CanLII Releases Report on Strategic Priorities

CanLII President Colin Lachance has just now released his plan for that organization’s next three years. “Strategic Priorities 2012 to 2014” is available in a variety of formats: HTML, PDF, and large print PDF. Versions in French are also available, of course.

The report elaborates on four strategic priorities for CanLII:

  1. Secure permanent role as foremost source of free law in canada.
  2. Continually enrich content to meet the needs of public and professional users.
  3. Deliver easy to use professional grade tools and a compelling site experience.
  4. Continuously promote and defend free access to law

As readers will likely know, CanLII receives from Canada’s courts and justice departments a welter of documents under a variety of terms and conditions:

CanLII will seek to bring as much of that content as possible within a common contractual or policy framework guided by principles of open access and fair dealing.

In addition, CanLII will, among other things:

  • seek “supplementary funding” to add to the $34 per lawyer base it currently receives;
  • consider incorporating secondary sources and facilitating searches of materials hosted elsewhere;
  • improve access to the service for users of mobile phones;
  • develop “tools, tips, and training” to make research easier;
  • continue to support free access to law here and elsewhere.

Lachance is seeking feedback and can be reached at clachance @


  1. Thanks for sharing the news, Simon.

    One quick clarification – while yes, I have the mandate of carrying out the plan, the priorities and the overall plan were determined and developed by our Board of Directors.


  2. I see nothing about expanding the collection of old case law in this report. Is a more aggressive historical digitization project being contemplated? What’s the current approach to historical cases?

  3. I couldn’t seem to see the full report in the HTML version (when I read it earlier today it seemed rather brief!). Am I missing something?

    I highly recommend the PDF version–it seems to be the full report, and has all the nice graphics.


  4. Hi James,

    The short answer is that CanLII intends to continue its practice of adding historical decision as targeted funding comes available.

    Because I can’t resist giving you the long answer as well, I’m happy to offer the following:

    CanLII’s original objective was to build a case-law database for the superior and provincial courts of each jurisdiction with a minimum depth of 10 years. That objective has been achieved, and in many cases far exceeded, for all superior and most provincial courts, and is imminent for the remaining few. Take a look at and you will see case-law collections with with 20, 40 or even 60+ years of depth.

    We regularly expand case-law collections with historical rulings as materials and funding come available. For example, in 2011 we added over 24,000 historical cases. The main drivers behind adding historical cases are demand, availability and funding. All elements are necessary because the cost of digitizing and incorporating old cases into the CanLII database can be three to four times that of adding current cases. Consequently, we prioritize operational funding for current and new cases and we rely on grants and other supports for the addition of old cases.

    Traditionally, the primary funding sources for adding historical cases have been the provincial law foundations. All have made significant and much appreciated contributions at one point or another. Recently, the Alberta Law Foundation and the Law Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador have supported large projects that added significant depth the collections for those provinces. In Alberta, for example, a project undertaken in partnership with the law foundation and the Alberta courts has resulted in the availability of Queen’s Bench decisions dating to 1971 and Appeal decisions to 1982 (as of today – but check again next week when the Appeal collection is further expanded to an even earlier date).


    Hi Connie – to your question, the full plan is not available in HTML. For the full plan, we offer the pretty and plain PDFs, as well as the issuu version for online viewing.