Becky and I are just home from Fredericton, New Brunswick. Together with International Legal Developments Committee Chair Bob Stein, we represented the Uniform Law Commission at the Annual Meeting of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.
Our Canadian colleagues are a hospitable bunch, and they made us feel right at home. They do work that is very similar to ours, but they do it in a different way. As befits the smaller population of their country, they are a considerably smaller group than we are. For the bulk of their meeting, they are divided into two groups, a Civil Section and a Criminal Section. This makes particular sense for them, as in Canada, Criminal Law is essentially federal in nature. Most of the work of the Criminal section is considering adopting resolutions recommending changes in criminal law to the Canadian federal government.
Both sections seem to work extensively from white papers prepared by very small working groups.
Even on the Civil Side, things look very different. Like us they are drafting uniform and model acts. The Civil Section considers and adopts resolutions on policy principles that professional drafters convert into statutory language for consideration by the provincial and territorial parliaments.
And, of course, all this work is taking place in two languages. One truly feels an international flavor when the headphones come out for simultaneous translation.
In both Sections, debate seemed sedate by our standards, even when disagreements were sharp. Perhaps we could learn something from that.
Although the methods of work are quite different, I was struck by the fact that both organizations grapple with many of the same legal issues and underlying human problems. Let me give you a few examples. On Monday, the Civil Section discussed the Uniform Access to Digital Assets by Fiduciaries Ac. The next day, the Civil Section spent considerable time on Domestic Arbitration. Then I went to the Criminal Section, which was discussing treatment courts, (which they call wellness courts) targeted at first nations’ peoples. They went on to discuss the extent to which persons convicted of violating their criminal laws against the distribution of intimate images should be required to register as sex offenders.
All these topics no doubt sound familiar to you, as we have done, or are doing, work on the same problems.
Back in the Civil Section, the members finished work ironing out the coordination of French and English texts on a project that we completed jointly, the Uniform Recognition of Substitute Decision Making Documents Act.
I addressed a joint session of both sections, and reported in some detail on the current status of our work.
Both organizations obviously value the relationship. The nature of our next cooperative effort is not yet clear, but I feel confident that a new chapter of our long history of collaboration and cooperation is just around the corner.
Richard T. Cassidy, President, Uniform Law Commission