About the Law Reform Database
The Law Reform Database is an online bibliography covering publications of law reform agencies in Canada, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United States. Each record in the Database describes a discrete publication. Much of the material catalogued in the Law Reform Database was issued before 2000 and has never been digitalized. The Database was under continual development from 1988 until about 2007, after which records were added sporadically until 2017. Coverage in the Law Reform Database up to 2010 is reasonably comprehensive, but the Database is not being expanded as virtually all new law reform publications are available in digital form from the websites of the agencies themselves.
About Database Records
Each database record is divided into a number of fields. Each field describes a different characteristic of the document to which the record relates. Here are the fields in the database:
- Title. This field contains the title of the document. Titles are entered beginning with the first significant words of the title. Preliminary words such as “the,” “report on,” or “working paper on” have been added to the end of the title. For example, Privacy, Report on.
- Agency. This field describes the name by which the law-reform agency was correctly known at the time the document was published. Note that the names of some agencies have changed over time. For example, in 1989, the Alberta Institute of Law Research and Reform changed its name to the Alberta Law Reform Institute.
- Document type. This field sets out the word or words used by the issuing agency to describe the document. Some examples are “report,” “consultation paper,” “working paper,” “study paper,” “discussion paper,” “issues paper,” etc.
- Document number. This field sets out the identifier, usually a number, assigned to the document by the issuing agency to distinguish it from other documents emanating from the same agency. The number may be one that appears on the document itself or that is subsequently assigned in a listing of publications.
- Collation. This field sets out the number of pages contained in the document. Where the number is enclosed in square brackets [nn] the document was not page numbered and a page count was made at the time the record was created.
- Series. Some documents deal with individual aspects of a larger topic. Where it is clear that a particular document is one of a “series,” the series itself will be identified in this field. For example, Protection of Life [LRC of Canada].
- Publication year. This field sets out the year of publication, as taken from the document.
- ISN. This field sets out the international standard book number (ISBN) or international standard serial number (ISSN) that has been assigned to the publication.
- Rec’d. This field sets out the date on which the publication was recorded for the database.
- Remarks. This field contains information that is considered relevant but that does not fit comfortably within any of the other data fields. It includes information on individual authors, language, joint projects, and availability of documents. It may also contain information respecting the implementation of recommendations contained within the document.
- Subjects. The subject field uses Elizabeth Moys, Classification Scheme for Law Books, 2d ed. (London: Butterworths, 1982) as the basis for its controlled vocabulary. The use of a controlled vocabulary ensures that legal concepts and issues which may be characterized in a similar fashion will be described in a consistent way which consistent language. This permits a comprehensive search of the database to be done with minimal risk that a relevant record may be overlooked. This is important in certain kinds of research and in the compilation of bibliographies. A properly structured vocabulary will also enable the researcher to search using queries of varying levels of generality.
- Keywords. The language in the keywords field takes a free-vocabulary approach. The terms that have been selected for this field are those that are found in the actual text of the law-reform document. This means that the keywords field for documents that cover the same general topic may differ in some respects, depending on the terms used in the documents. In some cases, synonyms have been added to this field.
- Jurisdiction. This field records the jurisdiction of the agency that issued the document. If the jurisdiction is a subunit of a federal state (such as a province or a state), then the jurisdiction is listed nation, subunit. For example, a record of a document issued by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission would be classified as Australia, New South Wales.
- Number/Verified/Box Number/Box Name/Holdings remarks. Each of these fields relates to information about the physical holding or location of the publication in the BCLI library.
About the Moys Classification Scheme
As noted, the database’s subject field is based on the Moys classification scheme. This classification scheme was devised by Elizabeth Moys, a British librarian, for use in law libraries. It provided a useful point of departure for the categorization and subcategorization of the subjects covered by the law-reform documents. In a number of instances, however, because of differences in English and Canadian legal terminology or the special requirements of law-reform documents, it was necessary to modify the Moys scheme by adding terms.
Users doing research that relies heavily on the subject field may wish to obtain a copy of Elizabeth Moys, Classification Scheme for Law Books, 2d ed. (London: Butterworths, 1982), which sets out the scheme in detail. Occasional users of the subject field can probably glean a sufficient feel for the application of the Moys scheme to particular areas of interest through a selective browsing of the database.
