2020-2021 Annual Report

2020-2021 Annual Report

June 29, 2021

29 June 2021

Ombudsman’s Message - Essential Lessons from a Pandemic Year

At this time last year, reporting on the impact of the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ontario public services, I observed that in mid-March 2020, “everything changed.”

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Table of Contents

 

We strive to be an agent of positive change by enhancing fairness, accountability and transparency in the public sector, and promoting respect for French language service rights as well as the rights of children and youth.

 

Ombudsman’s Message

Essential Lessons from a Pandemic Year

At this time last year, reporting on the impact of the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ontario public services, I observed that in mid-March 2020, “everything changed.”

In fiscal 2020-2021, as the province and the world struggled with the pandemic’s first, second and third waves, much of what had been unprecedented became entrenched: Public servants (including our entire Office) working from home; masking and social distancing; virtual meetings, hearings and classes; and varying degrees of lockdowns.

It is precisely in circumstances such as a global pandemic that citizens need and rely upon their governments and public services more than ever. Our role in overseeing Ontario’s public sector has proven vital: As experts in navigating the complexities of government, we helped thousands of people get answers and connect with the right officials. As administrative problem solvers, we provided guidance to government and flagged urgent issues, particularly those involving vulnerable people. As experienced investigators, we probed complex and systemic issues and, when appropriate, made recommendations for corrective change.

We received 20,015 cases between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. That number is lower than in recent years, and understandably so, given that many Ontarians were grappling with matters well beyond those of public administration. Our move to working remotely also temporarily affected our ability to receive complaints by mail and through our central phone intake line – although we quickly established new lines to ensure vulnerable populations could reach us, and always remained accessible online.

Through it all, our staff demonstrated that independent oversight of public services is essential, particularly in times of crisis. They ensured transparency, accountability, fairness and respect for people’s rights. They ensured Ontarians’ complaints were heard and addressed, and that investigative action was taken when necessary. Examples of the results they achieved can be found throughout this report.

 

Opportunities from crisis

Those achievements, of course, would not have been possible without the co-operation and tremendous efforts by public servants. Their work at all levels throughout the pandemic – in advising political leaders, implementing new policies and pivoting existing ones to adapt to new and rapidly changing demands – must be recognized. Thanks to our long-established working relationships across the public sector, we were able to provide guidance, propose best practices and improvements, and resolve problems behind the scenes.

For example:

  • Throughout the pandemic, senior members of our team have met regularly with ministry leadership and stakeholders to address urgent and ongoing concerns about vulnerable groups like children and youth in care, adults and children with developmental disabilities, and inmates in provincial correctional facilities. These consultations keep us abreast of policy changes and allow us to flag complaint trends and concerns. Our long track record with the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has served these populations well in this time of crisis, and our new Children and Youth Unit has enabled us to do the same for young people in need of protection.

  • Municipalities across Ontario have worked hard to adapt to the new reality of holding council meetings virtually – ensuring transparency and public participation amid myriad technical difficulties. Municipal staff have done a commendable job of advising and assisting councils in this transition, and have largely embraced the best practices and recommendations stemming from our investigations in this area. Many have expressed gratitude for our searchable online digest of open meeting investigation reports. They also welcomed our tips and best practices for municipal integrity commissioners.

  • The Ministry of Health accepted all of my recommendations in our latest systemic investigation report, Oversight 911, agreeing to bolster oversight of its ambulance services – even as the Ministry and ambulance services themselves faced the extreme pressures of the pandemic. We have received good co-operation from the ministries of Health, Long-Term Care, Attorney General, and Children, Community and Social Services in all of our ongoing investigations, all of which are updated in the relevant chapters of this report.

  • The Minister of Francophone Affairs welcomed all of the recommendations made by French Language Services Commissioner and Deputy Ombudsman Kelly Burke in her first Annual Report, released in December 2020. Commissioner Burke’s proactive urging of the independent commission into long-term care to apply a Francophone lens to its work was also productive: The commission’s final report this spring included a recommendation to design and implement a provincial strategy to increase French-language long-term care services. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, our French Language Services Unit also helped many Franco-Ontarians access services and information in their language.


 

Gaps exposed – public health and policing

By the same token, the challenges of this pandemic year have also exposed gaps in our public services, where oversight is lacking or nonexistent. I will focus on the two most significant:

  • Public health units have been central to Ontarians’ experience of the pandemic, responsible for everything from playground closures to mask mandates to vaccination operations. Their work is crucially important and their decisions collectively affect millions. And yet they operate without oversight: They are exempt from the jurisdiction of my Office, and that of the Ministry of Health’s Patient Ombudsman. As our report on the Ministry’s ambulance services pointed out, for any public service to function as well as possible, there must be oversight, a complaint mechanism, and a way to have those complaints addressed. I encourage the government to establish independent oversight of public health units as soon as is practicable.

  • Concerns about oversight and training of police continued to be a key public focus in 2020-2021 across North America after the police killing of George Floyd and several other Black individuals in the U.S. sparked widespread protests and calls for policing reform. This is an area where change in this province has stagnated: It has now been almost five years since the then-government accepted my recommendations for improved de-escalation training in my 2016 report, A Matter of Life and Death. Most of those recommendations – which stemmed from reviews of dozens of police-involved deaths in Ontario, going back decades – have not been implemented. I know many leaders in policing agree that changes are needed, and there have been some improvements to de-escalation training. But a new use-of-force model is long overdue, de-escalation training is still not standardized across the province, and new legislation that would address some of this and improve oversight of police is still not in force. My fear is that the glacial pace of reform, in the face of the tragedies that continue to occur, will further undermine public confidence in the police.


 

Act locally, think globally

The most obvious lesson from the pandemic has been that viruses know no borders, so our search for effective strategies to deal with its impact on public services should not be constrained by geography. Through our work with our fellow ombudsmen and administrative watchdogs around the world, we continue to share strategies and expertise. These include the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), where I serve as President of the North America Region, and its Francophone counterpart, the Association des ombudsmans et médiateurs de la francophonie (AOMF).

This international co-operation produced a significant milestone in December 2020, when the United Nations ratified a resolution “on the role of the Ombudsman and mediator institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights, good governance and the rule of law.” This historic resolution, supported by the IOI, AOMF and others, will help bolster and protect ombudsman institutions around the world. It encourages UN member states to establish effective ombudsman institutions and ensure they have the necessary independence, legal authority, security of tenure, budget and mandate to fulfil their role.

Across Canada, my provincial counterparts and I have taken turns hosting monthly information sessions for colleagues across the country, and regularly discuss common complaint topics, such as long-term care and vaccine passports. And we continue to liaise with colleagues in the International Association of Language Commissioners and the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates.

 

Five more years

One year ago in this space, I noted that the pandemic would ultimately provide lessons for public services and opportunities to strengthen them in future. Those lessons and opportunities are still emerging. I am committed to building on them in the years to come, and honoured that the Legislative Assembly has entrusted me to do so, having reappointed me to a second five-year term as of April 1, 2021.

In the past five years, this Office has seen two unprecedented expansions of its mandate, more than doubling the number of public bodies within our jurisdiction: Municipalities, universities and school boards were added in 2015-2016; then child protection services and French language services in 2019-2020. I am enormously proud of the work that our dedicated, resourceful and talented team has done across such a broad range of topic areas.

I will leave the last word to a complainant who was kind enough to send us a letter of thanks last summer after we resolved her issue. Her words perfectly capture what we aspire to do for Ontarians and how we aspire to do it – in a fair, diligent and impartial way. It is a great privilege to be able to do this work, and my team and I look forward to helping many more Ontarians in the years to come.
 

“I am writing this letter to convey my sincere thanks and appreciation for the time and dedication I was provided in addressing my complaint. The time taken to listen to my concerns […] in an open and unbiased manner was remarkable.

I was provided ample opportunity to provide any information regarding this complaint and I felt truly heard and understood. Even amidst the global pandemic of COVID-19, I received detailed responses and updates, including suggestions for actions I could take […].

I was fortunate enough to receive a resolution that was beyond my expectation and I cannot thank [your staff] enough for helping to facilitate this. My experience was true to the values, mission and vision of the Ombudsman of Ontario.”
Email from complainant, August 26, 2020


 

About our Office

What is an Ombudsman?

An ombudsman is an independent and impartial officer who raises citizens’ concerns with government bodies. The first parliamentary ombudsman was established in Sweden in 1809; the word ombudsman is Swedish for “citizen’s representative” and is considered to be gender-neutral.

If a complaint has merit, an ombudsman will first seek to resolve the dispute at the lowest level possible, but will conduct an investigation when necessary. Ombudsman findings and recommendations are based on an impartial assessment of the facts and evidence. An ombudsman acts impartially, not on behalf of either party.

 

Ontario Ombudsman

Established in 1975, the Ontario Ombudsman is an Officer of the Legislature, independent of the government and political parties. We promote fairness, accountability and transparency in the public sector by resolving and investigating public complaints and systemic issues within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

The Ombudsman Act stipulates that complaints to our Office are confidential and investigations are conducted in private. Our services are free of charge.
 


“[Your Early Resolution Officer] was able to do in weeks, during a pandemic crisis, what [the agency] failed to do… I can sleep a little better instead of being angry at my government.”
Complainant


 

The Ombudsman around the world

Ombudsman institutions protect people from maladministration and violation of their rights in more than 100 countries worldwide. Our Office works collaboratively with provincial, national and international oversight bodies to share insights, strategies and best practices. Participation in organizations related to our jurisdiction optimizes our knowledge and skills and enables us to better serve Ontarians. They include:

International Ombudsman Institute (IOI): Established in Canada in 1978, the IOI is the only global ombudsman organization, with a membership of almost 200 independent institutions from more than 100 countries. The Ontario Ombudsman is a Director on the IOI’s World Board, and President for the North American Region.

Canadian Council of Parliamentary Ombudsman (CCPO): Every province and territory that has a parliamentary ombudsman is part of the CCPO. Through the CCPO, we support each other and share expertise to optimize our service to the people and institutions we serve.

Forum of Canadian Ombudsman (FCO): The FCO brings together a range of ombudsman offices across Canada, including those that operate within public sector bodies or organizations. Our Office participates in FCO conferences and workshops, including its “ombudsman essentials” training program with Osgoode Professional Development.

International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC): The French Language Services Commissioner represents our Office in the IALC, which shares best practices and expertise in protecting minority language rights around the world.

Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA): Our Office is a member of the CCCYA, an association of independent officers of the legislature from across Canada who have mandates to advance the rights of children and youth.

L’Association des Ombudsmans et des Médiateurs de la Francophonie (AOMF): The AOMF supports independent ombudsmen, mediators and human rights commissioners throughout the French-speaking world.

United States Ombudsman Association (USOA): The USOA fosters the development of professional ombudsman offices across the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (CACOLE): Our Office regularly shares expertise in oversight of law enforcement with members of CACOLE, which advances the application of civilian oversight of law enforcement throughout Canada and abroad.

International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA): An international organization of correctional services professionals and oversight bodies, the ICPA promotes standards for humane and effective correctional practices.
 

“[Y]ou have shown how strongly committed you are to the Ombudsman concept and the principles of a transparent and fair administration. Under your able leadership, the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman took on additional mandates and further grew to become a well-established and highly regarded institution.”
Letter from Werner Amon, Secretary General of the International Ombudsman Institute, congratulating Ombudsman Paul Dubé on his reappointment, December 21, 2020

 

Ombudsman institutions protect people from maladministration and violation of their right in more than 100 countries worldwide.


 

How we work

COMPLAINT INTAKE
We take complaints via the complaint form on our website, by email, phone or letter, or in person (when COVID-19 restrictions permit). Our staff will contact you for more details to pursue your complaint. We will not divulge your name or information to anyone without your consent, and there is no charge for our services.

Not a complaint? No problem – we also handle inquiries. Our staff can answer general questions or point you in the right direction.
 

REFERRALS
If your complaint is not within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, we will refer you accordingly. If you haven’t tried existing complaint mechanisms, we’ll suggest you do that first – and return to us if the issue isn’t resolved.
 

EARLY RESOLUTION
We always seek to resolve complaints at the lowest level possible. To do so, we often make informal inquiries and requests for information with the relevant bodies, for example, to learn more about their processes and policies.
 

INVESTIGATION
If we are unable to resolve the matter informally, the Ombudsman may decide to conduct an investigation. We notify the organization in question, and we may conduct interviews and request documents or other relevant evidence. If the Ombudsman determines that there is a potential systemic issue underlying the complaints, he may decide to launch a systemic investigation.
 

FINDINGS AND REPORTS
The Ombudsman provides his findings to the organization in question for a response before they are finalized. His findings and recommendations are published in investigation reports and/or in our Annual Reports, and shared publicly on our website, via social media, news media and our e-newsletter. Copies are also available from our Office.
 

RESULTS
We communicate the outcome of individual investigations and most reviews and informal resolutions to complainants and the relevant public sector bodies, as warranted. Summaries of many such cases are published in our Annual Reports and other communications. When the Ombudsman’s recommendations are accepted, our staff follow up to ensure they are implemented, and we monitor to ensure problems don’t recur.


 

WE CAN:

  • Review and investigate complaints about provincial government organizations, administrative tribunals, municipalities, universities, school boards, child protection services and French language services.

  • Help you connect with the appropriate officials, if you have not already tried to resolve your complaint.

  • Refer you to others who can help, if the matter is not within our jurisdiction.

  • Attempt to resolve your problem through communication with the organization(s) involved, if your efforts to do so have failed, and the matter is within our jurisdiction.

  • Determine whether or not the organization’s actions or processes were fair.

  • Flag trends in complaints to government officials and recommend best practices and/or ways to improve administrative fairness.

  • Assist public sector officials with general questions about our processes or best practices.

  • Conduct a formal investigation, if the Ombudsman determines it is warranted, and make recommendations for constructive change.


 

WE CANNOT:

  • Overturn decisions of elected officials or set public policy.

  • Redo the work of other investigative bodies or accountability mechanisms.

  • Take sides in disputes.

  • Provide legal advice or representation.

  • Act as an advocate for a person or public body; we advocate for fairness.

  • Take complaints about:

    • Individual elected officials at the municipal, provincial or federal levels

    • The Premier, Cabinet and its decisions, and political staff

    • Judges and the provincial and federal courts

    • Legal disputes

    • Private companies or individuals

    • Local, provincial or federal police services or conduct (except some Ontario Provincial Police administrative matters)

    • The federal government and its departments and agencies

    • Federally regulated industries (banks, insurance companies, etc.)

    • Self-regulating professions (e.g., lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers)

    • Student associations and student unions

    • Local public health units

    • Hospitals and long-term care homes (except those designated under the French Language Services Act)


 

VALUES, MISSION AND VISION

OUR VALUES

  • Fair treatment

  • Accountable administration

  • Independence, impartiality

  • Results: Achieving real change

 

OUR MISSION

We strive to be an agent of positive change by enhancing fairness, accountability and transparency in the public sector, and promoting respect for French language service rights as well as the rights of children and youth.
 

OUR VISION

A public sector that serves citizens in a way that is fair, accountable, transparent and respectful of their rights.

 

Who we are

  • Ombudsman: Paul Dubé

  • Deputy Ombudsman: Barbara Finlay

  • French Language Services Commissioner / Deputy Ombudsman: Kelly Burke

  • Early Resolutions

    • Complaint intake, triage, referrals, issue identification and analysis, research and complaint resolutions.

    • Director: Eva Kalisz Rolfe

  • Investigations

    • Individual investigations, proactive work, complex complaint resolutions, identification of trends and systemic issues.

    • Director: Sue Haslam

  • Children and Youth

    • Early resolutions, investigations, reports and outreach related to complaints and systemic issues regarding children and youth in care and services provided by children’s aid societies.

    • Director: Diana Cooke

  • French Language Services

    • Early resolutions, investigations, reports and outreach related to complaints and systemic issues regarding French language services.

    • Director of Operations: Carl Bouchard

  • Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT)

    • Systemic issue investigations, extensive field work, follow-up.

    • Director: Domonie Pierre

  • Human Resources and Administration

    • Recruitment, training, human resources administration and facilities.

    • Director: Cheryl Fournier

  • Finance and Information Technology

    • Financial services and administration, information technology.

    • Director: Tim Berry

  • Communications

    • Reports and publications, website, media relations, social media, video, presentations and outreach activities.

    • Director: Linda Williamson

  • Legal Services

    • Legal support, evidence analysis, report preparation, municipal open meeting investigations.

    • General Counsel: Laura Pettigrew and Wendy Ray


 

About this Report

Cases discussed in this report were received between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

We use “cases” to mean individual complaints and inquiries. Individual cases often involve multiple issues and several different public sector bodies, requiring input and collaboration from teams across our Office.

This report is organized by topic area, rather than by government body. The chapters are arranged in order of case volume, as shown in the accompanying chart. Each topic chapter discusses the main complaint trends and significant cases of the past year.

A breakdown of complaints by ministry, program, municipality, etc. can be found in the Appendix.

 

Good to know
Watch for “Good to know” boxes throughout this report for explanatory notes.


 

CASES BY TYPE

Within each topic area, the most common complaint – by far – is service delivery. Here are the 10 most common types of complaints we receive.

  1. Service delivery

  2. Administrative decisions

  3. Delays

  4. Legislation and/or regulations

  5. Communication

  6. Enforcement of rules or policies

  7. Broader public policy matters

  8. Procedures

  9. Internal complaint processes

  10. Funding


 

CASES BY SUBJECT

  • LAW & ORDER 34%

  • MUNICIPALITIES 16%

  • EDUCATION 11%

  • CHILDREN & YOUTH 10%

  • SOCIAL SERVICES 10%

  • TRANSPORTATION 4%

  • HEALTH 4%

  • CERTIFICATES & PERMITS 4%

  • MONEY & PROPERTY 3%

  • EMPLOYMENT 2%

  • FRENCH LANGUAGE SERVICES 2%

  • ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT 1%


 

2020-2021 HIGHLIGHTS

  • Total cases received 20,015

  • 34% resolved within one week

  • 50% resolved within two weeks

 

  • 58% received online

  • 31% received by phone

 

Outreach with stakeholders

  • 44 virtual events [presentations, speeches, etc.]

