Law at the Library

December 29, 2015 | Miriam

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Navigating the law can be tricky and almost certainly expensive. A great many people thus lack access to the legal help they need. While the library cannot on its own reverse that lack of access, it can try to connect people to information that will be helpful to them. And it won't cost you a dime! 

Law at the libraryWelcome to Law at the Library. Launched in the spring of 2015, this is a new program series on legal topics, delivered by legal professionals. Between now and the end of March, there will be 16 talks at branches across the city on topics such as the laws surrounding medical marijuana, Ontario's drug benefit programs, disability law and wills, and a like number in spring 2016.

The kickoff event in the series is Removing a Criminal Record in Canada (Toronto Reference Library, January 12, 6:30 pm). The daily newspapers are full of stories about someone denied a job or other opportunity for ... for something utterly trivial or for nothing at all. Some 3 million people in Canada have criminal records, 10 percent of the population. And even as the crime rate has declined over the years, demands for records checks have become ubiquitous. This has blighted the lives of many, making employment, travel and even volunteer work difficult if not impossible.  

Canadian Criminal RecordsAccording to Pardons Canada, regardless of the outcome in court, "A criminal record may be held by the arresting police, in the CPIC database maintained by the RCMP in Ottawa, and with the relevant court. Even after several years and, even if it concerns a minor offence, a criminal record does not disappear automatically." Or that, "If you have been charged with a crime, even if you were found not guilty, or were never convicted, you do have a criminal record" (Pardons Canada). If you or someone you know is so affected, check out this talk by Andrew Tanenbaum of Pardons Canada

The library also has resources to help navigate many legal issues. At all library branches, you will find basic legal texts including copies of the Criminal Code of Canada, books on wills, family law and other topics. Going to the library's webpage, you will find a collection of nearly 100 Recommended Websites on legal topics. There are also useful informational websites such as Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) and Legal Line. Another important website is that of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted (AIDWYC) which takes on some of the cases of the all-too many people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. 

You can get more specialized help with legal information from the staff and collections at North York Central Library and Toronto Reference Library. In other branches, reference staff will assist you as well, and you can also check out our Book a Librarian service for more specialized help. Staff will not give legal advice, but they can and will direct you to the information resources which may help you. 

In addition to the individual lawyers who are giving presentations, this series has been assisted by organizations such as the ARCH Disability Law Centre, the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario and the Ontario Bar Association