Although most of us may not be concerned with rules governing alcohol consumption and fireworks or a combination thereof on a daily basis, municipal law impacts our lives quite frequently.
Unfortunately, this is one area of law where efficient, free and public access is far from secured. The presence of municipalities on the web has significantly expanded and improved over the past several years, but publication of municipal by-laws seems to remain low on the priority list. When it is made available, municipal legal information is scattered, often out-of-date and is not easily searchable.
When driving on the Montreal roads dodging potholes the size of craters and zigzagging through never-ending roadwork, we may think that the city should have concerns other than the publication of its by-laws. However, access to municipal law, as access to law in general, is important for the transparency and accountability of our institutions and deserves to be given a higher priority.
This is the thinking behind OyezOyez.ca. The website is a publishing platform for municipal by-laws, council meetings minutes and other public municipal stuff. It also offers portal functions allowing users to search existing municipal websites. Recently launched with Québec municipalities, soon our attention will expand east and west to include other provinces. Bélanger Sauvé, one of Quebec's leading municipal law firms collaborates with Oyez Oyez by providing news related to the transparency of municipal governance.
When speaking of free access, the implicit question is who pays for it? It is true that a working free access operation has to be based on a solid sustainable model. According to a recent study conducted in collaboration with other free access enthusiasts, free law publishing across the globe operates thanks to the efforts and capacity to innovate of small passionate organizations (LIIs) combined with the support of lawyers, donors, advertisers or any other group willing to provide the necessary resources.
With OyezOyez.ca, we will first knock on city hall doors. However, other models have not been ruled out. The important thing is to find a viable way to sustain public access to municipal law. As far as Lexum is concerned, the project will benefit from our past experience with free law publishing and a great deal of ideas driven by our thirst to innovate and our frustration with potholes.