Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lawyers in Literature and Film

How the law and lawyers are portrayed in literature and film is the theme of the 6th Colloquium on Legal Professionalism on March 10 at the University of Toronto Law Faculty.

The event is organized by the Chief Justice of Ontario's Advisory Committee on Professionalism.

The program will tackle topics such as:
  • Law, Lawyers and Judges in Film: The Lawyer as Anti-Hero; Images of Professionalism in Film; (In)visibility of the Courtroom in Film
  • Law, Lawyers and Judges in Literature: "A panel of judges and lawyers, lead by a professor of literature, will discuss the books of law and literature that matter to them and consider what lessons these books offer about professionalism, how the law is practised, and how it ought to be practised"
  • When the Lawyers Knows the Client is Guilty - Legal Ethics and Popular Culture
  • The Courtroom as Theatre, the Judgment as Literature: "Do the methods and practices of literature have anything to offer the profession and the practice of law in the boardroom or in the courtroom? What can literature, practically speaking, offer the law?"

UCLA School of Law Professor Michael Asimow, author of Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies, will give the keynote presentation.

The papers from the previous colloquia are available online.

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:30 pm 0 comments

ScanLII - Pre-1985 Supreme Court Decisions on the Internet

The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII), the non-profit organization that makes Canadian law accessible for free on the Internet, has been scanning pre-1985 Supreme Court of Canada judgments as part of its digitization project to make them available for free on its website. The project is called ScanLII.

200 decisions prior to 1985 have been made available so far and more will be added as the project progresses. On the CanLII Supreme Court page, the early decisions from 1976 to 1984 can be found near the bottom under "Access by Decision Date".

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:16 pm 0 comments

Monday, February 27, 2006

Marshall Rothstein's Supreme Court Nomination Hearing

Federal Court Justice Marshall Rothstein was the first Supreme Court of Canada candidate in history to face public questioning from a panel of parliamentarians earlier today.

It was live on TV. Those who missed the hearings can watch major video excerpts on the CTV website (go to "Video" in the right-hand navigation).

The cooperative Canadian legal blog Slaw has put together The Marshall Rothstein Pages that include background on the selection process, the ad hoc parliamentary committee that questioned him, his judgments, and news stories.

The Toronto Star convened a panel of legal experts offering analysis of the proceedings. The experts were Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, Philip Girard, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies & Research at Dalhousie Law School, and Lorne Sossin, associate dean at the University of Toronto faculty of law.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist offered his analysis of Rothstein's lengthy record on patent, copyright, and trademark matters.

And if you want to have a look at what the blogosphere has to say about the issue:


Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:23 pm 0 comments

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Whistleblowing Resources - International

This is a follow-up to the post from earlier today Whistleblowing Resources that focussed on Canadian material.

United States:

  • At the federal and state levels, there are dozens of laws protecting whistleblowers. The first U.S. federal law seems to be the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that protected workers denouncing illegal labour practices. Since that day, 50-plus federal whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws exist, and environmental, labour, occupational health and civil rights laws have been amended to incorporate whistleblower protections
  • False Claims Act: in 1986, the American Congress added anti-retaliation protections to the False Claims Act. These provisions, which did not exist previously, are contained in 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3730(h): "Any employee who is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer because of lawful acts done by the employee on behalf of his employer or others in furtherance of an action under this section, including investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or assistance in an action filed or to be filed under this section, shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole"
  • Whistleblowers Protection Act: this is the most significant American federal statute aimed at protecting federal whistleblowers. It covers civil service employees (it does not apply to uniformed military, employees at intelligence agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, government contractors). It allows employees to seek intervention by an outside independent agency, the Office of Special Counsel; access to an administrative legal proceeding to hear their case at the Merit Systems Protection Board; and, ultimately, access to the court to hear appeals to the case
  • Government Accountability Project: anindependent not-for-profit NGO that helps public servants blow the whistle, the GAP tracks legislation as well as news in a number of topic areas
  • State Whistleblower Laws (National Conference of State Legislatures): "Although legislatures in all fifty states have enacted whistleblower protection statutes, the measure and scope of state laws vary greatly. Most state statutes focus on protection against employer retaliation and provide a cause of action and remedies for whistleblowers who experience job-related retaliation as a consequence of their revelations. There are also important points of divergence within the anti-retaliation provisions, including the type of whistleblower protected, the subject of protected whistleblowing, the requirements for filing a grievance and appeal, and the remedies provided to the employee suffering retaliation. Most states offer general whistleblower protection to public employees, while fewer than half offer the same protection to all workers. States which have enacted whistleblower protection laws for private sector employees are even fewer. Many state statutes protect whistleblowers whose disclosures involve mismanagement, waste or abuse of authority. "


a) Background

b) United Kingdom

  • Public Interest Disclosure Act: focuses on protection and facilitation of disclosures in the public or private sector. The Act aims to protect the person making the disclosure from reprisal when disclosures meet the criteria for protection under the Act, that is, the individual has a reasonable motive to believe (art. 1) "(a) that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed, (b) that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject, (c) that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur, (d) that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered, (e) that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged, or (f) that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding." The related Civil Service Code specifically covers public sector employees
  • Public Concern at Work: "an independent authority on public interest whistleblowing. Established as a charity in 1993 following a series of scandals and disasters, PCaW has played a leading role in putting whistleblowing on the governance agenda and in influencing the content of legislation in the UK and abroad." It provides useful background material about the Public Interest Disclosure Act as well as an annotated version of the Act

c) Australia

  • Public Service Act (federal): the primary legislative source for the protection of disclosures and the person making the disclosure, though the focus of the statute is not primarily disclosures of wrongdoing. Also see the whistleblowing policy documents from the Public Service Commission. The definition of wrongdoing in the Australian disclosure regime encompasses any breach of the Code of Conduct for public servants. The Code of Conduct includes affirmative provisions for public service employees to comply with such as acting with honesty and integrity, care and diligence; complying with lawful and reasonable directions; using Commonwealth resources in a proper manner; not providing misleading information; and not misusing inside information or one's duties, status, power or authority

