I was happy to receive and thumb through the new 4th edition of Daphne Dukelow's The Dictionary of Canadian Law (Carswell, 2011).
It has been close to 6 years since the previous editon was issued. In that time, Dukelow notes in her preface that one "sea change" in legal language has been a movement to plainer English in legislation and judicial reasons. According to her, the new edition focuses more on pure legal terminology and less on industries and activities regulated by law. Dukelow also notes that Betsy Nuse helped with this new edition (and on a historical note: in the Preface to the First Edition, found in the current edition, I was reminded of the role played by Gary Rodrigues – a current SLAW contributor – in overseeing the publication of the first edition).
By way of contrast in terms of length, I note that the last entry in the 3rd edition for "Zoning Bylaw" was on page 1429, whereas that same last definition in the new edition is on page 1411, meaning that there has been a slight reduction in the total number of pages.
Although it is impossible to spot all of the differences, Dukelow has clearly removed older, less useful content to allow for some new content, such as a new entries for "Cyber-bullying" and "Forward-looking information."
As with past editions, the dictionary contains ample entries for common Latin legal phrases and would, I guess, have citations to case law or legislation for likely around 60% of the definitions.
I like that the new edition has "thumbnail indents" for each letter of the alphabet, making it easier to open up the page to the relevant section of the dictionary.
However, I did notice a few peculiarities where one wonders whether there was a need to define a particular term. For example, there is an entry for "Dead body" with the definition simply being "A corpse," with the corresponding reverse definition not being entirely parallel (i.e., "Corpse" is defined as "The dead body of a person.").
Out of curiousity, I ran an unscientific search on Westlaw Canadian cases on the phrase "dictionary of canadian law" compared to "black's law dictionary" over the last 1, 3 and 10 years to compare citation practice. As I had (loosely) predicted, with the passage of time, there appears to be a small but growing trend in the increase of citations by Canadian jurists to our Canadian dictionary instead of to the American classic, proportionately, with the passage of time:
– past year: Canadian – cited 35 times, American – cited 192 times
– past 3 years: Canadian – cited 109 times, American – cited 678 times
– past year: Canadian – cited 343 times, American – cited 2388 times
Although there is a Canadian electronic close equivalent from the same publisher (Sanagan’s Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases on Carswell's eReference Library), and although there is an e-version of Black's Law Dictionary (from the same publisher in the States), I am not aware of any plans to make the The Dictionary of Canadian Law available online. However, I suspect there may be a market for larger firms for a licensed online version. If they are otherwise paying several hundred dollars for multiple print copies, a large firm might be willing to pay a little bit more to license an online version to the entire firm.
All in all, an (obviously) welcome additon to any law library and the author/publisher are to be commended.
I did learn a new word: Gynarcy (Government by women) (although there was no mention of the alternative spelling of "Gynarchy" which seems to be the preferred spelling from Google and the OED).