Module 1:

How to help your clients

Helping your clients find reliable legal information

The volume of legal information available can be overwhelming – especially online information.
This section provides you with some tips you or your client will need to find reliable legal
information quickly, including:

  • which level of government has legal jurisdiction over the legal issue your client is facing
  • how to assess the reliability of online legal information

Learning about legal jurisdiction

In Canada, three different levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal) oversee
different areas of law. This is known as “jurisdiction”. It can be helpful to know which level
of government is responsible for the different areas of legal jurisdiction, not only for finding
information, but also for help in certain cases.

This table provides an overview of common legal issues that your clients might be facing and
the government departments that deal with those areas of law.

Jurisdiction also applies to the province or country where the law is applied. Legal information
found on a U.S. website will not apply in Canada. Similarly, legal information from an
organization in British Columbia may not apply in Ontario.

General area of law Specific legal topic Legal jurisdiction Government department
Social assistance or income security Ontario Works (OW)
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
Provincial (Ontario) Ministry of Community and Social Services
Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
Canada Pension Plan disability benefits (CPP-D)
Old Age Security (OAS)
Federal (Canada) Service Canada
Other pensions and benefits (for example, private pensions) Provincial (Ontario) n/a – see the pension provider for more details
Housing and tenants’ rights Repairs and maintenance Municipal (city) – for inspections or public health and safety issues (e.g. mould) Provincial (Ontario) – (if landlord refuses to fix things) Call your local 211 or 311 service to find out who is responsible for Property Standards or Public Health in your area
Landlord invading privacy
Rent and rental agreements
Moving out
Care homes
Provincial (Ontario) Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing
Co-operative housing Provincial (Ontario) in most cases (some cooperative housing is federal, however) Provincial co-ops: Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Federal co-ops: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Employment and work Firings and layoffs
Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Safety (WSIB)
Pay equity
Parental, pregnancy and other leaves
Employment standards
Provincial (Ontario) Ontario Ministry of Labour
Employment insurance (EI) Federal (Canada) Service Canada
Family law Spousal and child support
Child access and custody
Child protection
Birth and adoption
Common law relationships
Property division
Provincial (Ontario) Non-payment of child support: Family Responsibility Office

All other issues:

Divorce Federal (Canada) Department of Justice
Immigration and refugee law Immigration
Refugee claims
Sponsorship issues
Federal (Canada) Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Finding reliable online legal information

There is a lot of legal information available online – so much that sometimes it can be hard
to tell what is reliable, relevant and accurate. When looking for legal information online, ask
yourself the following questions:

Question 1: Where does the information apply?

Always check first to see where the piece of legal information or the website is produced. Even
if legal information is clear and correct, if that law does not apply in your location, it is of no use
to you.

Note that only information produced in Canada is relevant. It’s also important to check which
province the information was produced in. For example, if it was not produced in Ontario, it
may not be relevant depending on which area of law it deals with.

Question 2: Is the information up to date?

Laws change often – whether because the legislation changes or because judges and courts
have interpreted the existing law in a specific way. Legal information that is not up to date – or
that does not have a date – is less likely to be reliable. If the information is marked with a date,
it’s easier to check whether the content is current.

Question 3: Is the information from a trustworthy source?

A trustworthy source, such as a reputable non-profit or government organization, is more likely
to provide reliable information. If you are on a website with advertising, the information you find
there might be provided as an introduction to sell you more information or legal services.

This does not necessarily mean that the information on paid websites is unreliable. However,
there are many free sources of trustworthy online infomation in Ontario – why pay for
information when you can find credible and reliable information for free? Check out our section
on “Legal information and referral resources” in this module for sources of reliable legal information.

Question 4: Does the website follow standard best practices in providing information to the public?

If providers of legal information are reputable, they will usually make themselves easy to find
both in person and online. Providers that only give you one way to contact them for more
information (for example, phone number or email address only) might not be reliable. Make
sure the website lists the:

  • organization name
  • mailing address
  • telephone number
  • email address

The website should also have a clear privacy policy, especially if it makes you register or sign up
to get information.

In most cases, a website following best practices in providing information will direct users to
other sources for good information about the legal issue, and will try to make sure internal and
external links on the website work.

This checklist was adapted from “Is it reliable: 7 Clues to Good Legal Information Online” which was produced by the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta in September 2012.

You can also download a PDF version of this information, or the whole module.