The various Australian states have explicit whistleblower protection laws:

d) New Zealand

  • Protected Disclosures Act, 2000: the Act requires that disclosures must generally be made internally in the first instance, with few exceptions. Entities responsible for disclosures are categorized as "appropriate authorities", including the Commissioner of Police, the Controller and Auditor-General, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office, an Ombudsman, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Police Complaints Authority, the Solicitor-General, the State Services Commissioner, and the Health and Disability Commissioner. It is apparent that the independent Office of the Ombudsmen is to be the primary recipient of disclosures. The Act covers both the public and private sector persons making disclosures and wrongdoing. Essentially, all employees, including former employees and contractors, in the public or private sector, may make a disclosure of wrongdoing, which includes "(1) an unlawful, corrupt, or irregular use of public funds or public resources; (2) a serious risk to public health or public safety or the environment; (3) a serious risk to the maintenance of law, including the prevention, investigation and detection of offences and the right to a fair trial; (4) an offence; and (5) an act or omission by a public official that is oppressive, improperly discriminatory, or grossly negligent, or that constitutes gross mismanagement"

e) South Africa

  • Protected Disclosures Act, 2000: employees who report wrongdoing in both the public and private sector receive protection from retaliation under the Act. Wrongdoing is "any conduct of an employer or an employee of that employer that shows or tends to show in actuality or likelihood of any of the following: (1) criminal offence; (2) failure to comply with a legal obligation; (3) miscarriage of justice; (4) danger of health or safety of an individual; (5) damage to the environment; (6) unfair discrimination; or (7) deliberate the concealment information pertaining to any of the above matters"

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:55 pm 0 comments

Whistleblowing Resources

This is a follow-up to the February 18 post entitled Public Servant Codes of Ethics Worldwide.

Many of these codes provide for mechanisms for the reporting of incidents of wrongdoing (illegal acts or immoral and illegitimate ones), otherwise known as "whistleblowing".

General background:
  • Whistleblowing Study - Models of Whistleblower Protection (Competition Bureau, 1997): discusses how whistleblowing has been defined, some of the legislative reforms that have been adopted or proposed to protect whistleblowers, and the different approaches that have been used -- both in Canada and other jurisdictions -- to encourage whistleblowers to come forward with information and to protect them from reprisals
  • Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing in the Workplace (Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada): "The objective of the policy on internal disclosure is to allow public service employees to bring forward information in good faith concerning wrongdoing, and to ensure that they are treated fairly and are protected from reprisal when they do so. Wrongdoing is defined as an act or omission concerning: (a) A violation of any law or regulation; or(b) A breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service; or(c) Misuse of public funds or assets; or(d) Gross mismanagement; or(e) A substantial and specific danger to the life, health and safety of Canadians or the environment."
  • Report of the Working Group on the Disclosure of Wrongdoing: the Working Group was formed in 2003 by Treasury Board to examine whistleblowing in the federal public sector. The Group was chaired by Kenneth Kemaghan, public administration professor at Brock University, and included people such as Edward Keyserlingk, federal Public Service Integrity officer, former Auditor General Denis Desautels and others. It had a very ambitious mandate: to examine the experience with whistleblower legislation elsewhere, examine experiences with the Policy on the Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing in the Workplace, examine the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service and consider the "degree to which it or similar approaches represent a positive means for supporting ethical government", propose "possible alternative legislative approaches, including issues related to resolution and disclosure such as who is covered, what may be disclosed, who may disclose, to whom, how are those making disclosures protected, how are those 'accused' treated fairly, what procedures for investigation, what office and powers to administer/enforce, reporting to whom?". The Working Group report provided a list of selected reference materials.

Federal legislation:

  • Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (S.C. 2005, c.46, royal assent November 25, 2005, still awaiting proclamation into force): one of the results from the Working Group report was the introduction of new legislation that requires each chief executive responsible for a department or agency in the federal public sector to establish an internal disclosure mechanism, including the appointment of a senior officer to receive and act on wrongdoing disclosures; the Act also creates a neutral third party, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to receive disclosures and investigate them. The Commissioner is an office who reports to Parliament, not the government. [N.B. while welcoming the progress that the new legislation represents, government accountability watchdog group Democracy Watch has criticized what it sees as 7 flaws in the Act)
  • An Act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering): the federal government since 2004 protects private sector whistleblowers who report unlawful conduct such as insider trading, corruption and market fraud within their corporation. The legislation does this by creating a new offence to deter employment-related intimidation.
  • Canadian Environmental Protection Act, S.C. 1999, c. 33: it contains a whistleblowing provision - s. 16(4) declares that "no employer shall dismiss, suspend, demote, discipline, harass or otherwise disadvantage an employee, or deny an employee a benefit of employment" for reporting violations of the Act.
  • Canada Labour Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. L-2: s. 256. (1) (c) protects any employee under federal jurisdiction from being discharged, threatened or discriminated against for testifying, giving information to an inspector, or seeking enforcement of the Code
  • Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. H-6: it prohibits any person from threatening, intimidating, or discriminating against an individual because that individual has made a complaint, given evidence, or assisted in the initiation or prosecution of a complaint under the Act.
Provincial legislation:

  • Employment Standards Act (New Brunswick): New Brunswick is one of the only provinces to completely and clearly protect employees via a statute. s. 28 of the Act declares that "an employer shall not dismiss, suspend, lay off, penalize, discipline or discriminate against an employee if the reason therefore is related in any way to (a) the application by an employee for any leave to which the employee is entitled under this Act; (b) the making of a complaint or the giving of information or evidence by the employee against the employer with respect to any matter covered by this Act; or (c) the giving of information or evidence by the employee against the employer with respect to the alleged violation of any Provincial or federal Act or regulation by the employer while carrying on the employer’s business; or if the dismissal, suspension, layoff, penalty, discipline or discrimination constitutes in any way an attempt by the employer to evade any responsibility imposed upon him under this Act or any other Provincial or federal Act or regulation or to prevent or inhibit an employee from taking advantage of any right or benefit granted to him under this Act"
  • Environmental Protection Act (Ontario): Ontario provides some protection to whistleblowers in environmental protection and health and safety cases. As well, under the Environmental Bill of Rights, S.O. 1993, c. 28, s. 105, there are protections for employees who have been discharged, disciplined or harassed for complying with Ontario's environmental legislation. Under both statutes, employees who have had reprisals taken against them are authorized to file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario - R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1): under s. 50(1), the Act prohibits employers from taking reprisals against a worker because the worker has complied with the Act, sought its enforcement, or given evidence in a proceeding brought under the Act
  • Public Service Act (Ontario, R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER P.47, part IV): not yet proclaimed into force. The Act would protect public sector employees who disclose wrongdoing defined as an action that "(a) contravenes a statute or regulation; (b) it represents gross mismanagement; (c) it causes a gross waste of money; (d) it represents an abuse of authority; or (e) it poses a grave health or safety hazard to any person or a grave environmental hazard"
  • Whistleblower Protection Act (Saskatchewan): a private member's bill from the spring of 2004 but it has not been passed
  • Manitoba is introducing legislation that promises to protect whistleblowers in the civil service as well as Crown corporations and public sector agencies like the Workers Compensation Board. Currently, Manitoba provides whistleblower protection in certain legislation for areas such as child services, workplace health and safety, health care and drinking water

