andrews, Court Express and others.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:01 pm 0 comments

Follow-Up to Government Anti-Spam Task Force Report

This is a follow-up to an earlier post about last week's release of a Canadian government report on how to combat spam.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, a member of the Task Force, has published his own comments on his website.

Geist argues that the recommendation to set up a new anti-spam law with an opt-in system is the key to the report. An opt-in system in a spam specific law will take the pressure off the current national privacy statute, which is ill-equipped to deal with serious spam issues since it does not provide the Privacy Commissioner with the ability to levy tough penalties or exercise order making powers.

As well, a new central co-ordinating body would also keep private sector parties accountable by issuing regular public reports and assist the public by establishing education programs and a central complaints mechanism.

Other comments on the spam issue:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:49 pm 0 comments

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Library "Pearls of Wisdom"

The Toronto chapter of CASLIS (Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services) held its annual general meeting May 18.

Since the event marked the 30th or "pearl anniversary" of the chapter, the executive invited prominent members from the past and present to share some of their "pearls of wisdom" for doing well professionally and more generally.

Here is a summary of some of the advice offered:

Mary Cordeiro, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto:
  • Long-standing association members should spare a though for people who are new to professional organizations, who’ve taken the big step to come out to their first meeting, and they should extend an invitation to newbies to come visit their workplace
  • As for newcomers, they have the responsibility to take the first step and mingle. Even better, they should bring a friend to their first meeting and mingle separately so they can share contacts

Rick Sage, Ontario Legislative Library:

  • if you volunteer, do your best and don’t complain
  • remember, “service not servitude”: insist on reciprocity in the workplace, on being treated as a professional, so don’t be afraid to probe and to question your clients: this will avoid wasting time and producing crap
  • and if you’re going to disagree with your boss, do not do it in public

Jane Maxwell, Micromedia:

  • whether it is welcome or not, foreseen or not, change is going to happen at all levels so accept it and grow
  • what doesn’t change are professional organizations that remain forums to exchange information, vent frustrations, laugh, network and learn new things

Greg Barber, Rotman School of Management:

  • it is important to cultivate the habit of optimism, not just in our professional lives but generally
  • we need to see the good in what we’ve done, in where we are and where we’re going – medical research in fact suggests that the optimists live longer

Susan Morley, Canadian Standards Association:

  • embrace variety: she has worked for the same employer for 26 years, in which time she started a library database in DOS, created departmental web pages when HTML first became popular, implemented a SAP purchasing system, redesigned web sites and became involved in competitive intelligence
  • it is important to stretch beyond one’s day-to-day responsibilities through projects, professional development activities and/or involvement in associations
  • all of this can lead you down a serendipitous path of discovery

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:52 pm 0 comments

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Canada Releases Spam Report

Earlier this week, the federal government Task Force on how to combat spam issued its report.

The Task Force was made up of industry, government and consumer representatives, and studied the problem for one year.

It found that while Canada has laws that prohibit specific aspects of spam, these laws are insufficient to achieve the overall goal of deterring spammers in Canada.

The group concluded that a specific anti-spam law is needed, prohibiting e-mail marketers from sending messages to consumers without consent. In addition, it recommended new powers for consumers to sue spammers, more resources for government agencies responsible for fighting spam, and greater international cooperation to track down and stop spammers.

CIPPIC (the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa) has produced a very good and thorough FAQ on spam. The FAQ includes definitions, links to anti-spam organizations and reports, explanations of what industry and governments are doing, as well as legislation and directives from many jurisdictions around the world.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:02 pm 0 comments

SLA 2005 Conference Blog Up and Running

The 2005 SLA conference will be taking place in Toronto June 5-8 and a conference blog has been set up.

Everyone and anyone can post.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:03 pm 0 comments

More Labour Policy Stuff - HRSDC Releases Study of Work-Life Balance Legislation

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has released an overview of work-life balance legislation, policies and programs from developed countries around the world.

Improving Work-Life Balance - What are other countries doing? describes government initiatives in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

The document includes a great series of Web links and document titles for further reading.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:44 pm 0 comments

Ontario Consultation on Work-Family Balance

Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission launched a consultation process with the release of a new discussion paper, Human Rights & the Family in Ontario.

