April 19, 2022

Professors receive grants from Canadian Foundation for Legal Research

Professors Lisa Silver and Gideon Christian have both received research grants from the group.

Professors Lisa Silver and Gideon Christian have received research grants from the Canadian Foundation for Legal Research, which supports research that enhances the practice of law in Canada by exploring emerging trends and issues. 

Lisa's project, "Social Media Evidence Revisited: The Truth‐Seeking Function in a Post‐Truth Era," builds on a previous article she published in 2020 ("The Unclear Picture of Social Media Evidence," Man. LJ 43 (2020): 111) on the unclear admissibility process of social media evidence. According to Lisa, although there are some appellate decisions clarifying admissibility through the statutory electronic documents regime, the pressing issue now is whether that admissibility process adequately safeguards against tampered, manipulated, bogus, or faked social media evidence. Recent cases have shown the ease of manipulating and faking social media evidence and the frailties inherent in the statutory admissibility process to adequately respond to this concern.

"Tampering or faking of social media evidence is difficult to uncover, depending on the sophistication of the tampering and the digital literacy of both the lawyers presenting the case and the judge deciding the issue," she explains. "It is vitally important that we clearly understand these concepts before entering the admissibility regime."

"I anticipate that the research will show the inability of the statutory regime to adequately fulfill the truth-seeking function of the court, which is a foundational objective of evidence law. It may be that a better defined and more robust admissibility procedure is required."

Gideon's project, "Legal Framework for the Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology in the Canadian Criminal Justice System," has four primary goals:

  1. To identify, address and further our collective understanding of complex legal and ethical issues surrounding the deployment and use of AI-risk assessment tools in the criminal justice system in Canada through research and indebt analysis of these issues in the light of existing laws and jurisprudence.
  2. Develop a legal framework for the use of AI risk assessment tools in the Canadian criminal justice system with a view to mitigating the racial, and other biases and discriminations arising from their use.
  3. To study currently in-use AI risk assessment tools in the United States and their licensing regimes, develop a detailed database of these tools to enable comparisons and empower criminal justice stakeholders in Canada to make informed decisions in the procurement and use of AI risk assessment tools taking into consideration relevant legal issues earlier identified.
  4. Influence policy and law reform of the Canadian criminal justice system through publications of scholarly articles, presenting research findings at professional and scholarly conferences, presenting research results to educate lawyers, judges and policy makers in Canada.

"While these AI risk assessment tools are not currently used in the Canadian criminal justice system, it is only a matter of time before Canada adopts the trend in other jurisdictions," says Gideon. "The delayed adoption of these tools in the Canadian criminal justice system presents a good and timely opportunity to research into the issues raised by these AI technologies, identify and proffer solutions accordingly before their adoption."