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:08 pm 0 comments

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Why Do Lawyers and Judges Wear Funny Robes and Wigs?

If you have ever wondered about the origins of court attire in the common law jurisdictions, especially the United Kingdom, there is an interesting book out that is also available in PDF format: Legal Habits: A Brief Sartorial History of Wig, Robe and Gown.

Published by Ede and Ravenscroft, suppliers of wigs and robes to the British legal profession for a few hundred years, this small volume by Thomas Woodcock covers the history of judges’ robes, barrister’s gowns and wigs.

As the introduction explains: "This account puts wigs in their historical context and shows how they were originally adopted as an item of fashion but retained by the Bar and Judiciary after they ceased to be fashionable. The wearing of wigs makes the administration of justice impersonal and with gowns contributes to uniformity of dress in court proceedings, which helps to emphasise the formal gravity and dignity of justice."

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:05 pm 0 comments

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Canadian Supreme Court Nominee

Earlier this morning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Federal Court Justice Marshall Rothstein as his choice to fill the vacancy on the 9-member Supreme Court of Canada.

Rothstein will be the first judicial nominee in Canada to have to go through a televised public review by a parliamentary committee. The live hearings take place next Monday.

  • Prime Minister Harper announces nominee for Supreme Court appointment (Office of the Prime Minister): "Marshall Rothstein’s candidacy was scrutinized by a comprehensive process initiated by the previous Government that included members from all the political parties... I believe he has the qualifications necessary to serve Canadians well from the country’s highest court."
  • The Honourable Mr. Justice Marshall E. Rothstein - Nominee for the Supreme Court of Canada (Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs): includes a curriculum vitae, a list of his Federal Court decisions, as well as a list of papers and presentations by him since his appointment to the bench
  • Where it goes from here (Globe and Mail - may require registration after 1-2 weeks): the next steps in the selection process are explained - appearance of the candidate in front of the all-party committee on Feb. 27, formal decision by Prime Minister Harper on March 1, new spring session of the Supreme Court with a full bench on April 10, 2006
  • Rothstein named to top court (Toronto Star - may require registration after 2 weeks): "Considered one of the bright lights of Federal Court, his cases dealt with everything from immigration to national security, access to information, environmental regulation, trademark and patent disputes, taxation and contract law. Rothstein wrote the majority opinion in a judgment that granted Harvard a Canadian patent on the mouse — dismissing arguments by church groups and environmentalists who contended that living animals should not be subject to patents". [decision later overturned by the Supreme Court]

See the earlier post on the topic, TV Hearings Next Week For Supreme Court of Canada Nominee.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:36 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Canadian Law Librarian Conference Program

The program for the May 2006 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Edmonton is now available.

Among the topics:

  • Librarian’s Emerging Technology Survival Guide
  • Copyright and Document Delivery
  • Public International Law
  • Combating Methamphetamine Use in Alberta - Clandestine Labs
  • Planning and Moving into a New Library
  • The Potential of XML for Legal Information
  • LibraryCo’s advoCHAT: Operating a Virtual Reference Service for Courthouse Libraries
  • Doing the Cross-Disciplinary Conga – Panel
  • CALL/ACBD Grant Recipients - Project title: Thesaurus of Canadian Civil Justice System Terminology - Sources, Data Collection, and Technology
  • The Impact of Electronic Discovery on the Management of Business Information in Canada
  • Indian Residential Schools Restitution Program

And there is even a luncheon session on "The History, Social Structure and Life Cycle of Bison" (ah, the Canadian West!)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:54 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Library Job Exchange Websites

It is deepest February and if I step into another puddle of slush, I will go nuts. Thoughts of Antigua, or Morocco or Barcelona fill the mind...

LLRX.com features an article by BMO (ex-Bank of Montreal) law librarian Katherine Thomas on Job Swaps and Library Exchanges.

The article presents websites for international job swapping and fellowship opportunities, as well as for home swapping, and it finishes off with a nice little bibliography.
Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:45 pm 1 comments

CRTC Hearings on National Do Not Call List

Canada's communications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), announced at the beginning of the week that it will hold public hearings in May on the creation of rules for a national "do not call" list for people who do not want to be bothered by telemarketers.

According to the Library of Parliament website, the legislation creating the list was given Royal Assent in late November 2005 but has not yet been proclaimed into force. The Library of Parliament provides backgrounders and an in-depth legislative summary of the new bill. It was one of the previous Liberal government's last pieces of legislation before it lost the non-confidence vote that triggered the recent federal elections.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has also prepared some background information on the issue.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:30 pm 0 comments

Monday, February 20, 2006

TV Hearings Next Week For Supreme Court of Canada Nominee

This is a follow-up to the February 9, 2006 post entitled Debate Over Judicial Appointments Livens Up Again.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that the official nominee for the open spot on the Supreme Court of Canada will be interviewed on live national television next Monday by an Ad Hoc Committee to Review a Nominee for the Supreme Court of Canada.

The nominee's identity will be made known Thursday.

The vacancy on the 9-member Court was created by the retirement of Justice John Major at the end of last year.

The Committee will be set up this week and will be composed of 12 parliamentarians "subject to rules of procedure agreed to by all parties having recognized status in the House of Commons", according to the statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The Committee will not be able to veto the nominee since the Constitution gives the prime minister the ultimate power to appoint judges to the Canada's highest court.