The paper considers the current definition of "family status" in the Ontario Human Rights Code. In the section related to employment issues, the document asks what more can be done by governments and employers to assist workers to balance work and family duties, and raises the issues of duty to accommodate, systemic barriers, negative attitudes and stereotypes, as well as pensions and benefits.

Interested organizations, advocates, researchers and individuals who wish to respond in detail may make written submissions based on issues and questions raised in the Discussion Paper until July 22nd, 2005.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:35 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Story About E-mail Overload Being Like Dope Smoking is Junk Science

The widely reported story last month of a study showing that information overload and the constant interruptions many suffer because of e-mail and other forms of electronic communciation had the same negative effects on intelligence as heavy marijuana smoking has been sparking lots of discussion about corporate manipulation and junk science.

The blog Mind Hacks contains a good dissection of the controversy and links to other sources that criticized the study.

The author's wise conclusion about the whole thing:

"Although this may have been a triumph for the marketing professionals, it has come at the price of misleading many people about the effects of communication technology on the mind and brain. Nevertheless, the advice that the distracting effects of technology are best tackled by switching off is probably sound. It applies equally well to corporate spin."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:48 pm 1 comments

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Rise of Legal Research Firms in Canada

An article in the May 13 edition of The Lawyers Weekly (print only) documents the emergence in Canada of firms offering professional legal research, writing and analysis to small law firms and solo practitioners who can't afford in-house research teams (or library staff).

The article, "Legal research firms could bridge gap between haves and have-nots" (p.6) profiles one firm in particular, Vancouver's OnPoint Legal Research Law Corp. It also mentions Calgary-based Bottom Line Research & Communications.

Legal observers explain that their appearance on the scene is part of the larger trend for many small- and medium-sized firms to outsource their research.

While there used to be freelancers who would offer their services, a number of forces have converged to "make the timing right" for the launch of specialized legal research firms: "more people with legal training now desire the flexibility of working as a researcher and a scarcity of positions in firms means more lawyers are willing to take on research roles."

For a more general examination of the rise of the "research lawyer" within law firms and of the potential for independent research firms, take a look at the article Research and rescue in the October 2004 issue of National, the Canadian Bar Association magazine.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:36 pm 0 comments

Dogpile Metasearch Displays Results Overlap

According to Search Engine Watch, the metasearch engine Dogpile has "introduced a nifty new utility that visually displays the overlap (or lack thereof) of results from the multiple search engines it queries".

As the article explains, "(B)y comparing results side-by-side, it quickly becomes apparent that each search engine has its own unique view of the web. If you rely on a single source for search results, you're often missing a significant chunk of the web..."

The article also refers to a Dogpile study of search results overlap between the search engines from Ask Jeeves, Google and Yahoo. Out of more than 10,000 sample queries, 86% returned a different #1 ranked algorithmic result in each search engine, and 32% of these queries did not return any overlapping results in the top three algorithmic positions in each engine.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:24 pm 0 comments

UK Info Association RSS Feed

The UK-based CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, has introduced an RSS feed to keep members of the library and information professions on the other side of the pond informed of association activities.

I'm still not sure why Canadian Library Associations aren't doing this.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:13 pm 0 comments

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Employers Need to Define Corporate Blogging Policies

In recent months, employers such as Google, Nunavut Tourism, Starbucks, the U.S. Senate and the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre have all supposedly fired employees for "inappropriate" blogging.

An article by Jason Young in the April 2005 issue of the newsletter Internet and E-Commerce Law in Canada explores how workplaces should deal with the proliferation of blogs in order to avoid conflict situations. A summary of the article is available through Bar-eX, the Law Society of Upper Canada's current awareness service.

Young proposes a number of guidelines that could help define a blogging policy:
  • stipulate compliance with any existing employee code of conduct
  • suggest using a disclaimer that a blogger's views are his or her own
  • include a restatement of any existing corporate confidentiality and non-disclosure requirements
  • stipulate that bloggers must not let their blogging interfere with their work commitments

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:13 pm 0 comments

Metadata in Word Documents Can be a Legal Minefield

A recent article by Donald B. Johnston, leader of the Technology Practice at Aird & Berlis LLP, explains the many problems that can be caused by the metadata contained in Word documents. The article appears in the April 2005 issue of Privacy Pages, the newsletter of the Canadian Bar Association's National Privacy and Access Law Section.