  • 295 stakeholder consultations and requests answered

 

Communications

  • 170,285 website visitors from 195 countries

  • 683,913 pageviews

 

  • 258,779 people - Facebook reach

  • 210 Instagram posts

  • 3,039,463 Twitter impressions

  • 7,155 YouTube views

 

  • 1,907 print media articles

  • 847 broadcast media stories

 

Top 10 case topics

  • 3,691 Correctional facilities

  • 2,375 Municipalities and municipal meetings

  • 1,402* Children and youth

  • 935 Tribunals Ontario

  • 569 School boards

  • 553 Ontario Disability Support Program

  • 381 Family Responsibility Office

  • 305 ServiceOntario

  • 283 DriveTest

  • 267** French language services

*Cases received by the Children and Youth Unit, and about youth justice centres
**Cases received by the French Language Services Unit – details of these will be published in the Annual Report of the French Language Services Commissioner in late 2021.


 

Year in Review – Cases by Topic

LAW & ORDER

Overview

This case category encompasses all aspects of policing, correctional services and the justice system that are within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. It is routinely the largest category of complaints to our Office, with the top sources being the programs and services provided through the Ministry of the Solicitor General (3,966 cases) and the Ministry of the Attorney General (1,329 cases).

Although the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a decline in complaints in general, it also exacerbated many of the challenges faced by these organizations. Complaints about correctional facilities declined overall (to 3,691 from last year’s record high of 6,000), but they increased steadily from April 2020 onward. Similarly, Tribunals Ontario was the single most complained-about organization for the second year in a row (935 cases), mostly due to ongoing issues with the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The Ombudsman’s oversight does not include judges or court decisions, municipal police services or police service boards. Wherever possible, we refer people to other avenues where they can complain about these matters.

 

Trends in cases – policing

Public attention focused on policing issues with new urgency in 2020-2021 in the wake of several shocking police-involved killings of Black men and women in the U.S., which sparked months of protests across that country, Canada and elsewhere, even amidst pandemic restrictions. These events renewed calls to ensure police have stronger civilian oversight and better training in de-escalating situations involving persons in crisis – both issues the Ombudsman has explored in systemic investigations (see more information under Investigations – policing).

Although we do not have jurisdiction over municipal police, we received 202 complaints that we referred to the appropriate avenues, such as the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). New legislation that will replace the OIPRD and expand the Ombudsman’s mandate over all of the province’s police oversight bodies (the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, 2019) has not yet been fully brought into force. However, in October 2020, the government appointed its new Inspector General of policing under this Act, which will directly oversee and monitor policing. The Inspector met with the Ombudsman to discuss this new body and our oversight. In December 2020, the new, standalone Special Investigations Unit Act came into force, fulfilling one of our Office’s longstanding recommendations.

 

Investigations – policing

Police de-escalation training

Report: A Matter of Life and Death, released June 2016
Investigation update:
Prompted by the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a Toronto streetcar in 2013, this investigation explored systemic problems in the way Ontario police are trained to handle conflict situations. It also reviewed more than 20 years’ worth of coroners’ inquests into similar incidents and echoed hundreds of recommendations stemming from them.

Key among the Ombudsman’s 22 recommendations were the development of a new use-of-force model and a regulation requiring officers to use de-escalation techniques before weapons when appropriate, as well as better de-escalation training for new and existing officers. The Minister at the time accepted all of his recommendations and committed to making the major changes within 12 months.

Five years later, however, the majority of the recommendations have not been implemented. The Ministry of the Solicitor General has opted instead for more study on almost every aspect. The Ombudsman is deeply concerned about this lack of progress, as people in crisis continue to be killed in interactions with police that might have been de-escalated. In an October 2020 media interview, he said many needless deaths and injuries might have been prevented if clear legislation and better training had been put in place.

We continue to engage with the Ministry on this issue, and the Ombudsman is considering whether a follow-up investigation is necessary.
 

“I am dissatisfied, and I am not alone. If you persistently fail to respond to calls for reforms that are evolutionary, you eventually get demands for changes that are revolutionary. Unless government drives the change, it will move slowly and be difficult to achieve.”
Ombudsman Paul Dubé, as quoted by Toronto Star, October 6, 2020: “Ontario Ombudsman slams ‘outdated’ training tool that emphasizes weapons over de-escalation, despite repeated calls for change”


 

Special Investigations Unit – Director’s reports

Reports: Oversight Unseen (2008) and Oversight Undermined (2011)
Investigation update:
Our Office has conducted two systemic investigations regarding the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the civilian oversight body that investigates police-involved deaths or incidents of serious bodily harm. These resulted in our reports Oversight Unseen (2008) and Oversight Undermined (2011), in which the Ombudsman made numerous recommendations to bolster the SIU’s oversight and transparency. One key recommendation – that there be standalone legislation governing the SIU – was finally met in December 2020 when the new Special Investigations Unit Act came into force. Another was that the SIU Director’s reports be made public.

The SIU Director must write a report in any case where the Unit opts not to lay charges after an investigation. Historically, these reports were provided to the Ministry of the Attorney General but never made public. In the wake of Justice Michael Tulloch’s 2017 Independent Police Oversight Review, which echoed our Office’s recommendations, the then-Attorney General committed to releasing all such reports, dating back to the SIU’s inception in 1990. However, the review of each report to remove confidential information slowed the process. Reports from 2005 onward were made public and accessible, but those from 1990-2004 remained sealed.

We received 32 complaints about various issues involving the SIU in 2020-2021. In one case, a journalist complained to us about being unable to access some SIU directors’ reports. When we raised the matter with the Ministry of the Attorney General and the SIU, we discovered some confusion over who was responsible for reviewing and redacting the pre-2005 reports. The Ministry decided that it fell to the SIU, and after discussions with our Office, the SIU’s Director committed to reviewing requests to release these reports on a case-by-case basis.

 

Operational stress injury and suicide affecting Ontario Provincial Police

Report: In the Line of Duty, released October 2012
Investigation update:
We have monitored the issue of OPP deaths by suicide for many years, leading up to this 2012 report and since. The Ombudsman’s report made 28 recommendations to the OPP to improve psychological supports, education and training, and 6 to what is now the Ministry of the Solicitor General to help address suicides and operational stress injury among police provincewide. The Ministry and the OPP continue to work toward the full realization of these recommendations.

In August 2018, in the wake of more member suicides, the OPP announced an internal review of its mental health supports and of officer suicides since 2012. Several government initiatives followed, including additional funding to address mental health challenges.

In March 2020, the OPP Commissioner confirmed that since 2012, 17 OPP officers had died by suicide. The province and the Ontario Provincial Police Association also launched a new government-funded mental health support program.

Our Office has actively followed the OPP’s progress in this area, including reviewing complaints and engaging with stakeholders to assess whether a new investigation is warranted. The Ombudsman has also met multiple times with the OPP Commissioner and senior Ministry officials for updates on their actions. Complaints on this issue have dropped significantly from the 90 we received in 2018-2019 – we received 2 in 2020-2021, and 5 in 2019-2020.

 

Trends in cases – correctional services

The fair treatment of people in Ontario correctional facilities, including their health and safety, has always been a priority for our Office. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when our staff moved to working remotely and we were temporarily unable to receive mail or operate our central complaint intake phone lines, we worked with the Ministry of the Solicitor General to establish new phone lines for inmates to reach us. We continue to meet regularly with senior officials to receive updates on the Ministry’s responses to outbreaks of the virus and its health and safety measures to protect inmates and staff.

The volume of complaints we received about correctional facilities in 2020-2021 tended to reflect the progress of the pandemic itself. In early spring 2020, hundreds of low-risk inmates charged with non-violent offences were released, and many serving intermittent (weekend) sentences were permitted to do so in the community, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. The population in Ontario jails decreased by 34% between February and April 2020.

However, inmate counts began to climb again that summer, as did complaints to our Office. In addition to COVID-19 concerns, we continued to deal with complaints about persistent issues like lockdowns, segregation, health care, and matters affecting inmates’ safety and well-being. For example:

  • We received more than 100 complaints from inmates at several facilities across the province about bad food, including partially frozen, soggy sandwiches. We spoke directly with staff at these facilities to confirm they were providing replacement meals and addressing any potential health risks. Senior Ministry officials confirmed that they were working with the responsible vendor and staff at the facilities to address the issue.
     

“Thank you for taking the time to look into my case. I very much appreciate it.”
Complainant


 

COVID-19 and inmates’ access to communication

Throughout the pandemic, we have heard concerns from inmates’ family members, lawyers and other advocates about restrictions that left them unable to communicate for extended periods. When in-person visits were restricted, the Ministry provided inmates with phone accounts that permitted them to call cell phones for the first time. We received many complaints about problems with this system. These issues were often exacerbated during virus outbreaks.

For example:

  • An inmate whose mother had died complained that he could not call his family or speak with a lawyer about her estate, because his phone account was not working. After we contacted the facility, he was provided with phone access and a new account number.

  • We alerted a facility to the case of an inmate whose phone account number was being used by other inmates, leaving him unable to call his family more than once a month. Senior staff at the facility investigated the matter and issued him a new account number.


 

Conditions in Thunder Bay and Kenora jails

In last year’s Annual Report, the Ombudsman described the deplorable and unsanitary living conditions he observed at the Kenora and Thunder Bay jails during his visits in 2019. The Ombudsman met with the Solicitor General to discuss how the Ministry is addressing issues with staffing and programming, as well as its long-term plans to address overcrowding.

The Ministry has identified a contractor to expand the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre and Kenora Jail, and is offering incentives to correctional officers who wish to relocate to the region. We were told at least 25 new recruits were hired as a result of these efforts in 2020-2021.

We continue to closely monitor and address complaints from inmates at these facilities, and they are a standing agenda item in our meetings with senior Ministry staff. We heard that the persistent lockdowns were exacerbated by COVID-19, due to outbreaks, quarantine measures and staff shortages. For example:

  • A group of inmates raised concerns with us about living conditions in their unit and the death of an inmate by suicide. Some described comments by correctional officers that affected their own mental health. We flagged this to senior correctional staff, who told us internal and police investigations were underway. They also noted that inmates had access to a chaplain, a social worker and a Native Inmate Liaison Officer, who conducted a smudge ceremony with those who wished to participate.

 

“It’s heart-wrenching to see the conditions in which those inmates are living. I was shaken when I left that visit to the Thunder Bay jail.”
Ombudsman Paul Dubé, as quoted by The Canadian Press, June 30, 2020


 

Medical issues

Year after year, access to health care is the most common complaint we hear from inmates, and the pandemic has only intensified this. Not only were they concerned about contracting COVID-19, their access to medical and mental health care was affected by quarantine, distancing, isolation and testing protocols, as well as lockdowns and staff shortages. Treatments by doctors, dentists, psychiatrists and other specialists were often limited, cancelled or delayed.

Although we refer many cases to facilities’ internal complaint mechanisms, we prioritize those where an inmate’s health and safety could be seriously at risk. We co-ordinated our inquiries wherever possible, in recognition of the additional pressures that health care staff faced due to the pandemic. We resolved many cases by ensuring inmates received the medical attention they needed.

Some examples:

  • An inmate who broke his wrist but received little treatment had his injury x-rayed after we raised his case with health care staff at his facility.

  • We raised concerns about an inmate who told us he feared for his mental health when the facility stopped his medications. A mental health nurse checked on him and set up an appointment where he could be referred for psychological help.

  • When an inmate complained of being depressed due to lengthy lockdowns, we discovered he had been referred to a psychiatrist but had not been seen by mental health staff for months. As a result of our inquiries, the facility reminded staff to follow up on inmates’ mental health referrals.

  • An inmate sought our help with significant tooth pain and infection. His prescribed painkillers were not working and dentist visits were restricted due to COVID-19. We confirmed with the facility that he was put on a priority list to see a dentist the following week.


 

Assaults and threats of violence

Another matter of safety in correctional facilities that we prioritize involves assaults or other threats of violence against inmates. In cases of serious inmate-on-inmate assault or unreasonable use of force by a correctional officer, we confirm that the required investigations are being done at the local level, and that inmates have timely access to health care.

Some examples of how we helped address threats:

  • The wife of an inmate who had been hospitalized due to an attack by other inmates urgently sought our help when he was returned to the same unit as his assailants. We confirmed with the facility that they would address the inmate’s safety concerns.

  • A transgender inmate complained to us that she had been placed in a protective custody unit for men, where she felt unsafe. She said male inmates were approaching her in the showers and on the range and making harassing comments. We alerted facility staff, who committed to have a social worker speak with her about another placement.


 

Cultural and diversity issues

We often help inmates who complain about a lack of access to cultural and spiritual programming and services, including religious diet accommodations and the provision of culturally appropriate hygiene products. These services have been significantly affected throughout the pandemic, but wherever possible we have resolved issues by contacting relevant officials. We also flagged a number of inmate complaints alleging racist conduct by correctional staff; in these cases, we followed up to confirm the allegations were investigated and the results shared with the inmates.

Some examples:

  • Indigenous inmates at several facilities complained about being prevented from smudging because COVID-19 protocols restricted visits from Native Inmate Liaison Officers (NILOs), particularly in quarantine or isolation units. We confirmed that smudging stations were available throughout one facility and smudging could be arranged through a unit sergeant. At another facility, we were advised that inmates had no access to smudging during the 14-day isolation period after their arrival, but a NILO was available to them afterward.

  • We resolved a number of complaints from inmates about a shortage of kosher meals in 2019 and early 2020. The Ministry told us its supplier initially could not meet the demand, but by May of 2020, it had secured another supplier.

  • A group of inmates complained about a correctional officer using a racial slur against an inmate on their range. We confirmed with senior staff at the facility that the matter was investigated, written statements were provided by the inmates, and the outcome was communicated to them.


 

Investigations – correctional services

Tracking of inmates in segregation

Report: Out of Oversight, Out of Mind, released April 2017
Investigation update:
This report revealed major issues with the government’s tracking and reporting on prisoners in solitary confinement, known in Ontario as “segregation.” The Ombudsman’s investigation was prompted by a steady increase in complaints, as well as the extreme case of Adam Capay, a young Indigenous man who was held in segregation in Thunder Bay Jail for more than four years while awaiting trial for murder.

Key among the Ombudsman’s 32 recommendations was that the Ministry of the Solicitor General redefine “segregation” to reflect inmates’ actual conditions of confinement, rather than where they are housed, as was the practice. He also recommended the use of technology to better track prisoner movement, and an independent panel to review all segregation placements.

The Ministry accepted all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations and has implemented 25 of them to date, including crafting a new definition for segregation, and improved reporting on segregation placements.

Many of the outstanding recommendations are dependent on the status of the Correctional Services Transformation Act, which was passed in May 2018, but has still not been proclaimed in force. Among other changes, the Act would set new limits on the use of segregation for inmates and establish an independent panel to review segregation placements on a set schedule.

The Ombudsman continues to engage with the Ministry on these outstanding issues, but it has been unable to say when or whether the new Act will be brought into force.

 

Other trends in cases

Administrative tribunals

We receive hundreds of complaints each year about the province’s administrative tribunals – independent, quasi-judicial bodies that make decisions about a wide range of issues, including housing, social benefits and human rights.

Tribunals Ontario, a cluster of 14 tribunals that collectively deal with nearly 100,000 cases each year, was the most complained-about organization in 2020-2021, as it was the previous year – although complaints fell to 935 from 1,051 in 2019-2020. The bulk of these complaints were about delays and other issues involving the Landlord and Tenant Board, which we continue to investigate (see the Money & Property chapter of this report).

The complaints we receive about other tribunals also typically relate to long delays, process issues, or disagreement with decisions. The Ombudsman cannot overturn decisions, but we can review whether the decisions and process followed were fair. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most tribunals now hold electronic hearings, and we helped resolve some complaints about issues with this new technology. Tribunals Ontario has also kept us up to date on its efforts to address delays and backlogs by hiring more adjudicators.
 


Probation and parole

We received several complaints from inmates about late delivery of deferred Ontario Parole Board decisions. Some did not receive their decisions until after their parole eligibility dates had passed; although they were denied parole, the delays caused them considerable anxiety. We discovered that facilities across the province have different practices for the delivery of parole decisions – at some, staff refuse to deliver them, or the responsibility for the delivery is unclear.

We continue to follow up on this issue with the Ministry, which is working on a process that will provide for consistency and accountability in the delivery of these decisions.

 

Office of the Chief Coroner – delays and closure of forensic facility

We received 12 complaints in 2020-2021 about the Office of the Chief Coroner, which is responsible for conducting death investigations and inquests. Several people complained about delays or a lack of information about investigation outcomes. Some were family members who were impacted financially because they needed information to settle estate and insurance matters related to a loved one’s death. We resolved these cases by connecting people with the right officials or making inquiries with the coroner’s office.

We also reviewed several complaints received in 2019 after the Chief Coroner announced plans to close the Hamilton Regional Forensic Pathology Unit and transfer all work done there to the newer Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex in Toronto (the Hamilton facility ultimately closed in March 2020). The decision prompted considerable controversy and speculation about the motives behind it. Complainants told us there was no public consultation, and that the Ministry of the Solicitor General would not respond to their requests for information.

Our review revealed that the decision was made in late 2018 as part of a confidential government-wide fiscal planning process, which made public consultation impossible. Both the Ministry and coroner’s office acknowledged the confusion that this caused, and agreed to provide clarification to the complainants about this process. Senior officials also answered questions publicly about the matter before the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts in October 2020.

 

Case summaries

Search terms

Several inmates in the same facility complained to us that they were strip searched in a main hallway, in view of security cameras. Ministry policy requires that searches be conducted in an area and a manner that preserves inmates’ privacy and dignity. Our inquiries led us to escalate the matter to a regional director with the Ministry, who acknowledged the policy had not been followed in this case. As a result, the facility made procedural changes, including conducting searches out of view of cameras and using privacy screens.

