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Perspective from the other side

As Connie has unwisely given me carte blanche in my blog postings, and as probably the sole Australian attendee at Libraries without Borders I’m going to have to be forgiven in advance for my distinctive perspective on the program and papers I’ve attended. As a research librarian for government lawyers, working within both a federalist and constitutional monarchist framework, as my Canadian colleagues also do, the papers which have interested me most are those which particularly illuminate our differences. In light of this I spent a very productive morning at the two Researching Canadian law sessions. Beatrice Tice, Bora Laskin Library’s Chief Librarian, gave an impressively detailed overview of the Canadian judicial process. While some processes are very familiar to me (Canadian lawyers, like their Australian and unlike their US counterparts, look all over the common law world for persuasive argument) others seemed foreign and strange (Canadian lawyers, unlike their Australian counterparts, do not distinguish between a hierarchy of law reporting). While we in Australia are well served by two good (albeit out of date) legal encycoplaedias as well as the various dense and valuable editions of the Australian Digest, Canada is only now being bestowed with its own Halsburys!

One thing we both share is having the global LexisNexis platform foisted upon us, with its inappropriate terminology and mysteriously inaccessible databases. I understand in Australia that such has been the poor reception of this product that lawyer usage has dropped away noticeably. One thing the commercial sellers of these databases continue to overlook is that a critical mass of freely available case law is now being provided by courts everywhere. My feeling is that having good annotators and good looseleaf services (online) is probably all anyone will need in a few more years. Oh, and good librarians who know how to use everything successfully.

Beatrice was succeeded later in the morning by her Bora Laskin colleague Sooin Kim who, alongside Jeanette Bosschart, led us through the intricacies of the legislative process. The Canadian manner of passing its statutes and regulations bears only a nodding resemblance to the processes in my own jurisdiction. My US colleagues seemed more au fait with this discussion, but I had so much to learn that I failed to keep up with my note taking, and can only say that I now understand why when I’m called upon to penetrate the thickets of provincial law in Canada, I often retreat in disarray. But now I have some email addresses! Statutory interpretation is obviously different in Canada from the way it is approached in Australia. And that’s all I plan to say on that matter, except that I was disappointed not to be treated to a similar overview of the US court and legislative processes.

The other paper which I found completely absorbing was Professor Lorraine Weinrib’s comparative look at the Constitutions of both Canada and the US. Her talk was so rich in historical and legal context, so informed by the view she obtained as a one-time lawyer for the Crown, and so thoughtful in its summary of the effects of each constitutional approach on the body politic and on the governed, that I couldn’t do it justice in one paragraph here. I have written a more extensive, and as yet unposted overview for my own blog so anyone wanting to read that please let me know and I’ll email you the link.


[Admin note:  posted by Barbara Flowers]


October 22, 2007 at 8:52 am 3 comments

Northeast Regional Law Libraries Meeting

October 17-20, 2007
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