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  • 19 Jul 2022 7:56 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    CALL member Dominique Garingan, Library Manager in the Calgary office of Parlee McLaws LLP, recently wrote an article on "The Singular They: Gender Inclusivity in Canadian Legal Writing and Style Guides". It originally appeared on the website Notes Between Us on June 22, 2022.

    It is reprinted here with permission.

    Language is a product of culture, and it is known that the English language lacks a singular pronoun that signifies the non-specific he or she. Although at times unintentional, this singularity versus plurality of pronouns, coupled with gendered indicators, has helped entrench the binary perceptions of gender found in writing which we are now seeking to change. 

    The Department of Justice of Canada recently provided a series of guidelines on the use of gender-neutral language in a legislative context. These guidelines include as a recommendation the use of the singular they and its other grammatical forms (them, themselves, and their) to refer to indefinite pronouns and singular nouns1. In addition, dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary (definition2|blog), the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (definition3), the Cambridge Dictionary (definition) and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (definition|blog) have acknowledged both the acceptability – and, for some, the controversy – of the singular they.

    While there seems to be a growing acceptance towards gender inclusive and non-binary pronouns, this post seeks to explore an increasingly acknowledged yet still seemingly paradoxical entity in legal writing: the singular they. This post briefly investigates the use and acceptance or lack thereof of they as a singular pronoun through a review of a limited sample of Canadian legal research, writing, and style guides accessible to the writer. Although current writing practices on gender inclusivity may have since changed since the publication of these titles, this post hopes to assist writers, researchers, librarians, and information professionals by providing a non-exhaustive point-in-time review of Canadian legal writing references and help facilitate a turning point in the journey towards greater inclusivity in legal writing.

    The Literature Reviewed (in Reverse Order of Publication)

    Edward Berry, Writing Reasons: A Handbook for Judges, 5th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2020). 

    In the sample of guides reviewed, Writing Reasons seemed to provide the most inclusive perspective in its instruction. It was somewhat refreshing to see a writing handbook for judges as being the most progressive in its recommendations, albeit also the most recently published. The guide contains a section entitled Prejudicial Language and provides a checklist for more inclusive strategies. (p 114-115) “Invite the parties to define their own identity” is first on the list. As an example, Berry notes that some people may prefer the gender neutral Mx. to Mr. or Ms. “Be wary of personal pronouns” is also listed. Here, Berry states that those who don’t identify as male or female may prefer they. Berry notes the acceptance of they as a singular pronoun. However, the alternative of reconstructing the subject as plural, facilitating a more familiar use of they, is also provided. (p 115)

    Although subtle, a highlight of this guide is found in one of its appendices. Appendix 2: Additional Resources contains a section called Biased Language. Instead of listing resources to consult, this section contains a brief note reminding writers that “[u]sage changes constantly” and places onus on writers to consult style guides as well as organizations devoted to specific groups or social issues for guidance on language. (p 151) 

    Neil Guthrie, Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing, 2nd ed (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2021).

    In his book, Guthrie encourages readers to strive for gender-neutrality, or at least balance. (p 44) Guthrie notes that, if the singular they is used, “it should be based on a desire to be inclusive of the transgendered, the gender-fluid, and the gender-questioning”. (p 46) Guthrie does note a dislike for the singular they when used in a lazy fashion and states that his or her is still preferred, at least grammatically. (p 46) However, one conundrum is that the intent behind the use of the singular they may be difficult to attribute to writers unknown to their readers. 

    In addition to acknowledging the singular they, Guthrie’s Guide to Legal Writing recognizes the possible growing use of gender-neutral neologisms such as ze, ey, or xe. (p 46) It also acknowledges active changes to the spelling of feminine nouns as a way to “decouple” them from masculine nouns that define them (for example, the use of womxn). (p 49-50, and in SlawTips)

    Queen’s Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Legal Style, 2nd ed (Toronto: Thomson Reuters Canada, 2019). 

    Where a generic singular pronoun is required, the latest edition of the Queen’s Law Journal Canadian Guide to Legal Style recommends against the use of they as a generic singular pronoun, noting it as plural in construction. The guide discourages the use of combinations such as s/he or he/she and, as an alternative, recommends alternating between masculine and feminine pronouns where a generic singular pronoun is required. (p 37) 

    The Canadian Guide to Legal Style provides some writing alternatives to generic singular pronouns. These include pluralizing the noun or subject to allow the use of they, repeating the noun or subject, and reconstructing the sentence such that the generic singular pronoun can be replaced with words like who or one. (p 37-38) Although the combination he/she is discouraged, the guide notes as acceptable the use of the pronoun pair he or she, although this should be done sparingly. (p 38)

    Nancy McCormack, John Papadopoulos & Catherine Cotter, The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research, 4th ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2015).