An initial list of six candidates was handed to an advisory panel made up of MPs from all parties in the fall of 2005 when the Liberals were still the government. The panel included Vic Toews, who is the justice minister in the new Conservative government - as well as retired judges, lawyers, academics and lay people.

That panel came up with a short list of three names just before the federal election was called in November. Harper announced he will pick the nominee from that trio.

Harper is quoted in the Globe and Mail article Committee to judge next Supreme Court appointee: "the new process is intended to give Canadians a clearer understanding of who is sitting on the court. 'I don't think Canadians know much about any of these people,' he said. 'So the nominee will have a chance to answer questions, will give some insight into how the nominee approaches his or her responsibilities as a Supreme Court justice'."

Harper dismissed the fears expressed by many that public hearings would politicize the selection process and turn the affair into an embarrassing American-style political circus. He also was quoted on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as saying he did not expect a candidate to refuse to answer any questions: " 'I don't expect that,' said Harper, who said he expects the MPs' questions to be respectful and non-partisan. 'We will certainly make it clear that the nominee must be prepared to submit to the entire process. Sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada is a sufficient capstone to one's career that one should be prepared to answer [some] questions'."

Many are unhappy with the idea of interrogating the candidate in front of a parliamentary committee (and on TV).

The Canadian Bar Association put out a press release CBA Opposes Public Questioning of Supreme Court of Canada Justice stating: "Public hearings would not shed light on whether judges will be non-partisan and uphold the rule of law. To the contrary, it leaves the impression that judges are controlled by political backers. It undermines public confidence in judicial independence. The CBA has called for an open and transparent system, so Canadians understand how judges are appointed to the highest court in our land. This is best accomplished through the advisory committee process now in place, a process that balances the principles of judicial independence, openness and merit."

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:02 pm 0 comments

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Public Servant Codes of Ethics Worldwide

Discussion about values and ethics in government and in the public service are all the rage these days in Canada as we digest the fallout from the federal sponsorship scandal.

Since the beginning of February, I have been to 2 sessions (one lasting an entire day) where the code of ethics in the federal public service of Canada has been discussed.

The Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, affectionately known as PSHRMAC, which is pronounced "pusher-mack", has compiled a list of web resources on public service values and ethics related initiatives outside Canada (Australia, UK, European Union, OECD, France, etc.).

Canadian material:
Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:22 pm 0 comments

Canadian Law Librarian Research Grants

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) is providing financial assistance of up to $4,900 to CALL members undertaking research on topics related to law libraries.

Applications have to be submitted by March 15, 2006 outlining the proposed project, the amount of money requested and a detailed budget setting out how the funds will be spent.

The CALL website has a list of earlier research projects as well as a list of topics that CALL feels require research.

Funding may be granted for research assistance, online costs, compensating time off, purchase of software, travel, clerical assistance, etc.
Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:10 pm 0 comments

Friday, February 17, 2006

International Sports Law Guide

Written by a librarian at Georgetown University, this new International Sports Law guide published on the GlobaLex website looks at key institutions governing international sports and provides information and links to federations governing individual sports at an international level, bodies associated with the Olympic Games and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There are also sections on anti- doping and the human rights and discrimination aspects of sports treaties.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:06 pm 0 comments

Religious Law Guide

The GlobaLex portal at New York University just published Religious Legal Systems: A Brief Guide to Research and Its Role in Comparative Law written by Marylin Johnson Raisch, the Librarian for International and Foreign Law at the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library of the Georgetown Law Center.

The Guide offers an introduction to religious law with sections covering Islamic law, Jewish law, Christian Canon law, Hindu law, Buddhist Law and Confucian Law. Each section provides essential facts as well as details of Web, book and article sources available. There is also a list giving details of how religious law is implemented in a number of jurisdictions.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:00 pm 0 comments

Ontario Bans Sharia Arbitration

The provincial government of Ontario passed legislation this week that bans the use of binding religious arbitration to settle family law matters, like divorce and child custody.

The government was driven to pass the law by a public pressure campaign that took off last year against the possibility that a controversial set of Muslim rules and guidelines known as sharia would be used under the Arbitration Act, 1991. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation prepared a brief backgrounder on the controversy.

Bill 27 passed this week modifies the Arbitration Act, the Child and Family Services Act and the Family Law Act. Under the new legislation:
  • family arbitration is "conducted exclusively in accordance with the law of Ontario or of another Canadian jurisdiction"
  • when a family arbitration matter is decided by "a third person in a process that is not conducted exclusively in accordance with the law of Ontario or of another Canadian jurisdiction (...) the decision is not a family arbitration award and has no legal effect"
  • the government can pass regulations requiring that "every arbitrator who conducts a family arbitration be a member of a specified dispute resolution organization or of a specified class of members of the organization (... [and]) to have received training, approved by the Attorney General, that includes training in screening parties for power imbalances and domestic violence"
In 2004, former Ontario attorney general Marion Boyd had been assigned the task by the provincial government of examining amendments to the Arbitration Act, 1991 to see if and how it was possible to allow for the application of sharia in family law matters.

In her December 2004 report entitled Dispute Resolution in Family Law: Protecting Choice, Promoting Inclusion, Boyd recommended that sharia be allowed in family arbitration matters, an idea that sparked a wide-ranging debate pitting various feminist, progressive and liberal Moslem and multicultural groups against more conservative religious Moslem organizations as well as certain Jewish groups.

Other sources on the issue:

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:07 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Law Library Branding and Recruitment

Here are 2 articles from the February 2006 edition of the AALL Spectrum (AALL = American Association of Law Libraries):

  • Even Law Librarians Need a Brand: "Why should libraries care about brands? Because whether it has been given careful thought or not, every institution has a brand. Whether the brand is strong enough to be favorably remembered by clients is another matter. This article will give you the tools to identify your brand and to understand how useful it can be in your marketing efforts."
  • Perspective: A Self-Fulfilling Shortage?: "Most of us at one time or another have read an employment ad that seems to be a joke. You know the one: 'Wanted law librarian. Must speak five languages; have a doctorate; and work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Sunny disposition and at least 15 years experience required. $15,000 a year, plus benefits.' Fortunately such egregious expectations are rarely seen. But even arguably justifiable expectations can have negative and unfair consequences."
Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:26 pm 0 comments

Avoiding E-Mail Headaches

Earlier this week, Wired News printed an article on The Secret Cause of Flame Wars, those misunderstandings of tone in e-mail messages that can so easily escalate into nastier conflicts.

