CanLII Innovates, Experiments

Lately CanLII has been shaking things up. The new search interface, in beta for four more days, is due to replace the current one on September 17. Then there’s the hackathon coming up this weekend in Ottawa, where you’re invited to learn how to become developers of apps that make use of CanLII’s API. And we learn from the recent blog post on CanLII that there’s a new forum for CanLII users, where they can share tips and give CanLII feedback. (At the moment it’s gathering spam, so that has to be cleaned out and blocked, if it’s to work the way CanLII wants it to.)

Finally, I learn from CanLII’s Twitter account that they’ve worked with researchers at to cook up a sample of what you can do with the CanLII API. Genealogy of Supreme Court of Canada decisions – a visual and interactive experience shows you in one glance the linkages among SCC decisions that are created by citations. You need Java installed to work the demo — and, I learn, a 64-bit browser (Safari or Firefox, I on my Mac was told, but not Chrome). Here’s the opening visual:


I was unclear about what sort of data other than a global impression I could extract from the demo. Hovering over portions gives you the year and a popup showing a particular judgment, but if there’s more to be extracted a bit of instruction would help. Still, the point is, I think, that there are a great many ways you can now make CanLII data come to life and answer questions, ways that transcend the traditional (but useful) text search methods.


  1. Hi Simon,

    You are correct – a little more instruction would be beneficial. Updates to be posted shortly to our site but for Slaw readers, here you go:

    -click anywhere to select a root case, or use the search in the top left to enter a case name
    -the box below the search allows you to select the number of generations shown in reference to the “Root Paper”
    -bottom left of the screen provides basic case info and a link to find the case on CanLII

    But the most fun is to be had by hovering at the end-points of any multi-generational map to see how many generations and through what path an end-point has the most direct relationship to the selected case. Think “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” and you get the idea.

    As Simon observes, this experiment gets us thinking about different ways to discover and understand legal information.

    Ready for the prime time of legal research? Not yet.

    But we hope nonetheless a bit of inspiration (not unlike this one) for participants at our conference and hackathon this week-end.