    The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research advocates for the use of gender-neutral language and acknowledges the inherent gender bias in the English language, such as how, historically, the masculine gender was assumed to be the norm in legal writing. (p 456) While it does not provide explicit discussion on the use of the singular they, it does state that the use of plurals and alternating between masculine and feminine pronouns are both acceptable. (p 456-457) 

    In stating that the use of plurals was acceptable, it was somewhat unclear to this writer whether The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research was alluding to the use of the singular they as an alternative to the pronoun pair he or she at the time or the reconstruction of nouns and subjects as plural to facilitate the use of they as a plural pronoun. 

    Christine Mowat, A Plain-Language Handbook for Legal Writers, 2nd ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2015). 

    A Plain-Language Handbook for Legal Writers poses the question “Can they be singular?”. (p 53) This guide takes a historical approach and highlights some of the gender-neutral language policy adopted by the Ontario government in the late 1980s for all official publications, including bills and regulations. 

    Research by the Ontario government referenced in this guide shows they, their, and them as having a long history of use a singulars. Additionally, the use of themself was deemed to be a logical extension of the use of other third person “plural” pronouns as singular and an acceptable replacement for himself, herself, or itself.4 (p 53) The guide provides guidelines for using gender-neutral language and suggests that the singular they will gain wider acceptance. It also notes that speakers of American English may resist the development more than speakers of British English, where the indeterminate they is more commonly seen. (p 54)

    British Columbia Law Institute, Gender-Free Legal Writing: Managing the Personal Pronouns (July 1998), online: BCLI.

    While written over two decades ago, the BCLI report, Gender-Free Legal Writing, was cited by at least two titles reviewed for this blog post. Although the BCLI report does not acknowledge they as a singular pronoun, it does recommend adopting a “gender-free” style of writing, or one that avoids pronouns entirely. (p 2) Part II of the BCLI report provides both structural and generic solutions that avoid the use of gendered singular pronouns. These include moving away from third person singular references, identifying the subject a second time, and eliminating repeated references to the performer of the action or the object of the sentence. (p 4-12)

    While the BCLI report does accept use of the he or she (his or her) pronoun formulation, it does acknowledge that this is “the least satisfactory solution” as it is “not truly gender-free”. (p 12)

    Other Titles

    The following titles were also reviewed for this blog post. No explicit discussions on the singular they were found. However, these titles focus more on legal research, writing, and advocacy as opposed to grammar and style.

    1. Philip W. Whitehead & Anne Matthewman, Legal Writing and Research Manual, 8th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2019).
    2. Moira McCarney et al, The Comprehensive Guide to Legal Research, Writing & Analysis, 3rd ed (Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2019). 
    3. Maureen F. Fitzgerald, Legal Problem Solving: Reasoning, Research and Writing, 8th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2019). 
    4. Melanie Bueckert et al, eds, The Canadian Legal Research and Writing Guide (2018), online: 2018 CanLIIDocs 161 <>. 
    5. Ted Tjaden, Legal Research and Writing, 4th ed (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2016).
    6. James C. Morton, Written Advocacy, 2nd ed (Markham: LexisNexis Canada, 2013).
    7. James C. Raymond, Writing for the Court (Toronto: Carswell, 2010).

    Concluding Thoughts

    In undertaking this review, I often found myself missing the forest for the trees. Legal writing guides and grammar possess a plethora of rules. While writers, editors, researchers, librarians, and information professionals often turn to these rules for safety, guidance, and affirmation regarding the correctness of their writing, it must be remembered that these rules and structures may be the same ones critiqued for failing to possess the requisite inclusivity for those whose genders are non-binary, undefined, not yet defined, absent, cannot be defined, or refusing to be defined in the first place. 

    There is an internal conflict ascribable to seeking universal grammatical correctness while ensuring that the language we use is inclusive of all. Are we likely to continue second-guessing ourselves and scouring well-established legal writing and style guides for permission to use more inclusive language? Quite possibly. The legal profession has been critiqued for its traditional nature and writing style. This does not always align with the view that gender may be singular, plural, transitional, evolving, non-existent, or undiscovered within an individual. Although information professionals will continue to hold onto and reference them dearly, it may be time to expect some of our Canadian legal writing and style guides to provide greater clarification and more humanist perspectives on non-binary, gender-inclusive, and gender-diverse language. 


    1. For an alternative perspective on the use of the singular they in legislative drafting, see Paul Salembier, “Is Bad Grammar Good Policy? Legislative Use of the Singular ‘they’” (2015) 36:2 Statute L Rev 175.

    2. A subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary is required to access this definition.

    3. A subscription to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is required to access this definition.

    4. For more information on this research, please see Donald L Revell, Cornelia Schuh & Michel Moisan, “Themself and Nonsexist Style in Canadian Legislative Drafting” (1994) 10:1 English Today 10.

  • 15 May 2022 6:45 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    Le français suit plus bas.

    We all have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to performing legal research. We sometimes share them with clients. And sometimes, we like to use those tricks to hunt down seemingly impossible to find material and wow them. Because nothing is “impossible” for law librarians.