A study at the University of Chicago showed the "difficulty some people have detaching themselves from their own perspective... people aren't that good at imagining how a message might be understood from another person's perspective". And, unfortunately (or fortunately for lawyers, judges, and law librarians), employees frequently write some incredibly damaging things in company e-mails, which leads to lawsuits.

In a related article from journalism's Poynter Institute, author Jill Geisler tackles a number of questions related to avoiding E-Mail Misunderstandings.
Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:07 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Computer Geeks Track Human Rights Abuses

Wired News has printed some fascinating articles about the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) that builds computer databases and conducts statistical analysis on the data collected to build objective evidence of human rights abuses.

HRDAG works with international human rights investigations. It grew out of the Science and Human Rights Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Coders Bare Invasion Death Count explains how HRDAG used computers to create a report documenting more than 102,000 civilian deaths in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor from the time of the Indonesian invasion of 1975 to independence in 1999.

HRDAG "developed an array of descriptive statistical analysis profiling the scale, pattern and structure of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and sexual violations. In order to estimate what was missing from the data, the HRDAG developed software to link multiple reports of the same death in a technique called record linkage. The group then used multiple systems estimation to calculate the deaths no one remembered."

An earlier Wired article about some of the AAAS's human rights work is How Coder Cornered Milosevic that describes the role of Patrick Ball as a prosecution witness at the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Ball used open-source software to analyze the refugee flows during the 1999 war in Kosovo. His results tended to show the systematic pattern of killings of Kosovar Albanians by Serb forces. Patterns were unrelated to actions by NATO or the Kosovo Liberation Army, the rebel force fighting the Serb authorities. In other words, Serb forces were not reacting to attacks, the killings were not part of the "fog of war", they were part of an orchestrated program.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:47 pm 0 comments

Monday, February 13, 2006

Helping Citizens in Repressive Societies Get Around Censorship

This ia follow-up to the Feb. 7, 2006 post Toronto Academics Get Huge Grant to Fight Internet Censorship.

The blog Slaw has an item today about Psiphon, a tool developed by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab to help people circumvent government Internet restrictions in repressive countries.

Slaw links to an article in the Globe and Mail, Scaling the firewall of digital censorship (subscription may be required for access after 2 weeks), that describes the project:
"Psiphon is designed to eliminate a drawback of anti-filter programs: incriminating the users behind the firewall. If found by authorities, that anti-filter software can lead to coercive interrogation, a bid to uncover the suspect's Internet travel secrets using a tactic known to insiders as 'rubber-hose cryptoanalysis'. Mr. [Nart] Villeneuve [of the Citizen Lab] built a system that won't leave dangerous footprints on computers. In simple terms, it works by giving monitored computer users a way to send an encrypted request for information to a computer located in a secure country. That computer finds the information and sends it back, also encrypted. (...) The team at Citizen Lab is now racing to put the final touches on the program in time for its public debut at the international congress of the free-speech group PEN in May. Billed as a uniquely Canadian approach to 'hactivism,' the first generation of Psiphon will then be made publicly available. Its release is set to come against a backdrop of ever-diminishing free access to the Internet. Just last month the popular search engine Google agreed to self-censor, restricting access to certain content and websites in order to gain access to the Chinese market."

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:05 pm 0 comments

More on China Internet Censorship

This is a follow-up to the Feb. 1, 2006 post More on the Google China Censorship Controversy.

Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems will be grilled next week at Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. about their cooperation with Chinese government authorities in cracking down on dissidents.

According to the CNET News article Fresh U.S. outrage ahead of China Internet hearings, there is a "rising controversy over Yahoo's alleged role in the Chinese government's imprisonment of a second dissident".

See also Yahoo Grapples With Online Rights (New York Times, Feb. 13, 2006 - free registration may be required): "In advance of what could be harsh Congressional questioning this week, Yahoo plans to issue a statement today outlining its belief in openness and freedom of speech — even when it is forced to violate those beliefs by laws in China... In addition to pledging to work with industry, government and other groups to develop policies for doing business in restrictive countries, Yahoo, which censors the results on the Chinese version of its search engine to meet government demands, also said it would strive to make those restrictions apparent to users."
Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:53 pm 0 comments

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Library Technology Podcasts

PALINET, a library network in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc.), offers a series of Technology Conversations in podcast format. These are audio files that can be downloaded to an iPod for later listening or played on the desktop.

So far, there have been 3 podcasts:

  • Steven Bell, Philadelphia University, on blogs and tags
  • Colleen Cuddy, New York University, on the use of personal digital assistants in libraries
  • J.B. Hill, Southeastern Louisiana University, on a cell phone texting reference service

Earlier posts on podcasts and/or technology interviews:

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:22 pm 0 comments

First Monday Internet Journal Issue on Law and Cyberspace

First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the study of Internet issues, has just published its February 2006 issue on the topic of Law and Borders: The Rise of Law in Cyberspace, Ten Years Later

