The Legal Problems of Everyday Life - The Nature, Extent and Consequences of Justiciable Problems Experienced by Canadians

Chapter III: At Risk of Unmet Need: The Incidence of Justiciable Problems (continued)

The Geography of Justiciable Problems

Provincial Differences.Overall 44.6 per cent of the population experienced one or more justiciable problems and people with at least one problem experienced an average of 2.9 problems over the three-year reference period. Figure 1 shows the percentage of respondents reporting one or more justiciable problems for provinces.[32] Quebec stands out as having the lowest incidence of problems with 37.1 percent reporting one or more problems.

Figure 1: Percent of Individuals Reporting One or More Problems

Figure 1: Percent of Individuals Reporting One or More Problems

[Description]

Generally there is an East - West difference with the percentages lower in the eastern provinces and higher in the western ones.

The average number of problems reported by respondents in Figure 2[33] shows the same overall pattern. Using this measure, respondents in Newfoundland and Labrador report the smallest number of justiciable problems, followed closely by Quebec.

Figure 2: Average Number of Problems

Figure 2: Average Number of Problems

[Description]

The average number of problems shows the same East - West difference as the percentage of people reporting one or more problems. The average number of problems is higher in Ontario, the Prairies and in British Columbia and lower in the four Atlantic provinces. Quebec remains low relative to the rest of the country.

Provincial Differences by Type of Problem

For this analysis the percentages of respondents in each province reporting at least one problem in each of the fifteen problem categories were ranked from low to high across provinces. Since there are ten provinces the ranks go from one to ten, representing the lowest percentage reporting at least one problem in the category in any province to highest percentage reported for a province. Table 9 summarizes the rankings among provinces for the percentage of respondents reporting one or more problems in each of the fifteen problem categories.

For Quebec, twelve of the fifteen problem categories were ranked five or lower, that is, fifth or lower compared with all other provinces. Respondents from Quebec reported the lowest percentage of problems in six problem types; employment, debt, disability pensions, family: relationship breakdown, other family, wills and powers of attorney and hospital treatment and release. Only one problem type ranked higher than six, housing at eighth among provinces.

Table 9: Rank Order of the Incidence of Justiciable Problems (Percentage of Respondents Reporting One or More Problems) by Problem Type and Province
  Province
Problem Type Nfld. PEI NS NB Que Ont Man Sask Ab BC
Consumer 5 1 4 2 3 7 9 10 8 6
Employment 2 4 3 5 1 7 9 7 6 10
Debt 2 7 6 3 1 5 4 10 9 8
Social Services 1 -- 6 5 2 4 3 9 8 7
Disability Pensions 3 -- 2 6 1 9 7 8 5 4
Housing 1 2 5 4 8 7 -- 9 3 6
Discrimination 1 2 4 5 3 9 6 10 7 8
Police Action 1 3 7 2 5 9 6 4 10 8
Relationship Breakdown 3 7 2 6 1 4 9 10 8 5
Other Family 1 3 4 7 2 5 10 6 8 9
Wills and Powers of Att 2 3 4 7 1 6 10 5 8 9
Personal Injury 3 2 6 1 2 7 10 5 6 9
Hospital Treatment 8 3 4 1 2 7 10 5 6 9
Immigration 4 7 9 3 1 8 6 -- 2 5
Threat of Legal Action 1 2 10 3 4 8 6 7 2 5

Newfoundland and Labrador also has twelve problem categories ranked fifth or lower compared with all other provinces. Similar to Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest percentage reporting a problem in six problem categories. Respondents from that province reported the lowest percentage of problems in social assistance, housing, discrimination, police action, other family and immigration problems. Problems related to hospital release and treatment ranked eighth compared with other provinces in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Respondents in Prince Edward Island reported the second lowest percentages of problems in two problem categories; disability benefits and family: relationship breakdown problems. On the other hand, debt, welfare, police action and immigration were reported relatively frequently by respondents in PEI compared with those in other provinces.

In both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, nine problem categories ranked fifth or lower while six ranked from sixth to tenth compared with the same problem types in other provinces. Respondents in New Brunswick reported the lowest percentages of problems related to personal injury and hospital treatment and release but reported comparatively high levels of problems in other areas such as family and wills and powers of attorney. Nova Scotia respondents ranked second lowest compared with other provinces with respect to problems in the disability pensions and family: relationship breakdown problem categories and third lowest with respect to employment problems. However, respondents from Nova Scotia reported a moderately high incidence of problems related to debt, social assistance, police action and personal injury problems.