    The CALL blog has started a new regular series of research tips and tricks.

    Please share your favourite or coolest strategies with Michel-Adrien Sheppard to have them published on the CALL blog.

    Nous avons tous nos trucs favoris quand il s'agit de faire de la recherche juridique. Parfois, nous les partageons avec nos clients. Et parfois, nous aimons les épater en utilisant ces trucs et astuces pour mettre la main sur des informations apparemment impossibles à trouver. Car rien n’est « impossible » pour des bibliothécaires de droit.

    Le blogue de l'ACBD a lancé une nouvelle série sur les trucs et astuces de recherche.

    SVP partagez vos stratégies les plus intéressantes ou les plus « cool » avec Michel-Adrien Sheppard afin de les faire publier sur le blogue de CALL/ACBD.

    Today: TERMIUM Plus (Katie Pelland, Supreme Court of Canada).

    Have you ever been unsure of what word to use when communicating about a new or unfamiliar topic? There is a database created by the Government of Canada called TERMIUM Plus, which gives you access to millions of terms in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. You can find terms, abbreviations, definitions and usage examples in a wide range of specialized fields. The data bank is an essential tool for understanding an acronym, checking an official title, finding the equivalent for names of ministries, agencies, departments in the other official language, and much more.

    Of particular interest, they have collections of terms to search in various areas of law. Simply click on the drop –down menu under the “In which subject field?” section to select a legal subject to narrow your search.

    Recently, as part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to respond to the Clerk of the Privy Council’s 2021 Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service, TERMIUM Plus has made their bilingual Guide on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Terminology publically available online. In this guide, you will find definitions and usage notes for some of the key terms on these topics. It is a living document that updated and improved on a regular basis.

    Aujourd'hui: Termium Plus (par Katie Pelland, Cour suprême du Canada).

    Avez-vous jamais été incertain quant au mot à utiliser lorsque vous communiquez sur un sujet nouveau ou complètement inconnu ?

    Il existe une base de données créé par le gouvernement du Canada appellée TERMIUM Plus, qui vous donne accès à des millions d’expressions en anglais, français, espagnol et portugais.

    Vous pouvez trouver des expressions, des abréviations, des définitions et des exemples d’utilisation dans un large éventail de domaines spécialisés. La banque de données est un outil essentiel pour décoder les acronymes, vérifier un titre officiel, trouver l'équivalent des noms des ministères, agences, départements dans l'autre langue officielle, et bien plus encore.

    Il est particulièrement intéressant de noter qu'ils proposent des collections d’expressions dans divers domaines du droit. Il suffit de cliquer sur le menu déroulant sous la rubrique "Domaine" pour sélectionner un sujet juridique afin de restreindre votre recherche.

    Récemment, dans le cadre des efforts déployés par le gouvernement du Canada pour donner suite à l’Appel à l’action en faveur de la lutte contre le racisme, de l’équité et de l’inclusion dans la fonction publique fédérale lancé par le greffier du Conseil privé en 2021, TERMIUM Plus a rendu public son Guide de la terminologie liée à l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion bilingue en ligne. Dans ce guide vous  trouverez des définitions et des notes d’usage en lien avec certains termes clés dans ce domaine. Ce document évolutif sera mis à jour et amélioré régulièrement.

  • 05 May 2022 4:36 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    From time to time, this blog will highlight initiatives, ideas, or activities coming from members, committees or special interest groups (SIGs).

    Today: An Update from the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Group (PLL-SIG), by Marnie BaileyManager, Knowledge Services at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Vancouver.

    The PLL-SIG met April 5 for a discussion on what the return to the office looks like for law firm libraries.

    Topics included moving more texts to online, continued love of print, moving to Single Sign On, online or in person training of students, and how often people are required to be / are in the office.

    There was a wide range of responses for most of the topics, and it was nice to hear that other firms are in similar situations. It was a great discussion with firm librarians from across the country.

    The notes will be posted to the PLL-SIG Basecamp site for members of the SIG.

    The next PLL-SIG meeting will be during the May 2022 annual CALL conference, and I hope to see many of you there!


  • 28 Apr 2022 4:55 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    CALL member Hannah Steeves, the Instruction & Reference Librarian at the Sir James Dunn Law Library, Dalhousie University (Halifax), recently wrote an article on "Visualizing the Landscape of Canadian Law School Journals". It originally appeared on on April 6, 2022.

    It is reprinted here with permission.