Content of the issue:
  • Law and Borders: The Rise of Law in Cyberspace (article originally published in May 1996): "Territorially-based law-making and law-enforcing authorities find this new environment deeply threatening. But established territorial authorities may yet learn to defer to the self-regulatory efforts of Cyberspace participants who care most deeply about this new digital trade in ideas, information, and services. Separated from doctrine tied to territorial jurisdictions, new rules will emerge, in a variety of online spaces, to govern a wide range of new phenomena that have no clear parallel in the nonvirtual world. These new rules will play the role of law by defining legal personhood and property, resolving disputes, and crystallizing a collective conversation about core values."
  • The Great Debate — Law in the Virtual World: "Law, too, consists of self–replicating information–sets, each with a 'meta–narrative' that must be continuously repeated and believed in order for a legal regime to continue to exist. While the boundaries between conduct off–line and on– will undoubtedly affect the extent to which distinct legal regimes can develop, we lack a coherent theory of exactly how that process works, and the kinds of boundaries that might foster, and the kinds that might discourage, the drifting apart of the legal stories we tell each other online from the legal stories that local geographic communities tell each other. So while it is clear that the boundaries between cyberspace and realspace are changing over time, it is much less clear how the changes will affect the development of these competing narratives. In some ways the boundaries are becoming more and more permeable each day; Web browsers in our telephones linked to our iPods, Google Desktop, VOIP, and any number of other applications have us jumping back and forth across that boundary innumerable times every day."
  • Virtual Borders: The Interdependence of Real and Virtual Worlds: "It is easy to make an attractive argument that law should stay away entirely from virtual worlds [such as online games]. Virtual worlds are such distinct places that real–life law shouldn’t apply; what happens in virtual worlds doesn’t affect the real world in ways that justify legal intervention. It is also easy to make an attractive argument that law should forbid out–of–world sales of in–world items. Virtual worlds are not such distinct places that real–life law shouldn’t apply; what happens in the real world affects virtual worlds in ways that justify legal intervention. As might be guessed, it is rather harder to make both these arguments at once."
  • Dispute Resolution Without Borders: Some Implications for the Emergence of Law in Cyberspace: "While law is struggling to impose order on an online environment that is complex and ever changing, new methods of dispute resolution have emerged that rely on information processing and that, in addition, provide a level of security and stability. Alternative dispute resolution in the physical world is an alternative to litigation but ODR [online dispute resolution] in the online world is an alternative to law in a broader sense and is, along with resolving disputes, performing some public functions such as lowering the risk level of participating online. Mediation and arbitration are labor–intensive activities but the online versions include new options and, in a sense, have been reconfigured by exploiting the information processing capabilities of the digital environment.."
  • The Life of the Law Online: "Our geographical, sovereign law may be well suited for regulating physical things and protecting us from real world threats. It will undoubtedly persist in its own appropriate environmental niche. But, even in that context, we would do better to treat it as an organism, rather than a mechanism — viewing it as a complex whole, disallowing efforts to redesign it from outside, discrediting efforts to analyze it by reductionist means. In any event, we must recognize that our current legal organism, transplanted online, will not prosper. As we interact globally over the Internet, we create a new non–local citizenry, a netizenry, occupying many different kinds of online spaces that both need and can create rules of their own. The new global metabolism will produce new forms of social order that use fundamentally different forms of repair, goal setting and legitimation. Our old meta–meta–story of citizen consent to a social contract empowering a territorially local government just won’t work in this new context. But new repair mechanisms, new complex systems, new forms of social order will arise."

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:56 am 0 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Toronto Academics Get Huge Grant to Fight Internet Censorship

This is a follow-up to the posts Background to the Google Censorship Issue in China (Jan. 31, 2006) and More on the Google China Censorship Controversy (Feb. 1 ,2006).

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported yesterday that the OpenNet Initiative has received a $3 million U.S. grant from the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for an international human rights project whose primary goal is to combat state censorship on the Internet.

The Initiative links Citizen Lab, a group at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies, Harvard Law School, and Cambridge and Oxford universities.

The OpenNet Initiative has produced studies of state censorship of the Internet in such countries as China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The new funding will be used to produce more country reports and create online tools to make the results more relevant to the general public. For example, the project has created a Chinese search comparison tool that allows users to enter keywords and see the variation in results between the regular Google.com and the censored Chinese Google site side by side.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:44 pm 0 comments

Much Awaited Updates to Justice Canada Laws Website

The listserv of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries contained a very welcome message today about the updating and consolidation of legislation and regulations on the website of Justice Canada.

For a long time, the versions on the website were out of date by months if not longer.

Justice Canada has made it known that it has upgraded its ability to ensure "regular and timely updating of Acts and regulations on our public Web site. As of January 27, 2006, all Acts on this site have been updated to September 28, 2005 at a minimum and many have been updated to dates beyond this point, as will be indicated at the beginning of each Act". Regulations should be current to December 2005 by the end of February. "Further updates are scheduled for February and March 2006, after which the site should be fully current".

Of course, researchers could always go on Quicklaw for extremely accurate information but it looked very bad to go to an official government website in the fall of 2005 and find legislation that was only current to August 2004 in some cases.

Good to see that a lot of effort has gone into improving the provision of legal information to the general public.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:28 pm 0 comments

Library and Archives Canada Tries to Digest Himalaya of Information from Outgoing Liberals

An article in this week's Hill Times, the paper that covers Parliament Hill, describes the role of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in preserving the huge quantity of policy papers, briefings and other documents accumulated during the 13 years of Liberal government.

The article Archivists scramble to preserve outgoing governing Grit records explains that LAC has full legal authority over official ministerial records.

"Nothing can be destroyed without his [Librarian and Archivist of Canada Ian Wilson] authority, except for personal notes and papers, not related to the job, that individuals want to keep private. But everything that is public, such as the political websites during the election campaign, ministerial websites, blogs and e-mail records are being flagged and stored."

And earlier this week, LAC specialists started contacting the members of Stephen Harper's Cabinet to explain to all the new ministers how to organize the classification of their documents, as a way of facilitating their future archival treatment.

And that treatment is growing increasingly complex with the proliferation of formats (many of which quickly become obsolete). The archives of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien that were recently received by LAC personnel include not only some 1400 boxes of paper documents, but also hundreds of thousands of photos, thousands of video and audio cassettes and megabytes of electronic data.

Of course, not all documents become quickly accessible to researchers, in particular anyone trying to understand the intent of legislation, or the political calculations and trade-offs behind certain bills. Cabinet confidences remain confidential for a number of decades.

LAC is in possession of the documents of every Prime Minister of Canada since 1867 with the exception of those of John Diefenbaker and R.B. Bennett, whose papers were given to universities in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.


Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:06 pm 0 comments

Monday, February 06, 2006

Federated Search Symposium at the University of Calgary

I had announced this symposium in a post in early December 2005.

The Supreme Court library is looking into federated search (the sending of a single query to a group of disparate databases). We will be implementing SingleSearch from Sirsi in the spring.

The Distant Librarian who was able to attend has posted a fairly lengthy Federated Search Symposium wrap-up.

Speakers included Roy Tennant from the California Digital Library, Cathy Gordon from Google Scholar, and librarians who have installed federated search tools such as Central Search (Serials Solutions), AGent Portal (Auto-Graphics), MetaLib (ExLibris) and WebFeat (Consolidated Searching).

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:51 pm 0 comments

Career Development - Where Do Baby Law Librarians Come From?

