My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version , homepage version ) examines last week's announcement that the Conservative government plans to cut funding for the Law Commission of Canada. I cite a series of important technology law research projects, noting that the common link is that the LCC, an independent law reform agency that advises Parliament on how to improve and modernize Canada’s laws, has provided the necessary financial support.
Government has limited capacity to conduct comprehensive research analysis on its own, leaving it increasingly dependent on outside contractors or academic studies to support its policy work.
For example, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has established a contributions program designed to fund research into privacy issues. The program, which is now in its third year, has emerged as the country's most important supporter of privacy research, generating results that should prove invaluable as a Parliamentary committee considers reforms to the national privacy law later this fall.
Without programs such as these, the lack of Canadian research capacity frequently becomes glaringly apparent. The Telecommunications Policy Review Panel, which released its exhaustive report on the state of telecommunications law in Canada earlier this year, took specific note of the lack of research expertise in the telecommunications policy arena in Canada. While Maxime Bernier, the Minister of Industry, has focused on the Panel's recommendation for deregulation, the need for policy research support should not go unaddressed.
The Law Commission of Canada had begun to pave the way for a new round of relevant research projects including an examination of the legal implications of online citizen journalism. Last week's gutting of the LCC funding therefore represents a significant step backward for research in all legal areas with negative repercussions that will likely to extend to the Canadian technology world.