    In my role at the Sir James Dunn Law Library, I help facilitate both the creation and dissemination of scholarly knowledge through law journals. As a result, I have developed many questions and curiosities surrounding scholarly publishing practices. While the larger ones require empirical research, a handful seemed easy to answer based on readily available data. Using the information available on the websites of each peer-reviewed law journal affiliated with and published by a Canadian law school, I answered the following questions:

    1. How many peer-reviewed law journals are affiliated with Canadian law schools and published in-house?*
    2. How many of these law journals are primarily student-run?**
    3. How many of these law journals are open access?
    4. How many of these journals follow the Canadian Guide to Legal Citation (the “McGill Guide”)?***
    5. What is the length of an article submission (word count)?
    6. How frequently do these journals publish?
    7. For fun, how many words per year do these journals publish?
    8. Which province publishes the highest volume of articles per year?
    9. Which law school publishes the highest volume of articles per year?
    *Not published by a commercial publisher such as Carswell, LexisNexis, Cambridge, Oxford, etc. **Student-run was determined by a statement on the journal’s website specifying student-run or having faculty labelled as participating in only an advisory capacity. ***Any edition. All data was retrieved from the journals’ websites and supplemented with HeinOnline. There are obvious shortcomings in the data I pulled. I did not determine the average word count of a journal article, nor did I include open-access journals published by institutions and organizations that are not affiliated with a Canadian law school. I omitted book reviews and other commentary based on the assumption that other legal scholars more commonly reference articles in subsequent works and courts. I did not cross-reference where each journal was indexed beyond their own website and HeinOnline. These data represent a small, but specific, slice of academic Canadian legal literature.

    Question 1: How many peer-reviewed law journals are affiliated with Canadian law schools and published in-house?*

    1. Dal LJ
    2. Dal J Leg Stud
    3. UNBLJ
    4. McGill J Dispute Resolution
    5. Inter Gentes: McGill J Intl L & Leg Pluralism
    6. McGill JL & Health
    7. JSDLP
    8. McGill LJ
    9. Lakehead Law Journal
    10. Wrongful Conviction L Rev
    11. Osgoode Hall LJ
    12. JL & Soc Pol’y
    13. Ottawa L Rev
    14. Queen’s LJ
    15. UTLJ
    16. UT Fac L Rev
    17. Critical Analysis L: An Intl & Interdisciplinary L Rev
    18. JL & Equality
    19. Indigenous LJ
    20. Western J of Leg Studies
    21. Windsor Rev Legal Soc Issues
    22. Windsor YB Access Just
    23. Asper Review
    24. Can J of Human Rights
    25. Man LJ
    26. Sask L Rev
    27. Alta L Rev
    28. UBC L Rev
    29. Can J Fam L
    30. Can J of Comparative & Contemporary L
    31. Appeal

    Question 2: How many of these law journals are primarily student-run?

    There are many individuals involved with each step of publishing a journal, from peer reviewers to copy editors. However, it is obvious that law students put significant effort into the scholarly publishing of legal literature. Even journals that have editorial boards composed of faculty members typically have student volunteers for source checking and footnote editing. The work law students put into law school journals is a noteworthy contribution to scholarly work in Canada.

    Question 3: How many of these law journals are open access (OA)?

    Only one journal has article processing charges (APCs). The University of Toronto Law Journal only provides hybrid OA options and “offers authors whose research has been funded by a national, regional, or international research funder … green and gold open access options to comply with research funding requirements.” It is common for public funding agencies to require researchers to publish in OA journals.2 And while research suggests that scholars value the principles of open access, they remain motivated by traditional scholarly incentives, including publishing in highly ranked journals that support the path to tenure and promotion.3 Though I believe the intention of funders’ OA requirements is to encourage accessibility and dissemination of scholarly knowledge, I have often wondered if these requirements only strengthen the power wielded by for-profit journals as the public funding is going directly to the journals via the APC.

    Question 4: How many of these journals follow the Canadian Guide to Legal Citation (the “McGill Guide”)?

    Most of the journals reviewed used theMcGill Guide as their citation guide. Only ~7 per cent did not use McGill or offer it as an option to authors.

    Question 5: What is the length of an article submission (word count)?

    This graph reflects the maximum word limit for article submissions. The University of New Brunswick Law Journal specifies that “[w]hile there are no preliminary restrictions as to manuscript length, the editorial board reserves the right to set such restrictions as a condition of publication.” The Journal of Law and Equality did not specify. For journals with page limits in their submission guidelines, I used a words-per-page counter to convert the page ranges to word limits based on the average number of words per page.

    Methodology for questions 6–9:

    First, I checked article submission guidelines for the maximum word limits. I excluded book reviews, case comments, etc., based on the assumption that articles are more likely to be cited by other scholars and relied upon by courts. I checked the average number of volumes and issues per year based on the past 10 years to determine each journal’s publication frequency. I reviewed each journal’s five most recent issues to determine the average number of articles published per issue, then I multiplied the average number of articles per issue by the number of issues published each year. Finally, I multiplied the maximum word limit by the average number of articles published each year.

    Question 6: How frequently do these journals publish?


    Question 7: For fun, how many words per year do these journals publish?

    The UNBLJ and JL & Equality do not provide information on word limits and are not accurately reflected in this graph.

    Question 8: Which province publishes the highest volume of articles per year?

