Certificate in Community Advocacy

This Continuing Education Certificate Program offered online through Lambton College (our host College) and the OntarioLearn online learning consortium, 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. Both Lambton College and Conestoga College offer the opportunity to earn the Certificate in Community Advocacy and an Advanced Certificate in Community Advocacy.

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 training) and Kathryn M. Bullon, B.Sc., J.D., M.Ad.Ed. (the online Certificate Program).

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 (September through December) and Winter/Spring semesters (February through May) on a rotating schedule.  Registration, cost, and schedule information can be found on the Lambton College website.

Course Descriptions

Community Advocacy Techniques

In this course, learners are provided with tools to make their advocacy efforts more effective.  We look at marginalized persons and those who live in poverty, who are often 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.  We learn about some of the underlying issues that result in people living marginalized and impoverished lives, how extensive poverty is in Ontario in particular, how to locate free or low-cost legal assistance for some common legal problems, and how to gather relevant facts, how analyze and research the legal and factual issues presented, and how to work step-by-step to formulate possible courses of action and potential solutions to a problem, all in conjunction and consultation with the person who were are trying to assist.

Ontario Works Act

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.

Ontario Disability Support Program Act

This course looks at the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, an income-tested social assistance program available to persons deemed by the province to be disabled. Topics include the application process, determining medical and financial eligibility, the information crucial to obtaining a determination of disability and therefore benefit 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.

Canada Pension Plan

This course focuses on the Canada Pension Plan 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.  We also look at vocational rehabilitation benefits, and survivors’ benefits.

Residential Tenancies Act – Parts I and II

The Residential Tenancies Act regulates the relationship between residential landlords and tenants in Ontario. In these courses, we consider what types of leases are covered by the Act, terminating a lease, eviction procedures, tenant privacy issues, repairs and maintenance problems and obligations, rules relating to rent, and proceedings to enforce tenant and landlord rights 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, and practical ways in which community advocates can provide assistance.

Human Rights In Ontario

In this course learners are introduced to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. We review what types of agencies, industries, businesses, governmental, and private organizations are governed by each of these laws, and learn about their Areas of Protection and Grounds of Discrimination that protect the rights of us as individuals. Using case studies, we learn about the role of the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.  We study everyday instances of discrimination, and see how they are dealt with under each law.  We also look at available and appropriate remedies that may be available as redress for someone who has been subjected to discrimination in violation of the law.  Throughout the course, we identify and explore the important role of the community advocate in human rights cases.

Employment Insurance Act

The Employment Insurance Act is a federal law that provides sickness, parental, maternity, regular, compassionate care, and other family-related leave benefits to those who meet the qualifications for each type of benefit.  The number and types of available benefits has grown significantly in the last several years, and each has it own qualification requirements, duration, and reporting requirements.  These requirements can be complex and many applicants need information about what benefits might be available to them, guidance as they apply for benefits, information about how to maintain their right to benefits, as well as what appeal rights they have, leading to many opportunities for community advocates to assist  in these cases.  

Employment Standards Act

For most employees working in a nonunion setting, legal protections governing the basic terms of their employment in Ontario are found in the  Employment Standards Act. This law, which is enforced by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, governs wages, overtime pay and hours, parental, pregnancy and family leave rights, and vacation time, among other matters. We look at who is covered under the Act, its areas of protection for workers in non-union settings, and how to file a claim with the Ministry if you believe your rights have been violated.

Consumer Protection Laws, Pts I and II

These companion courses look at our rights as Ontarians to basic consumer protections in a wide area of businesses and services.  In Part I we focus on consumer protection laws such as the Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, the Consumer Reporting Act, and the Consumer Protection Act,  aimed at collection agencies, consumer reporting and credit repair agencies, door-to-door salespersons, unfair business practices, motor vehicle repairs, and prepaid services.  Part II focuses on energy re-billers, cell phone contracts, various types of consumer fraud, payday loans, private career colleges, and rights related to the purchase of motor vehicles.  We review protections under the Energy Consumer Protection Act 2010, the Payday Loans Act, the Private Career Colleges Act, and the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act. Recognizing fraudulent business practices and knowing which laws protect consumers can greatly enhance a community advocate’s ability to help consumer victims.

Small Claims Court, Parts I and II

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 $35,000, 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.

Mental Health Laws and Advocacy

This course, our most recent addition to the Certificate Program (Winter, 2021) focuses on Ontario’s mental health system as it relates to adults.  We look at the laws and procedures governing mental health intervention, assessment, and treatment.  We learn about voluntary and involuntary assessments and hospitalizations, who can be named a Substitute Decision Maker and under what circumstances, what rights a person has under Ontario’s mental health laws–including being advised about those rights and what types of involuntary decisions may be appealed.  We also look at procedures and supports that underpin Community Treatment Orders, and at the privacy protections for one’s health information under Ontario law.  This course is intended to address the needs of individuals who intersect with the system–whether as a person dealing with mental wellness challenges, as a friend, colleague, family member, or loved one of that person, or as a first or community responder when that person is in crisis–for basic information in an understandable format.