Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ontario E-Laws Now Presumed Authentic for Court

There is a recent item on Slaw.ca about the coming into force later this month of the Legislation Act, 2006 (S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sched F).

According to the post, this new Ontario legislation is a "comprehensive statute on the publication, citation and proof of statutes and regulations (including making e-Laws a presumptively accurate statement of law ...)". e-Laws is the online version of Ontario statutes and regulations.

According to the explanatory note contained in the bill passed by the Ontario legislature (pp. xiii-xiv):

"The Legislation Act, 2006 would assemble in one Act provisions about the publication, citation and interpretation of Ontario legislation. The Act has nine Parts (...)"

"Part IV – Proof of Legislation (sections 34 to 41)
This Part of the Act states that the Act endorsed by the Clerk of the Legislature as having received Royal Assent and the regulation filed with the Registrar of Regulations are 'official law'."

"A copy of an official law that is printed by the Queen’s Printer or accessed from the e-Laws website in a prescribed form or format is an official copy of the law, unless there is a disclaimer indicating that it is not official. Unless the contrary is proved, official copies of the law are accurate statements of the law [emphasis added]".

This is an interesting coincidence. Last week, I gave two tours of the Supreme Court of Canada library to students. They are always impressed when they see the rooms containing dozens of shelves with complete runs of Canadian law reporters and Canadian legislation. Without fail, there are always many questions from the 20-something students about why we need to keep all those "old" print volumes since "everyone knows" all of this material is available electronically on WestlaweCARSWELL or Quicklaw databases.

This allows me to give my little spiel about the courts' insistence on accuracy, authentication, and trustworthiness of legal information.

These students of the Facebook/Google generation are often surprised, or shocked, to discover that electronic versions of caselaw and legislation are not always considered "authentic". I explain that this is on a court-by-court, jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, with Ontario apparently having now progressed the furthest down the path of authenticating online law, at least when it comes to the e-Laws website.

South of the border, our colleagues from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) have examined the issue in great depth. The AALL recently released the State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources (more than 250 pages) that presented the results of a survey of primary online legal resources from the U.S. states and whether these resources are official and capable of being authenticated.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:17 pm

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