(TORONTO – May 1, 2019) Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today encouraged Ontarians who have complaints about child protection issues or French language services to contact his office, as new legislation expanding his mandate takes effect today.
“Today represents an unprecedented chance for three separate offices, each providing vital services to the people and institutions of Ontario, to combine forces and enhance their impact as one larger, stronger, more impactful oversight organization,” Mr. Dubé said. “With our teams now assembled, I am confident in our joint ability to make a difference for more Ontarians than ever.”
The Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018, passed in December, eliminates the independent offices of the Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (FLSC), as of today. It transfers the Advocate’s investigative function and all of the responsibilities of the FLSC to the Ombudsman. The same legislation also folded the formerly independent office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario into that of the Auditor General as of April 1.
As previously announced, the Ombudsman sought and received additional resources from the province to create two new specialized units, staffed by employees of the former offices, based in their existing locations and at their existing phone numbers. Using the Ombudsman’s proven methods of early resolution and investigation, they will work on new and ongoing investigations and cases.
“Our new units are made up of people who are as passionate as the rest of our staff about access to justice, good governance, and protecting human rights,” the Ombudsman said. “Ontarians can rest assured that these professionals will continue to provide expert and efficient service.”
The Children and Youth Unit is directed by Diana Cooke, formerly the Advocate’s director of investigations. The unit will answer questions, provide information about the rights of children and youth, and handle complaints and investigations related to children’s aid societies, residential licencees, and services provided under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017.
The French Language Services Unit is headed by Acting Commissioner Jean-Gilles Pelletier, formerly the FLSC’s executive director. The unit will address complaints and conduct investigations to ensure that the rights of Ontarians and the obligations of government agencies are respected according to the French Language Services Act.
Mr. Dubé has already announced he will conduct a Canada-wide search to fill the role of Commissioner, who will be under the Ombudsman’s direction but encouraged to do proactive work in promoting the rights of francophones and maintaining community relationships.
The Ombudsman is now a member of both the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCYA) and the International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC) – and is hosting the IALC’s annual conference in Toronto June 26-27, which will focus on the promotion and protection of minority and Indigenous languages around the world.
Mr. Dubé also recognized the contributions of the former Advocate and French Language Commissioner in the areas he now oversees. “I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the expertise and pioneering work of Irwin Elman and François Boileau over the past decade,” he said. “I have assured them and their colleagues who are continuing with us that we will respect and build on their efforts and the important relationships they built.”
Today’s expansion of the Ombudsman’s mandate follows changes that effectively doubled his mandate in 2016, extending his oversight to municipalities, universities and school boards. It also coincides with an estimated 30% increase in caseload in the past year (details will be released when his Annual Report is tabled in June).
The Ombudsman is an independent, impartial officer of the Ontario Legislature who resolves and investigates more than 20,000 public complaints per year about more than 1,000 public sector bodies, including all provincial ministries, agencies, corporations, boards, commissions and tribunals, as well as municipalities, universities and school boards. He also has the power to investigate broad systemic issues of maladministration on his own motion, without receiving a complaint. The Ombudsman’s recommendations have been overwhelmingly accepted, resulting in public sector improvements affecting millions of Ontarians.
For more information, contact:
Linda Williamson, Director of Communications