Hyperlinks and Searcher Expectations

One of the features that I really, really like in the LEGISinfo service is a wee little link in the right panel of the Status Overview for a Bill. The link is titled “Similar Bills Introduced in Previous Sessions”. It is extremely useful to look at previous iterations of legislation and likewise to see how long something has been on Parliament’s agenda. I use this information regularly, most recently for a Slaw post.

Since I was on a plane last week, the title of Bill C-3 which was introduced on Friday caught my eye: “An Act to enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”. Something about this Bill made me curious. It is a substantial undertaking and since we have a new Parliament, I wondered if it was a reintroduction of a Bill from a previous session that died on the order paper.

I dutifully followed the Status Overview link and noticed that nothing was linked under “Similar Bills Introduced in Previous Sessions”. Curiosity led me to the press release linked under “Departmental Information”. Harper government reaffirms Canada’s commitment to protecting Canada’s coasts and shores opens with:

Today, the Minister of Transport reintroduced in the House of Commons the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, an important piece of legislation first tabled in Parliament on March 18, 2013, as part of the Government of Canada’s comprehensive measures to establish a World-Class Tanker Safety System.

No doubt someone reading this will think I am a blockhead since Bill C-57 from the previous session has the same title, including the pithy short title advertisement “Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act”. One of the reasons I depend on the links to similar bills introduced in previous session is that the Legislative Summary and other information pieces are usually carried forward to the latest version. The fact that there is the ability to make a link seems to suggest that links will always be made.

I also recently sent a whiny email asking the folks at CanLII why a section of a statute wasn’t picked up with the noting up function with a recent ABCA case. Is it reasonable to expect that every single section reference will be caught by automation and made easy and convenient? Of course not. Law librarians have been giving training classes for decades reminding searchers to note up using more than one service or method. As industry insider searchers of complex legal information we are expected to use our brains, not simply the convenient tools available, fantastic as they are.

My question for this fine fall Tuesday: are we too dependent on hyperlink expectations?


  1. Update:
    Thanks to the hard working group of Senate, House, and Library employees responsible for managing LEGISinfo, I can be lazy in my search habits for Bill C-3.

    I remind Slawyers, and also take note myself, that value added work does take time.