Monday, November 17, 2008

York is on Strike!!

Yep. CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3903) has been on strike now for a week and a half. It represents the teaching assistants, and contract faculty. All classes at the university are suspended. The Union wants a wage increase of 11% over two years. The University has offered 9.25% over three years, the same amount that other unions settled for. However, with all the other benefits the union is asking for, their total goes much higher than that.

But, I doubt the university is going to budge on this. In the first place, during these tough economic times, the university can't afford to pay the union what they are asking for, so asking for that sort of raise and benefits is a waste of time. The University has lost a lot of money because of the downturn and needs to tighten its belt, at least, from what I've heard.

In the second place, I am sure that the University is getting tremendous pressure from other schools across the country not to budge. The national part of CUPE wants to unify T.A.'s and contract faculty across tthe country and have them all bargain at the same time. If York backs off, it will look as if they conceded to the union, and I don't think they're going to budge.

Conversely, the union is getting pressure from the national branch to stay the course. They say that they need more money to help students pay for their education, and job security so that the contract faculty don't have to reapply for their jobs every year.

There are problems with their arguments. One is, in the case of the graduate students, they work part time, the majority only 10 hours per week, so why should they get so much more when others get less? Second, for contract faculty. In a sense, they chose being part time. Have any of them asked to be full-time? We don't know. No one has said. I agree they shouldn't have to reapply for their jobs every year, so perhaps the two to three years is fine. However, the compensation the union is asking for makes it difficult.

I sometimes wonder if the majority of the picketers on the lines truly know what they are striking for. Yes, they are very bright people, but I'm not sure that they truly realize it.

In most negotiations, only a few people on each side are involved in the negotiating. When they tell us what went on, they will only do it from their point of view. Thus, we really don't get the whole story from either side. That's why I didn't go into practice with collective bargaining. I'm sick of all the grandstanding. That's what it is folks, it's all a game.

As usual, our students are caught in the middle. The people we depend on to pay our salaries and benefits are now being left out in the cold (excuse the pun on a cold day like this) by others who say they are striking for quality education. What's this about quality educaton? This strike isn't about that. It's about money and benefits, pure and simple!!

The whole thing could be settled by binding arbitration, as the TTC strike was settled. The union has rejected it, claiming that it favours the employer. My personal opinion on this is that the union has no chance of convincing an arbitrator of the merits of their case, especially with the tough economic times and the fact that the other unions got less, so they're not going to agree to it.

Well, here's hoping common sense prevails, and classes start again soon. I miss the cheerful talk of students (as well as their groaning).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sharia'a law

Interesting case handed down from the House of Lords on October 22nd. The Lords allowed a women who had fled Lebanon with her seven year old son to stay in the U.K. The woman, divorced from her husband, fled Lebanon because, under the law of that country, custody of a child passes automatically from a women to a male member of the family. In this case, her husband. The Lords said that it would be a violation of her human rights under the European Convention of Human Rights. I'm not sure if you could call it that under the law, as Lebanon is not a signatory of the ECHR, but it seems a bit messy. One would wonder what would happen to a British child if they were taken to Lebanon by a parent. Would a court there order the child retuned to Britain?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blogging No NO

There was an interesting email alert from Lancaster House today. An Alberta arbitration board upheld the firing of a provincial government employee, ruling that what she had written in her blog caused irreperable harm to the employee-employer relationship.

Apparently, this employee was advised by her doctor to write her feelings out on a blog to help her cope with the stress of her father's illness and recent death. Unfortunately, she took the advice a little too literally. Not only did she write down her personal feelings, but she also shared her insights into colleagues and clients that she was helping. Many of her comments were insentive and derogatory. Thus, the arbiter ruled that the blog had become part of the public domain, and as such, caused so much hurt and distress that the relationship was irretrievably broken.

I won't repeat the snipets of what was said here. Suffice it to say that thiis is one of those times when you just want to say to someone that before they write something, THINK!! Then, after that, THINK!!! AGAIN!!! When you are done writing and just about to post, THINK!! AGAIN!! one last time.

