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Public Legal Education & Information Study

Subject Matter

Justice Canada wanted to conduct a survey among Canadians to explore their attitudes and behaviour with respect to legal information and assistance. The purpose was to provide the department with information on the public's views, understanding, and needs for public legal education and information (PLEI), their awareness of PLEI programs across the country, and their views on the role of government in providing Canadians with legal information and education. Specifically, some of the issues explored were: is the public aware of PLEI programs in their communities?, do people know where to obtain PLEI information?, how do people prefer to receive legal information and from whom?, and what legal issues are most relevant to them and what kind of information is most useful? This study included a focus on youth issues. The results of this study were used to inform the department’s work on a “vision paper” that included recommendations on the government’s role in relation to PLEI, as well as how to strengthen PLEI programs in Canada, including communications to increase the level of awareness of Canadians of PLEI, and their understanding of the court system in general.


A total of 1,502 interviews were completed by telephone. The research was conducted in both official languages, as was the pre-test (15 in English, 15 in French). Oversampling was undertaken to increase the number of completed interviews with each of the following: youth (aged 16-24), Aboriginal Canadians, and recent immigrants (arrived in Canada within the previous five years). The final data were weighted by region and age to maximize the extent to which the results were representative of the Canadian population. Interviews averaged approximately 20 minutes in length. Based on a sample of this size, the national results could be considered to be accurate to within +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20.

The challenges associated with this study included:

  • The sample design was relatively complex. To achieve the oversamples, targeted sample was used once random calling yielded 1,000 completed interviews. Regional quotas were used for the general sample to ensure that the results were proportionate to the Canadian population by region.
  • Contacting Aboriginal Canadians and recent immigrants posed a challenge, particularly the latter, because of their lower incidence rate among the Canadian population. The use of targeted sample, call-backs and contacts/referrals through related community groups helped achieve the quotas.
  • Parents of youth 16-17 years of age were asked to provide consent before the youth would be interviewed. While not required by industry standards, Justice Canada had this as one of their requirements. Language was developed for use by interviewers to do this.
  • Descriptions of PLEI and PLEI providers can be quite complicated. Considerable effort was expended to ensure clear, layperson descriptions of PLEI and related issues.
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