The Moys terminology employs predominately common-law terminology. This presents a difficulty in connection with documents from the civil-law jurisdictions of Quebec and Scotland, and the Roman-Dutch terminology in use in South Africa. The procedure adopted for the subject field is to enter the appropriate civil law or Roman-Dutch terms used in the title or other descriptions of the subject matter, as well as the most closely analogous terms from the Moys vocabulary. This is done in order to make the records accessible to users in any jurisdiction who would be interested in the general subject matter and may be unfamiliar with the correct term of art in the other legal system.
Example. The Quebec civil-law term “mandate” appears together with the Moys common-law term “agency” for the Quebec Civil Code Revision Office Report on the Contract of Mandate.
Example. For the Scottish Law Commission Report on Diligence the Scottish term “diligence” appears together with the Moys common-law term “execution.” In the keywords field the actual terms of art used in the text were entered.
The English form of Quebec civil law and Roman-Dutch terms was used in both the subject and keywords fields.
History of the Law Reform Database
The creation of the law reform database was stimulated by the work of the Australia Law Reform Commission, which compiled and published a Law Reform Digest. That digest, along with recent supplements, constitutes a virtually complete reference to all law-reform activity in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. Its obvious utility led the BCLI’s predecessor, the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia, to consider the development of a research aid giving access to Canadian law-reform materials. A review of the commission’s own resources led to a conclusion that the most practical form such a research aid could take would be a computer database–a database that need not be limited to Canadian materials.
Work on the database started in 1988 with the acquisition of a software package called “Q&A.” Preliminary decisions were taken as to the structure of the database and a member of the commission’s support staff set about creating over 3000 skeletal records based on the commission’s holdings. The skeletal records included the terms that formed the point of departure for what is now the KEYWORDS field.
The database project, in this preliminary phase, took a broad view of what constitutes law reform and its documents. In addition to the law-reform agencies of Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, skeletal records were created for the work of law-reform agencies in New York and California and of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and selected commissions of inquiry in Canada and England.
The second phase of work on the database began late in 1988 when the commission began a collaboration with Marianne Reid, a professional librarian with experience in the cataloguing of legal materials who had previously compiled and published a bibliography of law-reform publications. The second phase was greatly expedited by the addition of Anna Holeton in 1989 to the database team. Ms. Holeton was then a library-science student with legal qualifications who did much of the work necessary to place the database in an operational state on the software platform.
During the second phase, significant alterations were made to the structure of the database, including the addition of the SUBJECTS field. This was followed by the development of the principles on which the SUBJECTS field and the KEYWORDS field were to be built. Subsequent work on the database has been devoted wholly to the detailed analysis of individual law-reform documents for the purpose of creating individual records.
By February 1990 over 1700 records had been created in their final form covering a number of care law-reform agencies and their work. A decision was taken to distribute a preliminary version of the database on high-density diskettes at that time. It generated a very positive response. This was followed a few months later by a second release that contained almost 3000 records. The second release continued the focus on Commonwealth law reform. The availability of the database has been publicized through a number of sources, including the Commonwealth Law Bulletin, and there has been a steady demand for it from jurisdictions around the world.
Version 3.0 of the database was distributed in 1992. Since then, work on the database has focussed on detailed subject and keyword indexing of law-reform documents. Version 4.0 represented the addition of approximately 700 new records.
In 1997, the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia ceased operations and the database found a new home on the website of the British Columbia Law Institute. Versions 5.0 to 5.4 appeared on the BCLI website relying on the original database software Q&A.
