The Centre de recherche en droit public (CRDP), the oldest research center of the University of Montreal, was established in 1962. To my knowledge the CRDP is also the oldest research center in law in Canada. Beyond its longevity, CRDP’s merits are numerous. I just want to mention here those which relate to legal information and legal informatics.
- In the sixties, the DATUM project was conducted at the Faculty of Law with researchers from the CRDP. DATUM researchers developed one of the first automated retrieval systems for legal information in Canada. Professor Ejan Mackaay’s name is associated to almost all the papers published on DATUM’s work. Over time, by the mid-seventies, DATUM was to give way to SOQUIJ;
- In 1993, it is as an integral part of the CRDP that we initiated the publishing of Supreme Court of Canada for free on a Gopher server, to be completed a couple of months later by a web server (as we used to say a World-Wide Web server);
- In 1995, Lexum was established as a team to continue the exploration of the Internet’s potential for the dissemination of legal information (ten years later in 2005, Lexum was to become an independent research entity at the U. of Montreal, the LexUM Lab).
- In 2000, CanLII is launched by the Lexum group at the CRDP;
- In 2010, a new chair, the Legal information Chair, is established to ensure the long term continuation of research activities in the field of legal information and legal information systems;
- In 2010, professors Karim Benyekhlef and Nicolas Vermeys presided at the inauguration of a new law and technology laboratory, the Cyber Justice Laboratory, dedicated to ensuring the law will lead the technology and not the other way around.
Taken together, this rich history fully justifies celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the CRDP. However, legal informatics has not nearly been the only field explored at the Centre. Today, the CRDP’s work can be divided into three main areas: law, information and communications technologies; law, biotechnology and community; and, finally, law and new social relations. This multiple-pronged strategy and a multidisciplinary approach have always characterized the CRDP.
As Lexum’s President, and also as a member of the CRDP team, it is my pleasure to invite you to join me to wish a happy fiftieth anniversary to the Centre de recherche en droit public. Having led the major part of my career at the CRDP, I can testify that without the openness of mind so characteristic of CRDP, it would not be certain that innovations such as CanLII could have been possible in Canada.