 

Report duty

An inmate sought our help after he was involved in an altercation with another inmate and then pepper sprayed and assaulted by correctional officers. He had reported the assault to health care staff, but our review showed that they did not report the incident to superiors as required by Ministry policy. We raised the inmate’s concerns with senior Ministry officials, who confirmed that they spoke with the facility’s health care staff to remind them of the reporting requirements.

 

Under the gun

We received numerous complaints in 2020-2021 about delays in approvals by Ontario’s Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) for transfers of restricted firearms. We learned that this backlog was largely due to COVID-19, as the office was struggling with staff shortages and technological limitations related to working from home, while dealing with an increase in applications. Our staff confirmed that the CFO had put out messages to advise the public of possible delays. We also worked with CFO staff, through a spreadsheet system, to ensure that each application related to a complaint we received was processed.

 

MUNICIPALITIES

Overview

The Ombudsman has now had full oversight of Ontario’s municipalities for more than five years. This role, in addition to our work as the closed meeting investigator for hundreds of municipalities since 2008, has enabled us to help tens of thousands of Ontarians with their complaints about local issues. We have also helped many of the province’s 444 municipalities enhance governance, fairness and transparency, often by sharing best practices based on our expertise in resolving complaints.

From the start of this new mandate on January 1, 2016 to the end of the fiscal year covered by this report (March 31, 2021), we received 14,371 cases about general municipal issues. We have successfully resolved all but a handful of these without need for formal investigation. To date, we have conducted 6 formal investigations related to municipalities. No new investigations were launched in 2020-2021.

General complaints declined overall in 2020-2021 due to the pandemic, but we continued to help thousands of people with local issues and services hard hit by lockdowns and other restrictions. At the same time, we saw a surge in complaints about municipal meetings, as councils across the province moved to electronic meetings for the first time. Thanks to our years of experience in this area, we helped many municipalities ensure real transparency and public accessibility in their virtual meetings.

Our normal outreach activities with municipal officials also went virtual in 2020-2021, as in-person gatherings were cancelled and many, like our staff, worked from home. We continued to give presentations on our role and approach to municipal matters, answer inquiries from municipal staff, and share our online resources for municipalities and interested members of the public.
 

“I would like to personally thank you for your professionalism and co-operation in working with us.”
Complainant


 

Trends in cases – general municipal issues

The most common topics of complaints in this area continue to be municipal councils, by-law enforcement, housing and infrastructure. In the spring of 2020, we also received many inquiries from residents seeking information about closures or restrictions on access to public spaces due to COVID-19 – as well as complaints about masking and distancing protocols being too lax or too strict.

Wherever possible, we connected people with local services and officials, directed them to public information, or reached out to municipalities ourselves. For example:

  • When a ratepayer complained about his municipality raising property taxes during the pandemic, we pointed out that the council was considering waiving penalties for late payments, and directed him to assistance programs available from the municipality and other levels of government.


We routinely emphasize the importance of resolving local issues at the local level wherever possible. The Ombudsman has always encouraged municipalities to have clear and robust complaints processes available to the public. They should be free of charge, posted publicly with clear contact information, and provide for a response within a specific timeframe.
 

Good to know
Cases about municipal hydro can be found in the Energy & Environment chapter of this report; cases about Ontario Works in the Social Services chapter; and cases about municipal marriage licences in the Certificates & Permits chapter.



By working with municipalities in this way, we help strengthen local governance and transparency. For example:

  • After we discovered that a municipality’s process referred complaints to a particular employee, but did not indicate how to contact them, it added the contact information to its website.

  • After we inquired on behalf of a man who received no response from the municipality, it revised its system of logging complaints.

  • After we asked why a man’s complaint was dismissed with minimal explanation, the municipality contacted him to discuss details of its investigation and decision.


 

Councils, committees and conduct

Most of the complaints we receive about municipalities relate to councils and committees, including the conduct of elected officials and their decisions. The Ombudsman does not intervene in political decisions at any level, and the conduct of officials usually falls within the purview of the local Integrity Commissioner.

Our role is primarily to review the fairness of the municipality’s processes and procedures. When we find that the municipality followed a fair process, we communicate this to the complainant. When we find that the municipality’s process could be improved, we often resolve the matter by suggesting best practices to help avert future complaints. For example:

  • A woman complained that because of the pandemic, she was only permitted to make a written submission rather than address council directly. After we spoke with municipal staff, they contacted her to explain the new rules for addressing council, and agreed to update related policies and forms on their website.


 

Integrity commissioners

Since 2018, all municipalities have been required to appoint an integrity commissioner (IC) to investigate complaints of violations of their codes of conduct. We receive many complaints about local ICs, but our role is not to redo their work or act as an appeal court for their decisions. Instead, when we receive a complaint about a municipal IC, we look to see whether a fair process was followed, in accordance with legislation, by-laws, and policies. Where problems are identified, the Ombudsman may share best practices with the IC, or make recommendations to the municipality to improve its processes in future.

In reviewing a range of complaints in 2020-2021, we shared best practices with many municipalities regarding the integrity commissioner process. We are developing new resources for municipalities and the public on this topic, similar to our existing materials on municipal codes of conduct and ICs (available on our website).

Here are some examples of cases we resolved that illustrate the need for these best practices:

Fees and barriers: A resident told us his municipality required him to submit an affidavit in order to make a complaint under its code of conduct process. We also heard from a municipality that was considering charging complainants a fee. As a best practice, the Ombudsman urges municipalities not to impose such barriers; instead, they should empower their integrity commissioner to dismiss vexatious or frivolous complaints.

Act within authority: We reminded an integrity commissioner who failed to follow the municipality’s established complaints protocol to remember to act within their legislative and delegated authority.

Evidence: We reviewed a number of complaints about integrity commissioners not considering all available evidence or interviewing all potential witnesses. ICs have the discretion to determine the evidence relevant to their investigation, including which witnesses to interview, and to prefer some pieces of evidence over others. As a best practice, they should explain the evidence they rely upon and the reasons for doing so.

Delays: We often receive complaints about delays and lack of communication in integrity commissioner investigations. One man told us he heard nothing for eight months after submitting a complaint. As a best practice, we advise municipalities to have clear timelines in their code of conduct complaint protocols, while allowing ICs the discretion to extend them if necessary. In another case, we reminded an IC to be mindful of the strict timelines under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, after a woman complained that he had exceeded them in her case.

Decisions: A woman who felt the integrity commissioner had not addressed all of her complaints told us he never responded to her concerns. Another woman received no further communication from the IC about her matter once she filed suit against her municipality. We spoke with these ICs to stress the importance of communicating the reasons for their decisions to complainants. As a best practice, municipalities’ protocols should include communicating with a complainant when an investigation is closed, including because of related litigation.

 

Ombudsman’s Tips

INTEGRITY COMMISSIONERS

All municipalities must provide access to an integrity commissioner.

Municipalities should:

  • Remove or reduce barriers, such as fees for making a complaint, or heavy administrative requirements, such as swearing affidavits.

  • Empower the integrity commissioner to dismiss frivolous or vexatious complaints.

  • Establish reasonable timelines for integrity commissioner reviews, with the flexibility to extend them if required.

Integrity commissioners should:

  • Stay within the mandate set out in legislation and the duties assigned by municipalities.

  • Ensure their findings are supported by evidence.

  • Communicate their decision and reasons to complainants once they have completed a review, or declined to do so.

  • Provide thorough reports, setting out the reasons for their findings and any recommendations, their investigative process, the evidence they relied upon and how they weighed it against the relevant ethical rule.

  • Abide by the strict timelines in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act for the review of conflict-of-interest complaints.


 

Policies on public conduct

While many residents complain about the conduct of public officials, the conduct of certain members of the public is also a persistent problem for municipal staff. Municipalities can issue trespass notices or bar individuals from municipal property in particularly troublesome cases – as long as the restrictions are justified, minimally impair the person’s rights, and are issued through a fair process.

We help resolve these issues for all concerned by sharing best practices. For example, the Ombudsman advises municipalities to have clear policies regarding conduct of members of the public, and trespass notices. (Details can be found in the Ombudsman’s reports Press Pause and Counter Encounter, available on our website.)

In some recent cases:

  • We discovered that municipal staff who barred a man from emailing them were not familiar with their own community code of conduct. They rescinded the ban and sent the man a warning letter instead, explaining why his voluminous correspondence was unwelcome.

  • We spoke with the mayor and staff at a municipality that barred a resident indefinitely from all municipal property and virtual council meetings. They agreed to adopt a “respectful conduct” policy that includes an appeal mechanism and a process for regular reviews of existing restrictions.


 

By-law enforcement

By-law enforcement generates hundreds of complaints each year – 239 in 2020-2021 – from people who think by-laws are being unfairly applied or not strict enough. The Ombudsman identified several best practices for by-law enforcement in his 2018 report By-law Surprise, and we regularly share them with municipalities. These include having clear complaints processes and appeal mechanisms, and ensuring any fees charged are authorized by by-law.

We resolved many such cases in 2020-2021, often by verifying municipalities’ processes or by prompting them to make improvements. For example:

  • We received 160 complaints about four municipalities permitting local mosques to broadcast the evening call to prayer during Ramadan in 2020. The municipalities permitted the broadcasts for a few minutes each day, despite local noise by-laws, as they have discretion to do. Our review found that the municipalities weighed the noise issue against the meaningful positive impact for members of the local Muslim community (one even found noise levels during the call to prayer were no higher than passing vehicle traffic). The municipalities also openly communicated with the public about these decisions and received feedback to improve the process for similar decisions in future.

  • A municipality issued refunds to a group of residents after we discovered that the fees they were charged for property inspections were not authorized in any by-law, as required by the Municipal Act.

 

Several of the 217 housing-related cases we handled in 2020-2021 involved vulnerable people affected by the pandemic.


 

By-laws requiring services in French

Municipalities are not subject to the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction under the French Language Services Act, but some have opted to pass their own by-laws requiring the provision of some services in French. When they then fail to deliver such services, we receive complaints. As with other municipal complaints, we make inquiries as necessary and work to resolve these at the local level. For example:

  • A man who spotted an electronic traffic sign near a construction site in English only – contrary to his city’s French language services by-law – complained to us after municipal staff told him it was on private property. We confirmed it was on city property, and that staff should have referred the matter to their French language services office. As a result of our inquiries, the sign was replaced with a bilingual one, and staff were reminded about how to refer such complaints internally.


 

Housing

Social housing, administered by municipalities and district social services administration boards, is consistently a top topic of complaint. Several of the 217 housing-related cases we handled in 2020-2021 involved vulnerable people affected by the pandemic. For example:

  • We helped a woman connect with her local housing provider and support agencies on behalf of her sister, who was at risk of becoming homeless. She said finding help was especially difficult during the pandemic because many government forms could only be accessed online.

  • We helped a single mother and her five children, including one with complex special needs, who were living in a motel. She had been told she would not qualify for social housing unless she paid $3,500 in arrears from 15 years earlier. With our help, she reached a local housing manager who reviewed her situation and committed to finding a home for the family.

 

Good to know
See the Appendix of this report for more statistics on cases received about municipalities.


 

Investigations

Hiring process for Regional Municipality of Niagara’s Chief Administrative Officer

Report: Inside Job, released November 2019
Investigation update:
Launched in August 2018, this investigation revealed that the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) hired by the Regional Municipality of Niagara in 2016 had been provided with inside information. It also exposed serious inadequacies in the local ombudsman’s review of the matter.

The Ombudsman made 16 recommendations to improve the Region’s processes for hiring a new CAO and engaging a local ombudsman. All were accepted, and as of February 2021, 13 had been implemented. One of the most significant outstanding recommendations relates to terms of reference for hiring a municipal ombudsman in future. The Region plans to have this in place later in 2021, and will continue to report back to us on its progress.

 

Ombudsman’s Tips

ELECTRONIC MEETINGS

All of the open meeting rules – Municipal Act s. 239(1) – apply to virtual meetings and must be followed. In addition, municipalities should:

  • Provide clear instructions in the agenda or meeting notice that indicate how the public can access an electronic meeting, such as a link or call-in number.

  • Amend their procedure by-laws to provide for electronic meetings.

  • If the meeting goes into closed session, make the resolution to do so in open session. When back in open session, report the general nature of what was discussed. Ensure the public has real-time access to both of these steps.

  • Consider providing separate meeting invitations or call-in instructions to safeguard the security of closed meetings, or ensure that live broadcasting capabilities can be enabled or disabled as required. Security concerns do not override the open meeting rules.

  • Develop procedures to address technological issues – e.g., if the livestream goes down during an open meeting – and make them public.

  • Monitor live broadcasts or teleconferences to ensure transmission quality, so the meeting can be stopped if problems arise. Have a backup method of broadcasting in case the first one fails.

  • Consider providing telephone conferencing or other alternatives for members of the public who can’t watch a livestream.


 

Trends in cases – open meetings

All municipal meetings must be open to the public, unless they meet certain narrow exceptions set out in section 239 of the Municipal Act. Anyone who thinks a municipal meeting may have violated these open meeting rules can make a complaint.

Since 2008, the Ombudsman has been the investigator for these complaints in all municipalities except those that have appointed their own. This number continues to grow: As of March 31, 2021, the number of municipalities using the Ombudsman as their investigator reached a new high of 256 (up from last year’s peak of 236).

Complaints about closed meetings also rose sharply in 2020-2021: Last year’s all-time low of 40 cases within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction doubled to 80. These complaints related to 47 meetings in 41 municipalities (compared to 26 meetings in 24 municipalities in 2019-2020).

Key factors in this increase were COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions on public gatherings, which forced municipalities to conduct their meetings electronically instead of in person. This shift required legislative change at the provincial level and numerous changes to municipal processes and procedures.

We received 94 complaints between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 – 80 of which were about municipalities where the Ombudsman is the investigator. The Ombudsman reported his findings in 26 cases – 15 as formal reports and 11 as letters to the municipalities. Notwithstanding the increase in complaints, only 8 of the 47 meetings we reviewed were illegal (17%), down from 19% 2019-2020. The Ombudsman also found 10 procedural violations and made 30 best practice recommendations.

All of these reports and letters can be found on our website and in our searchable Open Meetings Digest online.

 

Electronic meetings

Prior to the pandemic, fully electronic meetings were not permitted under Ontario law. Any municipal council member who participated in a meeting electronically could not count towards quorum and could not participate in closed meetings.

Amid the March 2020 state of emergency, the province amended the Municipal Act and permitted municipalities to amend their procedure by-laws to allow electronic meetings (open and closed). In July, further amendments were made to allow electronic meetings even outside of emergency situations. However, the open meeting rules did not change. This means even electronic meetings must be open to the public, minutes must be recorded, and a resolution must be passed in open session before a meeting can be closed.

In reviewing and investigating complaints about virtual meetings, the Ombudsman sought opportunities to provide best practices and guidance to municipalities grappling with this new reality.

Some examples:

  • The City of Richmond Hill contravened the Act when it provided notice ahead of an electronic meeting, but failed to provide a livestream or information about how the public could access the meeting.

  • The Board of Management for the Greater Napanee Business Improvement Area (BIA) went ahead with electronic meetings without first amending its procedure by-law to permit them.

  • The Village of Westport went ahead with two meetings despite technical problems with its live broadcasting technology, improperly excluding the public. The Ombudsman noted that posting recordings of the meetings after the fact, while a good practice, did not bring the Village into compliance with the open meeting requirements.


We are in the process of developing best practice resources for municipalities to assist them in this area.

 

Definition of “meeting”

Along with the move to virtual meetings, pandemic restrictions and stay-at-home orders necessitated more electronic communication between council members – and prompted complaints about possible violations of the open meeting rules.

The rules exist in the interest of transparency – not to discourage socializing amongst members, but to deter councils from conducting business out of public view. Prior to 2018, we investigated several cases where the Ombudsman found that a quorum of council members coming together to conduct business could constitute an illegal “meeting,” even if it was over email or a series of phone calls.

But in 2018, the definition of “meeting” in the Municipal Act, 2001 was changed to require that a “quorum of members is present,” which does not apply to email or other virtual discussions. In 2020-2021, this proved problematic in a few cases. For example:

  • When the Mayor of the Town of Hawkesbury met individually, in sequence, with three council members about terminating specific town employees, these discussions did not constitute a “meeting” as defined in the Act, because there was never a quorum of members “present” at once. However, the Ombudsman found that the Mayor had “effectively organized a voting bloc of councillors who strategically agreed ahead of time about how to deal with a specific matter,” away from public view and with no minutes being taken. It would have been more transparent and accountable to introduce the matter at a formal council meeting, he said.

 

“Given the importance of accountability, transparency, and ensuring that openness requirements are not subverted, the government may wish to clarify whether pre-agreements by a majority of council are contrary to the Municipal Act’s open meeting provisions.”
Ombudsman Paul Dubé, Report on the Town of Hawkesbury’s decision-making process on June 15, 2020, released March 2021


We shared a copy of this report and the Ombudsman’s comments with the Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Ombudsman also wrote to the Minister directly in April 2021, proposing a simple change to the Act to address this issue:

“[T]he Act’s current definition of meeting goes beyond allowing councillors to socialize and share information informally. Rather, the requirement that a quorum be ‘present’ means that the form of the gathering or exchange can determine whether the open meeting rules apply. Councillors who are seeking to avoid public scrutiny of their exchanges and decision-making can use the limits of the current definition to ensure their conduct remains in the shadows and outside the reach of my Office’s investigative mandate. This deprives citizens of ‘the right to observe municipal government in process’ referred to by the Supreme Court.

Eliminating the phrase ‘is present’ from the definition of meeting would resolve this issue and ensure that the open meeting rules apply whenever a quorum of councillors materially advances council business or decision-making. This would allow the definition to focus on the substance of the councillors’ exchange, rather than its form.”
Letter from Ombudsman Dubé to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, April 26, 2021


 

Other common open meeting issues

Complaints about municipal meetings tend to stem from confusion about the meaning of the various open meeting exceptions, or common procedural matters like voting and note-taking. On our website, our Open Meetings Guide and searchable Digest provide detailed information about these issues and numerous examples of the Ombudsman’s decisions on them.