Respondents from Ontario reported a moderately high incidence of debt, personal injury and other family law problems compared with other problems. Consumer problems, employment problems, problems with disability pensions, with problems arising from police action and discrimination problems were reported relatively frequently by Ontario respondents.

In Manitoba, social assistance, which was ranked third in terms of relative frequency of occurrence, and debt, ranked fourth compared with other provinces were the least frequently occurring types of problems. Consumer, employment, family: relationship breakdown, wills and powers of attorney and personal injury all ranked ninth or tenth in terms of frequency of occurrence relative to other provinces.

In Saskatchewan, the least frequent problem types were police which ranked fourth relative to other provinces, and wills and power of attorney, ranked fifth, and hospital treatment and release, also ranked fifth compared with other provinces. The most frequently occurring problems reported by Saskatchewan respondents were consumer, debt, family: relationship breakdown and discrimination problems, all ranked tenth or highest relative to other provinces. Close behind in terms of frequency of occurrence was housing problems, ranked ninth out of ten compared with all other provinces.

The problems mentioned least frequently in Alberta were housing, ranked third among all provinces and immigration ranked second compared with incidence levels in the other jurisdictions. Alberta ranked highest in problems related to police action, personal injury problems and problems related to debt, all ninth or tenth compared with the other provinces.

Finally, in British Columbia, problems with disability pensions, ranked fourth in terms of frequency of occurrence compared with other provinces, and family; relationship breakdown and immigration problems, both ranked fifth compared with other provinces, were the ones least frequently reported by respondents. The most frequently reported problems were, in the employment category, ranked tenth, wills and powers of attorney, ranked ninth and hospital treatment and release, also ranked ninth, and other family law problems, ranked ninth compared with other provinces were the most frequently reported problems by B.C. respondents.

Urban Size Differences

Urban size was a significant factor in only two problem types, housing and police action. In both cases there is a statistically significant, but weak, linear relationship between urban size and the incidence of problems. The larger the size of the community, ranging from under five thousand to over one million, the larger the number of respondents reporting a problem with housing[34] and with police action.[35]

The Demography of Justiciable Problems

Age
A number of problems types are related to age, occurring mainly to younger people. Employment[36], debt[37], social assistance[38], disability benefits[39], housing[40], immigration[41], discrimination[42] and police action[43], and personal injury[44] problems were reported most frequently by people aged 18 to 29. In all of these except disability benefits problems, age group with the next greatest likelihood of reporting problems was the 30 to 44 group. In the case of problems with disability benefits, the age group most frequently reporting some type of specific problems was 45 to 64, rather than 30 to 44. Consumer problems were most likely to occur to respondents in the 30 to 44 age group, followed in terms of frequency of occurrence by the 18 to 29 group. Problems related to wills and powers of attorney were unique in that the age group most frequently reporting a problem was 45 to 64.
Gender
Gender was less frequently related to the incidence of problems than age. Males were slightly more likely to report problems in both debt problems and threat of legal action. Men were more than twice as likely as women to report problems related to police action. Because the gender variable is binary, the relationship with reporting a problem in any particular problems type (also a binary yes-no variable) can be reported as an odds ratio. Men were 1.2 times more likely than women to experience debt problems[45] and 2.3 times more likely to experience problems related to police action[46]. On the other hand, women were slightly more likely than men to report problems in both family law categories. Women were 1.4 more likely than men to experience a problem in the relationship breakdown category[47] and 1.5 times more likely to experience one of the problems in the other family law category[48].
Language
Speaking English as a primary language (the language of the interview) was related to a higher incidence of problems in eleven of fifteen problem types. English speakers were 1.4 times more likely than francophones to have experienced a consumer problem[49], 1.7 times more likely to have experienced an employment problem[50], debt: 2.3 times more likely[51], social assistance: 2.9 times more likely[52], disability benefits: 9.3 times more likely[53], immigration: 11.3 times more likely[54], disability pensions: 1.9 times more likely[55], hospital treatment and release: 2.9 times more likely[56], wills and powers of attorney: 3.1 times more likely[57], family: relationship breakdown: 2.4 times more likely[58] and, finally, in other family law problems[59] English speakers were 3.6 times more likely that francophones were more frequently by English-speakers than French-speakers to have experienced one or more problems. This reflects the lower overall incidence measures reported above for Quebec.
Marital and Family Status
The most problem-free respondents were those without children. Single, separated, widowed and divorced respondents without children and couples without children were less likely to experience problems than other respondents with children in every problem category. Couples with children were 1.4 times more likely than all others experience consumer[60], 1.5 times more likely to experience an employment problem[61] and 1.4 times more likely to experience a debt problem[62] that all other respondents. Couples with children were 1.5 times more likely to experience a problem in the other family law category[63], and 1.8 times more likely to report problems involving the threat of legal action[64]. Single, widowed, separated or divorced respondents with children reported problems in the largest number of problem categories. These respondents were 1.7 times more likely than all others to report having experienced consumer problems[65], employment: 1.7 times more likely[66], debt: 2.0 times more likely[67], housing: 2.5 times more likely[68], discrimination: 2.0 times more likely[69], police action: 3.2 time more likely[70], and problems related to the threat of legal action[71]. Of course, unattached individuals with children were very much more likely to experience problems in both categories of family law matters; 10.8 times more likely than all others to experience family law: relationship breakdown problems[72] and 10.0 times more likely to experience other family law problems[73].
Education
Respondents with at least a high school education plus some post secondary training were more likely than other groups to report justiciable problems in debt, police action, wills and powers of attorney, relationship breakdown and other family law problems.[74] Respondents in this middle level of education were 2.6 times more likely than others to report problems related to police action.[75] The group was also more likely than other respondents to report having experienced family law problems; 1.5 times more likely to experience
problems related to relationship breakdown[76] and 1.8 times more likely to experience other family law problems[77].