    Ontario has the potential to produce well over 1.5 million words of peer-reviewed legal literature per year. Further examination of author demographics and the areas of law and legal topics addressed would provide insight into who is writing and what they are writing about.

    Question 9: Which law school publishes the highest volume of articles per year?

    The University of Manitoba Faculty of Law publishes an impressive amount of legal literature. Specifically, the Manitoba Law Journal states they have five dimensions that contribute to their output of peer-reviewed articles. The term dimension refers to a special topic addressed in each issue. Please note that I do not think that quantity is an indicator of quality. However, identifying journals that produce a significant amount of legal literature and examining their submission guidelines, editorial boards, editorial processes, and policies could provide insight into how to establish an efficient, quality journal. What other interesting things did I notice?
    • Many journals have expanded their scope beyond peer-reviewed content. Blogs and podcasts are increasingly common, likely due to their ability to distribute informal scholarly knowledge with expediency.
    • Although most journals are not topical, special issues addressing a theme were common.
    • None of the journals defined “open access” — they just state that they are OA.
    This serves as an introduction to the existing landscape of peer-reviewed law journals published by Canadian law schools. It would also be interesting to review the demographics of authors, the legal areas or topics explored, and subsequent scholarly and court citations. Adding an empirical layer could identify trends regarding submissions and, on a much larger scale, how submission guidelines and editorial processes might impact knowledge creation. ____ The dataset is available here. If you notice any errors, please contact me, and I will make the necessary corrections.
  • 12 Apr 2022 11:22 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    CALL member Marcelo Rodriguez, the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of Arizona Law School in Tucson, Arizona, recently wrote an article on "Accessing, Documenting and Preserving Information on Ukraine". It originally appeared on on March 30, 2022.

    It is republished here with permission of the author.

    I teach a class at the University of Arizona College of Law called, Foreign, Comparative and International Legal Research. In my class, I discuss with the students the different ways in which this type of advanced legal research is dependent on constantly moving variables and components.

    Beyond a handout of the top five sources to consult, I instead strive to make the students understand that they need to create a research strategy, keep track of changes on foreign and international law, and consult a significant amount of non-legal information. All of this needs to be done while always evaluating sources of information and at times, in languages you’re not fluent in. I briefly touched upon these issues in my previous post on Nicaragua and Haiti.

    When it comes to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, there are three situations which I’m following very closely: accessing trustworthy information, documenting what is happening, and the preservation of information.

    As a law librarian, these three situations all have a particular angle related to the law, namely accessing reliable legal and government information during war, documenting atrocities and potential war crimes in order to use this information as evidence in the future, and preservation of legal information in digital format which can be made available to everyone immediately as well as later on.

    In this post, I will talk briefly about these three areas and enumerate several sources which can provide further information. As usual, I invite all readers to mention and share other relevant links or sources in the comments section.

    Accessing Trustworthy Information

    In times of war, accessing information coming from reliable sources becomes literally a question of life or death. However, easily accessible online information in websites, news sources or in any social media platforms becomes a puzzle to decipher and in dire need of evaluation. If you have been following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on any platform, be it blogs, traditional media outlets or social media, you know that the information can be contradictory, incomplete and tainted with misinformation.

    Beyond these challenges, there is also the risk of intentional spread of false information or disinformation and propaganda. Oksana Brui, Director of the Ukrainian Library Association alluded to this in a letter to the international librarianship community.

    Furthermore, several Ukrainian government websites have been hacked to spread false information to the Ukrainian people. Despite these cyber attacks, the Ukrainian Government official page, and the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine are both using their corresponding Twitter accounts to debunk false information as quickly as possible (i.e. and

    Official government publications such as Golos Ukrainy (the Voice of Ukraine), Ofitsiyny Visnyk Ukrainy (Official Reporter of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Parliament’s legislation database are still functioning despite Russia’s attacks on internet infrastructure and service providers.

    As a law librarian, my goal is to empower legal researchers to be able to evaluate sources themselves whether it’s a social media post, news article or any secondary source of information they come across.

    This might sound easier said than done. But you’d be surprised how relatively easy it is to fall into the allure of a source that talks about exactly what you were looking for during a fast-changing situation and with emotions running high. I tell our researchers to keep it simple.

    Whenever in doubt, ask yourself these three questions: Who? Why? When? First, who is writing this post, tweet, news article or any source? Do they have an expertise on the subject? Are they affiliated to a reputable institution? What gives them the authority to write about the topic on hand? Then, you need to consider why the author or contributor shared this information. And this is usually located in the “about us” or mission section of the website. Are they a company selling products and services? Are they affiliated to a large organization, political party or government? What drives them to share information? This will help you elucidate what are their intentions behind the information they share.

    And last but not least, when was this information shared? You must be mindful not only about the date of when the tweet, post or article was written or shared. But also you need to know whether the information they describe is about a current event and if the videos and/or pictures accompanying the text are indeed from that said event.