 

Personal matters

Under s. 239(2)(b) of the Municipal Act, meetings can be closed for discussions about “personal matters about an identifiable individual.” This is one of the most cited – and frequently misunderstood – exceptions.

Discussions about a person in their professional capacity do not fit within the exception, so should not be held behind closed doors. For example:

  • The Municipality of Temagami’s discussion about a harassment investigation did not fit because council did not identify the individuals involved or discuss any information about the alleged harassment.

  • The Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers’ discussion of a bidder on a Request for Proposals did fit within the exception because it included personal information about the person’s suitability and conduct.


 

Minutes and recordings

The Municipal Act requires that the proceedings of all meetings be recorded, whether they are open or closed to the public. Minutes that describe the proceedings, including the matters discussed and any decisions made, are essential for transparency and accountability. The Ombudsman also recommends that all municipalities audio or video record meetings, open and closed. These practices not only enhance transparency, they also make investigations more efficient in the case of a complaint.

Some municipalities fell short in this area in 2020-2021 – for example:

  • After the Board of Management for the Greater Napanee Business Improvement Area lost its only employee, it stopped circulating minutes, and none could be located during our investigation.

  • Participants in closed meetings we investigated in the Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers and the Township of Johnson had conflicting recollections of what was discussed behind closed doors, and poor minutes made it difficult to determine what took place.

  • The Municipality of West Nipissing apologized publicly after it inadvertently failed to make audio or video recordings of two meetings when council began holding them via teleconference due to the pandemic.


 

Voting

Votes are not allowed during closed meetings, except for procedural matters or to give direction to municipal staff or officers. We investigated several cases of improper votes behind closed doors. For example:

  • Council for the Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers voted improperly when it decided matters related to staff wages, paying out a claim, and hiring an individual.

  • Councils for the Township of Johnson and the Town of Plympton-Wyoming violated the rules when they voted in closed session on procedures to fill council vacancies.

  • When a quorum of council for the Town of Pelham decided over email not to accept a donation from a cannabis producer, the Ombudsman found this was wrong and contrary to law, as municipalities are only permitted to make decisions by by-law or resolution.


 

Case summaries

Process undermined

Residents who live close to an open-pit mine contacted us in frustration after complaining to their municipality about noise, dust, and emissions for years. Our review revealed that the municipality had not established a clear complaints procedure or communicated how people should raise their concerns about the mine. Frontline municipal staff sometimes did not know what to do with these complaints, and at least two different departments responded at various times, leading to confusion. The municipality agreed to clarify its process directly to the residents and on its website. It also committed to training staff so they are able to handle similar complaints in future.

 

Information flow

More than 30 people from the same municipality sought our help with concerns about leaking water pipes. They complained that their calls to the municipality were not returned, and it provided no information on its website about what to do when they found a leak, how to have pipes repaired when they crossed onto municipal property, or how to obtain permission to connect new pipes to its infrastructure. After we raised the matter with municipal officials, they agreed to add information to the website, and to provide contact information for staff who could respond to the residents’ inquiries.

 

Bad signs

A man who received a ticket for stopping in a “no stopping” zone complained that only a “no parking” sign was visible from the spot. When we raised the issue with city officials, they confirmed there was a mix of “no stopping” and “no parking” signs in the area. They decided to refund the man’s ticket and fix the signs to prevent future confusion.

 

Cleared up

After a woman told us her drinking water was discoloured and she feared it was unsafe to drink, we contacted her municipality and the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which runs its water system. We were told the water was safe, but discoloured because of a new chemical treatment method. The agency said it addressed the matter by changing the chemicals, and worked with the municipality to try a new filtration system while it pursues longer-term improvements. Municipal officials agreed to explain the situation to residents on an upcoming water bill, and the woman told us her water quality had improved.

 

EDUCATION

Overview

The Ombudsman oversees the province’s 72 school boards, 10 school authorities, all publicly funded universities and colleges of applied arts and technology. We also oversee the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities – and their programs. In 2020-2021, all of these bodies were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as most schools and post-secondary institutions closed their doors and moved to virtual classes for much of the academic year.

In 2020-2021, we received 107 complaints and inquiries about the Ministry of Education and its programs, and 569 about school boards. In the post-secondary sector, we received 399 cases about the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, including 200 about colleges of applied arts and technology. We also received 213 cases about universities.

Our staff handled a wide range of complaints from parents, students and educators about the effects of the pandemic on education and public sector officials’ response to it. Some decisions – such as when and whether to close schools and the public health guidelines for doing so – fell outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, but we helped people access information and complaint processes wherever possible. We also raised complaint trends with officials and gathered information about how such decisions were carried out – and suggested best practices for improving public communication where warranted.

 

Themes in cases – early years through Grade 12

In-person and virtual school

Schools across Ontario were closed due to the pandemic state of emergency in the spring of 2020, leaving millions of Ontarians to cope with the multiple challenges of virtual learning – often while working from home themselves. Students also saw their extra-curricular activities and graduations cancelled. In the fall, schools reopened with guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing, although some families opted to continue virtual learning. But by spring 2021, in-person classes were again cancelled due to the third wave of COVID-19, and March break was moved to April.

Throughout these changes, our staff reviewed the Ministry of Education’s policies and expectations for both in-person and virtual school, as well as the policies developed by individual school boards.
 

“Thank you so much for following up with this… We all appreciate the steps your office took and the level of professionalism throughout the process.”
Email from group of parents regarding a school board case



This allowed us to make appropriate referrals and facilitate communication between families and school boards. We provided information to parents who expressed concerns about the effects of the pandemic on their children, such as the consequences of closing – or reopening – schools, or the adequacy of masking and distancing. We resolved these cases by researching the available information and referring people to local school and public health officials.

We also helped parents and boards sort out issues over cancelled events, and spoke with the Ministry of Education about its plans to address a shortage of French immersion teachers in boards that had moved to virtual school.

Here are some other examples of how we helped:

  • We made inquiries with a school board after a group of parents complained that all students were being moved to a hybrid learning model (combining in-person and online students). The board acknowledged that the change was made without consultation, and its trustees voted to maintain the existing virtual learning model until June 2021.

  • In the fall of 2020, a mother was told her children were not registered for virtual school as she requested, and they would have to attend in person while the board worked through a large waiting list for virtual classes. We followed up with the school board and confirmed the students were registered for online classes by October.

  • A mother who had just moved to a new city sought our help in registering her daughter, who has special needs, in virtual school. She then complained that the school board had not sent her a tablet for the girl to access online materials. We connected her with board officials, and she obtained the tablet.

  • We helped a mother, who has cancer, switch her child’s school registration from in-person to online, due to her doctor’s concerns about COVID-19 transmission risk. The board had a long waiting list but prioritized health considerations.


 

Pandemic support benefits

Over the course of the pandemic, the government has created several financial benefits programs to help support students and parents, such as Support for Families, Support for Learners and the COVID-19 Child Benefit. We heard from many Ontarians seeking information about these programs or the status of their benefits. For example:

  • When a woman complained to us about delays in receiving her Support for Families payment, we put her in touch with a ServiceOntario manager, who confirmed the date when her payment would arrive.

  • A woman complained that she never received the one-time Support for Families benefit, and when she inquired about it, she was told her application had been deleted because the program was now closed. Our staff spoke to senior officials who resolved the issue and processed her payment.

  • After her computer automatically added an old email address to her Support for Learners application, a mother of two students had trouble correcting the error with the Ministry of Education. We confirmed with the director of the program that the benefit would be sent to her.


 

Special education and accommodations

Notwithstanding the pandemic, schools are still required to have Identification, Placement and Review Committees (IPRCs) to determine appropriate supports or placements for students with special needs, at the request of parents or principals. Boards also must develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for such students. We routinely help families with issues related to special education supports, and this was especially important to those dealing with COVID-19 changes. For example:

  • We helped confirm that a family was permitted to have a support person participate in their child’s IPRC meeting, in accordance with the law.

  • We made inquiries on behalf of a student with special needs to determine how he would be accommodated in a virtual classroom. The boy’s mother had requested that he be exempt from screen time but had received no information from the board about how his IEP would work. The board approved the request and assigned a teacher to the student.

  • Guardians of a child with special needs sought our help after the child’s education was significantly interrupted by the pandemic and their request to have them repeat Grade 2 was denied. Board officials reversed their decision after we contacted them about the case.


 

Trustee conduct and integrity commissioners

We frequently receive complaints about the conduct of school board trustees. The Ombudsman has always encouraged boards to have a clear complaint process for such cases, and to appoint their own integrity commissioners – as is now mandatory for municipalities. This is a best practice that ensures an independent and impartial mechanism for complaints at the local level.

We are aware of 5 boards that engage the services of an integrity commissioner: The English public boards in York, Peel, Durham and Toronto – and, new this year, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). Prior to the appointment of the TCDSB integrity commissioner, our Office suggested to the board that it clarify its process for complaints about trustee conduct. It now has this information on its website.

In a case involving another board, a man complained to us after he received no response to his concerns about a decision to sanction a trustee. After we inquired with board officials, they acknowledged that they had not answered the man’s emails, and committed to do so.

 

Property tax designations of support for French-language school boards

In response to concerns from Ontario’s French Catholic school trustees’ association, their boards, and individual Francophone property owners, our Office prompted the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to review how it processes school support applications. The property owners complained after they discovered the school support designations on their properties had defaulted to English public school boards, instead of their choice of the local French-language board. The French Catholic boards raised concerns about the accuracy of MPAC’s information.

Under the Assessment Act, MPAC is responsible for collecting information about school board supporters across the province. This responsibility dates back to a time when school board funding was based on property taxes: By default, property owners are listed as supporting their local English public board, unless they fill out an application to support the local English Catholic, French public or French Catholic board instead. Although this no longer determines school funding (which is now based on the Ministry of Education’s per-pupil funding formula), it does determine how many trustees a school board has, and who can run and vote in trustee elections.

We heard from several Francophones whose support had defaulted to English boards, even though they submitted the required documentation to change it:

  • A French Catholic school supporter told us he had to make multiple attempts to ensure his application was processed and his support recorded.

  • A French public school supporter checked MPAC’s voterlookup.ca website and discovered that her support had defaulted to English public. She complained that she and her Anglophone husband had to sign school support documentation, even though their child had attended a French public school.

  • After a French public school supporter moved to a new property within the same school board area, his school support designation did not follow him. Our inquiries revealed that a database MPAC had established in 2012 to track school support when someone moves had not been updated for many years. MPAC corrected the error and updated the database. Its Quality Services Commissioner also did an internal review and recommended that MPAC engage with school boards about ways to improve and simplify the school support designation process.


We continue to monitor the implementation of these changes by MPAC in the run-up to the 2022 school board elections. We have also informed the relevant ministries about these issues.

 

Investigations

Transparency of a school closure decision in North Bay

Report: Lessons Not Learned, released July 2019
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman found that the Near North District School Board failed to follow a rigorous and transparent process when it decided to close a secondary school in North Bay in 2017, despite the lessons it could have applied from a similar controversy in 2013. All of his recommendations were accepted by the board, including that it hold a new vote on closing the school.

As of December 2020, 12 of the Ombudsman’s 14 recommendations were fully implemented. The board adopted a new governance manual that addressed recommendations made by the Ombudsman, the 2013 review and by Ministry of Education advisors in February 2020.

The two outstanding recommendations relate to updating the board’s accommodation review policy and will be implemented once the Ministry of Education updates its Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline. There has been a moratorium on school closings since June 2017, so the board has not had to engage its accommodation review policy. The school at the centre of this case finally closed in June 2020.

 

School busing issues in Toronto

Report: The Route of the Problem, released August 2017
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman launched this systemic investigation after more than 1,000 students at the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board were affected by severe school bus delays, last-minute route changes and a bus driver shortage at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

All 42 of his recommendations were accepted. These included developing a school bus transportation complaint procedure, a communication protocol to ensure parents, boards and other stakeholders are notified of service disruptions, and contingency staffing plans.

We received no complaints about school bus delays or driver shortages in fiscal 2020-2021. The school boards and their shared transportation consortium continue to update us on their implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations. As of March 2021, 11 recommendations remain outstanding and in progress. The most significant of these are expected to be addressed when transportation contracts are renewed in 2022.

 

Trends in cases – post-secondary

Over the past five years, the most common complaints relating to universities and colleges have been about admissions, academic appeals, financing and student services. In 2020-2021, most post-secondary education in the province was moved online due to COVID-19, and our staff helped hundreds of people navigate the impacts of this change.

In addition to resolving individual cases, we often suggest best practices to post-secondary institutions to improve their processes and avert future complaints – such as having a clear procedure for grade appeals and giving plenty of notice for appeal hearings.

As well, as of 2019, all Ontario colleges and universities are required to have policies to protect free speech on campus, and any unresolved complaints may be referred to the Ombudsman. We received few new complaints this year, but continued to follow up with one university on previous cases related to security fees: The university committed to posting clear information on its website about its process for assessing security fees for events that are expected to spark controversy and protests.

Since February 2021, our Office has closely monitored the impact of Laurentian University’s efforts to avoid bankruptcy, and its decision in April to cut numerous programs, including several designated under the French Language Services Act. In June, the French Language Services Commissioner launched an investigation regarding the cuts to French-language programs. We continue to review other complaints from affected individuals.

 

Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)

We routinely help students with issues related to OSAP loans and grants, and in 2020-2021, the pandemic complicated matters for many. Among those we helped:

  • After becoming a permanent resident of Canada and receiving a new Social Insurance Number (SIN), a student’s OSAP applications were repeatedly rejected because they did not match the former temporary SIN on his file. Our staff raised the case with OSAP and the student ultimately received $11,600 in funding.

  • A mother who urgently needed OSAP to support her family while she pursued her studies feared OSAP would reject her because she did not have a birth certificate for one of her children. We spoke with OSAP officials, who advised that she could apply and access funding, then update her application once she obtained the missing birth certificate.

  • Two years after transferring programs, a student was told he was no longer eligible for OSAP funding due to the length of time he had been in school. He complained to us that he would not have enrolled in a three-year program if he had known his funding would not cover the full period. After we inquired about the case, OSAP audited his file and found he was eligible for an additional $5,000, enough to cover his third year.

 

Good to know
See the Appendix of this report for more statistics on cases received about school boards, universities and colleges of applied arts and technology.


 

Fees

Many of the students we helped with fee issues in 2020-2021 were dealing with matters related to program changes and cancellations due to the pandemic. For example:

  • A would-be student in a college English program was required to take an English proficiency test administered by an external agency. She paid $40 for the test and a $500 deposit to reserve a spot in the program. She never received her test result and thus could not enrol in the program – but the college would not refund her deposit. After we raised the case with college officials, they sent her a cheque for $500.

  • Students in a college animation program were told they would have to buy desktop computers because the school’s computer labs would be inaccessible due to COVID-19. After we spoke to the college about one student’s complaint about this extra cost, arrangements were made for students to access a computer lab, and additional bursaries were set aside to help students purchase computers.


 

University/college ombudsman

Our Office encourages universities and colleges to have their own ombudsman to resolve issues at the local level. We often help students connect with their ombudsman, and have suggested best practices to several university and college ombudsman offices. For example:

  • We checked with a university ombudsman after a student complained that he had failed to follow up on his case – it turned out that the ombudsman’s email response to the student was still in his “draft” folder.

  • We suggested several best practices to a college ombudsman regarding a student with learning disabilities and mental health challenges who requested certain accommodations. The case raised issues of confidentiality. We reviewed the college’s code of ethics for the ombudsman and suggested best practices to ensure complainants’ information is not disclosed without their consent.


 

Case summaries

Opportunity granted

A former master’s student who began to work in her field just before she completed her degree complained to us that the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) had deemed her ineligible for an Ontario Student Opportunities Grant, due to unreported income. She noted the decision seemed to be based on income she earned after graduation. We spoke with OSAP officials, who conducted an additional assessment and determined that the woman was indeed eligible for a grant of $7,880.

 

Process upgrade

A university student who had completed two years of courses applied for late withdrawal because of a previously undiagnosed mental illness. She sought our help after the university’s academic appeals committee denied her request and she was given a failing grade. Our review of the committee’s decision identified issues with its processes and the handling of the student’s complaint. As a result, the student’s “F” grade was replaced with “withdrawn,” and the university began addressing the problems we identified with its appeals process.

 

Slow off the marks

A college graduate seeking to pursue studies at a university sought our help when he was unable to provide official transcripts from the college, whose offices were closed in spring 2020 due to COVID-19. He complained that the college did not respond to his inquiries until June, and did not provide his unofficial transcript until October, which was too late for the university’s fall semester. College officials acknowledged that changes to its processes due to the pandemic had resulted in issues that they had since addressed. They offered to apologize to the graduate and explain the situation to his new university, where he successfully enrolled for the next semester.

 

Trucker stop

A would-be commercial truck driver complained to us after the private career college where he took his Mandatory Entry Level Training course was suspended by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. He had passed the training and road test, but was told he was no longer eligible to receive his commercial truck licence because of the college’s status. He attempted to raise the issue with the Ministry of Transportation, but had no response for months. We confirmed with the Ministry that it would not require affected students to re-take the course – however, it did not notify them of this. In light of our inquiries, the Ministry told us it will consider improving the program and including a provision to inform students if a similar situation arises.

 

CHILDREN & YOUTH

Overview

Under Ontario’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, children and youth in care – young people living in foster homes, group homes, treatment placements and youth justice facilities – have a legislated right to contact the Ombudsman.

This means they must be told about who we are, and how to reach us – in language they can understand. Those providing them with services must not only inform them about us, but allow them to communicate with us privately and without unreasonable delay.

These special safeguards echo Article 20 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which places an obligation on governments to provide “special protection and assistance” to young people who live in state care. We reflect this notion in the way we handle complaints from children and youth in the province’s child welfare and youth justice systems.

