Many investors use dividends to supplement retirement income, but finding reliable stocks that offer safe returns can be a daunting task.

Volatility in the energy patch in the past year has reminded us about the value of buying top-quality stocks in a variety of sectors. With this in mind, I think income investors should consider Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS)(NYSE:BNS), BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)(NYSE:BCE), and Fortis Inc. (TSX:FTS)

Bank of Nova Scotia

Canada’s third-largest bank is often overlooked in favour of its larger peers, but investors with a long-term perspective might want to pay more attention.

Bank of Nova Scotia is betting big on international markets to deliver future growth. The strategy to diversify away from the Canadian market makes sense, given the fact that most Canadians have taken on about as much debt as they can handle. Canadian retail banking is still very profitable and Bank of Nova Scotia is building the business, but much better growth potential lies in other countries.

The bank has invested nearly US$7 billion to build a strong presence in Latin America, specifically in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile. These countries are integrating their markets and offer a client pool of more than 200 million people.

In its Q1 2015 earnings statement, Bank of Nova Scotia said its year-over-year commercial loans in Latin America jumped by 11%, and retail loans increased 13%. Loan growth in Canada was about 4%.

Bank of Nova Scotia pays a dividend of $2.72 that yields about 4.2%.

BCE Inc.

Canada’s largest communications company has built a fortress of assets in the past several years that positions it well to withstand any challenges the market or government can throw at it.

Besides the world-class wireless and wireline networks, BCE also owns widespread retail assets, a television network, radio stations, specialty channels, web sites, and sports teams.

In fact, any Canadian that sends a text, watches a movie, catches up on the news, calls a friend, takes in a game, or checks e-mail probably does so in whole or in part using one of BCE’s products or services.

BCE expects 2015 free cash flow growth to be 8-15%. That’s good news for income investors. The company pays a dividend of $2.60 that yields about 4.9%.

Fortis Inc.

Power generation might not be very exciting, but it throws off great cash flow and that’s what income investors want. Fortis controls a total of $26.6 billion in gas and electricity distribution assets in Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean.

The company continues to grow and investors are reaping the rewards. In 2014 Fortis spent US$4.3 billion to purchase Arizona-based UNS Energy. The deal provides the company with a more balanced revenue footprint and will add significant new cash flow beginning this year.

Fortis is also completing the expansion of a hydroelectric facility in British Columbia. The project should add $20 million to earnings this year.

Fortis has increased its dividend every year for the past four decades. The current distribution of $1.36 per share yields about 3.5%.

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Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stocks mentioned.