Like Lancaster House, I agree that the dangers of blogging are minimal, as long as you are responsible with what you are writing. In this day and age, with so much information being available, anyone and anything can be found, even things we don't want to find out. If you are writing a blog, don't say anything bad about anyone. Keep it to yourself. We'd all be much happier if we were careful.

A good lesson for anyone to remember. Read the article from lancaster house here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quickcite statute citator

If anyone has not had the chance to view the new Quickcite statute citator on Quicklaw, now might be a good time to do so.

This new database is an improvement over what you had to do beforehand in Quicklaw, with all those quotations marks and other symbols you needed to have. Now, all you need to do is pick the jurisdiction, enter the name of the act, and (this is the best part), enter the section on a clearly marked seperate line, so no more annoying quotation marks or other symbols to put in.

The other thing is that when you get the results, they are accurate to what you want. What I mean by this is that, before, when you inputed your search string on Quicklaw, you had to hope that all your hits were accurate. For example, if you were trying to find the Labour Relations Act, section 5 for Ontario, your search string would get you what you wanted, but you might also get hits with either "Labour Relations Act", or ones with just the number 5. Thus it was highly inaccurate. It appears that they have corrected this problem.

There are a couple of drawbacks. So far, it only goes back to 1992 (2005 for Quebec). Also, it doesn't give as many hits as there are in Westlaw for the same thing. In Quicklaw, I tried the labour relations act, section 5 for Ontario, and only got 2 hits. Contrast that with Westlaw, and I ended up getting 51 hits, all accurate to section 5.

Quickcite still has some work to do, but it is better than it was. Let's hope it keeps going!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Finally! Someone actually said the things we've all been waiting for!

The title here says it all. An interesting post on law librarians blog, stating that some law firms will not hire law school graduates until the various schools improve their legal research program. I said something close to that last year in my article, "Law Students and legal research: What's the problem?"

Amazing how most law schools still haven't gotten the message, but then again, until more law firms insist on improvements to the legal research program, nothing much will change.

To read the posting in law librarians blog, click here

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Translation blues

Most of us have had the distressing difficulty of trying to translate a document at some point in our careers. What is most frustrating is that many of the translators, such as babelfish, do a horrific job of translating. There was an interesting discussion on the int-law listserv today about it. Many bemoaned the fact that there was not a translator out there that could do justice to translating a legal document. With all the technology and web 2.0, one would think someone would have had the brains to think up of a decent translator. Oh well, one can always hope!

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's in a name?

I heard something quite interesting on yesterday. A judge in New Zealand has made a 9 year old girl a ward of the court so that she can get her name changed. Why is this? Her name is Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii. That is her first name, not a nickname or a last name. Apparently she is so embarassed by her name that she hasn't even told her friends the name, asking them to refer to her as "K".
This isn't the first time this particular judge hs heard these type of bizarre names. Its probably why he did this. Other odd names that heve been allowed in New Zealand is No. 16 Bus Shelter, although apparently Sex Fruit was not allowed.
What kind of society do we have when parents are allowed to go off on the deep end like this? I'm all for good names, but these sorts of names are not only silly, but an embarassment to the famiy and especially the child.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting court documents when they are first filed

I was on vacation all last week. It was great not to worry about work, and doing my own thing, but all things must come to an end!

Anywas, a couple of weeks ago, just before I went on vacation, we had an interesting question being put to us at the reference desk. The question was how to get court documents that have just been filed in court. An example of this would be a statement of claim from the recently publicized Beirut Canada bank case. We tried to figure this out, and then we asked our chief law librarian, who has experience working at one of the big downtown Toronto firms. He said that in Ontario, there really is no way to get these sorts of things online when they are first issued. What normally happens is that you have to go down to the courthouse to get it. Most of the big firms have people who will run down to the courthouse to get the documents. Apparently, Quebec is one of the few places that have their documents online. You can get them on Azimut/Soquij, I believe. (if you can speak French, well and good!)

