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About the Ombudsman, the Office and its history
Who We Oversee
The Ombudsman's Office
The Ombudsman Act
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an “ombudsman”?
“Ombudsman” is a Swedish word meaning “citizen’s representative” – an independent official who investigates complaints from the public about mal-administration in government. The first parliamentary ombudsman was created in Sweden in 1809. Ontario’s Ombudsman’s Office was established in 1975. The Ombudsman is an officer of the provincial legislature, independent of the government and all political parties, who is appointed for a five-year term.
What does the Ombudsman do?
The Ombudsman investigates public complaints about Ontario government services. These include individual complaints – for example, about bureaucratic delays – and major systemic problems affecting thousands or even millions of people. The Ombudsman also investigates complaints about closed municipal meetings.
Who is Ontario’s Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman is Mr. J. Paul Dubé, who began his five-year term on April 1, 2016.
When should I contact the Ombudsman?
Contact the Ombudsman if you have a problem with a provincial government organization that you have been unable to resolve. Learn more about making a complaint
What can the Ombudsman investigate?
The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about more than 500 Ontario government ministries, corporations, agencies, boards, commissions and tribunals. Find out “Who We Oversee”
. The Ombudsman also investigates complaints about closed meetings in municipalities that haven’t appointed their own investigators. Find out who the investigator is in your municipality
passed in December 2014, the Ombudsman gained oversight of municipalities, universities (effective January 1, 2016), and school boards (effective September 1, 2015). More
What CAN’T the Ombudsman investigate?
The Ombudsman cannot investigate private businesses, the courts, politicians or the federal government. Until recently, the mandate did not include the so-called “MUSH” sector – Muncipalities, Universities, School boards, Hospitals and long-term care facilities, children’s aid societies or police. Legislation was passed in December 2014 to allow the public to complain about organizations in the MUSH sector. The Ombudsman began taking complaints about school boards in September 2015 and universities and municipalities in January 2016. A patient ombudsman has been appointed to oversee hospitals and long-term care, and the provincial child and youth advocate has been granted stronger powers to investigate children's aid societies. Read more about the new jurisdiction
and the MUSH sector
What powers does the Ombudsman have?
The Ombudsman has strong powers of investigation, which are set out in legislation called the
. Although the vast majority of complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office are resolved quickly and informally, the Ombudsman has the power to inspect provincial government premises and documents and to summons witnesses. All provincial government organizations must co-operate with the Ombudsman’s investigations.
Can the Ombudsman make the government fix my problem?
The Ombudsman recommends solutions. Although he has strong investigative powers, he has no power to enforce his recommendations. However, most complaints are quickly resolved and almost all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations have been accepted and implemented by the government, resulting in reforms that have affected millions of Ontarians.
What can a complaint to the Ombudsman achieve?
For examples of successful individual case resolutions,
. To learn more about what the Ombudsman’s major investigations have achieved,
Can I complain by phone? Email? On Facebook or Twitter?
You can make a confidential complaint through the complaint form
, or by phone, email, regular mail or in person –
for more info. You can also complain through our
, or mobile website. We cannot accept complaints through our
accounts because they are not confidential.
Does the Ombudsman's Office record phone calls?
Yes, calls with our Office may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes and/or to ensure an accurate and exact record.
Do I have to give my name? Will I be publicly identified?
Normally, your name and other relevant information is necessary in order to address your complaint. All complaint information is kept strictly confidential. The Ombudsman does not identify anyone without their consent.
How long will it take the Ombudsman to respond to my complaint?
Our system of triage and early resolution ensured that most (62%) were resolved within two weeks in 2015-2016, and 51% within one week.
Does it cost anything to complain?
No. The Ombudsman’s services are free of charge. This includes municipal closed meeting investigations.
What is the Special Ombudsman Response Team?
The Special Ombudsman Response Team, or SORT, was created by the Ombudsman to carry out investigations of serious, systemic issues that are matters of significant public interest. SORT investigations involve extensive field work, interviews and evidence gathering, and generally result in a published report. For examples of SORT investigations and the reforms they have prompted,
What does it take for the Ombudsman to launch an investigation?
The Ombudsman may decide to launch a formal investigation of an individual complaint if the matter cannot be resolved to his satisfaction. He may also decide to assign SORT to conduct a systemic investigation if he identifies a problem that appears to be serious, systemic and a matter of high public interest. Such investigations can arise from a trend in complaints about one issue or from a single complaint. The Ombudsman also has the power to launch an investigation on his “own motion,” without a complaint.
What happens in an investigation?
After the issue is assessed and the decision is made to investigate, a notice of investigation is sent to the appropriate government organization. Investigators then gather the evidence upon which the Ombudsman bases his findings and recommendations. The organization has a chance to respond before the Ombudsman’s recommendations become final.
Does the Ombudsman make the results of his investigations public?
The Ombudsman publishes the results of major investigations and notable cases in his Annual Report. Many of the systemic investigations carried out by SORT have resulted in separate reports, including the Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations and the responses from the affected government organizations. Some are resolved without need for a separate report; these are documented in the Annual Report. Find out more about investigations
How does the Ombudsman make sure his recommendations are followed and that the same problems don’t recur?
At the conclusion of an investigation, the Ombudsman usually recommends that the affected government organization or ministry report back to him on a regular basis on its progress in implementing any recommendations he has made. Complaints are monitored closely and serious, recurring issues are flagged. If warranted, the Ombudsman can reopen an investigation.
Find investigations and reports by topic:
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Certificates & Permits
Education - Provincial government
Education - School boards
Education - Universities
Environment & Energy
Law & Order
Money & Property
Municipalities - General
Transportation & Tourism
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