Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Canadian Legal Research Guide Updated

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia heard a challenge to the Canadian province's anti-cyberbullying law, which was passed in 2013 following the suicide of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons. Parsons, a victim of sexual assault, had been harassed for several months by students at her school after a photo of the attack was circulated online. In response to her tragic death, Nova Scotia lawmakers enacted the Cyber-safety Act, which prohibits "electronic communication […] that is intended or ought reasonably [to] be expected to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other damage or harm to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation." Under the Act, victims of cyberbullying may be entitled to civil damage awards from their harassers, or from the parents of minor children who engage in online harassment.

Robert Snell, who was accused of cyberbullying by a former business partner, has challenged a protective order issued against him under this Act. His lawyer argued that the provincial legislation violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Bill of Rights), and creates civil liability for an unreasonably broad amount of free expression. Lawyers for the province argued that the wide definition of cyberbullying was necessary to prevent the law from becoming obsolete in the face of rapidly changing technology.

Once the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has issued its judgment in this case, how might a researcher in the U.S. track it down? Our recently-updated guide to Canadian Legal Research has some ideas. It turns out that we have a number of legal research options for our neighbo(u)rs to the North, including WestlawNext (Law School only), LexisNexis Quicklaw (Duke University community), and free websites like CanLII and LexUM. Government websites also provide robust access to legal materials.

Canadian national flag
The National Flag of Canada, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015.

The research guide also has suggestions for finding helpful treatises and periodical articles for background research. The encyclopedias Halsbury's Laws of Canada (on Quicklaw) and Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (on WestlawNext) also provide good overviews of Canadian legal topics. Additionally, print and electronic research guides (such as the aptly-named Best Guide to Canadian Legal Research) are included for those conducting more in-depth Canadian legal research.

For help with locating Canadian legal materials, either online or in the library's print collection, be sure to Ask a Librarian, eh?