Composition of the Database by Agency
- Canadian Consumer Council
- Department of Justice
- Federal–Provincial Task Force on the Uniform Rules of Evidence
- Law Reform Commission of Canada
- Uniform Law Conference of Canada
- Vanier Institute of the Family
- Alberta Law Reform Institute (formerly Alberta Institute of Law Research and Reform)
Canada, British Columbia
- British Columbia Law Institute
- British Columbia Royal Commission on Expropriation
- British Columbia Royal Commission on Family and Children’s Law
- Justice Reform Committee
- Law Reform Commission of British Columbia
- Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreation, and Culture
- Legal Research Institute of the University of Manitoba
- Manitoba Law Reform Commission
Canada, New Brunswick
- Law Reform Branch, New Brunswick
- Law Reform Division, New Brunswick
Canada, Newfoundland & Labrador
- Newfoundland Family Law Study
- Newfoundland Law Reform Commission
Canada, Northwest Territories
- Northwest Territories Committee on Law Reform
Canada, Nova Scotia
- Nova Scotia Law Reform Commission (formerly Nova Scotia Law Reform Advisory Commission)
- Royal Commission on Automobile Insurance
- Royal Commission, Nova Scotia
- Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Class Action Reform
- Limitations Act Consultation Group
- Ontario Law Reform Commission
- Royal Commission Inquiry into Civil Rights
Canada, Prince Edward Island
- Law Reform Commission of Prince Edward Island
- Prince Edward Island Family Court Committee
- Quebec Civil Code Revision Office
- Law Reform Commission of Saskatchewan
- Saskatchewan Attorney General
- Saskatchewan Justice
- Justice, British Section of the International Commission of Jurists
United Kingdom, England
- Committee on Supreme Court Practice and Procedure
- Commonwealth Legal Advisory Service
- Criminal Law Revision Committee
- Departmental Committee on the Adoption of Children
- English Law Commission
- English Law Reform Committee
- English Law Revision Commission
- Home Office
- Policy Advisory Committee on Sexual Offences
- Miscellaneous commissions, committees, and bodies
United Kingdom, Northern Ireland
- Enforcement of Judgments Review Committee
- Law Reform Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland
- Office of Law Reform (Northern Ireland)
United Kingdom, Scotland
- Scottish Home Department
- Scottish Law Commission
- Irish Law Reform Commission
- Australasian Law Reform Agencies
- Australian Law Reform Agencies
- Australian Law Reform Commission
- Companies and Securities Law Review Committee
Australia, Capital Territory
- Law Reform Commission of the Australian Capital Territory
Australia, New South Wales
- New South Wales Law Reform Commission
- Parliament of New South Wales
Australia, Northern Territory
- Northern Territory Law Reform Committee
- Queensland Law Reform Commission
Australia, South Australia
- Criminal Law and Penal Methods Reform Committee of South Australia
- Law Reform Committee of South Australia
- Law Reform Commission of Tasmania
- Law Reform Commissioner of Tasmania
- Tasmania Law Reform Committee
- Civil Justice Committee
- Law Reform Commission of Victoria
- Law Reform Commissioner Victoria
- Victoria Committee on Social Services
- Victoria Law Foundation
- Victorian Law Reform Commission
Australia, Western Australia
- Law Reform Commission of Western Australia
- Law Reform Committee of Western Australia
- Contracts and Commercial Law Reform Committee
- Crimes Consultative Committee
- Criminal Law Reform Committee
- Department of Justice
- Department of Justice (Law Reform Division)
- Department of Justice (Legislation Advisory Committee)
- Department of Justice (Legislative Advisory Committee)
- Evidence Law Reform Committee
- Information Authority
- Law Revision Commission
- New Zealand Law Commission
- Property Law and Equity Reform Committee
- Royal Commission on the Courts
- Search and Search Warrants Committee
- Torts and General Law Reform Committee
- Working Party on Negotiable Instruments
Papua New Guinea
- Law Reform Commission of Papua New Guinea
- National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws
United States, California
- California Law Revision Commission
United States, Michigan
- Michigan Law Revision Commission
United States, New York
- New York Law Revision Commission
Commonwealth of Nations
- Commonwealth Secretariat
- Law Reform Commission of The Gambia
- Ghana Law Reform Commission
- Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong
- Criminal Law Advisory Committee
- Family Law Committee
- Ministry of Justice
- Kenya Law Reform Commission
- Nigeria Law Reform Commission
- South African Law Reform Commission
- Law Commission of Sri Lanka
Trinidad and Tobago
- Law Commission of Trinidad and Tobago
- Law Reform Committee of Trinidad and Tobago
- Uganda Law Reform Commission
The British Columbia Law Institute thanks the following individuals, who have
contributed to one or more versions of the law reform database:
- Greg Blue, QC
- Arthur L. Close, QC
- Marcus Patz, MLS
- Georgina Flynn, MLS
- Linda Grant
- Mark Hiltz, MLS
- Anna Holeton, LLB, MLS
- Bronwen Jamison, MLS
- Marianne Reid, MLS
- Sharon Macmillan, LLB
- Andrea Clarke, LLM
- Lyn Khositrungwanich
- Ana Rosa Blue, MLS
- Anna Krangle-Long
The BCLI acknowledges the support of the University of Saskatchewan and the Law Reform Commission of Saskatchewan in the creation of versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the database.
Version 6.0 of the database was made possible by the generous support of the Law Foundation of British Columbia.
Your questions on the law reform database are welcome.
You can get in touch with us at:
British Columbia Law Institute
1822 East Mall
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Fax: (604) 822-0144