Typical metadata in Word documents can include:
  • names of authors
  • routing slips
  • version references
  • highlighted changes to a document
  • hidden text
  • comments
  • personal information
The author discusses the professional ethical and risk management dilemmas to which metadata may give rise: "Could it be that Law Society regulations prohibit lawyers from taking advantage of another lawyer's lack of sophistication or of another lawyer's error, where that error is to divulge privileged or confidential information via metadata? In other words, if a non-tech-savvy lawyer e-mails a contract, and if that contract contains hidden text or comments or track changes that give away his or her client's negotiating tactics or position, or the client's questions or comments, is there an obligation on the part of the recipient lawyer to avoid opening the document?"

To avoid these situations, the article proposes a number of ways to reduce the transmission of damaging metadata.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:58 pm 0 comments

2004 Law Society of Upper Canada Annual Report

Yesterday, the Law Society tabled its annual report.

If you work in a law library in Ontario and want a good overview of what the people you work for are doing and thinking, the report is full of good information.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:27 pm 0 comments

Happy Birthday: Hansard Turns 125!

We'll ignore for the moment the fact that the Canadian parliament has degenerated into a totally dysfunctional playpen. Or is it the Northern version of Animal House? Or X-Treme Wrestling? Never mind.

Let's celebrate something happy about all those wonderful folks in Ottawa: starting in early May and throughout 2005, the personnel of the House of Commons will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the official reporting branch of Parliament, the people who put together the debate volumes known as Hansard.

My math isn't perfect but I thought Canada was created in 1867, or more than 125 years ago...

In the decades following 1867, various attempts were made to record parliamentary debates, including contract reporting and a compilation of newspaper reports prepared by journalists, known as "scrapbook Hansards". These methods gave rise to complaints and the need to establish an unbiased and independent official reporting branch.

So in May 1880 the House of Commons put in place a reporting branch as part of the service to the Chamber and its committees.

In related news, Canadiana.org, (formerly known as the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions) announced in its April 2005 bulletin that it will be cooperating with the Library of Parliament to digitize the approximately 6,500 pages of the House of Commons Reconstituted Debates and the Senate Reconstituted Debates of early Confederation. Canadiana.org will make the images available for free on the Early Canadian Online website:

"(I)n the early years of the newly formed dominion of Canada, no official parliamentary debates were published. Instead, debates were published unofficially in newspapers such as the Toronto Globe and the Ottawa Times. Many years ago, Library of Parliament staff clipped these newspaper debates and pasted them into scrapbooks (hence their name "Scrapbook Debates")... In the 1960s and 1970s, with the goal of making these Scrapbook Debates more accessible, the Library undertook the painstaking task of editing and publishing them in book format. These
published volumes (known as the Reconstituted Debates) have gone a long way towards increasing the accessibility of these debates."

It is this material that will be digitized.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:07 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Yahoo! Finance Adds Corporate Governance Info

Company profile pages in Yahoo! Finance now have an added feature: a Corporate Governance Quotient provided by Institutional Shareholder Services.

According to Yahoo! Finance, the Quotient system provides rankings on more than 7,500 companies worldwide, based on "underlying data points for up to 61 corporate governance variables, categorized under eight areas of focus: 1) board of directors, 2) audit, 3) charter and bylaw provisions, 4) anti-takeover provisions, 5) executive and director compensation, 6) progressive practices, 7) ownership, 8) director education".

So far, most of the rankings are for U.S.-based companies (more than 5,500 out of the 7,500). It will be interesting to watch how many Canadian companies are added to the list.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:43 pm 0 comments

Trends in Critical IT Issues 2000-2005

Educause Quarterly, a journal about the management of information resources and technology in higher education, launched its annual Current Issues Survey in 2000 by asking representatives of its member institutions to identify critical IT issues in response to each of four questions about IT in the higher education sector.

