This Continuing Education Certificate Program is designed to enhance the learner’s existing skills and knowledge with practical, how-to instruction on how to best navigate the many social programs and other regularly-encountered issues of everyday life that often impact those who are marginalized and/or live in poverty in our community. The Program provides training in advocacy techniques, and reviews of current legislation, relevant procedures, bureaucratic systems, appeal tribunals, and other topics necessary to a hands-on understanding of the course subject matter.

NOTE:  This program is not intended to and does not, by itself, qualify someone for employment in a particular position or as an independent "community advocate".  This program is intended to enhance and supplement one's existing educational background (such as community service worker diplomas, social work degrees, and other social and community service backgrounds), as well as one's existing job skills and experience. 

The Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc. (CLS), a nonprofit, charitable public legal education organization, designs and delivers the instruction for this Certificate Program in partnership with the Lambton College Online Education Department.

The Instructors are Margaret Capes, B.A. (Hons.), LL.B., M.Ad.Ed. (live and online) and Kathryn M.Bullon, B.Sc., J.D., M.Ad.Ed. (online).

Applicants must possess a recognized academic credential in a related/relevant field, or be currently enrolled full time in a recognized diploma or degree program, in a career field such as Developmental Service Worker, Child and Youth Worker, Social Service Worker, Early Childhood Education, Educational Assistant, or similar programs and/or have earned a degree in Psychology, Education, Social Work, Child Studies, Rehabilitation, or similar programs.  Exceptions for individuals wishing to take a single course for personal purposes will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Community Advocacy Techniques is the only mandatory course for the Certificate. Learners who successfully complete it, along with 7 other courses of their choice, will earn the Certificate in Community Advocacy.  Successful completion of 4 additional courses is required for the Advanced Certificate. All online courses are one month long, and are offered during the Fall and Winter semesters on a rotating schedule.





In this course, learners are provided with tools to make their advocacy efforts more effective.  We look at poor and marginalized persons who are most in need of advocacy. We explore informal networking, establishing valuable contacts, and identifying relevant resources, as well as practical tips for improving advocacy skills.



This course provides a comprehensive review of the Ontario Works Act, including the application process, financial assessments, and employment supports. We review the benefits available to successful OW applicants, and the right to appeal OW staff decisions, focusing on internal reviews. Finally, we take a critical look at the role of the community advocate in OW cases and share advocacy tips.



This course looks at the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, an income-tested maintenance program available to persons deemed by the province to be disabled. Topics include the application process, determining medical and financial eligibility, the benefits available to successful applicants, and the right to appeal adverse decisions. We review case studies and discuss the role of the community advocate in assisting persons with ODSP issues.



This course focuses on the CPP federal disability benefit program. We provide an overview of the program, and review the specific qualifications and application forms for disability benefits. We review evidence needed to support an application, as well as appealing adverse decisions of CPP staff. 



The Residential Tenancies Act regulates the relationship between residential landlords and tenants. In these courses, we consider what is covered by the Act, breaking a lease, evictions, privacy issues, repairs and maintenance, rules relating to rent, and proceedings before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. These courses look at how and when the intervention of a community advocate can be most effective in tenancy matters.



In this course learners are introduced to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. We review the coverage of each, and their areas of protection and grounds of discrimination. Using case studies, we learn about the role of the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions and the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, study everyday instances of discrimination, and see how they are dealt with under each law. Throughout the course, we identify and explore the important role of the community advocate in human rights cases.



The Employment Insurance Act is a federal law that provides sickness, parental, maternity, regular, and compassionate care leave benefits to those who meet the qualifications for each type of benefit. These qualification requirements can be complex and many applicants need guidance as they apply for and maintain their right to benefits, leading to many opportunities for community advocates to assist  in these cases.  



Victims of crime have rights within the justice system and this course gives an overview of the major laws in Ontario dealing with these rights. Our primary focus is the Criminal Injuries Compensation program, under which crime victims may apply for financial compensation and have their claim assessed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. We look at the application process, the types of evidence required, and proceedings before the Board. We also look at the Victims’ Bill of Rights, and enforcement of restitution orders obtained by victims in criminal courts. Using case studies, we discuss the ways community advocates can assist victims of crime.



For most employees working in a nonunion setting, legal protections governing the basic terms of their employment are found in the provincial Employment Standards Act. This law, which is enforced by the Ministry of Labour, governs wages, overtime pay and hours, and vacation time, among other matters. We review the coverage of the Act, its areas of protection, and how to file a claim with the Ministry.



In Part I we focus on consumer protection laws aimed at collection and credit reporting agencies, itinerant salespersons, and unfair business practices, such as the Collection Agencies Act, Consumer Reporting Act, and the Consumer Protection Act. Part II focuses on energy re-billers, cell phone contracts, consumer fraud, payday loans, private career colleges, and other timely topics. We review protections under the Ontario Energy Board Act, the Payday Loans Act, and other laws. Recognizing fraudulent business practices and knowing which laws protect consumers can greatly enhance a community advocate's ability to help consumer victims.



These courses walk consumers and advocates through a Small Claims Court action. We learn where to find extensive online resources that explain and assist with the Small Claims Court process. We look at every step, from issuing a demand letter before filing a claim to obtaining a Small Claims Court judgment. Part I introduces students to the Small Claims Court, identifying parties, demand letters, the Plaintiff’s Claim, costs associated with Small Claims Court filings, the Defence, negotiating a settlement, and other pre-trial matters. Part II focuses on preparing a case for trial, dealing with default judgments, the trial process, and enforcing a judgment. With the filing limit increased to $25,000, more and more people will be turning to Small Claims Court to resolve disputes. These courses are a primer for anyone who is or may become involved in such proceedings.