    Documenting Information for Evidence

    Documenting information becomes critical when there is a need to provide future evidence of potential war crimes perpetrated during a conflict. There have been mentions of investigations on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), i.e. ICJ’s Ukraine v. Russian Federation and Statement of the ICC Prosecutor.

    Furthermore, public prosecutor’s offices in Germany and Spain have both opened investigations on possible violations of international humanitarian law. In order to find and gather evidence, the Ukrainian Bar Association shared a call for all Ukrainians to use the well-known app, eyeWitness to Atrocities developed by the International Bar Association (IBA) in 2015. Since its inception, eyeWitness to Atrocities app has searched to make gathering evidence accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

    Another excellent example of documenting and tracking potential war crimes is the UK-based, Centre for Information Resilience (CIR). They have created the Ukraine Monitoring Map, an open source crowdsourcing initiative to add and validate information as it takes place on the ground. They use geolocating information as well as help from actual Ukrainians in these places to confirm any discrepancies or fill any gaps in the data. This map and the information it has captured so far has helped provide an accurate picture of what’s taking place on the ground and combat misinformation. More than 600 videos or pictures have been collected and shared extensively on social media.

    Preserving Information

    When it comes to preserving online information, the Internet Archive is an incredibly powerful tool. The Internet Archive through its Archive It feature has been at the forefront of documenting, archiving and preserving online information coming from diverse sources. The Archive It collections are able to catalog information with specific metadata which allows for evaluating sources and information and access it for research. For example, this is exactly what was done to preserve all information concerning the Maidan Revolution and Conflict in Ukraine in 2014.

    These days, there are two main Archive It collections of importance to this topic. The first one called War in Ukraine: 2022 aims to archive websites from educational institutions, government agencies as well twitter accounts from important people. The Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University created the second account archiving several websites and social media accounts documenting Russia’s invasion and war on Ukraine.

    Another excellent tool from the Internet Archive is its well-known Wayback Machine. At the time of writing, the overwhelming majority, if not all of the Ukrainian court websites are completely inaccessible.

    To name a few, the following judicial websites have been completely taken down: Supreme Court, Unified State Register of Court Decisions, High Council of Justice, Kiev Court of Appeal, Administrative Courts and High Court of Arbitration. However, thanks to the Wayback Machine, we are able to access several previous iterations of these websites for consultation and research. For example, we are able to access the websites of those courts and judicial websites which are currently down: Supreme Court, Unified State Register of Court Decisions, High Council of Justice, Kiev Court of Appeal, Administrative Courts and High Court of Arbitration.

    Finally, if you’d like to help or donate, I’d highly recommend you to consult these sources:

  • 31 Mar 2022 7:17 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    From time to time, this blog will highlight initiatives, ideas, or activities coming from members, committees or special interest groups (SIGs).

    Today: An Update About Changement Strategies, by Michael McAlpineManager, Information, Research & Knowledge at Siskinds (London, Ontario)

    The CALL Knowledge Management SIG met on March 29th to discuss change management strategies and project success and failures.

    Starting with a review of the Kotter approach to leading change, the group then looked at an example of a knowledge project implementation that had some success and some failure and how it could have been improved through deliberate use of the Kotter model.

    Following that the group had an open discussion about changes in their organization. Specifically members shared their experience in implementing and using a ticketing system to coordinate research requests and how these systems worked (or didn’t) as part of enterprise wide ticketing systems.

    We also talked about DMS implementations and how roles are changing within organizations. Larger organizations have Change Management departments that are available as a resource enterprise wide while smaller organizations leave change management and planning to project or department managers.

  • 10 Mar 2022 4:25 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    The following announcement was distributed on the listserv of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries.

    It is reproduced here with permission:

    The Visible Minority Librarians of Canada (ViMLoC) Mentorship Program is now accepting applications for the 2022 session! This mentoring session will run from May 2nd to July 1st, 2022. To apply as a mentor or mentee, please fill out the mentor application form or mentee application form

    *** Applications will close on March 31, 2022 ***

    About this program

    The Visible Minority Librarians of Canada (ViMLoC) recognizes the need to help visible minority librarians, especially early career and new immigrant librarians, develop their professional careers, as well as the need to encourage and guide visible minority library students with career planning. Lack of mentorship is often cited as a challenge among visible minority librarians, and through our mentorship program, we found that small acts of mentorship were able to make an impact on our mentees. Applying for this program will help create a larger network of visible minority librarians and increase our representation in the library profession. The 2022 ViMLoC mentoring program will recruit experienced visible minority librarians as potential mentors, as well as facilitate the matching of potential mentors to mentees. ViMLoC membership is NOT required to participate in this program, however, you are encouraged to sign up for ViMLoC membership. Please visit our mentorship program page for more information.  

    Should I apply?

    This program is open to visible minority librarians at all stages of their career, and visible minority library students. In Canada, the visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab, West Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Japanese and Korean. Participants with the intersectionality of these backgrounds are welcome to apply. We need mentors with all kinds of experience and skills. In recognition of your contribution to the mentorship program, we would be happy to provide mentors with a reference letter. 