This year, the journal synthesizes six years’ worth of trends. It is interesting to see which issues have remained, which have grown less and which more important since the beginning of the decade.

Many of the issues and concerns raised apply outside the academic environment. As for the top ten current issues for 2005, according to the article, they are:

  • Funding IT
  • Security and Identity Management
  • Administrative/ERP/Information Systems
  • Strategic Planning for IT
  • Infrastructure Management for IT
  • Faculty Development, Support, and Training
  • E-learning/Distributed Teaching and Learning
  • Governance, Organization, and Leadership for IT
  • Enterprise-Level Portals
  • Web Systems and Services

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:21 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Confessions of an Encyclopedia-Lover

"Looking something up" in an encyclopedia or some other reference volume is considered a legitimate activity.

But no one admits they read them. Certainly not for pleasure.

Except Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Ed.

You can read his confession in the article Information, Please: "I suspect the image of an adult habitually meandering through the pages of an encyclopedia carries a degree of stigma. There is a hint of regression about it — if not all the way back to childhood, at least to preadolescent nerdishness".

This is pure coincidence, but there's a hilarious book I just started reading, The Know-It-All : One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs.

It is a memoir of Jacobs' project to spend a year reading every volume in the Encyclopedia Britannica to fill in the gaps of his education and become the "smartest person in the world."

Or at least accumulate huge quantities of oddball trivia to insert into conversations. Like who knew Descartes had a thing for cross-eyed women?

Of course, everyone around him starts thinking he's either weird and neurotic, a bore, or losing his mind.

Confession: as a teenager, I was on my high school's scholastic quiz team for a Radio-Canada TV show called "Génies en herbe" (Budding Geniuses), the French equivalent of the famous show Reach for the Top. My team, Collège Notre-Dame, became national champions the year I was a member. How did we prepare? Our coach, the Latin and German teacher, would lock us up every late afternoon in a room in the school library with piles of encyclopedias, in particular the Universalis (the French Encylopedia Britannica), and have us read. And read. And read.

We became very good at the quiz thing. But also very nerdy and neurotic and edgy from cabin fever. We were teenagers and could see our schoolmates through the window playing soccer and dodge ball and chatting with the cute girls from that private school nearby.

But, hey, I still know what year the first workers' credit union was founded in Belgium. And who introduced the potato to Europe. And why French fries are actually from Holland. And lots of other utterly useless trivia.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:31 pm 1 comments

Monday, May 09, 2005

Canadian Statistics Site Redesign

According to the Infodep listserv (discussion list for and about the Canadian Depository Services Program), Statistics Canada just announced the redesign of Canadian Statistics, a free "selection of summary tables provid[ing] an overview of statistical information on Canada’s people, economy and governments."

The topics range from abortion to waste disposal and everything in between.

The redesigned site includes a better search engine, browsable alphabetical and subject indexes, indexes by province or metropolitan area, recommendations of related tables, and tools for printing and adjusting font sizes.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:33 pm 0 comments

CLA Teleconference on Copyright with Michael Geist

The Canadian Library Association is organizing a teleconference on May 24 entitled Canada's Choice: Copyright, Culture and the Internet. The teleconference will feature Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa and columnist on technology law issues for the Toronto Star.

Fees Member: $79.99 Non-member: $99.99

Registration information is available on the CLA website linked to above.

According to the promo from the CLA's Continuing Professional Development service:

"Professor Geist will examine the evolution of Canadian copyright and cultural policy, identifying the gradual escalation of rights and the warning signs of a dramatic shift in the copyright balance."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:24 pm 0 comments

New Real Time Virtual Reference Service for Ontario Lawyers

LibraryCo will soon establish a real time virtual reference service for Ontario lawyers, thanks to generous funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Using chat technology, law librarians in Ontario's county and district law libraries will be able to engage in real time online reference interviews with lawyers across the province.

This initiative will be the first of its kind to emanate from courthouse libraries in Canada.

The Law Society of Upper Canada's Great Library has been offering e-reference since 2002. Members of the Law Society of Upper Canada can get answers to basic questions using an online form but the service is not based on chat software.

