HELP Toolkit: Identifying and Responding to Family Violence for Family Law Legal Advisers – Supplemental Material

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Tab #12: Making Referrals

Connecting clients with resources is fundamental when identifying and responding to family violence. It is important for you to be aware of intervention options, including supports for both victims and abusers. This will allow you to concentrate on your area of expertise – family law – knowing that other professionals are working with your client on other issues (e.g., mental health, housing, financial assistance).

1. Be prepared

Find out in advance what supports and resources for family violence are available in your community. It will be helpful if you develop a list of community resources for clients and keep it up-to-date. See the list below for more information. You may find it helpful to visit or have a personal contact at places like shelters, sexual assault/domestic violence centres or related services. This will help you understand the services they provide and give referrals. A direct referral to someone you know can make the process much easier for the client.

Keep in mind the gendered nature of family violence services in Canada. For instance, women’s resource centres or shelters can provide support services to clients; however, these organizations only provide services to women and to some members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, along with their children. It is often more challenging to find community resources for male and 2SLGBTQ+ clients.

The following two links can help you start developing a list of local community resources:

Public Health Agency of Canada, “Find family violence resources and services in your area”, Stop Family Violence (last updated 2020-10-22):

Women and Gender Equality Canada, “Provincial and territorial resources on gender-based violence”, Gender-Based Violence Knowledge Centre (last updated 2021-05-07):

You may want to connect with your local law association or legal aid clinic to see if they have an existing list of services that they can share with you. You may also want to reach out to other legal advisers in your area, as they may have already identified services to which they refer clients.

If your client is a victim

Consider the context of the relationship, and the type, severity and impact of the family violence being experienced as well as the client’s needs. For instance, if your client received threats related to their immigration status or sponsorship, you could refer them to an immigration lawyer or provide them with information on immigration laws and regulations. If they have received threats to “out” them, you could refer them to 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy and support groups and provide them with information on hate crimes. Refer to the HELP Guide for more information.

If your client has been abusive

Consider the following services if relevant to your client’s situation:

2. Helping to complete a referralEndnote 73

The following are some suggestions about making referrals for your clients:

3. Local community resources

The list below includes some examples of resources that may be available in your community. If appropriate, you could develop a sheet with available resources to share with your clients.

It can be difficult for victims of IPV who have experienced trauma to navigate a long list of resources and contact information. In these cases, it may be more helpful for you to make the connection with or for your client. If you are planning to share the list with clients, make sure that the contact information is easy to navigate, for example, by including specific URLs that may be useful as opposed to just the homepage of a website.

Potential Community Resources
Emergency Services
  • 911 (police)
  • local police domestic violence unit
  • other police numbers (OPP)
  • child protection services
  • adult protection services
Clearinghouse Referral Portals
  • Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Women and Gender Equality Canada
  • 211
  • Salvation Army
  • advocacy groups
  • housing programs
Crisis Lines
  • sexual assault crisis lines
  • suicide-prevention lines
  • distress centres
  • helplines
  • domestic violence help lines
Support and Advocacy
  • advocates/support workers (family law information centres, family court support workers)
  • sexual assault/abuse supports (sexual assault 24-hour crisis line, sexual assault programs)
  • victim services (local victim services contact information)
Legal Information and Services
  • Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI; PLEI websites, family court information)
  • other family law support services (supervised parenting (access, visitation exchange) programs)
  • other legal professionals (legal aid, law society lawyer referrals, criminal lawyers, immigration lawyers)
Newcomer and Immigrant Community Services
  • immigration services
  • newcomer information services
  • multicultural community centre
Indigenous Support Services
  • Native Friendship Centres
  • Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
  • Hope for Wellness Help Line
  • Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society Crisis Line
2SLGBTQ+ Services
  • National Coalition for the Homeless – LGBT
  • LGBT Youth Line
  • 2SLGBTQ+ community centres
Mental Health Services and Hospitals
  • hospitals, family doctors
  • mental health crisis teams, psychologists
  • family violence counselling programs for victims and children
Resources for Children
  • youth services
  • Kids Help Line
  • youth centres
  • child and youth advocacy centres
  • children’s hospital
  • child abuse teams
Family Services
  • family resource/support centres
  • YM/YWCAs
  • parenting programs
  • Caring Dads programs
Alcohol/Addiction Services
  • addictions treatment helplines
  • addiction clinics
  • addiction programs
Services for Abusers
  • specialized family violence programs
  • family violence intervention programs
Financial Assistance and Employment
  • legal aid
  • employment insurance
  • disability support programs
  • child tax benefits
  • financial planners
  • debt restructuring advisers
Language Interpretation Services
  • Sign Language interpretation/translation
  • international languages interpretation services
Other Support Services
  • transportation (public transportation, Uber, taxi numbers)
  • emergency food services (local food bank, Salvation Army Family Services)
  • pets (foster animal services)
Safety Planning Online Resources
  • Public Health Agency of Canada webpage: How to plan for your safety if you are in an abusive relationship

See also Tab #10: Safety Planning