    Applicants to the program are expected:

    • To commit to the full term of the session;
    • To keep in touch with their mentorship partner a minimum of twice per month (by email, phone, Zoom or other means of communication upon mutual agreement);
    • To complete an exit survey (online) at the close of the session.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

  • 28 Feb 2022 4:33 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    Dolores Noga, Manager, Library Services and Knowledge Management at McLennan Ross in Edmonton, is the Chair of the CALL/ACBD Scholarships & Awards Committee.

    She would like CALL members to consider applying for the new Nancy McCormack Emerging Leader Award which honours the memory of a fellow CALL member who was the Head Law Librarian at Queen's University in Kingston. 

    Nancy died in 2019.

    The award goes to an association member in good standing who is normally in the first ten years of their law library career and who has demonstrated the qualities embodied by Nancy.

    The application deadline is April 1, 2022.

    Here is what Dolores asked the blog to share:

    The Canadian Association of Law Libraries recently unveiled criteria for the new Nancy McCormack Emerging Leader Award. This is a memorial award, intended to recognize and honour our former colleague, who dedicated considerable time to mentoring and encouraging others in the profession.

    Nancy McCormack was an active member of the Association and a committed contributor to the Canadian Law Library Review, preparing book reviews, writing articles, and served as editor and associate editor. She co-wrote The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research published in 2010 and revised in 2015, Updating Statutes and Regulations for All Canadian Jurisdictions published in 2012, Introduction to the Law & Legal System of Canada published in 2013, and The Annotated Federal Interpretation Act published in 2016.

    Nancy most recently edited the fifth edition of The Dictionary of Canadian Law published in 2020, a task described as ‘Herculean’. She taught Advanced Legal Research and Writing, Torts, and Legal Research and Writing. A search on HeinOnline provides reference to 52 articles written by Nancy.

    Nancy held a B.A., M.A., M.L.I.S., J.D., and LL.M. An issue of the Canadian Law Library Review, compiled after Nancy’s passing, provides the following comments from those who worked closely with her and knew her well: “incredibly generous in sharing her experience, knowledge, time”; “cared deeply about the people she taught and mentored”; “kind”; “encouraging”; and “supportive”, as examples.

    Nancy was the recipient of the Dennis Marshall Memorial Award for Excellence in Law Librarianship in 2014 and the Michael Silverstein Prize in 2018.

  • 20 Feb 2022 1:59 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    Hannah Steeves, the Instruction & Reference Librarian at the Sir James Dunn Law Library, Dalhousie University (Halifax), recently wrote an article on "Using Vinyl & Spotify to Understand Legal Information Online". It originally appeared on on February 15, 2022.

    Most legal research is done online through a combination of open and subscription databases. Legal information is available at our fingertips through Justice Laws, LEGISinfo, CanLII, Westlaw, Lexis, ProView, SOQUIJ, [insert your preferred database here], and the list goes on. The availability of electronic resources has radically changed—and will continue to change—the way legal professionals conduct research. However, despite my enthusiasm for the improved accessibility and retrievability, I think the lack of engagement that new legal researchers have with print resources creates comprehension issues. The disconnect between a source’s print and electronic formats reduces their understanding of the process used to create the document. Understanding this process helps us understand the organization of information and makes a researcher more efficient.

    New legal researchers are often introduced directly to the electronic version of a source without fully understanding how it came to be. For example, a student might learn about legislation and be shown how to trace a legislative history using Justice Laws without ever interacting with the print, bound statutes. They are missing the benefits of seeing the tangible organization of annual, revised, and consolidated statutes. Another example is having a student use ProView without ever flipping through a physical binder and understanding how loose-leaf releases work. Although they know each source is unique, they all present approximately the same online.

    Unfortunately, limited class time and COVID-19 have made it nearly impossible to get students into the library to conduct research with print sources. I try to grab print copies of case reporters, volumes of statutes, and loose-leafs to show students in person or on Zoom, but the effect is not the same as engaging with the print source directly. Instead, when I meet with students, I often see ~18 tabs open in their browsers with sites ranging from course materials, Google, CanLII, and their preferred subscription platform. They ask me, “Why does this have to be so complicated?” And they’re right! It does seem complicated, at first glance. If we had created these resources using our modern digital environment, they would be organized differently. Print established the rules, and the digital versions have been bound by them.

    When I try to explain why the digital versions might seem unnecessarily complex, but that understanding how to use the print sources will improve their navigation of the digital versions, I use the following analogy.

    First, assuming Spotify is the most common music app, I ask students whether they’re more likely to download/stream full albums or singles. Once they’ve answered, I explain that the point of this question is to determine that they understand that a single song is situated within an album—the album is a collection of songs.