Respondents with a university education were slightly more likely than others to experience three problem types. They were 1.2 times more likely to experience consumer problems[78], 1.4 times more likely to report problems related to some form of discrimination[79]and 1.6 times more likely to experience problems with wills and powers of attorney[80]. On the other hand, the university-educated group were unlikely, compared with others with lower levels of education, to have problems related to police action and disability benefits. The most highly educated group was only .28 as likely as all others to have problems related to disability benefits[81] and only .47 as likely as others with lower educations to have problems related to police action[82].

Respondents with less than high school education were the group least likely to report problems in any problem categories for which statistically significant results were obtained. These respondents were only .55 times as likely to report consumer problems[83], .57 times as likely to report employment problems[84], .65 times as likely to report debt problems[85] and .43 times as likely to report having experienced problems arising from police action.[86] These are among the problems that one might expect respondents with a lower level of education to experience. In view of the extensive literature reporting that low-income people experience consumer problems[87], this may reflect an under-reporting problem rather than a true picture of relative incidence.
Employment Status
Being unemployed is related to an increased likelihood of reporting problems in several categories. The three problem types which the unemployed are most likely to experience compared with working people are, as one might expect and in order of importance, employment problems, debt problems and consumer problems. However, the unemployed are more likely than the employed or people in other situations, such as retired or staying at home full time, to experience problem related to disability, housing, threatened legal action, relationship breakdown and other family problems. Respondents who were employed at the time of the survey were more likely to report problems related to wills and powers of attorney.
The Non-Standard Work Force
Research on labour force issues suggests that an increasing segment of the labour force is characterized by employment in part-time work, marginal self-employment and temporary work that lacks long- term security. This is a departure from the pattern typical of the 1950's and 1960's in which full time long term employment, frequently in unionized work groups was more typical.[88] This is significant in that it signals a long-term structural change in the work force that carries with it greater vulnerability for workers in the non-standard segment of the labour force. Participation in the non-standard workforce was related the increased likelihood of reporting problems in four types; personal injury, debt, disability pensions and social assistance. This possibly reflects the increased vulnerability associated with the emergence of the non-standard work force and has velar implications for future demands for assistance with legal problems.
Income
Level of income has a weak but statistically significant relationship with reporting a problem in several problem categories. Predictably, the lower the income the more likely people are to report problems related to social services, disability benefits, debt and housing. The lowest income group, people with annual incomes of less that $25,000, are 1.4 times more likely to have a debt problem then other respondents, 2.9 times more likely to have a housing problem, 3.7 times more likely to have a problem with disability benefits and 5 times more likely to have a problem related to social services. The lowest income respondents are also more likely to report problems related to hospital treatment and release conditions, discrimination and relationship breakdown. Respondents with incomes between $45,000 and $64,000 were more likely to report problems related to employment than all other income levels. Respondents with the highest incomes, $85,000 and more, were more likely than people in other income groups to experience consumer problems and problems related to wills and powers of attorney.

