Canadian Law is an iPhone app, put together by Lunaform Software, a German based company. The cost is $4.99. The app’s purpose is a little more modest that its name suggests – it provides offline access to over 700 Federal statutes. This includes the full text of all statutes (but not the regulations) in English only. Once the app has been downloaded one does not need to be connected to the Internet to view and work with the statutes.
I reviewed the app on an iPad 2, but I expect that it works the same on an iPhone. As I worked through the features of the app it became clear how effective a touch screen is for quickly navigating through large volumes of text.
The real strength of this app is to allow you to quickly access and work with familiar statutes offline. If you know the provision you are looking for it takes seconds to pull it up by browsing through the list of statutes. Within an act it is easy to move from section to section. One can quickly and intuitively bookmark and annotate sections (with the notes feature) and refer to them later.
The currency date for most of the statutes I reviewed was May 30, 2011. The developer of the app told me that from time to time updates to the statutes will be provided through app updates in the App Store. They are also working on functionality that will allow the user to update online from within the app, but this is still in development.
The search box on the main screen is fairly basic and has limitations. The results are sorted:
i) by statute, where your search term is the first word in the name of the statute
ii) by sections, that contain your term in the marginal notes for each section (i.e. the description or title of each section which does not actually form part of the statute)
For example: searching for “inquir” brings up the Inquiries Act first, followed an alphabetical list of sections of statutes that contain ‘inquir” in their marginal notes. There is no truncation feature but searching for the root of your term seems to work well. The search however does not appear to be a true full text search. If a word appears in the text of a section, but not in the marginal notes it will not appear in the search results. For example s.4(1) of the Access to Information Act contains the word “notwithstanding” in the text but not in the marginal note – a search for “notwithstanding” will not find this section.
Overall I find the Canadian Law app to be a worthwhile purchase at $4.99. Despite the fact that the Federal statutes are available for free at the Department of Justice website and on CANLII, offline access and the ability to annotate, bookmark and do basic searching makes this a handy app when away from the office or when going online is not possible or convenient. As long as one keeps the currency in mind and is aware of the limitations of the search engine, this is a nice basic offering for users of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.