LibraryCo brings together the 48 County and District Law Libraries of Ontario into a cooperatively operating province-wide law library system.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:13 pm 1 comments

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Developing a Law Firm Taxonomy

Canadian law librarian blogger Connie Crosby refers to an article in Modern Law on Findlaw "Developing a Global Law Firm Taxonomy, Inside-Out" by Jason Marty.

"In the course of our project, we had the opportunity to speak with and read about other firms that have attempted similar taxonomy projects, usually as part of a global knowledge management initiative. We were impressed with some of the successes at other firms, and paid equal attention to problems they have encountered. We were interested to note that for some firms, the difficulties a global taxonomy project entails are causing them to focus more energy on other aspects of content management - search, information architecture and workflow".

"A global law firm taxonomy though, if accepted and adopted, can provide tremendous benefits to working lawyers, not only by helping them find needed content, but also by helping organize activities and content development efforts. The following is a comparison of two approaches-what our Firm terms as 'Outside-In' and 'Inside-Out', and an argument that developing a global law firm taxonomy from the 'Inside-Out' is more likely to produce a taxonomy that works well for the lawyers in a global firm."

Some of the lessons learned at the firm of Baker & McKenzie, whose experiences the article describes, include:
  • Start with groups who must or wish to work together
  • Develop the taxonomy with the lawyers
  • Establish basic principles and guidelines
  • Adjust as you go
  • The project does not end

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:25 pm 0 comments

Guide to the U.S. Federal Court System

I don't often have to navigate through the U.S. court system but I've always thought having a handy guide would help, given the huge differences between the Canadian and American justice systems.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the judicial branch of the American government, has prepared a Journalist's Guide to the U.S. Courts.

It is intended for reporters but the information will be useful to anyone who needs to figure out who does what South of the border when it comes to federal courts.

The Guide covers federal district courts, bankruptcy courts and federal appellate courts.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:10 pm 0 comments

Copernic Beats Competitors for Best Desktop Search Tool

I've been toying around with desktop search for a little while. I am a very messy person, whether in real life or in the digital realm of computer files so any tool that can help me find my stuff is a good thing.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's e-Business Consortium concludes that the Copernic desktop search is better than 11 other desktop search vendors. The study found Copernic's software to be the most well-balanced tool among those evaluated, ranking it above MSN Toolbar Suite, Google Desktop, Yahoo Desktop Search, Wizetech Archivarius 3000, Ask Jeeves, Enfish Professional, ISYS Desktop, dtSearch Desktop, diskMETA Pro, Blinkx, and HotBot Desktop.

Evaluation criteria included usability, versatility, accuracy, efficiency security and "entreprise readiness".

Copernic is a little Québécois company that dreamed big and beat the Yanks. Bien joué.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:56 pm 0 comments

Many Research Sites Win Webby Awards

The beSpacific blog draws attention to the many research-oriented websites that were recognized by the Webby Awards this year.

The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence in Web design, creativity, usability and functionality. Established in 1996 during the web's infancy, the Webbys are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 500-member body of leading web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:48 pm 0 comments

Legal Information Institutes Around the World

The most recent issue of the Canadian Law Library Review (v.30 no. 1) - not available online - contains a number of very detailed articles about the role and history of "legal information institutes" and their use of Web technologies to disseminate legal materials to the general citizenry.

These institutes, CANLII, Legal Information Institute, Australian Legal Information Institute, British & Irish Legal Information Institute, World Legal Information Institute, Droit francophone , among others, all share the philosophy that public legal information from all countries and international institutions is part of the "common heritage of humanity" and should be seen as "digital common property".

The main articles are:
  • The development of the Legal Information Institutes around the world
  • Responding to the fragmentation of International Law - WorldLII's International Courts and Tribunals Project
  • Les défis de la publication de la jurisprudence et le modèle d'opération de IIJCan/CanLII (The challenges of legal publishing and the CanLII operating model)
Most law libraries will no doubt have a subscription to the review.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:28 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Grand Opening of Québec's Grande Bibliothèque

I was one of the close to twenty thousand people who lined up over the weekend in the rain to visit the new Grande Bibliothèque megalibrary in Montreal's famous bohemian Latin Quarter.