Justiciable Problems and Vulnerable Groups

Justiciable Problems and the Risk of Unmet Need
Members of certain social groups that experience diminished life circumstances and limited opportunities are more likely to report problems and therefore to be at a greater risk of need for assistance.
Self-Reported Aboriginal Status
Aboriginal people are among the lowest income earners in Canada. This is reflected in the results of this research showing that Aboriginal people are more likely to report problems in ten of the fifteen problem categories. Aboriginal people are 3.6 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to report a problem with social assistance[89], 3.3 times more likely to report a problem with discrimination[90] and 3.2 times more likely to report a problem related to disability benefits[91]. These problems are followed closely by police action, in which Aboriginal people are 2.9 times more likely to report a problem[92], 2.9 times more likely to report other family problems[93], 2.1 times more likely to report a problem related to relationship breakdown, twice as likely to report a housing problem[94], 1.9 times as likely to report an employment problem[95] and, finally, 1.8 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to report a problem in the debt category[96].
Place of Birth
Being foreign-born is associated with the greater likelihood of reporting in three problem areas. The leading problem is immigration in which foreign-born respondents were 2.9 times more likely to report a problem[97]. Respondents born outside Canada were 1.9 times more likely than all others to report a problem related to discrimination[98].
Visible Minorities
Self-reporting as a member of a visible minority is related to a relatively high probability of reporting justiciable problems in ten of the fifteen problem areas. Members of visible minorities are 3.6 times more likely than whites to report problems related to discrimination and 3.4 times as likely to report problem related to police action[99]. Next in order of importance is problems related to disability benefits. Visible minority respondents were 2.5 times more likely to report a problem in this area[100]. Members of visible minority groups were 2.1 times more likely to report a problem related to threat of legal action[101]. Visible minority respondents were also 1.7 times more likely to report a debt problem, 1.6 times more likely to report a problem in the employment category,[102] 1.6 times more likely to report a consumer problem[103] and 1.9 times more likely to report a problem in the other family category[104].
Ethnicity
The analysis of more detailed ethic origins highlighted the degree to which Black Canadians experience justiciable problems. Compared with East Asian, Aboriginal, White Canadians and other non-Whites, Blacks were most likely to report having experienced problems related to police action[105], discrimination[106], immigration[107], debt[108], employment[109] and consumer problems[110]. Blacks were second to Aboriginal people in the frequency of reporting relationship breakdown problems[111].
Disability
For this analysis people who indicated that they frequently limited in a range of everyday activities; seeing, hearing, communicating, learning, walking or climbing stairs were counted as disabled. This follows the methodology established by Statistics Canada Health, Activity and Learning Survey.[112] People with a self-reported disability have a greater likelihood of experiencing problems in all fifteen categories of justiciable problems. As one might expect the greatest problem area is disability benefits where the disabled are 13.7 times more likely to experience a problem compared with non-disabled people[113]. The disabled are 6.5 times higher than all others to have a problem related to a personal injury[114] and 5.5 times more likely of have a problem related to hospital treatment and release[115]. The probability of experiencing problems in a number of other categories is also high compared with the non-disabled population; 4.2 times higher for social assistance problems[116], 4.2 times higher for problems related to discrimination[117], 3.0 times higher for housing problems, 2.4 times higher for problems arising out of police action[118], 2.2 times more likely to experience relationship breakdown problems[119], 2.7 times more likely to experience other family problems[120] and 2.6 times more likely to experience immigration problems[121]. Turning to financial problems, the disabled are 1.9 times more likely that all others to report debt-related problems[122], 1.8 times more likely to report employment problems[123] and 1.6 times more likely to report having experienced some type of consumer problem[124].
Social Assistance
Respondents who were receiving social assistance at the time of the survey were, as one would expect, 5.6 times more likely than all others to report a welfare problem[125] and 4.4 times more likely to report a problem related to disability benefits[126]. However, these respondents were also more likely to report justiciable problems in a number of other problem areas. These include being 4.4 times more likely to have a housing problem[127], 3.0 times more likely to have a hospital treatment or release problem[128], 2.9 times more likely to report a discrimination problem[129], 2.9 times more likely to report a family law: relationship breakdown problem[130] and 3.2 times more likely to report experiencing an other family law problem[131], 2.2 times more likely to experience a personal injury problem[132], 2.1 times more likely tan other respondents to report a problem relating to police action[133], 1.9 times more likely to experience a debt problem[134], 1.9 times more likely to experience the threat of legal action[135], 1.7 times more likely to report an employment problem[136], 1.4 times more likely to report both consumer problems[137] and problems relating to wills and powers of attorney[138].

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