Justice Department upgrade to ease legislative changes

The Department of Justice will be making it easier for citizens to access Canada’s acts and regulations through consolidation and “point-in-time” modules from Montreal-based Irosoft.

The DJC recently signed a service agreement for seven years (four years, plus a three-year option) with Irosoft to maintain and develop modules for its Legislative Information Management System(LIMS). LIMS is a suite of applications from various vendors that includes a legislative drafting environment, an automated act and regulation consolidation environment, a dissemination environment, an intranet, a Web site and a system for printing acts and regulations.

The Irosoft component of LIMS has two objectives, said Simon Labrie, CIO of the Department of Justice Canada. The first is improved accessibility for the public, and the second is consolidation of Canada’s acts and regulations, which can be provided at any point in time, in English and French versions.

“There’s a consolidation module that, for example, enables us to automatically adjust the laws,” said Labrie. “When a law is passed it has an impact on the law that was passed previously – this allows us to consolidate those changes to make the law current.” This also means legal professionals don’t have to sift through 25 different types of legislation to find what they’re looking for.

If the government makes changes to the Criminal Code, for example, those changes are automatically updated in the system.

A “point-in-time” module will also improve accessibility, since it will allow a user to reproduce legislation at any given point in time. “From a legal perspective it’s important to know what was the law at a certain time, as opposed to what is the law today,” said Labrie.

“If you kill somebody today and you’re arrested 20 years from now, it’s the legislation that’s enforced now that will be used for your case,” said Alain Lavoie, founding president of Irosoft. “It might become very complex.”

Both the consolidation and point-in-time modules are in final testing and will go into production in the next couple of weeks. Both will be accessible to anyone in Canada – or in the world, for that matter.

“One of the goals of LIMS was to modernize the platforms to take advantage of recent technology,” said Labrie. It was also recognized as a key component of Government On-Line (and was partially funded by GOL).

“If you go on our site today, legislation might be a couple of months old,” he said. “Now we’re going to be up to the last couple of weeks – it’s going to shorten significantly the timeframes for making the latest legislation available to the public through the Internet.”

It will also automate the interface between the DJC and the House of Commons for bills that are to be presented in the House.

“Citizens want to get access to the information and they don’t think how it’s produced or how it’s managed,” said Lavoie. “This is the job of the Department of Justice.” One issue, however, is that legal documents are paper-oriented, so there’s a requirement to get people to switch from working with paper to working with electronic documents.

Irosoft has developed similar systems for the justice departments in Quebec and New Brunswick. The company also signed a contract with the Bahamas, and has been in talks with governments in Ireland, New Zealand and Bangladesh.

“The market we were thinking of is the whole Commonwealth,” said Lavoie, “because every entity that works with legislation can use these applications.”

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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