Over at the Out of the Jungle blog (University of Buffalo Law School), there is a series of posts about the career development of law librarians:
  • Why Do Librarians Eat Their Young?: "My question is really, why do practicing librarians insist on experience when hiring newly graduated librarians? This seems both impractical and cruel, doesn't it? ... How can we possibly expect them to come to us with experience when they have just finished library school? Well, there are several ways to accomplish this..."
  • Where do baby librarians come from? : "Betsy [author of the 'Why Do Librarians Eat Their Young' post] raises some good points about practical training for law librarians, and in fact that is a major emphasis of the law librarianship program at the University at Buffalo. We do everything we can, short of tackling the students in the hallway and forcing them into a seat at the reference desk, to make sure that our JD/MLS students gain practical experience before they graduate. We do this in a number of ways."
  • Just where do baby librarians come from? (with photos!): "[Jim] may want you to believe that baby librarians come from library schools and lead a 'human' life like the rest of you folks out there. I am here to reveal the darkest secrets of librarianship."
  • More about librarian development - seriously

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:38 pm 0 comments

Avoiding Problems with Hidden Document Metadata

SiliconValley.com, an offshoot of the San Jose Mercury News, printed an article on Feb. 3 entitled Stronger efforts being made against embarrassing document 'metadata' [no longer available on the site] that describes the potential embarrassment that can come from the metadata hidden in word processing documents.

A Word file, for example, will contain metadata on "who authored it, when someone saved it and what that person did to it", including any attempts to modify or hide pretty damaging information. That kind of data remains attached to the document, unless it is deliberately deleted, and it can come back to haunt the author or authors.

The article explains that examining the metadata in a word processing document exposed how pharma giant Merck had tried to mask data showing the connection between the drug Vioxx and heart attacks. Very embarrassing. As well, "a United Nations report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minster Rafik Hariri developed new layers of intrigue when it was revealed that damaging accusations about Syria's involvement had been removed before publication."

The article outlines some of the tools that can assist document creators in cleaning up juicy metadata, to the great dismay of journalists everywhere I suppose.

The Canadian Privacy Law Blog comments on the article: "Program designers need to make sure that the programs they publish are set to be secure and that users are educated about the possibility of compromising confidential information if the features are enabled. And while I'm at it, I'll suggest that the two most-used programs in Microsoft's Office suite, Word and Outlook, need to work together to deal with the issue. Programming a feature to warn users that they are about to e-mail a document with metadata probably wouldn't be impossible. Or have it only throw up a flag if the document is mailed to someone beyond the local exchange server. And have it alert if a document is being copied off a networked drive onto a CD, thumb-drive or other portable media."

Other articles on the hidden metadata in legal and other documents include:

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:58 pm 0 comments

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Recent Material on Top Tech Trends

Here are 3 very recent items on tech trends that will have an impact on the environment in which librarians work.

  • In a recent "Tech Special Report", Business Week presented Eight Tech Trends for 2006. Among the trends identified by the magazine are social search (tagging) and the imminent release of new, more advanced wireless devices.
  • The website IT Conversations presents interviews and audio programs with movers and shakers in information technology. Some earlier guests include Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive (one of the promoters of the Open Content Alliance international library digitization project), Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig (known for his outspoken work against narrow interpretations of copyright that could stifle innovation and discourse online), and New York University professor Clay Shirky (an expert on the social and economic effects of the Internet and social software).
  • Finally, Michael Stephens, who was in Toronto last week for a presentation at the annual Ontario Library Association conference, made a link-rich post last week to his Tame the Web blog on the Ten Techie Things for Librarians 2006. He explores the use of blogs and wikis, the potential of open source software, talking to ILS vendors about built-in RSS feeds, tagging, and user commenting, the expansion of digital rights management and many other things.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:58 pm 0 comments

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Global Corruption Report 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.

"The report shines a powerful light on the global US $3 trillion health sector, exposing a maze of complex and opaque systems that are a fertile field for corruption. While the majority of people employed in the sector perform their functions with diligence and integrity, there is evidence of bribery and fraud across the breadth of health services, from petty thievery and extortion to massive distortions of health policy and funding fed by payoffs to officials. " [from the Feb. 1, 2006 press release]

Among other issues, the report examines how aggressive marketing techniques are used to pressure doctors into prescribing certain drugs and takes a look at the growing worldwide market for counterfeit drugs. It also shows how corruption is undermining the international fight against HIV/AIDS.

As well, the report presents evidence of financial irregularities in post-tsunami relief operations.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:14 pm 0 comments

Friday, February 03, 2006

Richard Goldstone Visits the Supreme Court

This last Wednesday, Richard Goldstone, former justice of the post-apartheid Constitutional Court of South Africa, was an honoured guest at an in-house conference organized for staff of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Constitutional Court is South Africa's highest court on constitutional matters.

Before being appointed to the Constitutional Court, during the period of transition from apartheid to multiracial democracy, Goldstone headed a commission of inquiry into violence that proved conclusively the involvement of the police and secret services in a campaign of murder aimed at aborting the nascent peace process between the white minority government and the African National Congress. The "Goldstone Commission" supplied such solid proof of human rights abuses during the final years of the apartheid regime to justify the establishment of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that helped ease the transition.

Goldstone is perhaps most well-known outside his home country as the first chief prosecutor of the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

In his talk before us in Ottawa, Goldstone spoke of the very elaborate process of writing South Africa's new Constitution. This included the very delicate responsibility on the part of the brand new multiracial Constitutional Court of having to certify that the constitutional text complied with the 34 constitutional principles agreed upon in advance by the negotiators of the 1994 interim constitution. At first, the Court judges, Black and White, unanimously rejected the proposed Constitution, in particular for its failure to entrench certain fundamental rights. The text was sent back to a Constitutional Assembly for amending and a new version was later unanimously certified by the Court.

Goldstone's most interesting comments about the new Constitution were related to its very extensive Bill of Rights which includes a limitation clause that is eerily close to s. 1 of the Canadian Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and whose formulation closely resembles Canada's Oakes Test. Apparently the Canadian Charter, among other constitutional documents, was one of the influences on South African efforts to develop a democratic constitution in the post-apartheid era.

Goldstone also answered questions about the moral quandary of sitting as a liberal human rights judge during the apartheid years. During those years, the role of courts was restricted to applying the laws of the apartheid system.