Our Children and Youth Unit resolves and investigates complaints regarding young people in care, conducts outreach to promote and protect young people’s rights, and provides advice and recommendations to government. We also have dedicated staff who handle cases related to youth justice centres.

 

Trends in cases

Between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, we received 959 complaints and inquiries about children’s aid societies, 173 about youth justice centres, and 124 about residential licensees (group homes and foster homes). Although we have always had oversight of youth justice centres, this is our first full fiscal year of oversight of the other bodies, which became part of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction on May 1, 2019.

We received 938 cases from adults (service providers, family members, police, etc.), and 291 from children and youth.

Among the most common issues raised with us by young people were concerns about their placements, issues related to their culture or identity, being physically restrained or assaulted (by staff or peers), and wanting to have more or less access to their parents.

The most common issues raised by parents included access to their children and concerns about unfair treatment by children’s aid societies (CASs). Common complaints from other adults included COVID-19 restrictions, a shortage of placements, human trafficking, the safety of placements and the response by CASs to safety concerns.

Children and youth in care were particularly affected by the pandemic, as lockdowns reduced or eliminated many aspects of their care, including visits by family, social workers and inspectors. As well, safeguards such as criminal record checks on caregivers faced delays.

Throughout this time, the Director of the Children and Youth Unit and staff have participated in weekly meetings with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and stakeholders in the child welfare sector to discuss these and other issues. These included a moratorium on youth “aging out” of care (so that those turning 18 would not have to leave care during the pandemic).

 

Complaints about children’s aid societies and residential licensees

As the organizations directly responsible for most children in care in Ontario, children’s aid societies (CASs) account for most of our complaints in this area. These range from communication issues – a lack of information provided to children or families, or delayed responses – to concerns about the adequacy of care or staff conduct. We resolved these by facilitating contact with CASs, making inquiries, and following up with complainants. For example:

  • We prompted a CAS to inform a mother and her two foster children about the outcome of its investigation into their allegation of abuse by a former foster parent.

  • A woman who had waited four months for court documents verifying custody of her niece received them within four days after we contacted the CAS.

  • A whistleblower contacted us with allegations of physical abuse and failure to provide some basic medical services at a group home for medically fragile youth. After we connected him with the relevant CAS, it completed an investigation and recommended several improvements to the home’s staff.


 

How we Work

OUR ROLE WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH

To help children and youth in care, we:

  • Receive and review complaints about any matter concerning a young person receiving residential care services or in a youth justice facility

  • Conduct investigations

  • Review, analyze and follow up on Death and Serious Bodily Harm reports

  • Promote and protect young people’s rights

  • Meet with children and youth in care, as well as service providers and youth justice facility staff, to inform them about how we can help

  • Conduct outreach with community groups and professionals who help young people

  • Liaise with and provide advice to Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services


 

How we Work

WHEN A YOUNG PERSON CALLS

When a child or youth contacts our Office, we:

  • Ask them to explain the problem, and whether they’ve already spoken to someone about it.

  • Contact their service provider, with the youth’s consent, to find someone who can help resolve their complaint.

  • Stay involved by following up and monitoring the outcome.


If the issue isn’t resolved, we can review it further by making inquiries and obtaining documents. We consider whether the decisions, processes and treatment of the young person were fair.

We resolve almost all cases without formal investigation, but can also investigate further if needed.

We also track complaint trends and raise them proactively in our regular meetings with officials at the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, as well as with local children’s aid societies and youth justice centres, and other stakeholders.

The Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, establishes several mechanisms where adults can complain prior to contacting our Office. When adults complain to us, we first refer them to these mechanisms, but advise them that they can return to us if the matter is not resolved.

Our focus is to resolve issues as quickly as possible, and to improve the services provided to young people and families by Ontario’s child welfare system through our oversight.


 

CAS-initiated calls to police

We raised concerns with the Ministry and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies about a number of cases across the province in which CASs called in police to deal with young people in their care. This practice is disturbing, as Section 28.1 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act makes it clear that the criminal justice system should not be used as a substitute for child protection, mental health or other social measures. In several cases, our intervention prompted the CASs to review their processes.

Some examples:

  • When a 13-year-old racialized girl refused to go to her new group home because it was far from her home community, the CAS called police – who handcuffed her and placed her in the back of a police vehicle. We spoke with the CAS, which had no formal policy on when to involve police. It now requires staff to obtain the service director’s approval before contacting them, and is working on a formal policy. We also confirmed the girl was moved to a foster home in the area she originally requested.

  • After a youth left her foster home without permission and returned to her family home, the CAS called police, who ultimately handcuffed and removed her. As a result of our inquiries about the incident, the CAS spoke with its staff about how issues could be proactively identified and noted in a youth’s file, so they can be resolved without involving police.

  • A youth who has a developmental disability and behavioural issues had his arm broken while being restrained by staff at his group home. We reviewed the investigation of the incident by the CAS and police, and discovered that one of the resulting recommendations was for the group home to ask the police to caution the youth about his recurring problematic behaviour. We inquired with the CAS and group home and confirmed that they did not – and would not – ask police to do this. The home has since brought in a new supervisor who has emphasized de-escalation and reviewed the use of restraints, resulting in them being used less often on this youth.


 

Death and serious bodily harm reports

Children’s aid societies and licensed residential service providers are legally required to inform our Office when they become aware of an incident of death or serious bodily harm involving a child who has sought or received services from a children’s aid society within the past 12 months.

CASs and residential service providers are expected to notify us within 48 hours of the incident, which is often before any of the required child protection, police or coroner’s investigations are complete. The involved young person or their parent(s) must also be notified about our Office and how to contact us in such situations. Serious bodily harm includes physical, sexual and/or psychological harm, and must be reported whenever a young person requires treatment beyond basic first aid. These reports are submitted via a secure portal on our website.

We review them weekly to identify any cases that require follow-up, and conduct a monthly analysis of the data to identify patterns and potential systemic issues. We flag any issues of concern in the death reports to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario – who also receives them, by law. Although we cannot investigate child deaths, we can review the services provided to the young person once the Coroner’s investigation is complete.

We received 1,299 reports on 1,050 incidents in 2020-2021. There were 105 reports of deaths, and 975 reports of serious harm. We followed up with 41 cases. For example, we follow up on all reports that indicate a child was injured as a result of physical restraint:

  • A youth in a group home who was injured when she was physically restrained for self-harming behaviour told us she had had “a really hard day,” and staff were trying to assist her. She confirmed she now felt fine, and was supported by staff in the home.

  • A youth we contacted about being injured revealed to us that her CAS worker had refused to meet with her about previous incidents where she had been restrained and unable to breathe. We helped her file a complaint with the CAS, and a new worker was assigned to her.

 

Good to know
See the Appendix of this report for more statistics on cases received about child protection services.


 

Youth justice centres

Ontario’s youth justice system includes secure custody and open custody facilities for youths between the ages of 12 and 17 who come in conflict of the law. Youth custody/detention facilities are operated directly by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, which also funds open and secure custody youth centres operated by third parties.

On March 1, 2021, the Ministry closed 26 of these centres, including 21 open custody centres and five secure facilities; 10 of the 26 were located in Northern Ontario. In a statement, it noted that the closures addressed under-utilization of these facilities, where admission rates had declined 80% in recent years due to programs emphasizing alternatives to custody. The Ombudsman launched an investigation into the Ministry’s planning and implementation of the closures of two centres in Kenora and Thunder Bay (see update under Investigations). Five custody/detention facilities and 22 open and secure custody centres remain.

We meet regularly with senior officials in the Ministry’s Youth Justice Division to discuss COVID-19 protocols and other safety measures at youth justice facilities, as well as individual cases. Among the issues we raised were restrictions on in-person visits, which continued in some regions even when lockdowns were lifted. We worked with officials to have many visits approved on a case-by-case basis. These included several young people who had not seen family members for five months or more and were experiencing mental health issues.

Other common topics of complaint were the use of restraints and pepper spray, staff conduct, youth at risk of suicide, unfair loss of privileges, and forms of isolation such as restricted contact with other youth and limited school attendance or participation in programs.  

Another significant concern we raised with the Ministry in 2020-2021 was inconsistency in policies and procedures within and across facilities. The Ministry agreed to address the gaps we identified and to re-examine existing practices.

Some examples:

  • We made inquiries about a youth who had been assessed as being at risk of suicide, who complained of having to wait for a psychologist’s assessment. He said this prolonged the restrictions he faced while on “suicide watch.” Ministry policies require youth at risk of suicide to be assessed daily by a “designated professional” such as a psychologist wherever possible, but the facility told us a psychologist visited just once a week and daily assessments were done by a nurse. The Ministry agreed to review its policies in light of the concerns we raised.

  • Our review of an incident where pepper spray was used on a youth determined that the Ministry’s policy for pepper spray use was not followed. Further to our inquiries, the Ministry referred the matter for investigation and committed to providing our Office with an update.

  • We noted a lack of uniformity across youth centres in their use of disciplinary consequences, in our review of a complaint from a 16-year-old who was confined to his room for an extended period. Staff at the detention centre received a memo after we alerted management to their failure to complete the required paperwork. The Ministry agreed to our recommendation to develop a framework for youth centres to follow when assigning consequences.


As noted in last year’s Annual Report, we have suggested that the Ministry implement a general oversight procedure that identifies when local investigations of serious incidents are required. In 2020-2021, we identified several cases where such guidance would have been helpful. For example:

  • A facility’s investigation of a youth’s allegation that he was assaulted by staff did not include interviewing the youth, witnesses or any staff. We raised the case with the Ministry, which committed to develop a guidance document for local investigations.

  • After a youth told us she was physically restrained and “slammed” to the ground by youth centre staff, we reviewed the investigation reports and available video of three such incidents. We advised the Ministry that several policies were not followed and the reports of the incidents were vague. In continuing to follow up on the case, we learned the Ministry was conducting an operational review of the centre that included some of the issues we raised.


 

Investigations

Closures of youth justice centres in Kenora and Thunder Bay

Launched: March 2021
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman launched this investigation in light of complaints about the abrupt closures of Creighton Youth Centre in Kenora and J.J. Kelso Youth Centre in Thunder Bay, and concerns about their impact on vulnerable youth. The investigation is focused on how the closures were carried out by the Ministry, including its planning, consultation, communications and youth transfer process. At the time of writing this report, investigators were in the midst of conducting interviews and reviewing relevant documents.
 

“Concerns have been raised about a lack of notice and consideration for the vulnerabilities of the young people who were moved out of these centres – for example, whether their rights were respected and what planning was done for transitioning them to new facilities. As always, if we find that the planning was adequate and the actions appropriate, we will say so. If not, we will make recommendations for improvement.”
Ombudsman Paul Dubé, news release announcing youth justice centre investigation, March 16, 2021


 

Services provided to missing youth

Launched: November 2020
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman launched this investigation after we became aware of a case of a 13-year-old girl at risk of human trafficking, who went missing from her group home for a significant period of time. The investigation is examining the services provided by a number of agencies to this highly vulnerable youth. At the time of writing this report, this investigation was in progress.

 

Investigations initiated by former Child Advocate

Launched: Prior to May 2019
Investigation updates:
The Ombudsman committed to completing the investigations that were in progress when our Office assumed the investigative function of the former Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth in May 2019. We have raised issues that we identified in two of these cases with the Ministry. These involve the entitlement of both parents to information about child protection investigations regarding their child, and anonymous reports of child protection concerns.

The Ministry has committed to address these issues as part of its ongoing efforts to review and modernize the child welfare system, and to report back to the Ombudsman when its review is completed.

 

Communications and outreach

To help ensure that children and youth in care are aware that they can contact the Ombudsman, our staff conducted numerous virtual presentations throughout 2020-2021 – to young people, management and staff at CASs and residential licensees, community agencies, and post-secondary students training to work in the children’s services sector.

We follow up individually with children and youth by phone after our presentations to ask if they have any questions about our Office or anything they would like to talk to us about.

We continue to bolster our online resources for children and adults. Among our latest communications products are:

  • Short, accessible, child- and youth-friendly videos about how we can help (we encourage CASs and residential licensees to embed these on their websites and use them to explain our role to children and families);

  • Contact cards that can be distributed by police officers and community agencies who come into contact with young people who are having problems at home or with residential placements; and

  • “Know Your Rights” brochures and posters, detailing six key areas of rights assured under Ontario law.


In fiscal 2021-2022, we have begun to prioritize our outreach activities to include agencies providing services to Indigenous children and families, and agencies providing services to Black children and families, in recognition that both groups are over-represented in Ontario’s systems of care. Within our Children and Youth Unit, an Indigenous Circle composed of Indigenous staff, along with managers, leads our outreach to Indigenous family agencies and young people. The circle also provides consultative advice on complaints and reports of death and serious bodily harm incidents involving Indigenous youth. We have also established a Black Children, Youth and Families Roundtable along similar lines.

Our Office is an active member of the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates and the Children and Family Chapter of the United States Ombudsman Association. We work with these organizations to promote the rights of youth in care and share information about common issues affecting them across North America and elsewhere.

 

Case summaries

Culture change

A Black 16-year-old complained that her CAS worker was dismissive of her requests for hair and skin products that met her cultural needs, making her feel like she was being treated differently because of her race. After we spoke to a manager at the youth’s CAS, they agreed to make appropriate hair and skin products available, and offered to facilitate a meeting with the youth to discuss her concerns. They committed to including a Black staff person in all meetings with her, to help ensure her cultural needs are being met.* The youth told us she was satisfied with the outcome of the first meeting.

*Under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, a service provider is required to take identity characteristics such as race, ancestry, colour and ethnic origin into account when providing services.
 

“I would like to say thank you for so being caring and concerned about this matter. Everything is sorted out and all is well.”
Complainant


 

Talk or else

A 13-year-old in a group home complained that staff were forcing him to talk to them and share his feelings, rather than respecting his privacy. He said they threatened to remove privileges, like making calls to his parents or using an iPad, if he didn’t comply.* We raised the issue with the home’s supervisor, who agreed that staff should not threaten him when he does not feel like talking.

*Rights cannot be taken away as a form of punishment. Under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, a young person in care has a right to speak in private with, visit and receive visits from members of their family or extended family regularly.

 

Dogged determination

After a youth living in a treatment home complained that his request for a service dog was refused,* we followed up with his CAS worker. She raised the issue with the home, which agreed to develop a new policy regarding service dogs, which they provided to us. She also arranged for a puppy to be trained as a service dog for the youth.

*Services provided under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, should, among other identity characteristics, take a young person’s disability into account.

 

SOCIAL SERVICES

Overview

Social services and benefits are provided to Ontarians primarily through programs within the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, along with a network of agencies and government-funded service providers. Municipalities and social services boards also administer social assistance through Ontario Works.

Every year, we help hundreds of people resolve issues with these organizations, particularly those who receive benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and/or Ontario Works (OW), or who pay or receive family support via the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). In 2020-2021, the COVID-19 pandemic left many of them struggling to reach caseworkers or searching for information about available benefits.

 

Trends in cases

Throughout the pandemic, our staff have taken an active role in helping those in need access crucial social services and information. We have also worked closely with provincial and municipal officials to flag issues with communication and service delivery, which were the most common complaint trends we encountered.

 

Family Responsibility Office

The FRO is the provincial government organization that is responsible for enforcing court-ordered child and spousal support payments. Given the large number of families in Ontario affected by divorce, the FRO has traditionally been one of the top sources of complaints to our Office. Many are from parents who did not receive their support payments and criticized FRO’s lack of enforcement action; many others are from parents who met their support obligations but felt they faced unfair enforcement action.

We work closely with FRO officials to resolve cases and flag trends. Although the pressures of the pandemic posed new challenges for them and their clients, we received significantly fewer FRO cases in 2020-2021 – 381, compared to 832 the previous year.

We helped several people sort out issues with FRO related to their COVID-19 circumstances, for example:

  • A man who lost his business due to the pandemic told FRO he could no longer meet his support obligations, and was initially told he would have to go to court to make his case. Instead, we connected him with FRO officials who worked with him on a payment plan he could afford.

  • A man who had been out of work and unable to make support payments for several months due to COVID-19 shutdowns had his unemployment benefits and wages garnished for unpaid support. After our staff spoke to FRO officials, he was refunded $700 and the deductions from his wages were suspended for a month.

 

“I would like to thank you very much for helping me through this difficult time. You were absolutely very helpful and very understanding and patient.”
Complainant



We also resolved many complaints about the FRO’s enforcement activity, largely by reviewing key facts of cases with FRO staff or connecting clients with them, highlighting the provisions in court orders or referencing policies. For example:

  • A single mother who was owed child support complained to us that the FRO was taking too long to process her paperwork, while her ex-partner had just received a $30,000 severance payment from his employer. After we raised the case with FRO officials, they arranged a bank garnishment against the man in an attempt to capture the funds owed to the mother.

  • A man complained that his wages were being garnished in excess of what was stated in his court order. FRO officials initially told us their enforcement was appropriate, but our review of the file indicated the man had overpaid more than $2,000. The FRO lifted its enforcement actions against him and did not require him to pay support for five months.

  • A woman complained that the FRO was garnishing her wages to pay support for three children, when two of them actually lived with her. She had applied to have this changed, but received no response. Over several months, we raised the case with FRO officials, who ultimately terminated her support obligations for the two children and lifted several enforcement actions against her.


Our Office also has a direct line to FRO’s Issues Resolution Unit, which is connected to the Assistant Deputy Minister’s office, and we frequently resolve cases through both. For example:

  • A man sought our help after a lengthy dispute with FRO officials over having to pay what he felt was an excessive amount of support. FRO staff had offered multiple explanations about what he owed, but he remained dissatisfied. We escalated the matter to senior FRO officials, whose review of the case found several errors. They met with him to discuss his concerns and possible resolutions, and provided him with an apology.