It works well for law firm libraries, which is fine as they would really be the only ones who need it most of the time. However, sometimes professors would like to see them as they write about them in articles and other papers. It would be nice if Ontario followed Quebec's lead, and for that matter, all of Canada.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A call to digitize all statutes

Yesterday, a law student came to the Reference Desk and wanted to know how to note up a section in the criminal code from the 1970's. I told her she would have to use the print sources once she went back prior to the R.S.C.'s 1985. She had never done it before and did not know what to do. I spent about an hour or so explaining it and going over it with her, especially how to use the print sources. Fortunately we weren't too busy at the desk, and she was finally able to understand it.

This brings me to my point. If Library and Archives Canada can digitize all of the issues of the Canada Gazette, would they not at some point do the same for all of the statutes. When I mean all of the statues, I mean digitize all of the statues, not just those in the present, but also in the past, all the way back to the very beginning of Canada in 1867. I'm not suggesting that digging for the history of the statutes would be that much easier on a computer (the process can still be a pain), but at least the students could do it on a medium they are familiar with, at any time of day.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

They like us! They really like us!!

At the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries Conference (CARALL) in Kingston, Jamaica on July 7th, Jamaica's Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, praised law librarians for the quality work that they do, and encouraged them to continue their education and professional learning. She also lamented the fact that young people are not turning to law librarianship, and that, in Jamaica, that is a problem, as only the law school library, the courts, and wealthy firms have access to trained law librarians. Many law firms and lawyers must make do with library assistants who, in some cases, are not fully trained in the areas of law.

I definitely agree with her remarks. Indeed, we do quality work. I would even argue that as law librarians, we are a vital part to the legal profession. For example, in law firms, we help lawyers find the information without which, they cannot build their arguments around. In law schools, I would argue we truly shape young lawyers. Without the law librarians, law students would not truly learn the research skills they will need to use when they enter the legal profession. Perhaps I'm patting us on the back a bit much, but as someone who articled and had to use research skills quite a bit during that time, I can safely say that I would not have done as good a job researching if I hadn't had the help of the law librarians during my time in law school.

Now... if only more lawyers and professors would fully appreciate us...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Steven Truscott and the Wrongfully Convicted

By now, most people in Canada have heard that Steven Truscott, the man who as a 14 year old in 1959, was convicted of raping and killing his 12 year old classmate, was given compensation yesterday to the tune of 6.5 million dollars.

My colleague and I talked about Truscott, and she was quite interested in wondering what the law was here with regard to the wrongfully convicted and the compensation that they get. In China, where my colleague is from, the government would pay money to the wrongfully- convicted person, but the government would for example, punish the judge if an error was made in their judgment. For example, the state would lower his salary so that in effect, the state would recoup a small amount of money that was paid out to the wrongfully convicted person. She could not understand why in Truscott's case-while she was fine with him getting compensation-the judge would not be punished. I'll have to do some further research on it. I know that you could go after the Crown for malicious prosecution, but you have to be careful. If the judge made an honest mistake, do you then go after the judge? If you do, that could affect how judges make their decisions in the future. They may be so nervous about making a mistake, it could affect their fulfilling their duties.

Perhaps, as some have suggested, there should be legislation brought in that specifically states the kind of compensation one would get. Right now, we have an ad hoc system in Canada, where compensation usually depends on the media attention you get. However, as others have also pointed out, no politician would ever go for introducing legislation, at least not one who is not courageous enough to do so. They do not want to appear soft on crime. Then again, at least with legislation, we would have a clear idea of the compensation that should be paid out. See the article "Convicting the Innocent" by Mark Bourrie in (1999) volume 23 Can. Lawyer No. 11, 29-32 for more.

I wonder what others would have to say about this.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hello and welcome to my blog

This blog will mostly be about both law and libraries. These two areas combine what I do for a living as a law librarian. I'll try to update every day so check back often!