Ombudsman’s top 10 stories of 2016
It’s been a year of historic change for our office, as the Ombudsman’s mandate doubled and we were able to help Ontarians with a whole new range of issues in the broader public sector. Here are 10 of the key developments of the past year.
1. New Ombudsman
2. New mandate
Our office’s jurisdiction was expanded for the first time in 40 years, taking full effect in 2016. We now oversee Ontario’s 444 municipalities, 82 school boards and 21 universities, in addition to more than 500 provincial government organizations, and we are growing our team to handle the influx of cases in these new areas.
3. Consultation and submissions
The Ombudsman was invited to comment as part of several government consultations on new legislation and reforms related to policing, correctional services and municipalities. In October, he called for stronger, more consistent oversight of police in his submission to the Independent Police Oversight Review. Read more here.
4. Systemic investigations
Our office released reports on two major systemic investigations this year. In the first report, A Matter of Life and Death, the Ombudsman recommended the province improve police training in de-escalation techniques during conflict situations. The second report, Nowhere to Turn, called for the province to overhaul the services and supports for adults with developmental disabilities in crisis. Between both reports, we made 82 recommendations – all of which were accepted by the province.
5. Making a difference
Most of the 22,000-plus cases we receive every year are resolved without need for investigation, but our staff achieved significant results for many Ontarians by working proactively behind the scenes. For example, here’s how we deal with the top source of complaints to our office, the Family Responsibility Office.
6. Segregation of inmates in Ontario jails
The Ombudsman made a submission in May to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional services to abolish indefinite segregation in Ontario jails. In early December, our office launched an official investigation into how the province tracks and reviews the placement of inmates in segregation.
This year saw the expansion of our mandate to municipalities. Among the 3,191 cases received to date, the most common complaints were about councils and committees, Ontario Works, by-law enforcement, municipal hydro and housing, and most were quickly resolved. We launched one systemic investigation, related to the City of Brampton’s procurement practices. Our office is also the closed meeting investigator for some 218 municipalities, which you can read more about here.
While we have always been able to take complaints about colleges, our office also took oversight of the province’s 21 universities this year, and received 232 cases. The most common topics of complaints were academic appeals and exams, fees and financial assistance, employee issues, instructor and staff conduct and safety and security.
9. School Boards
In addition to municipalities and universities, we took oversight of the 72 school boards in Ontario. Our most commonly received complaints - out of more than 1,100 - were about staff and trustee conduct, special education, transportation, boundary issues, employment issues and student safety. We also launched a systemic investigation in September to examine the school bus problems that were occurring in the GTA.
10. Spreading the word