The Grande Bibliothèque (Great Library) combines the collections of Quebec's National Library with those of the old central library of the City of Montreal. The National Library, or Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, is the legal depository of all works created in the province and the repository of Quebec's patrimonial collections going back to the 1760s.

This combination of a central public lending library and "national" historical and research library is quite unique. About half the collection will be available for lending. Rare, historical and government document collections will have to be consulted on location, but everyone will have access nonetheless. This open stack concept for even the rare document collections was quite a surprise to some of the official European delegates who were invited for the occasion.

The new GB collection includes 1.2 million books, 1.2 million periodicals, newspapers, DVDs, CD-ROMs, videocassettes, 1.6 million microforms... The provincially funded project cost $97.6-million to build and another $44-million to stock and equip.

The monument lifts Montreal into the growing list of cities, from Seattle and Vancouver to Paris, that have made large central libraries central elements of urban redesign and cultural investment.

The Grande Bibliothèque building itself is a modernist delight covered in glacier-green polished glass on the outside, bathing two huge wood-panelled interior chambers in natural light. Well, OK, some people have called it yukky hospital-green, but everyone who has visited the new digs has fallen in love with the spacious light-filled interior spread over 6 levels surrounding a central stairwell. Open spaces, and inviting open vistas in many directions welcome the visitor.

The official inauguration of this major public cultural investment was held Friday night in front of the literati, glitterati, and local politicians and foreign friends.

But the weekend belonged to we of the great unwashed who came en masse to roam freely through the new facilities, listen to concerts by members of the Music Conservatory, be entertained by roving poets and other cultural "animateurs", check out the comfy chairs, chat up the many cute and friendly librarians on hand, watch movies on the "making of the Grande Bibliothèque", sit in on live radio cultural talk shows, and just sniff around the new "people's library".

Everyone is hoping that the opening of the new megalibrary, with its province-wide mandate, will help spur reading in Quebec.

As the Globe and Mail reported last Friday, "The library is earning kudos in a city that takes culture seriously, yet hasn't built a major public project related to culture since the early 1990s. Still, the nagging question is whether one grand monument will help create a province of book lovers".

"Public libraries across the province stock 2.5 books for each Quebec user, compared with three in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Quebeckers borrow 5.9 library books a year compared with 10.1 in the other three provinces. Quebec has about one-quarter the number of librarians in its public system that Ontario does".

"The poor showing is often called a legacy of the Catholic Church; according to popular lore, when advocates obtained a $150,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for a new Montreal library in the early 1900s, church authorities forced them to refuse it".

" 'For the Catholic Church, books were very dangerous,' said Réjean Savard, a professor of library sciences at the University of Montreal. 'The truth wasn't supposed to be found in books, but in the priest. So the church blocked libraries' development. You can understand why we're behind today'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:22 pm 1 comments

May Issue of Info Career Trends Newsletter

The latest issue of Info Career Trends is now online. The issue is also available in text format.

  • Editor's Note
    Introduces the issue, talks about ways of building our path, call for contributors, mention of editor's availability as writer and speaker.
  • Career Q&A
    Career Q&A from The Library Career People - today's topics: job hopping and holding out for the perfect job offer.
  • The Long Road Home
    Denise Sharp explains how she has charted her library career through a combination of volunteering, education, and networking - as well as the willingness to do just about anything!
  • Unexpectedly Unemployed
    Tanzi Merritt gives tips on overcoming unexpected unemployment and making the most of an unfortunate situation.
  • Personal Interests and Organizational Needs: A Balancing Act
    Sally Gibson discusses ways to create a fulfilling career by balancing your personal needs and interests with the needs of your institution.
  • The Path Never Intended
    Chrissie Anderson Peters talks about her circuitous path to librarianship and how the road never intended can turn out to be the path that is meant to be.
  • What's Online? Recommended Resources
    Links to sites and articles on different facets of charting a library career path.
  • Book Review
    Our Own Selves: More Meditations for Librarians, reviewed by Jessamyn West.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:59 pm 0 comments

Library Job Postings Site Celebrates 10th Anniversary

On May 1st, 2005, Library Job Postings on the Internet celebrated its 10th anniversary of serving the library community with an annotated meta-index to job postings from around North America and abroad. At the time of its creation in May 1995, it was the first online guide to library job postings.

