I’m sure a contributor or reader of SLAW can enlighten me on a point of Canadian historical legal research that has stumped me. Since coming to Canada I’ve looked (on and off, and without a great deal of thoroughness I must admit) for a tool that will give the “Founders” view of the Constitution. S omething equivalent to the Australian Federation Debates compilation. Federation in Australia, and the Constitution of 1901, grew out of a series of debates held in the capital cities of the then colonies during the 1890s. Everything that was said was recorded by hansard reporters and the first thing a High Court judge will do, when dealing with a section of the Constitution, is say “what’s in the debates?”. As a reference librarian at the High Court in the dark days before the Internet, I had to scan the several very thik volumes of the Debates to find any and all mentions of a particular provision. Its made easy now because the entire collection is online via the Australian Parliament Web site. A highly valuable companion tool for Australian constitutional research is “The Annotated Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australian” by Quick and Garran, two men who attended the debates. “Quick and Garran” has been reprinted a number of times – no major research law library should be without a copy. And then for knowledge of what sources the Founders themselves would have consulted, there’s a great book called The Later Australian Federation Movement, 1883-1901: Outline and Bibliography (1979) by L.F.Crisp which is complemented by Federation: the Guide to Records (1998), a landmark work published by Australian Archives, which gathers details of archives and manuscripts in Australian repositories relating to federation and its aftermath.
So, c’mon Canadians – what are the equivalents?