2018 was a tough act to follow, but 2019 was, once again, a great year for CanLII, to say the least. More than ever, our successes are due to the relationships we have developed with organizations across the country that have embraced our vision for the future of free access to law. We are grateful they have agreed to share their content with us and hope to celebrate these relationships with this post, among other things.
As regular readers of this blog will have appreciated by now, we’ve been multiplying announcements over the course of the year about new content added to the CanLII commentary collection. Here’s a list of what was added over the course of the year. Take some time to browse, we’ll see you on the other side:
And then, in a more or less chronological order of their announcements on the CanLII Blog, we have also partnered with the following journals, law firms, law centres and other organizations:
As the pace at which we make these announcements increases, it may be easy to become insensitive to them, but let me remind you that barely two years ago, only one of these announcements would have been individually hailed as a considerable achievement for free access to law. It speaks to how far and how fast we have moved that we can now happily interrupt the flow of this post with such a long list.
If you know people who work at the different institutions listed above, feel free to contact them to thank them for their contribution to our site or to learn how you can support them. Make sure to check their open call for papers to see if there’s anything you can contribute to in your area of expertise. They may also be on the lookout for volunteer editors or editorial board members, so there are many ways you can help.
Thanks to the contributors above, we’re now at more than 9,000 pieces of high quality content in the commentary collection. This is more than double what we had this time last year.
Of course, when we say we now have 9,000 pieces of commentary, this is setting aside for a minute an entire category of quality content. We’re talking about the 55,000 pieces from CanLII Connects that have become more findable than ever.
This means that when you go in CanLII.org, you are now searching into a total of roughly 65,000 pieces of commentary about the law, many of which are only found on CanLII. It’s almost impossible that there isn’t a piece of commentary on CanLII that is related to your field of practice, study, or activity. Perhaps we can allow ourselves a notice to law students: if this collection is not mentioned as part of your introduction to legal research class, we suggest you nudge your teacher to update the syllabus.
Another project that is evolving is the CanLII Authors Program. The program was built as an opportunity for authors of published or ready-to-be published texts to add their content to CanLII. After all, who doesn’t want to be findable on the most used legal search engine in Canada? Thing is, as a completely new concept (in Canada at least), we didn’t know if this would work. It’s gratifying to see that there are about 35 pieces that are published as part of the program, and the program’s page was an entry point for other pieces of content that ended up on CanLII over the year. If you have written content (whether or not it has been published elsewhere – assuming you haven’t given exclusive rights), we see only good reasons for authors to republish on CanLII as part of this program. Make sure to consult the (freshly redesigned and simplified) Authors Program page.
This year, we were grateful to have received a grant from the Law Foundation of British Columbia to create a publicly accessible litigation manual for British Columbians. Early September, we launched a call for writers and editors to contribute to the project. We were very pleased with the amount of interest and now have a motivated team of over 20 writers working together to make this resource a reality.
At last, we started implementing a new strategy for the curation of content for the commentary database. We have observed from running analytics on usage statistics (just to reassure you: we use aggregate stats, not individualized ones) that have identified some topics that are frequently searched for and underserved by our current content. Using this, we worked on identifying authors to write a piece on bankruptcy and family law. The piece written by Michael H. Tweyman & Kenneth Hildebrand was published on CanLII in September.
In November, we announced a collaboration with the well-known Slaw.ca blog to develop a collection of ebooks on content specifically identified to answer frequently searched topics.They have now been added to CanLII as a collaborative ebook collection.
Improving our primary law coverage is always a key consideration and we continued to deliver on that front too.
In May, we announced that we added over 8,000 cases from the Western Weekly Reports (WWR), a collection of significant cases from courts in the western provinces.
In September, we added around 9,500 decisions from the Manitoba Reports as part of a project funded by the Manitoba Law Foundation.
We will write more about what our historical scanning projects of the last few years (starting with the DLRs in 2016) mean for the scope of our collection today early in the year but don’t be blinded by the fact that there we less individual announcements than for the secondary materials: 17,500 new historical decisions on CanLII is a massive improvement and these collections in particular complement well what we did in previous years.
In November, we also announced that we had added the annual statutes for Alberta, from 1906 to present as part of a project funded by the Alberta Law Foundation.
The two projects funded by the Manitoba and Alberta law foundations are very impactful ones and we are grateful for their contribution to improving the availability of primary law from these provinces.
The following tribunals have been added to CanLII’s current coverage (in no specific order and with their respective neutral citation identifier in parentheses):
As hinted above, the CanLII Connects content is still at the same home on canliiconnects.org, but is now findable through a search on canlii.org. This way you can see all of CanLII’s content at the same place. We are always happy to have new contributors on CanLII Connects (whether individuals or organizations) and make sure to contact us if you have an interest in helping us build the largest possible collection of summaries and commentaries about Canadian legal decisions.
In June, we have revamped the design of the CanLII.org website and we’re happy to have been able to modernize our looks without (as per the feedback we received at least) disrupting our users’ habits.
As you may have noticed, just before launching the redesigned website, we implemented a quick survey form (that we designed to be as non-obtrusive as possible) so we can collect more immediate feedback from our users and this is already bearing fruit in helping us assess new features or improvements.
In terms of features, there’s really fun stuff coming very early in the New Year which I’m personally giddy about. Stay tuned!
As part of our policy efforts (discussed in greater detail here) we have intervened jointly with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada before the Supreme Court in the Keatley v. Teranet matter. The hearing took place in March, and we were lucky to be represented on a pro bono basis by Rahool P. Agarwal and Khrystina McMillan of Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb.
The Court’s decision was issued in September and we’re happy the potential consequences on access to law were clearly considered by the Court, who issued a prudent judgment where the majority explicitly invited Parliament to reconsider s. 12 of the Copyright Act. If you want to know more, our friend Kim Nayyer’s summary is no doubt the best place to begin.
There wasn’t a specific or formal alliance between CanLII and the Canadian Association of Law Libraries but I can say personally that it was tremendously useful for me to have the opportunity to engage with members of the CALL/ACBD copyright committee, in particular the aforementioned Kim Nayyer and and Ken Fox, as we figured out our organization’s respective involvement in the Crown copyright discussion. Hat tip to them and thank you for your friendship.
Last but not least, we announced that Christina Hendricks was appointed to the CanLII board and we’re happy to have Christina, an expert in open education resources (OER), among other things, to help us as we take inspiration from the OER community about the drafting of open resources.
On that note, if you are in a law school and you think there could be some interest in working with us in developing content, please reach out. If you are a law student and you would like your law school to create open resources instead of having to buy costly books, we can help you build your case.
Finally, in January we announced that Alisa Lazear had joined the CanLII team full time as our manager of community and content and we are very happy to have her in our team.
Phew! Might as well call that an annual report as opposed to a mere blog post. I hope you will agree that we had quite the year… again.
Before you all close your laptop for the Holidays, to:
Our users, to our stakeholders at the different law societies of Canada and at the Federation of law societies, to the staff and boards of the law foundations of Canada who have approved grants (for projects delivered this year or next), to our amazing volunteer board, to the amazing team at Lexum who makes it all happen, to our other amazing friends at Functional Labs, to our friends in law libraries, and to Miller Thomson who are helping us in different mandates of great importance: THANK YOU! We look forward to all of what we can accomplish together in the next…