CIPPIC and vLex deploy expert knowledge and artificial intelligence to improve the ability of Canadian citizens to make a difference.

CIPPIC and international legal technology firm vLex are partnering in a Law Foundation of Ontario funded project to seek to reduce the barriers to effective public participation in communications policy-making by developing a free and fully public communications law and policy research platform.

This initiative aims to increase access and contextual understanding of regulatory, policy and legal submissions and documentation, allowing Canadian citizens to become more informed and more influential in a policy-making process that is often dominated by multi-billion dollar telecom and broadcasting giants.

Built on vLex’s AI-powered technology, Iceberg, CIPPIC and vLex will train and deliver the tools that analyze the thousands of documents, comprising millions of pages, generated across hundreds of regulatory, legislative, judicial and policy proceedings. All with the goal of arming the public with the capability to participate effectively and at a level previously available only to the largest commercial entities.

Multi-billion corporations and communications policy


The Canadian communications industry generates roughly $70 billion annually in Canada and touches nearly every single Canadian in multiple and significant ways. Yet there are few more striking examples of David and Goliath battles than Canadian communications policy debates. Individual members of the public, along with academics and often precariously-funded public interest organizations, compete with multi-billion dollar telecom, internet, and international broadcasting giants to craft arguments and present evidence in a bid to shape government policy and communications regulation.

One national telecom CEO recently referred to “regulatory intervention” as more “punitive” to the industry than “robust competition.” With the goliaths themselves describing the stakes in these terms, the fact that they pour enormous resources into efforts to influence policy and regulation is both unsurprising and indicative of the imbalance of arms in public consultations.

Using artificial intelligence to help public participation

Through the use of artificial intelligence, a globally-proven legal intelligence platform and expert legal knowledge, CIPPIC and vLex Canada seek to reduce the barriers to effective public participation in communications policy-making. It is hoped that this project will also provide a foundation to support similar efforts in other policy arenas.

vLex develops and delivers tools that enable millions of lawyers, law students, as well as court and government employees around the world to quickly access and work with the legal information resources contained within databases comprising over 120,000,000 documents. Through this initiative, vLex will deploy its Iceberg legal intelligence platform as well as an advanced research platform as the foundation of a free and fully public communications law and policy research tool.

The building blocks for better access

CIPPIC (the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, operated from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law through its Centre for Law, Technology and Society), is an active advocate on behalf of the public interest before regulators, courts and governments in matters concerning communication, internet, privacy and other technology-influenced issues.

Through the support of the Law Foundation of Ontario, CIPPIC will apply its expertise to an information collection and governance initiative that will transform hundreds of thousands of pages of policy submissions, CRTC and court decisions, legislative resources, and more into “inputs” suitable for advanced data mining. Once ingested into the vLex Iceberg platform, vLex and third-party AI technologies will further refine and organize the data in ways that will uncover the insights previously only accessible through deploying armies of industry lawyers.

“Our objective in this project is to support CIPPIC’s ability to extend its expertise in distilling complex policy issues into frameworks that can accelerate their advocacy efforts and multiply their effectiveness,” said Colin Lachance, General Manager of vLex North America. “This is so much more than merely building a single research tool, as we are supplying CIPPIC with the platform and training to allow them to easily generate new public interest apps, and to extend the framework into other policy domains.”

“The impetus for this collaboration with vLex was the government’s Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislation Review and the recognition that meaningful participation from the public is extremely challenging,” said David Fewer, General Counsel of CIPPIC. “With over 2,000 submissions in just this one review, it’s not a simple task for the public, politicians or even the media to figure out who is saying what, and consequently it’s extraordinarily difficult to undertake thoughtful consideration of the issues and to communicate or consider the impact on the public of policy change.”

CIPPIC and vLex are presently formulating a multi-stage plan with the first public beta version of the research tool planned for early in 2020, and a comprehensive and permanent research tool available within a year. Work is already completed on designing an information architecture suitable to the communications domain, and law students at CIPPIC are immersed in the data collection and tagging efforts. Along the way, CIPPIC and the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law students will benefit from training in legal knowledge engineering and legal app development. Additionally, access to the Iceberg platform, a cloud-based and AI-driven knowledge management system, will also enable CIPPIC and the law school to pursue advanced research and analysis in support of academic and other objectives.

“We are deeply grateful to the Law Foundation of Ontario for making the funding for this project available to us,” concludes David Fewer. “This project perfectly fits our mandate. It has enabled us to engage in a legal tech initiative that can simultaneously advance education and research while building capacity for public advocacy objectives.”

About vLex and CIPPIC

CIPPIC is the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, University of Ottawa. CIPPIC is Canada’s first and only public interest technology law clinic.

vLex is a legal research and technology company. vLex has developed the vLex platform, a global legal intelligence platform that empowers law professionals by combining one of the most extensive collections of legal information in the world with the most advanced AI-powered tools. vLex’s team of over 170 lawyers, engineers, and editorial experts apply the power of an AI cloud-based data hub to ingest, enrich, classify and deliver the insights contained in over 100 million legal documents from over 2,000 multilingual and multi-legal system global sources, to bring its clients across the globe the most up-to-date and relevant legal data and content.