The Need to Digitize Historical Canadian Legislation

The recent posting on SLAW about Carl Malmud’s “maverick” actions of shaming the U.S. government by himself publishing American case law on the Internet got me thinking.

Can we in Canada not shame our governments into digitizing the historical versions of federal and provincial legislation in a manner similar to that done in Alberta through the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project (AHDP)?

Perhaps this will be a topic to be discussed at the 8th International Conference of Law Via the Internet conference in Montreal in October.

If not, treat this post as a rallying cry.

Surely it would only be a matter of weeks for selected members of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) to scan to searchable PDF the statutes of their province from the time of entry into Confederation through to say 1990 or the most recent revision for the particular province. CALL or CanLII or one of the academic law libraries could host the work (or a new site could be set up). Having this material in searchable PDF (without the need to create HTML versions, something which I assume takes more work) would allow law firm libraries across the country to save shelf space. And as many of you know, working from a good online PDF version (such as from HeinOnline or is much easier than using a print version, especially where the print version may be in bad physical condition.

I’ll do Ontario. Who else is on board?


  1. The Alberta Laws digitized collection is wonderful. I wish something like it were available for all Canadian jurisdictions.

    The only negative aspect of it is the lack of reproduction functionality…you can only print one page at a time. I would hope that other jurisdictions would consider how the information would be used in a non-digital way when undertaking this worthy project.

  2. Ted, let me anticipate a bit and say that Osgoode Hall Law School would be glad to host any and all of the PDFs.