Goldstone, on the advice of friends and various legal NGOs, decided to accept a judicial appointment and to try to fight apartheid from within by finding loopholes.

For example, in 1982, he handed down a ruling that people of colour could not be ejected from a designated "white" residential area under the regime's tough residential segregation laws if they had no alternative accommodation, effectively demolishing for good a central pillar of apartheid. The relevant law from the 1950s stated that judges "may" sign an eviction order. Until Goldstone, judges had enforced segregation by reading the law as if it meant that they "must" enforce segregationist evictions, but he ruled that "may" really meant "may". That subtle thinking helped end the ability and the political will of the regime to enforce evictions.

Richard Goldstone interviews, speeches:
Resources on South African law:


Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:27 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More on the Google China Censorship Controversy

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post Background to the Google Censorship Issue in China.

The U.S. Congress has started debating the issue of how far American tech firms have been going to cooperate with repressive governments.

Things are sure to heat up as 4 companies, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco and Google, declined to attend a Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on how Internet companies do business in China. They did indicate they would appear in 2 weeks time in front of a House of Representatives subcommittee on human rights.
  • Internet Cos. Accused of Bowing to China (AP story via Wired News): "While attendance at Wednesday's briefing was not mandatory, companies could be compelled with subpoenas to attend a Feb. 15 hearing on the issue, said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on global human rights. In an interview, the lawmaker criticized U.S. Internet companies, saying they were helping China arrest and torture activists and screen information from its citizens. "
  • Politicos attack tech firms over China (CNET News): "Rep. Christopher Smith ... showed up late at Wednesday's briefing to issue a reminder that he and his colleagues are working on a draft legislation related to the foreign censorship matter... A draft of the legislation was not ready Wednesday. But Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Smith, said the proposal would likely require American Internet service providers to locate their e-mail servers outside of oppressive countries, establish a code of conduct for companies doing business with such regimes and set up a global Internet freedom office within the State Department to coordinate an international strategy. "
  • Tech under attack - Companies accused of aiding Chinese oppression need to come up with some answers fast (CNN Money): "The issue is a complicated one, if only because, even in the U.S., tech companies cooperate with law enforcement agencies and sell equipment that enables schools, libraries and corporations to restrict what users see. With about 100 million Internet users, second only to the U.S., China is a high-growth market for tech. None of the companies want to leave but, so long as they stay, they have little choice but to play by China's rules. So far, the tech firms have done a poor job of explaining their stance. Google ... executives have said, in essence, that giving China access to most of the Internet is better than giving them none at all. Others have said their policy is to obey local laws -- an approach which would mean they countenance the oppression of women and gays in some countries of the world."
  • Google Statement (Andrew McLaughlin, Senior Policy Counsel): Google is discussing industry guidelines for all countries subjecting Internet content to restrictions. In its statement, it says "In addition to common action by Internet companies, there is an important role for the United States government to address, in the context of its bilateral government-to-government relationships, the larger issues of free expression and open communication. For example, as a U.S.-based company that deals primarily in information, we have urged the United States government to treat censorship as a barrier to trade."
  • Microsoft and Yahoo! Inc. Joint Statement to U.S. Congress Human Rights Caucus on Policies Related to Access to Internet Content: "While we believe that companies have a responsibility to identify appropriate practices in each market in which they do business, we think there is a vital role for government-to-government discussion of the larger issues involved. We urge the United States government to take a leadership role in this regard and have initiated a dialogue with relevant U.S. officials to encourage such government-to-government engagement. We want to assure members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and the public at large, that we do not consider the Internet situation in China to be one of “business-as usual”. Beyond commercial considerations, we believe that our services have promoted personal expression and enabled far wider access to independent sources of information for hundreds of millions of individuals in China and elsewhere in the world. While we will actively work to encourage governments around the world to embrace policies on Internet content that foster the freer exchange of ideas and promote maximum access to information, we also recognize that, acting alone, our leverage and ability to influence government policies in various countries is severely limited."

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:37 pm 2 comments

Access to Information Manual for Citizens

A team of researchers from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic has released a Canadian Access to Information Manual for all 14 Canadian jurisdictions (federal, provincial and territorial).

The Manual explains how to use federal, provincial, and territorial laws to access information about the government. As well, it provides information on using federal, provincial and territorial laws to request personal information held by the public and private sectors.

Each chapter explains not only how to make a request, but also what to expect in response, and how to appeal an unsatisfactory response. There are also links to legislation, government sites and guides.

As the January 31, 2006 press release accompanying the manual explains, the intention of the project is to fill a gap on issues of government accountability and privacy rights.

"While many of the agencies responsible for access to information and privacy across Canada provide guides and Q&As on their websites, these are generally incomplete. And the legal manuals designed for professional lawyers provide more detail than the average user needs. Our User Manual is written for citizens and researchers who aren't legally trained, but who still want to exercise their legal rights."

The Manual is an initiative of "On the Identity Trail", a multidisciplinary research project led by University of Ottawa law professor Ian Kerr and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's "Initiatives on the New Economy" program.


Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:25 pm 0 comments

CANLII Search Enhancements

The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII) has announced a number of major search enhancements.
  • Decisions can now be found based on case law citations from 29 frequently cited printed reports. This means that a search for a case can use any of its parallel citations. The example given on the CANLII listserv is R. v. Sharpe, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 45. That case could now be found using the citations (2001), 194 D.L.R. (4th) 1; [2001] 6 W.W.R. 1; (2001) 150 C.C.C. (3d) 321; (2001), 39 C.R. (5th) 72; (2001), 86 C.R.R. (2d) 1; (2001), or 88 B.C.L.R. (3d) 1.
  • Cases can be found using a combination of partial citations, dates, and/or terms from the style of cause or the full text. The example given is for a search based on the combination of C.R.R. from the case citation and Lalonde from the case name. This will find all the decisions in the Canadian Rights Reporter that contain Lalonde in the style of cause.
  • The note-up function has now become available for all provincial statutes and regulations, sections of federal statutes and regulations, decisions, and RefLex records. When a decision reported in one of the frequently cited reports used by CANLII is not available on CanLII, a RefLex record is published instead. It offers information such as date and style of cause, and a list of parallel citations for locating the case in print reporters.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share Subscribe
posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:52 pm 0 comments