    Next, I ask if they know why artists produce albums. This one takes a bit of waiting, and in a classroom setting a music aficionado may bring up the concept album (and rightly so!), but usually there’s someone who knows that the standard album is a result of the time limitations set by vinyl, specifically the 33 rpm LP record. (Or maybe they Google it as I’m waiting for an answer—who am I to judge?) With a brief explanation, it becomes clear that vinyl restricted artists to around 44 minutes of playing time, and this explains the standard album format still used today.

    The next step is to connect the persistence of the album through various eras of music. The album has survived the evolution of music distribution. Historically, it started with vinyl, but remained through transitions between audio cassette, the CD, through to the mp3. Today, although platforms like Spotify make it easy to release only singles, it is still commonplace to release albums, and we all understand how to navigate Spotify to download/stream singles and albums both. We understand how singles are situated within albums and how to use the information surrounding a single to identify coordinating information such as the artist and album. I try to link this back to citations for revised statutes or a case law reporter. Fortunately, I usually see some heads nod and, eventually, I even get a few students who ask to look at the print.

    It’s not perfect, but my intention is to show the connection between tangible, physical forms of information and the digital adaptation. They can’t flip through hyperlinks, but hopefully understanding that the digital is trying to emulate the print’s pages, indexes, and volumes makes their navigation of the online version a bit easier to comprehend.


  • 24 Jan 2022 6:54 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)
    Alisa Lazear, Manager of Community and Content at the Canadian Legal Information Institute, recently interviewed Susan Barker, current acting editor of the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR) about taking the publication online. The interview originally appeared on on January 19, 2022.

    While access to legal journals in printed form is still desired, many have transitioned to a purely digital format. But what exactly does moving from print to digital entail? To better understand this process, I asked Susan Barker, retired law librarian from the University of Toronto and current acting editor of the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR), about her experience when the publication took the leap to online-only in 2015.

    1. What were the motivations for CLLR to go purely digital?

    When I came on board as editor in 2013, the decision to go digital had been tentatively made by the executive and I was tasked with making it happen. My conjecture is that the executive decided that the time was right to go digital. Our sister law library associations in the U.S. and U.K. had begun to create digital versions of their publications and it made sense for us to keep up. The journal was also in need of a redesign, so it made sense to piggyback the redesign with moving away from print.

    2. What were the biggest challenges and opportunities? 

    Some of the biggest challenges I faced involved logistics and reinvention. 

    It was important to learn all there was about policies, the publication regime, and what impact the changeover would have on our constituency, our external subscribers, and our advertisers. 

    Also, the decision to go digital coincided with a change to a new management team. With gaps in information and changes to a number of processes, I had to make decisions without always having the knowledge I needed at hand. 

    Despite the challenges, there were more opportunities that came with this change. 

    Budgetary: Going digital meant that the CLLR went from costing thousands of dollars per year for printing and mailing to making a profit.

    Exposure: Going digital made it possible for the CLLR to become open access. We now have a broader readership.

    Look and feel: Going digital gave us the opportunity to upgrade the look. The cost of printing in colour would have been prohibitive, but these costs didn’t matter in the purely digital environment. 

    3. What helped you the most during that transition? 

    What helped me most during the transition was my experience, support from the executive, technology, and institutional knowledge. 

    Experience: I had already had experience in transitioning the TALL Quarterly to digital.

    Support from the executive: The executive was supportive and generally hands off for the practical stuff – like the design, format etc. However, we always made sure we had their backing for major policy decisions, like platforms, and going open access.

    Technology: Technology was there and easy to use – using InDesign, the ISSUU platform, and Adobe made the technical part of this transition very straightforward.

    Institutional knowledge: There were many long-term members of the editorial board, including two former editors, who were able to advise me and fill me in on the logistics. 

    4. Do you have any other thoughts about that experience? 

    One thing that made it easier was that the changes were made incrementally and so we were able to make sure one thing worked before moving on to the next. Step 1 was the redesign in 2013. Then we moved to providing a PDF version while still producing in print. Then the print was discontinued and a PDF link was provided to members on our website and we set up access via ISSUU. The next step was to discontinue the print entirely. Once digital – we were able to go open access, no longer limit our readership to members and paid subscribers (although we only had a few of those) and to adopt a Creative Commons license. Finally, our partnership with CanLII made true open access possible. 


    While this is just one example of a journal going from print to digital, there are some important considerations Susan mentioned that I think can be applied to anyone who might still be contemplating moving online. 

    • What knowledge gaps need to be filled? 
      • Understanding digital publication best practices. Changes in processes, management, and training. 
      • An opportunity for reinvention and innovation. 
    • How will the change impact readership?
      • Digital publication and open licensing allows for the content to be shared more widely than ever before. 
    • What are the cost implications?
      • Digital formats allow for more possibilities and fewer costs in design features (colours, number of pages, multimedia), linking to other resources, and gathering usage metrics, for example.

    Whether you prefer the traditional print reading experience, or think print journals are old-fashioned, the reality is that digital formats come with growing possibilities and the journal experience will continue into an increasingly digital future.

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