 

Ontario Disability Support Program and emergency benefits

Ontarians receiving disability support were especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns, and many sought our help to resolve issues with missing payments, unreachable caseworkers and general confusion over their entitlements. We received 553 complaints about ODSP in 2020-2021. In many cases, people were frustrated with the rollout of emergency benefit programs – both federal and provincial – and public communications about how these programs affected ODSP support.

Our staff were able to help by contacting ODSP officials directly to connect them to clients, clarifying the rules for emergency benefits, and flagging issues with delayed or missing payments. We discovered that a new email system, as well as reduced staff and reduced hours due to COVID-19, contributed to ODSP’s communication issues in the early days of the pandemic.

Some case examples:

  • We contacted ODSP staff after a man sought our help with his shelter allowance. They determined he was not entitled to more shelter benefits, but noticed he had not received the province’s Emergency Benefit. They transferred it to him immediately and ensured he received it for three more months.

  • A woman who relies on ODSP to pay for her leukemia medication complained to us that she was suddenly cut off from her support and could not reach her caseworker. We discovered this was due to ODSP operating with reduced staff, who immediately restored the woman’s funding after we reached them.


Many support recipients complained to us that they did not learn about the province’s Emergency Benefit – which was available to ODSP and Ontario Works recipients from April through July of 2020 – until after it ended. We raised this lack of communication with senior ODSP officials and the Deputy Minister, who acknowledged that greater measures could have been taken to ensure those in need were aware of the benefit, such as including information about it in monthly ODSP and Ontario Works statements. The Deputy Minister committed to reviewing the Ministry’s process to address similar concerns in future.
 

Good to know
Cases about children’s aid societies and other matters relating to children and youth in care can be found in the Children & Youth chapter of this report.


 

Ontario Works

Municipal service managers and District Social Services Administration Boards administer the Ontario Works (OW) social benefits program. We received 143 complaints related to municipal social assistance programs in 2020-2021. We helped many people who weren’t able to access their benefits, often due to a breakdown in communication with local officials. Among those we helped:

  • A single father with two young children told us Ontario Works had denied his request for emergency housing benefits and the family was close to becoming homeless. We discovered that OW needed more information from him before they could approve the benefit – which they did as soon as he connected with them. He told our staff our intervention was “life changing.”

  • A man whose Ontario Works cheque had gone missing was told a replacement cheque would not be issued unless he picked it up in person – which he could not do because he was in jail. We learned that the Ministry had no policy for such situations, but it worked with OW staff to ensure a replacement cheque was issued.

  • A woman who suffered an injury that left her unable to work complained to us that her Ontario Works benefits did not cover her monthly expenses. We shared her concerns with OW staff, who agreed to adjust her monthly payments and help her apply for further benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program.

 

 

Services for adults with developmental disabilities

Among the Ontarians most reliant on social services are those with developmental disabilities and the family members who care for them. In normal times, they can find it difficult and complicated to access services; this past year, they faced the additional impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Among other things, in-person programming was often not available, and beds in residential facilities were more limited to allow for social distancing between residents.

We helped to clarify funding processes for several families and ensured that officials making decisions took relevant information into account. For example:

  • A mother whose son with developmental disabilities was turning 19 sought our help in obtaining funding to allow him to stay with his residential provider as an adult. Through numerous inquiries, we learned that the Ministry and other community partners were working on a budget for services for him, and he was able to stay in his residence while his transition to adult services was approved.

  • We helped a mother who could no longer cope with her 22-year-old daughter’s worsening behaviours. When our staff spoke with Ministry officials, they confirmed the case had been referred for urgent response, but the situation was more severe than they realized, and they reassessed her daughter’s needs.


We also assisted several families in desperate need of placements for loved ones – situations similar to those outlined in the Ombudsman’s 2016 report, Nowhere to Turn (see update under Investigations).

 

Investigations

Services for adults with developmental disabilities in crisis

Report: Nowhere to Turn, released August 2016
Investigation update:
Our investigation, launched in 2012, reviewed more than 1,400 complaints from families in crisis situations – where adults with developmental disabilities were placed in hospitals, long-term care homes, homeless shelters and even jail because no appropriate care or placements could be found for them. When the Ombudsman’s report was released in 2016, the Ministry accepted all 60 of his recommendations to address systemic problems with services and supports.

We continue to meet regularly with the Deputy Minister and senior Ministry officials on their progress in implementing them; to date, 48 recommendations have been implemented.

Still, we regularly receive new complaints from families in similar situations – more than 600 since the completion of the Ombudsman’s report, and more than 40 in 2020-2021. We bring these cases to the Ministry’s attention and discuss potential solutions. This past year, we raised concerns about long delays in transitioning people into appropriate placements, which were often exacerbated by COVID-19.

We are closely monitoring several cases where progress has been delayed by the pandemic. Ministry officials provide us with regular updates on these cases. They include:

  • A 31-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man, both with autism and challenging behaviours, who have been in hospital for more than two years, mostly confined to their rooms and in restraints. The Ministry recently confirmed to us that both would be moving to residential placements.

  • A 50-year-old man with developmental disabilities and mental health conditions who is living with his brother and elderly mother despite behaviours that have resulted in multiple calls to police and hospital stays.

  • A 26-year-old man with a developmental disability, epilepsy, and mental health diagnoses who has been in hospital for more than a year.

  • A 23-year old man with a developmental disability, chronic health conditions and violent behaviours who remains in hospital because of several factors, including that the pandemic delayed the community placement that had been arranged for him. He continues to have personal support workers funded by the Ministry.


 

Care and custody of children with complex special needs

Report: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, released May 2005
Investigation update:
It has been more than 15 years since our Office’s investigation revealed a systemic issue facing parents of children with complex special needs: In order to obtain appropriate residential care for the children, parents were forced to relinquish their custody to children’s aid societies. The government at that time committed to ensuring this would no longer happen.

Still, we continue to see echoes of this problem today: Parents who cannot cope with their children’s needs at home approach their local children’s aid society (CAS) for help, and even though there are no child protection concerns, the CAS provides interim assistance because it has access to immediate funding and supports.

There appears to be no process for families to access services in urgent situations, particularly where the child needs to be placed outside the home. The Ministry has an “early alert” process to flag situations where a family requires urgent supports, but we have found that it is not always used, and in practice it does not provide an urgent response for families in crisis. We have also seen cases where families were not connected with funding sources for which they might have been eligible.

Our staff discussed these trends and individual cases with senior Ministry officials, who committed to reviewing their processes to clarify inconsistencies and identify possible improvements. In 2020, the Ministry issued a memo to agencies, clarifying eligibility for complex special needs funding and the roles and responsibilities of CASs, developmental services and mental health agencies. It also stressed that CASs should refer families in need of services to appropriate providers.

We worked directly with Ministry officials to assist individual families as well. For example:

  • The parents of a 15-year-old with multiple mental health conditions and a developmental disability sought our help after he injured them and a sibling several times and was admitted to hospital. They did not feel safe bringing him back into their home, but feared they would have to surrender custody to the local CAS so it could find him a residential placement. After we spoke with senior Ministry officials, they reviewed the case and the family received funding for the teen’s placement.

  • The mother of a 14-year-old with significant mental health challenges and a developmental disability had placed the youth temporarily in CAS custody because they were not safe at home. She complained to us that no other solutions were available for her child’s residential care, and that the CAS would soon be legally required to apply for permanent custody. After we raised the matter with Ministry officials, a placement order was found for the teen in a mental health treatment centre, and custody was returned to the mother.

 

 

Case summaries

After-life support

An unemployed woman who had been paying child support to her children’s father complained to us that the Family Responsibility Office was still intercepting 50% of her unemployment benefits, even though the man had died and the children were now in her care. Our staff flagged the case as urgent to FRO officials, who immediately lifted the garnishment of her benefits and returned $1,100 to the woman.

 

Failed to send

An Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipient complained to us that her benefits had been cut off twice without warning. We made inquiries with ODSP officials, who determined that the woman should have received written notice that they were withholding benefits because they needed information about her living arrangements. But the woman’s caseworker, a new employee, had electronically generated letters of notice to her without sending them. They also noted that ODSP was operating with reduced staff due to the pandemic, and workers were dealing with unusually high caseloads.
 


Letter imperfect

The mother of a 21-year-old woman with developmental disabilities complained to us that she had not been reimbursed by the province’s Passport program for support services that she purchased for her daughter. She was told that she had run out of funding, even though she thought she still had money to spend. She was initially approved for $5,000 for her daughter’s needs for 2019-2020, but in late 2019 received a letter by email, stating that she was approved for $17,000. She believed this meant she had an additional $17,000 to spend, although she did not spend the entire amount. After we asked Passport to review the case, they discovered that their letter – based on a Ministry template – failed to provide a breakdown of the available funding or explain that it was prorated over six months. Their staff had also not contacted the woman to discuss it, as required by policy. We raised the case with Ministry officials, who provided the woman with a one-time payment to cover the expenses, and committed to review their template letter.

 

TRANSPORTATION

Overview

Cases in this chapter relate to programs and agencies within the Ministry of Transportation, including those that deal with driving, vehicles and highways, and public transit (Metrolinx and GO Transit). The most frequent topics of complaint involve driver licensing, medical review of licences, suspensions and fines. A common thread in many of these is communication, and we have frequently worked with the Ministry to encourage improvement, whether in the information it shares with individual drivers or the way it communicates broad public policy changes. This was all the more important during the pandemic.

 

Trends in cases

Services during the pandemic

Public services across the transportation sector were affected by COVID-19. Expiry dates for renewals and medical reviews of driver’s licences and vehicle registrations were extended. Driving tests were cancelled during periods of lockdown, resulting in long waiting lists and backlogs. Public transit continued to operate, but with greatly reduced ridership and increased sanitation protocols. All of these changes prompted many Ontarians to turn to us for help.

We assisted many drivers who were concerned about missing deadlines to take tests or complete other requirements due to COVID-related shutdowns. For example:

  • A senior who had been in a collision was required to take tests to maintain her driver’s licence, but she was unable to schedule them because of the pandemic. Due to our inquiries, the Ministry confirmed it would allow her an extension.

  • A woman in a rural area needed to take an eye test to renew her driver’s licence, but DriveTest was closed. We contacted the Ministry and confirmed it had waived the vision test requirement to help people in such situations.

  • A woman received a letter saying her temporary driver’s licence was going to expire. We verified with the Ministry that the letter was sent in error and it had extended the validity of licences.


 

DriveTest backlog

In the first wave of the pandemic, DriveTest centres cancelled all passenger road tests, from March to August 2020, resulting in a massive backlog when locations began reopening in late summer. By December 2020, the backlog of people waiting for tests exceeded 400,000, and it continued to grow in areas where lockdowns were in force (including in April 2021, when a new provincewide stay-at-home order was issued). Complaints about DriveTest increased sharply in 2020-2021 – to 283, more than quadruple the previous year’s total of 65.

Our Office continues to have regular discussions with Ministry officials to discuss the status of the DriveTest backlog and their strategies to reduce it.

 

Public communications

We brought several complaints to the Ministry’s attention regarding its communications with the public, and it agreed to a number of improvements. For example:

  • A participant in the Ministry’s pilot program for permits to use the High Occupancy Toll lanes on the QEW highway complained to us that she could not get a refund for her permit, despite the pandemic stay-at-home order. We learned that the Ministry gave refunds or extensions to permit holders if they asked for them, but it did not communicate this possibility to permit holders generally. Although it was too late to do so for this permit period, the Ministry committed to proactively communicate this type of information in future.

  • We received several complaints from people who failed driving tests but were not given a full explanation or their scoresheet by their examiner. They were not aware that they could request this information from their DriveTest centre. When we raised this with the Ministry, we learned that some DriveTest examiners had experienced abuse from candidates who failed tests, including some who removed their face masks, contrary to COVID-19 safety protocols. As a result of our discussions with the Ministry, examiners now let candidates know before their test that they can get their results from the centre. The Ministry is also exploring other options that may make it even easier for drivers to obtain their scoresheets.

  • A man complained that the Ministry’s handbook for commercial drivers does not warn candidates that they will automatically fail the driving test if they take more than 10 minutes to back up a truck. The Ministry agreed to update its handbook and amended the online version immediately.

  • We raised a complaint with Metrolinx management about noise from a train layover (where trains are stored overnight). Area residents had been told 10 years earlier that the layover would be temporary. More recently, the entrance to the layover was moved closer to residential homes, increasing noise in the neighbourhood when trains begin moving in and out before 5 a.m. The Ombudsman met with Metrolinx and encouraged its leadership to be more proactive in communicating to members of the public about changes that may affect them, and to have a framework to ensure this happens.


 

Investigations

Driver’s licence suspensions and reinstatements

Report: Suspended State, released September 2018
Investigation update:
This investigation focused on the Ministry of Transportation’s processes for notifying and communicating with drivers about licence suspensions and reinstatements due to unpaid fines. It was prompted by numerous complaints from people who had continued to drive – in some cases for years – with no idea that their licences had been suspended, only to discover that they owed large fines and had to undergo a lengthy reinstatement process. The Ombudsman’s report revealed systemic problems with the Ministry’s communications, record-keeping and customer service, and made 42 recommendations to address them.

The Ministry reports to us regularly on its progress in implementing these recommendations. It now informs drivers of suspensions for defaulted fines when they renew their vehicle registrations, and fines can be paid online or at any ServiceOntario location. The number of licence suspensions has substantially decreased, and so have complaints to our Office on this issue: We received 5 in 2020-2021, compared to 76 in 2019-2020.

 

Case summaries

Kept in suspense

A driver whose licence was suspended as a result of a criminal charge successfully appealed the charge and had it removed from his record. He was told by ServiceOntario staff that the licence would be reinstated within 2-3 days. He complained to us when, several weeks later, he was charged with driving with a suspended licence and his car was impounded. Our inquiries with the Ministry revealed that the timeframe for processing licence reinstatements in these situations is actually 15 business days. However, this timeframe was not communicated to the public or even ServiceOntario and court staff who deal with public inquiries. After we raised this with the Ministry, it added information about the processing timeframe to its website and advised ServiceOntario and court staff. We also suggested that the Ministry’s notices to drivers include information about its free online service for checking the status of their licence. The Ministry agreed to reimburse the man for half of the costs he incurred when his car was impounded.

 

Experience counts

A man who had driving experience in India and in British Columbia sought our help after he tried to obtain an equivalent Ontario driver’s licence. His experience should have qualified him immediately for a G2 licence (the second of three steps in Ontario’s graduated licence program) and allowed him to take the final road test. Instead, DriveTest staff told him he would have to start at the most basic level. After we made inquiries with Ministry officials, they ensured the man’s driving experience was taken into account and he was given his G2 licence and final road test. They also sent him a letter of apology and clarified the procedure for such cases with DriveTest staff.

 

No surrender

A driver complained to us after he was told the Ministry had no record of the licence he had surrendered to them 30 days earlier. Drivers whose licences are suspended because of demerit points are required to surrender them in person at ServiceOntario centres or mail them to the Ministry. However, in this case, the man did so at a DriveTest centre, and it was not until he went to ServiceOntario a month later to reinstate his licence that he learned there was a problem. We made inquiries with Ministry officials, who confirmed that DriveTest staff should not have taken the man’s licence. They ensured he could reinstate his licence without delay, and asked DriveTest to instruct staff on the relevant policy for such situations.
 

“Thank you very much for all you have done. I have learned many lessons in this entire process.”
Complainant


 

HEALTH

Overview and trends in cases

Health and long-term care continued to be a dominant concern of Ontarians in 2020-2021, as every aspect of the health care system was affected by the pandemic in some way, and this was reflected in the complaints we received in this area. Ontarians sought our help in accessing information about everything from COVID-19 protocols and testing to how and when they could obtain vaccines. The pandemic also had an impact on surgeries, drug benefits and more.

We helped connect many people with the health information and services they needed. We also made progress on our two health-care-related systemic investigations: Our ongoing probe of the province’s oversight of long-term care, and our completed investigation into the Ministry of Health’s oversight of ambulance services (more detail under Investigations).

One complaint trend highlighted a serious gap in oversight: We received complaints about local public health units, but they are outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, as well as that of the Ministry of Health’s Patient Ombudsman. They are also not subject to the French Language Services Act, although our Office and the Chief Medical Officer of Health have encouraged them to provide health information in French wherever possible.
 

“I can’t say enough… other than thank you! You’ve made a world of difference.”
Complainant  


 

Public health units

Throughout the pandemic, directives issued by local public health units across the province have significantly affected Ontarians’ daily lives. We received 87 complaints and inquiries about public health units in 2020-2021, covering a wide range of issues relating to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, mask and social distancing guidelines, various orders to close down local amenities, and access to vaccines. Since public health units are outside of our jurisdiction, we referred many people back to them, but our staff provided information and other avenues of complaint wherever possible.

 

Vaccine rollout

As several COVID-19 vaccines began to become available in late 2020 and early 2021, many people contacted our Office in search of information about them – or to complain about aspects of the government’s plans to administer them. We received 93 cases related to COVID-19 vaccines in fiscal 2020-2021, including complaints about the speed and order of the vaccine rollout to different age groups and high-risk populations, the processes to register for vaccination, the conditions at vaccine clinics, and general vaccine availability. Our staff shared vaccine information with people as it became available, and pointed them to resources where they could escalate their concerns, such as to their local public health unit or their MPP.

 

Communication issues during the pandemic

We helped many Ontarians resolve communication issues related to their health care and medication, often by contacting the relevant officials for clarification. Some examples:

  • We confirmed that a man who was having trouble changing the name on his health card could still see a specialist and maintain his health care coverage.

  • We helped a cancer patient who was temporarily living in B.C. during the pandemic apply to have her Ontario health care coverage extended so she could continue to consult with her Ontario oncologist.

  • We helped a man get information about the status of his rescheduled elective surgery.

  • We alerted the Ministry of Health to a problem with letters sent to Northern Health Travel Grant applicants through its automated system. When applicants were denied travel grants but approved for accommodation allowances, they did not receive an explanation about why they did not receive the travel grant. The Ministry adjusted its process as a result.

