Consumer Protection Rural Outreach Project

Project Name

Consumer Protection Education for Rural Ontario

Project Partners

Lead Agency: Community Law School of Sarnia- Lambton
Partners: Pro- Bono Students Canada, Community Legal Services at UWO, North Lambton Social Services and Lambton College

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Project Summary

This project carries out consumer education training for a wide range of community workers in rural Ontario. It offers training in 4 different rural regions of Ontario. In each region chosen, a local advisory committee will be formed at the outreach stage of the project and this group will identify local priorities for training. A range of resources including TIP sheets, newspaper columns and pod-casts will be developed through the project.

Legal Topics for Training

The project will train front line community workers in rural areas on consumer protection issues. Given the wide range of potential issues, each local community will identify the highest priority issues for their region (i.e. pay-day loans, cell-phone contracts, etc).

Target Audience

This project will target frontline workers in social service agencies and other community organizations in rural communities across southwestern Ontario. Specifically, this project will train those who work with poor and marginalized people for example, workers in emergency shelters, food banks, aboriginal organizations, immigrant settlement workers etc.

Key Activities

CPROP will develop training materials and will offer training using a variety of delivery methods including:

  • Webinars (building on the partnerships already created between CLS and Your Legal Rights)
  • Live workshops in 4 rural locations
  • Pamphlets, and self-study materials in plain language appropriate to front-line workers in non-legal organizations that are distributed through community networks to a wide range of agencies and organizations
  • Outreach to rural libraries and other rural organizations or businesses to encourage these sites to display and distribute consumer protection educational materials that consumers can access and take away
  • Outreach to agencies and legal aid organizations that may have an interest in the training and informational materials developed by CPROP.

Need for Training

For many rural residents, a frontline worker is the person to whom they are most likely to turn when faced with a problem. In addition, rural residents need targeted outreach that puts easy-to-understand legal information in places where they are most likely to be able to access it.

The report Connecting Across Language and Distance by George Thompson and Karen Kohl found that rural residents face significant obstacles in access to justice and that they tend to be poorer and less educated than urban residents and have limited access to transportation and. This project’s focus of training trusted intermediaries and preparing and distributing plain language legal information in a variety of formats addresses both of these issues.

Innovative Approach

This project is innovative in that it will pay attention to the particular needs and context of rural communities and will build on traditional ways of reaching out to staff who work in rural settings. The structure of the project is quite unique in that a local advisory committee will direct the work in each location and therefore local priorities for the legal education training will be identified. The project approaches this work in a way that is mindful of the different types and levels of resources available in rural communities and provides a module for future legal information training that takes advantage of available training but ensures that the local needs and issues are addressed.