Statistics Canada Releases Results of Legal Issues Survey

Written by Calvin Ediger


On January 18th, 2022 Statistics Canada released an article in its Juristat publication entitled Experiences of Serious Problems or Disputes in the Canadian Provinces. The article briefly summarizes the findings of the 2021 Canadian Legal Problems Survey which asked respondents if they had experienced a serious legal problem over the preceding three years. The survey’s purpose was to identify problems with a legal dimension that individuals encountered in their daily lives, and to highlight different populations experiences. The survey also attempts to measure the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic response on individuals facing problems with a legal dimension.

Methodology

The survey collected data through both a self-administered questionnaire found online as well as telephone-administered questionnaires. The survey obtained a sample size of 21,170 respondents with a response rate of 50.3%.  Legal problems were defined as issue that could have legal implications, not merely those addressed through the formal justice system.

Types of Problems

The survey broke potential problems down into the following categories:

  • A problem with a large purchase or service;
  • A problem with an employer or a job;
  • A personal injury or serious health issue;
  • Vandalism, property damage or threats;
  • A problem with a house, rent, mortgage or rent owed;
  • Debt or money owed to the respondent;
  • A problem with government assistance programs or amount received;
  • A problem with immigration;
  • Contact with the police; 
  • Breakdown of family; 
  • A problem related to child custody;
  • A will, or taking care of financial or health issues for a person who was unable to look after their self;
  • Poor or incorrect medical treatment; 
  • Court or a letter threatening legal action;
  • Being harassed;3
  • Being discriminated against;
  • Other problems.

Approximately one in three respondents experienced one problem in the last three years, with one in five characterizing the problem as difficult to solve. The top four most common serious problems where vandalism and property damage, followed by harassment, poor or incorrect medical treatment, and discrimination.

Problems tended to co-occur, and individuals experiencing one or more problems where at a higher risk of experiencing an additional problem. Three-quarters of respondents reported that their problem caused a negative financial impact, and 79% reported negative health impacts stemming from their problem.

Resolution of Problems

Nine out of ten respondents reported taking some form of action to attempt to resolve their problem; however, at the time of the survey only about two in ten reported their serious problems had been resolved. The highest proportion of resolved problems where those involving contact with the criminal justice system. Only one third of respondents contacted a legal professional to resolve their problem, and only 8% contacted a court or tribunal. About one fifth of respondents contacted a government agency and about one in five contacted a community organization. The most common actions taking where obtaining advice from friends/relatives (51%), searching the internet (51%), and contacting the other party involved in the dispute (47%). More than half reported they did not understand the legal implications of their problem when they first experienced it. Respondents where also asked if they found their course of action helpful, with the results shown below:

graph of helpfulness of action taken, by type of action, Canada 2021

On January 18th, 2022 Statistics Canada released an article in its Juristat publication entitled Experiences of Serious Problems or Disputes in the Canadian Provinces. The article briefly summarizes the findings of the 2021 Canadian Legal Problems Survey which asked respondents if they had experienced a serious legal problem over the preceding three years. The survey’s purpose was to identify problems with a legal dimension that individuals encountered in their daily lives, and to highlight different populations experiences. The survey also attempts to measure the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic response on individuals facing problems with a legal dimension.


The views and opinions expressed in the blogs are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.