 

We received 93 cases related to COVID-19 vaccines in fiscal 2020-2021.


 

Investigations

Oversight of complaints about ambulance services

Report: Oversight 911, released May 2021
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman launched this investigation in May 2018, after we received complaints about the Ministry of Health’s oversight of investigations conducted by land and air ambulance service providers. The investigation focused on how the Ministry reviews and investigates patient complaints and incident reports about emergency health services.

We received 72 complaints from patients, their families and a number of emergency health service stakeholders after the investigation was announced. We conducted 60 interviews with complainants, stakeholders and Ministry officials, as well as whistleblowers from across the system.

The investigation identified serious issues with the Ministry’s oversight and investigation framework. For instance, many complaints about ambulance services were not investigated, because the Ministry viewed its role as limited – and even when it did investigate, it lacked a clear process to do so.

We also identified problems with the Ministry’s investigations, its follow-up on recommendations, and its review of the approximately 250,000 incident reports submitted each year. And we found many obstacles that prevent the public from complaining about ambulance services.

The Ombudsman made 53 recommendations aimed at correcting these deficiencies. He initially provided his findings and recommendations to the Ministry in July 2020, but due to the Ministry’s central role in responding to the pandemic, its response was delayed until the end of March 2021. All of the Ombudsman’s recommendations were accepted.

The Ministry has already acted on several of these – for instance, it has drafted new investigation and training-related policies and protocols and added resources to its investigations team. It will continue to update our Office on the implementation of other improvements.

 

Oversight of long-term care homes during COVID-19

Launched: June 2020
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman launched this investigation at the height of the pandemic’s first wave, in the wake of a report by Canadian Armed Forces personnel who had been called in to assist with the crisis, which detailed shocking conditions in five long-term care homes.

The Ombudsman invoked his authority to investigate on his own initiative, without receiving complaints. We have since received more than 200 complaints and submissions related to the investigation, from long-term care residents, concerned family members, advocacy groups and whistleblowers. The investigation is focused on whether the oversight of long-term care homes by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Long-Term Care during the COVID-19 pandemic has been adequate to ensure the safety of residents and staff.

To date, we have conducted scores of interviews with complainants, stakeholders, long-term care staff and officials from both ministries, mostly via videoconference. We have also received hundreds of thousands of documents, including more than 500,000 emails, from the ministries and are in the process of reviewing these as our investigation continues.
 

“With so many people being transported by ambulance due to the pandemic, the changes we are recommending are timely and valuable. Ontarians deserve better oversight of ambulance services, and I am pleased that the Ministry has recognized this.”
Ombudsman Paul Dubé, news release on Oversight 911, May 20, 2021


 

Case summaries

Healthy extension

A woman who had lived in Canada for 76 years sought our help when she attempted to renew her health card and discovered she did not have Canadian citizenship. She feared this would affect her health coverage, as she was told she would have to apply for a passport in her birth country and then apply for permanent resident status in Canada before she could renew her health card. We spoke to Ontario Health Insurance Plan officials, who confirmed her health coverage would be extended for a year in order to complete the requisite applications.

 

Information, please

A woman who has several health issues and relies on Ontario Disability Support Program benefits complained to us that her request for coverage of her medications had been denied by the Ontario Drug Benefit program. She relied on food banks to eat so that she could purchase her medications as prescribed. Our inquiries with the Ministry of Health revealed that her doctor had not submitted sufficient information for the program to consider her application. We explained this to her and referred her back to her physician to provide the missing information to the Ministry.

 

Checked and re-chequed

A woman contacted us after she missed several cheques from the province’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP), which she required to cover the cost of ostomy supplies. She explained that she had changed addresses several times. Our staff contacted ADP officials, who determined that two of the woman’s cheques had been returned as undeliverable. They reissued $694 in payments to her.
 

“You’ve been more helpful in five minutes than [public sector officials] have been in two years.”
Complainant


 

Long-term loan

A man with ALS complained that when he moved into a long-term care home in 2017 due to his deteriorating condition, he become ineligible for the ventilator that he had been provided through the province’s Ventilator Equipment Pool program. Our staff confirmed with Ministry of Health and program officials that they would not remove the ventilator until the man was ready to return it. The man told us this gave him “great comfort.”
 

We have received hundreds of thousands of documents, including more than 500,000 emails, from the ministries and are in the process of reviewing these as our investigation into long-term care oversight continues.


 

CERTIFICATES & PERMITS

Overview

Ontarians frequently come to us when they encounter problems in obtaining official documents, from birth certificates to death certificates. The frontline agency responsible for these and other services is ServiceOntario, which has an internal complaints process to which we make many referrals. We also deal directly with the Registrar General to address process issues related to identity certificates and similar documents. We received 305 complaints and inquiries about ServiceOntario, and 35 regarding the Registrar General in 2020-2021.

Due to COVID-19, many of the requirements for renewing expired permits, licences and identification were waived, as expiry dates were extended until further notice. Cases generally declined in this area compared to previous years, but our staff dealt with many complaints and inquiries from Ontarians seeking clarification of these changes or help with delays.

In several cases, our intervention and inquiries resolved individual service difficulties and led to improved processes.
 

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for the assistance and taking the time in order to resolve the issue. I would not have received the card without your help.”
Complainant


 

Trends in cases

Services during the pandemic

Many of the complaints we resolved about ServiceOntario operations early in the pandemic were about the closures of some ServiceOntario locations – which left many people wondering where to go – and sanitation precautions at those that were open. For example:

  • A man called us in frustration when he was unable to register a used vehicle due to the closure of his nearest ServiceOntario. Our staff researched open locations and found one that was 14 kilometres away.

  • A physician complained that ServiceOntario wrongly refused to serve him because he had just returned from Nova Scotia, even though he was exempt from isolation requirements. After we raised the case with ServiceOntario, it committed to clarifying guidelines with its staff about interprovincial travel and isolation requirements for essential workers.


 

Multiple first names on identification and health cards

While expiry dates for driver’s licences, identification and health cards were extended during the pandemic, our Office continued to work with several ministries on an issue with these cards that affects Ontarians who have multiple first names. In one case we reviewed, a man seeking to renew his health card ran into problems because it showed a different first name than the one on his other identification. We discovered that the health card only displayed the first of multiple names that appeared on his birth certificate, and it deleted the name that he actually used. This was due to a requirement that health card names match birth certificate names, which did not allow flexibility for people who have multiple names.

An MPP also raised this issue with us, saying that it particularly affected Franco-Ontarians in her community, who were commonly given additional first names at birth as a cultural-religious practice, but did not use them in their daily lives. We have made inquiries with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Transportation about their policies on this, and are researching other provinces’ approaches.

In the meantime, we were able to resolve the man’s health card issue through our inquiries with the OHIP Eligibility Committee. His card was changed to include his usual first name.
 

Good to know
Cases related to driver’s licences, DriveTest and vehicle registration can be found in the Transportation chapter of this report.


 

Marriage licence extensions

Under the Marriage Act, marriage licences issued by municipalities are valid for only three months. When COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings forced many people to delay or cancel weddings, we received a flurry of complaints from people who had purchased soon-to-be-expired marriage licences. Some were frustrated because their municipalities would not issue refunds.

Our staff helped connect these people with the most up-to-date information and contacts for relevant municipal and provincial officials. The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has since extended the expiry date for most marriage licences.

 

Case summaries

Proven parenthood

A father whose wife died in childbirth sought our help in obtaining a birth certificate and Social Insurance Number for the new baby, which he needed in order to claim survivor benefits. Registrar General officials told him one of the forms he had filled out was invalid, and he would have to provide an affidavit from his deceased wife’s parents to confirm he was the child’s father. Our staff spoke to a manager at the Registrar General’s office, who reviewed the file. The manager discovered that correction fluid had been used on one of the man’s forms, making it unacceptable – however, she determined that additional proof of fatherhood was not required. She confirmed the case would be expedited so the widower could apply for benefits.

 

Double time

A man complained to us about long delays in getting ServiceOntario and the Registrar General to correct a name error on his mother’s death certificate. Our inquiries revealed that the Registrar General routinely processed a person’s Statement of Death form separately from their Medical Certificate of Death, and this contributed to delays in amending both forms. Because of our inquiries, the man not only received the corrected death certificate, but ServiceOntario and the Registrar General changed the process so both forms will be corrected at the same time in future.

 

Bad form

A father whose child was born through a surrogate mother complained to us after the Registrar General asked him to resubmit the paperwork for registering the birth, and include an additional form swearing that his statements were true. He complained that this additional requirement was discriminatory towards him. Our staff determined that in fact, the form was sent to him in error and was unrelated to the surrogacy, and a Registrar General manager confirmed that this was clarified with the responsible staff.

 

MONEY & PROPERTY

Overview

This category of cases relates to provincial ministries, agencies and corporations that deal with financial and property matters, from the Ministry of Finance to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the Ontario Cannabis Store. It also includes bodies that fall under the Ministry of the Attorney General, such as the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, which handles money and property matters for people who are unable to do so themselves.

The operations of many of these bodies were dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the volume of complaints we received reflected this:

  • MPAC’s provincewide property assessment, originally scheduled for 2020, was postponed indefinitely; we received relatively few complaints about MPAC (30, compared to 49 in 2019-2020).

  • The LCBO’s outlets remained open, but we heard many concerns from Ontarians about its safety protocols – for example, its practice of asking people to remove face masks to confirm their identification (in accordance with public health guidelines).

  • The LTB was, for the second consecutive year, the source of a high volume of complaints, as our systemic investigation into delays and other issues continued (see more under Investigations).


We resolved many complaints in this category by helping people connect with these agencies or sharing information with them about COVID-19 protocols.

 

Trends in cases

Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee

We often receive complaints from clients of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) who have difficulty communicating with their caseworkers – and the pandemic increased these difficulties for many. Our staff were able to help clients escalate their concerns within the OPGT, and make direct inquiries about their cases. We received 116 cases about the OPGT in 2020-2021.

Among those we helped in 2020-2021 were:

  • A woman living at a mental health treatment centre who needed funding for university continuing education courses and could not reach her caseworker. We connected her with OPGT staff and they confirmed that her course costs would be reimbursed.

  • A resource co-ordinator at a community agency who complained to us on behalf of a man who is unable to speak or write. She needed to get the man’s consent for the OPGT to provide the agency with information about the man’s finances. Our staff obtained the man’s consent via videoconference and then facilitated a virtual meeting between him, the agency and OPGT.

  • A woman who urgently needed her OPGT caseworker’s help to move out of a shelter and into subsidized housing. We were able to contact the caseworker and the woman’s move went ahead.

 

“It was a pleasure to meet you on the call and discuss my concerns... I came away from that call feeling you truly want to help and be part of the solution.”
Complainant


 

Investigations

Landlord and Tenant Board delays

Launched: January 2020
Investigation update:
The Ombudsman launched this investigation prior to the pandemic, in the wake of a surge of complaints about severe delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), the administrative tribunal that resolves residential tenancy disputes. The investigation is focused on whether Tribunals Ontario and the Ministry of the Attorney General are taking adequate steps to address the delays and backlogged cases. We have received some 1,200 complaints related to this investigation.

The government and the LTB have since implemented many changes due to COVID-19, including replacing in-person hearings with virtual ones. This prompted an influx of new complaints to our Office from people frustrated with the virtual hearing process, access issues and delays. The Ombudsman met with the leadership of Tribunals Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the LTB in October 2020 to ensure they continued to engage with us on these issues. Tribunals Ontario is also implementing a new digital case management system, which is expected to be in use at the LTB by the end of summer 2021.

Limitations on residential evictions during lockdowns over the past year have also affected LTB proceedings, resulting in more complaints and delays. Between March and July 2020, the LTB introduced a process to allow some urgent eviction cases to proceed, but our review found that this was not clearly communicated to the public. We raised these issues with the LTB, which responded by publishing more information about this process on its website.

The LTB has also made changes to address delays and backlogs since the start of our investigation. It has hired several new adjudicators, including some who can conduct hearings in French as well as English, an issue raised by our French Language Services Unit.

The Ombudsman has been encouraged by the government’s willingness to engage with our Office and address issues proactively as they arise, while our investigation continues.
 

The LTB has made changes to address delays and backlogs since the start of our investigation.


 

Case summaries

Find us online

Several people who work as title searchers complained to us about the province’s decision to end in-person services at all 54 of its Land Registry Offices in October 2020. Our staff made inquiries with senior officials at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to learn more about the potential impact of this change. We confirmed that the offices would continue to be staffed and directly reachable by email and by telephone, and we let the complainants know how they could continue to access documents and escalate their concerns if necessary.

 

Family connection

A woman contacted us in frustration over delays and a lack of communication from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) regarding her brother, who was an OPGT client. Her application to assume guardianship and control of her brother’s finances from the OPGT was taking too long, and she was unable to get a response to her questions about her brother’s payments on a house he co-owned with their mother. We brought the case to the attention of OPGT officials, who acknowledged that staffing issues due to the pandemic had contributed to their delayed response. They confirmed that they had not paid the brother’s share of the mortgage, but took steps to address this and to process the sister’s application for guardianship.
 

The Ombudsman has been encouraged by the government’s willingness to engage with our Office and address issues proactively as they arise, while our Landlord and Tenant Board investigation continues.


 

EMPLOYMENT

Overview and trends in cases

Employment across Ontario continued to be dramatically affected by the pandemic throughout 2020-2021, as employers grappled with varying levels of restrictions on their operations, and employees faced layoffs, reduced hours and/or the challenges of working from home.

The Ombudsman oversees the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and its programs, agencies and tribunals, including the Employment Practices Branch, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and its internal ombudsman, the Fair Practices Commissioner. We received 293 complaints about the Ministry and its programs in 2020-2021.

Cases related to these programs dropped in the past year, but we heard concerns from many Ontarians about the effects of the government’s response to the pandemic on their employment.

 

Impact of shutdowns

As the province imposed different degrees of lockdown in response to the pandemic, the complaints we received spanned the spectrum – from those who felt restrictions were not tough enough, to those who felt they were too harmful to the economy. We also heard concerns about employers not following public health guidelines or not being clear enough about what constituted “essential” work.

Although our Office cannot intervene in public policy decisions made by elected officials, our staff helped hundreds of people find information about these policies and programs and assisted them in raising their complaints to the appropriate officials. We helped others resolve their issues wherever possible.  

 

Concerns about pandemic pay

Concerns and confusion over the different types of support provided to workers and employers by the federal and provincial governments prompted numerous complaints and inquiries to our Office. Our staff researched new programs and policies and provided people with the appropriate referrals. One common concern we heard from numerous workers in the health care field was the eligibility rules for so-called “pandemic pay.” We made inquiries about the program rules with the Ontario Treasury Board and Ministry of Health and referred these people to available mechanisms for requesting pandemic pay.

 

Case summaries

Open and shut case

A woman who was waiting for the Fair Practices Commissioner (FPC – the WSIB’s internal ombudsman) to assist her with a loss-of-earnings assessment and prescription cost refund sought our help early in the pandemic. The FPC’s office was shut down and she was unable to reach them. We contacted staff at the WSIB, who confirmed that they were processing the prescription costs but there had been a delay because the initial information the woman had submitted was incomplete. Our staff confirmed that the FPC had reopened, and the woman was able to pursue her concerns.

 

Exclusion explanation

A personal support worker contacted us in frustration when he and his colleagues were denied “pandemic pay,” despite being in close contact with patients. We provided him with information about the criteria for this pay program, including that it only pertained to employers who received direct funding from the provincial government. This appeared to exclude his company, but we referred him to an online platform where he could request a rule change and make further inquiries.

 

Home safe

A group home worker raised health and safety concerns with us after he and a few colleagues contracted COVID-19. He believed they were exposed to a resident who tested positive, and said they had not been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). We made inquiries with Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services officials, who told us service providers were expected to comply with all safety measures and reporting requirements and that the group home was frequently in contact with public health authorities to ensure it was following recommendations. The Ministry also noted that agencies were required to report PPE shortages. We confirmed that the Ministry provided PPE to the group home, and also referred the worker to Ministry of Labour resources for their workplace safety concerns.
 


“This is wonderful news, thank you so much for your help with this! Times are tough right now, and this will help SO much.”
Complainant


 

FRENCH LANGUAGE SERVICES

Overview

This is our first full fiscal year of reporting in this area, as the Ombudsman’s oversight of the application of the French Language Services Act took effect on May 1, 2019. In 2019-2020, we established our dedicated French Language Services Unit to handle complaints, and the Ombudsman appointed Kelly Burke as French Language Service Commissioner on January 13, 2020, after a nationwide search.

Since then, Commissioner Burke and her team have resolved hundreds of complaints, engaged directly with complainants and stakeholders in the Franco-Ontarian community, and proactively raised issues involving French language rights with senior government officials, deputy ministers and ministers.

Franco-Ontarians should know that from the start of this important new mandate, our entire organization has made a concerted effort to position the Ombudsman’s Office as an effective promoter and protector of French language service rights. Directors and managers from all of our teams, as well as legal counsel, have worked diligently to find the ideal Commissioner, recruit staff for our French Language Services Unit, co-ordinate training, research legal issues and provide opinions, develop a new case management system and provide technical support, build communications capacity and strategy, and much more.

In addition to publishing a separate Annual Report, detailing cases received by the French Language Services Unit, the Commissioner engaged with the Franco-Ontarian community throughout 2020-2021 by participating (virtually) in numerous outreach activities, and with colleagues across Canada and around the world who promote language rights and Francophone issues. Ms. Burke represents our Office as a member of the International Association of Language Commissioners and the Association des Ombudsmans et Médiateurs de la Francophonie (the international francophone ombudsman association).

As a Deputy Ombudsman and member of our senior executive team, the Commissioner helps ensure a “Francophone lens” is brought to all areas of our work. This includes our ongoing investigations into delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board and the government’s oversight of long-term care during the pandemic.

More information – including short videos explaining the work of the French Language Services Unit and a printable brochure – can be found on our website.
 

