Area of Law: Government and The Justice System
Answer # 724
Ombudsman officeRegion: Ontario Answer # 724
What is the Ombudsman’s office?
Ombudsperson offices are established by provincial, territorial and federal legislation. The Authority of the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate complaints by individuals and report on findings is set out in the provincial Ombudsman Act. The Ombudsman’s office designates an individual to take the role of Ombudsman.
It is the responsibility of the Ombudsman to respond and investigate complaints of unfair treatment by a provincial or municipal government body or other provincial public authority. Unfair treatment could include actions considered to be rude, unduly slow, negligent, unlawful, oppressive or discriminatory. The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly. They are not a representative of the person making the complaint or the organization about which the complaint is being made. Their role is to conduct impartial, confidential and independent investigations, resolve individual issues, and recommend improvements for governance.
Who can you make a complaint against?
In most cases, you may make a complaint about provincial government ministries, municipal and regional governments, Crown corporations and government agencies, boards and commissions. Each provincial Ombudsperson office operates differently and has jurisdiction over different bodies. Depending on the province, they may deal with complaints made against the following:
- Crown corporations such as the provincial hydro or electricity company,
- Government boards such as Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Human Rights Tribunal,
- Hospitals and health authorities,
- Schools and school districts,
- Universities and colleges, and
- Professional associations such as the Law Society and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
An Ombudsman’s authority is often increased through changes to the law. For example, in Ontario, as of September 1, 2015 the Ombudsman can investigate complaints about school boards; and about municipalities and universities as of January 1, 2016.
In some cases, a separate Ombudsperson may be established to deal with a specific public or private sector organization. For example, the Patient Ombudsman investigates hospitals, long-term care homes and Community Care Access Centres in Ontario.
How to make a complaint to the provincial Ombudsperson
You can generally make a complaint by completing and submitting a form online or by mail. There is no fee to file a complaint. Once a complaint is made, the Ombudsperson office will make a preliminary assessment to determine if the complaint is within their jurisdiction (in other words, they will determine if they have the authority to deal with the complaint). Some complaints may be dealt with quickly without the need for a full investigation. These could include complaints about poor communication or an unreasonable delay in service.
More serious complaints will usually result in an investigation by the Ombudsperson office. During an investigation, the Ombudsperson office may do many things, such as:
- provide information about what steps to take to resolve a complaint,
- resolve complaints through consultation and discussion,
- make recommendations to a public authority, and/or
- issue reports to the Legislative Assembly.
Who can you not make a complaint against?
Provincial Ombudspersons do not have jurisdiction to investigate complaints involving federal government ministries or programs, private corporations, the courts, or the police.
Unlike provincial governments, the Government of Canada does not have an Ombudsman overseeing all federal departments. However, some federal government ministries and departments do have their own Ombudsman, including:
- Taxpayers’ Ombudsman
- Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
- National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman
- Canada Post – Office of the Ombudsman
- Veterans Ombudsman
- CBC Ombudsman
Contact Ombudsman Ontario for more information and to see if your complaint falls within their jurisdiction.
For legal advice and assistance, contact a lawyer.
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