To mark the occasion, the site editors will be giving free copies of The Information Professional's Guide to Career Development Online to two randomly selected people who write in during the month of May with comments on how the site has helped them.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:52 pm 0 comments

Monday, May 02, 2005

Using Blogs and the Net to Influence the Court of Public Opinion

The Saturday Toronto Star discusses the rise of "cyber-defence specialists", media-savvy defence lawyers, crisis management communications experts and PR spinmeisters who try to sway public opinion and potential jurors by disseminating their message through the Internet.


"The old paradigm went something like this ... : Prosecutorial spin begins with a 'perp' walk where the defendant is paraded before media cameras. This is typically followed by 'salacious' announcements by law enforcement. To counter that, the defendant's attorney would then say something hackneyed like 'The truth of my client's innocence will emerge in court.'

But with the Internet, things have gotten a lot more sophisticated... it means putting a human face to the prisoners, with shots and video of their families, links to sympathetic media stories and using the right key words to bring visitors to their site in an Internet search. This means scouring the news daily for articles that might tie in to their case in a sympathetic way, and placing links in Internet search engines, so that readers scouring the Web might be tempted to click on and find out more."

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, who writes the Law Bytes column for the Star, comments in the article on the more conservative, less flamboyant, less celebrity-driven legal culture in Canada.

But even Geist sees changes on the horizon: "Likely we will see increasing use of the Internet to promote a particular position by lawyers. This is something that's already pretty common: Lawyers already use the mainstream media, but it just makes sense that the community will continue to move to where public opinion is shaped."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:39 pm 0 comments

EISIL International Law Resource in Private Practice

I came across a recently published article on LLRX.com on how private law firms can use the free resource EISIL, the Electronic Information System for International Law.

Interesting coincidence, because a few days before the article appeared, I had come across EISIL by sheer luck in my hunt for background info on how to serve documents in a foreign jurisdiction.

As the LLRX. com article author writes, EISIL is "designed for anyone – from the international law novice to the expert – who needs to do international legal research. EISIL covers topics across the breadth of international law – including several topics that are particularly relevant for private practice..."

The great value of the collection lies in its selectivity and in the descriptive annotations that accompany each resource.

EISIL topics that can be useful for private firms include:

  • International Economic Law – trade, investment regulation, competition, tax
  • Private International Law – family and adoption, international judicial assistance, judgment enforcement
  • International Dispute Settlement – including arbitration, mediation and conciliation

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:27 pm 0 comments

Law Firms Turning to Business Intelligence Software to Gain Clients

Today's Globe and Mail has a report on the increasing use of business intelligence software by Canadian law firms.


"The technology gathers information from a variety of databases containing financial, marketing, staffing and other information. It then allows individual lawyers to slice and dice the data in various ways."

"Some large firms are even using business intelligence to devise a variety of staffing models -- blending the work of lower-priced associates and even paralegals with that of senior partners for the most efficient mix -- thereby enabling them to bid on contracts they might have dismissed as unprofitable."

"...law firms have only recently jumped into the fray, in part because systems tailored to their businesses only recently became available. Large Canadian firms that are currently implementing systems, but have yet to roll them out, include Toronto-based Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP as well as Calgary-based Macleod Dixon LLP."

Among the software makers that have shown interest in the legal industry are: Thomson Elite and Atlanta-based Aderant, Redwood Analytics Inc. of Moorestown, N.J., and Satori Group Inc. of Conshohocken, Pa.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:19 pm 0 comments

Donald Trump's Reality TV vs. the Law

Many (most?) people have either watched the reality TV hit The Apprentice or at least heard of the show where individuals compete for the prize of becoming the "apprentice" of American über-capitalist Donald Trump.

In every episode, one unfortunate candidate gets terminated in front of everyone else with the now famous phrase "You're fired" accompanied by Trump's signature dismissive hand gesture.

KWA Partners, a human resources management firm, recently distributed an article from Canadian HR Reporter that outlines Trump's many many termination mistakes that are not only callous, but violate numerous Canadian laws and open an employer to massive damages.

TV... meet reality.


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:06 pm 0 comments