“The situation is resolved… Thank you for all your help.”
Complainant


 

Annual Report of the French Language Services Commissioner, 2019-2020

The French Language Services Act requires our Office to publish a report and recommendations by the Commissioner for improving the provision of French language services. To emphasize the importance of this work, we decided to publish the Commissioner’s report and recommendations as a standalone publication, separate from the Ombudsman’s Annual Report.

Commissioner Burke’s first Annual Report, published in December 2020, covered cases received by the French Language Services Unit from the start of our Office’s jurisdiction in this area (May 1, 2019) to September 30, 2020. She made eight recommendations, urging the government to improve planning for the provision of services in French across all ministries. Her main recommendations call for each ministry to produce a plan, and for the Minister of Francophone Affairs to report annually on the implementation of these plans, starting in the spring of 2022.

The Commissioner’s next report will provide an update on the government’s progress in implementing these recommendations.


Good to know
We publish a separate Annual Report of the French Language Services Commissioner, which includes detailed case breakdowns and the Commissioner’s recommendations to government to improve services in French. Watch for the next one in late 2021.

 

“The majority of the complaints we dealt with could have been resolved if adequate planning for the provision of French language services had been done. The pandemic has exacerbated these issues and has highlighted the need for the government to assess how planning for the provision of French language services is being carried out.”
French Language Services Commissioner Kelly Burke, news release on her 2019-2020 Annual Report, December 10, 2020


 

Trends in cases, 2020-2021

Between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, our French Language Services Unit received 267 cases. The top topic of complaint continued to be government communications. As the Commissioner and the Ombudsman have repeatedly pointed out, it is all the more important during a pandemic that the government’s urgent communications be available in English and French simultaneously.

The Commissioner has raised this matter proactively with deputy ministers, ministers and the Premier, who have all committed to making this information available in both languages. We have also resolved cases quickly by bringing them to the attention of relevant officials.

Still, with new developments in the pandemic, communications in French have sometimes been overlooked. For example, several government announcements regarding new shutdowns and emergency measures in December 2020 and January 2021 were not made available in French. We continue to proactively engage with senior government officials on this issue.

We also continue to monitor the administration of Regulation 398/93 under the French Language Services Act (Designation of Public Service Agencies) and the schedule to the Act that sets out designated areas. Both contain outdated information, such as government agency names, services offered, and geographical information, that may affect the ability of Franco-Ontarians to identify and access French language services.

In June 2021, the Commissioner launched an investigation into Laurentian University’s decision to cut several French-language programs as part of its financial restructuring. We received more than 60 complaints about these cuts by the university, which is a partially designated agency under the French Language Services Act.

 

Case summaries

Email fail

After twice requesting information from the Ministry of Health in French and receiving answers in English only, a Francophone journalist complained to our Office. He noted that the email signatures of the government employees he contacted were also in English only. We discovered that all media requests to the Ministry were going to the same email address and an acknowledgment of receipt was generated in English when no bilingual staff were available to respond in French. After our intervention, the Ministry’s communications team implemented several corrective measures, including translating acknowledgments of receipt and other standard messages, ensuring email signatures are bilingual, and creating a specific inbox for requests from French-language media.
 

“Thanks for all your help, it’s much appreciated.”
Complainant


 

Improved form

A Francophone member of the board of directors of a small housing co-op in northern Ontario alerted us to a form on the website of the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO). The form, which all condominium boards are required to submit each spring, was only available in English, due to recurring technical issues. Although the CAO is not within our jurisdiction, we raised the matter with officials at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, who in turn contacted the CAO. The man confirmed to us that a French-speaking employee at the CAO called him and helped him complete the form, which was also made available online in French.

 

Landing test

A woman returning from an overseas trip complained to us that she was not served in French during the COVID-19 test she was required to undergo at Toronto Pearson airport. We discovered that the test was administered by a third party as part of a pilot-screening project set up by the Ministry of Health and managed by Ontario Health. After we made inquiries, Ontario Health committed to ensure its future agreements with third parties include provisions for services in French.

 

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

Overview

Cases in this category include complaints about public sector administration of all forms of electricity and fuel in the province, as well as natural resources, rural affairs, and the environment. This year, this included many inquiries from people seeking information about the province’s emergency relief rate for hydro and its effect on local bills. (Our Office does not have jurisdiction over Hydro One, which has its own internal ombudsman, but we do oversee municipal hydro.)

In 2020-2021, as in previous years, we heard concerns about the province’s actions – or lack thereof – to address excessive noise or other impacts from industry, or contaminants to air and water. We also received complaints about a lack of communication or consultation about projects within the purview of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Our staff resolve such cases by reviewing the application of relevant policies and procedures by the ministries and facilitating communication between them and complainants.

 

Trends in cases

Municipal hydro

As part of our jurisdiction over municipalities, the Ombudsman oversees municipally-controlled corporations, which include those that provide electricity locally. We received 84 complaints about municipal hydro companies in 2020-2021. We resolved many of these by helping people get needed information. For example:

  • We helped a woman find the necessary forms to close a hydro account from her former residence, for which she continued to be billed after she moved.

  • After a man complained that a hydro pole near his property was unsafe, we prompted the hydro company to share the results of its investigation of the matter with him, and explain how the pole met safety requirements.

  • The owner of an essential business complained to us that she was notified, purportedly by the local hydro company, that her hydro would be cut off in 30 minutes unless she transferred a large sum of money to cover an unpaid bill – which she did. She suspected that this was a scam, and we pointed out that the company’s website warned customers to be on the alert for such fraudulent notices during the pandemic. We provided her with information on how to report the scam to the company and the police, and about consumer protection resources available through the Ontario Energy Board.


 

Lack of communication, consultation or clarity

We helped several people obtain information or clarification from both of the ministries responsible for environmental and natural resources issues, regarding projects or processes that affected them. Where warranted, we escalated their concerns to senior officials, or encouraged the ministries to improve their communication with stakeholders. For example:

  • A man sought our help after four years of raising concerns with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) about excessive noise and vibration from a nearby factory. After we made inquiries, the Ministry contacted him to explain the steps it had taken to address the noise levels, which it had found in violation of provincial standards. The man was pleased to learn that his concerns had been heard and the Ministry was investigating further.

  • After a farmer complained to us that his fields were being flooded by storm water runoff from a nearby residential subdivision, we helped him find out how to lodge a complaint and follow up with the MECP directly. Ministry officials advised us that monitoring of the storm water works was required for two years, and that a complaint procedure was available to affected residents.

  • After we contacted officials at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, they offered to do a site visit to address a woman’s concerns about the construction of a trail that she felt had been permitted without adequate public consultation. They also sent her copies of their assessments and reports.

 

“Thank you so much for helping move this process along! I appreciate it very much!!”
Complainant

 

We received 84 complaints about municipal hydro companies in 2020-2021.


 

Discontinuation of environmental assessment of dam

Two Indigenous groups, along with individuals engaged in native fish management and rehabilitation, complained to us after the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks unexpectedly discontinued a class Environmental Assessment (EA) related to a local dam. The groups argued that the dam is a barrier to fish accessing local spawning grounds, and have advocated for years to have it removed. They said the Ministry had decided to repair the dam, but had not been in touch with them about the EA process for more than three years. As well, they said that when the EA was discontinued, stakeholders, including Indigenous groups, were unable to comment or request an individual environmental assessment, as provided for under the Environmental Assessment Act and Ministry protocol.

Our Office made inquiries with Ministry officials, who agreed to provide affected stakeholders with a written explanation for the decision, along with reports from consultants they had considered. Their letter acknowledged delays in the process and in communication. The Ministry also held virtual meetings with affected groups. We continue to follow up with the Ministry on the management of native fish populations in the area of the dam, as well as its EA processes.

 

Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Incentive Program

We continued to follow up with the Ministry of Transportation in 2020-2021 on issues arising from the government’s cancellation of this environmental incentive program in 2018. As noted in our past two Annual Reports, our review of numerous complaints found that the Ministry had not clearly communicated the eligibility criteria for winding down the program, disappointing many people who had purchased electric vehicles with the belief that they would qualify for incentives of $5,000-$14,000.

The Ombudsman made suggestions to the Ministry to improve communication and transparency in any such programs in future. The Deputy Minister responded in writing, acknowledging that the Ministry “should proactively communicate any future program changes to all program participants via website updates and ensure key program changes are captured accurately and in advance of the effective date of those changes.”
 

“Success! All taken care of. Thanks for your assistance.”
Complainant


 

Case summaries

Upstream battle

A homeowner complained to us about a pipe outlet on his property that was leaking foul-smelling fluid. His municipality referred him to the Ministry of Transportation, which denied responsibility. Our inquiries determined that it was a matter for the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. We learned it had conducted an investigation, traced the sewage spill to a commercial plaza upstream, and instructed the business to resolve the issue. The homeowner told us that although the sewage had stopped, storm water was still flowing from the pipe. After we followed up with both ministries and the municipality, the Ministry of Transportation had the storm drain filled with cement. The homeowner confirmed that this resolved the issue.

 

Un-fur treatment

A First Nations trapper sought our help in obtaining a refund from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for licences to sell furs commercially, and a mandatory humane trapping course. He had learned that the course was available through his First Nation at a greatly reduced cost, and complained that the Ministry should have informed him of this when he was applying for the licences. He noted that the information provided to Indigenous trappers was unclear. He had escalated his concerns within the Ministry, but was dissatisfied with its initial response and lack of follow-up. After our Office made inquiries, the Ministry reimbursed the man $317 for the licences and course. Ministry staff also told us they would ensure trappers are provided with relevant information about course providers, including resources available specifically for First Nations trappers.

 

APPENDIX

TOTAL CASES RECEIVED, FISCAL YEARS 2016-2017 – 2020-2021

  • 2016-2017 21,328

  • 2017-2018 21,154

  • 2018-2019 27,419

  • 2019-2020 26,423

  • 2020-2021 20,015


 

HOW CASES WERE RECEIVED, 2020-2021

  • WEBSITE, EMAIL 58%

  • TELEPHONE, TTY 31%

  • LETTER, FAX 11%

  • IN PERSON*

*We were not able to accept complaints in person, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

 

DISPOSITION OF CASES, 2020-2021

  • 20,015 Cases received in fiscal 2020-2021

    • 295 consultations or questions

    • 587 information submissions

 


CASES CLOSED - 2020-2021

  • 13,165 cases within the Ombudsman’s authority

    • INQUIRIES MADE OR REFERRAL GIVEN 40%

    • CLOSED AFTER OMBUDSMAN’S REVIEW 21%

    • RESOLVED WITH OMBUDSMAN INTERVENTION 17%

    • DISCONTINUED BY COMPLAINANT 16%

    • RESOLVED WITHOUT OMBUDSMAN INTERVENTION 6%

 

  • 5,984 cases outside the Ombudsman’s authority
    • PRIVATE 62%
    • BROADER PUBLIC SECTOR OUTSIDE AUTHORITY** 14%
    • FEDERAL 12%
    • PROVINCIAL OUTSIDE AUTHORITY* 11%
    • OUTSIDE ONTARIO 1%

*E.g., complaints about officials and bodies outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction
**E.g., complaints about hospitals, long-term care homes, public health units, municipal police


 

% OF CASES CLOSED IN A WEEK / 2 WEEKS

  • 34% Closed in 1 week

  • 50% Closed in 2 weeks


 

CASES BY PROVINCIAL RIDING, 2020-2021*

AJAX 53   MISSISSAUGA—ERIN MILLS 64
ALGOMA—MANITOULIN 103   MISSISSAUGA—LAKESHORE 72
AURORA—OAK RIDGES—RICHMOND HILL 55   MISSISSAUGA—MALTON 63
BARRIE—INNISFIL 93   MISSISSAUGA—STREETSVILLE 56
BARRIE—SPRINGWATER—ORO-MEDONTE 90   MUSHKEGOWUK—JAMES BAY 25
BAY OF QUINTE 95   NEPEAN 49
BEACHES—EAST YORK 99   NEWMARKET—AURORA 59
BRAMPTON CENTRE 40   NIAGARA CENTRE 121
BRAMPTON EAST 56   NIAGARA FALLS 130
BRAMPTON NORTH 38   NIAGARA WEST 55
BRAMPTON SOUTH 90   NICKEL BELT 63
BRAMPTON WEST 62   NIPISSING 93
BRANTFORD—BRANT 89   NORTHUMBERLAND—PETERBOROUGH SOUTH 79
BRUCE—GREY—OWEN SOUND 78   OAKVILLE 61
BURLINGTON 54   OAKVILLE NORTH—BURLINGTON 59
CAMBRIDGE 74   ORLÉANS 87
CARLETON 42   OSHAWA 114
CHATHAM-KENT—LEAMINGTON 64   OTTAWA CENTRE 101
DAVENPORT 47   OTTAWA SOUTH 54
DON VALLEY EAST 42   OTTAWA WEST—NEPEAN 67
DON VALLEY NORTH 37   OTTAWA—VANIER 107
DON VALLEY WEST 77   OXFORD 73
DUFFERIN—CALEDON 70   PARKDALE—HIGH PARK 75
DURHAM 94   PARRY SOUND—MUSKOKA 89
EGLINTON—LAWRENCE 64   PERTH—WELLINGTON 52
ELGIN—MIDDLESEX—LONDON 76   PETERBOROUGH—KAWARTHA 106
ESSEX 78   PICKERING—UXBRIDGE 71
ETOBICOKE CENTRE 48   RENFREW—NIPISSING—PEMBROKE 92
ETOBICOKE NORTH 50   RICHMOND HILL 55
ETOBICOKE—LAKESHORE 131   SARNIA—LAMBTON 60
FLAMBOROUGH—GLANBROOK 62   SAULT STE. MARIE 102
GLENGARRY—PRESCOTT—RUSSELL 119   SCARBOROUGH CENTRE 66
GUELPH 80   SCARBOROUGH NORTH 26
HALDIMAND—NORFOLK 90   SCARBOROUGH SOUTHWEST 87
HALIBURTON—KAWARTHA LAKES—BROCK 99   SCARBOROUGH—AGINCOURT 25
HAMILTON CENTRE 137   SCARBOROUGH—GUILDWOOD 61
HAMILTON EAST—STONEY CREEK 77   SCARBOROUGH—ROUGE PARK 59
HAMILTON MOUNTAIN 52   SIMCOE NORTH 113
HAMILTON WEST—ANCASTER—DUNDAS 65   SIMCOE—GREY 122
HASTINGS—LENNOX AND ADDINGTON 92   SPADINA—FORT YORK 96
HUMBER RIVER—BLACK CREEK 53   ST. CATHARINES 97
HURON—BRUCE 62   STORMONT—DUNDAS—SOUTH GLENGARRY 70
KANATA—CARLETON 42   SUDBURY 119
KENORA—RAINY RIVER 56   THORNHILL 53
KIIWETINOONG 8   THUNDER BAY—ATIKOKAN 114
KINGSTON AND THE ISLANDS 83   THUNDER BAY—SUPERIOR NORTH 98
KING—VAUGHAN 58   TIMISKAMING—COCHRANE 100
KITCHENER CENTRE 55   TIMMINS 25
KITCHENER SOUTH—HESPELER 43   TORONTO CENTRE 116
KITCHENER—CONESTOGA 43   TORONTO—DANFORTH 83
LAMBTON—KENT—MIDDLESEX 80   TORONTO—ST. PAUL'S 80
LANARK—FRONTENAC—KINGSTON 125   UNIVERSITY—ROSEDALE 75
LEEDS—GRENVILLE—THOUSAND ISLANDS AND RIDEAU LAKES 82   VAUGHAN—WOODBRIDGE 42
LONDON NORTH CENTRE 107   WATERLOO 58
LONDON WEST 59   WELLINGTON—HALTON HILLS 55
LONDON—FANSHAWE 81   WHITBY 62
MARKHAM—STOUFFVILLE 63   WILLOWDALE 51
MARKHAM—THORNHILL 32   WINDSOR WEST 124
MARKHAM—UNIONVILLE 32   WINDSOR—TECUMSEH 66
MILTON 68   YORK CENTRE 37
MISSISSAUGA CENTRE 67   YORK SOUTH—WESTON 57
MISSISSAUGA EAST—COOKSVILLE 53   YORK—SIMCOE 77

*All cases where a postal code was available, including those related to municipalities, universities and school boards, but excluding those related to correctional facilities.
 

TOP 10 PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PROGRAMS BY CASE VOLUME, 2020-2021*

    NUMBER OF CASES
1 TRIBUNALS ONTARIO 935
2 ONTARIO DISABILITY SUPPORT PROGRAM 553
3 FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE 381
4 SERVICEONTARIO 305
5 DRIVETEST 283
6 COLLEGES OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY 200
7 ONTARIO STUDENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM 181
8 YOUTH JUSTICE CENTRES 173
9 WORKPLACE SAFETY AND INSURANCE BOARD 162
10 DRIVER LICENSING 134

*Excluding correctional facilities

 

TOP 10 CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES BY CASE VOLUME, 2020-2021

    NUMBER OF CASES
1 CENTRAL EAST CORRECTIONAL CENTRE 546
2 CENTRAL NORTH CORRECTIONAL CENTRE 435
3 MAPLEHURST CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX  350
4 TORONTO SOUTH DETENTION CENTRE 306
5 NIAGARA DETENTION CENTRE 278
6 VANIER CENTRE FOR WOMEN 239
7 OTTAWA-CARLETON DETENTION CENTRE      210
8 HAMILTON-WENTWORTH DETENTION CENTRE 169
9 SOUTH WEST DETENTION CENTRE 156
10 TORONTO EAST DETENTION CENTRE 156


 

TOTAL CASES RECEIVED ABOUT PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES AND SELECTED PROGRAMS,* 2020-2021

MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS   8
MINISTRY OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL   1,329
ALCOHOL AND GAMING COMMISSION OF ONTARIO 26  
CHILDREN'S LAWYER 16  
COURT ADMINISTRATION 42  
LEGAL AID CLINIC 10  
LEGAL AID ONTARIO 66  
OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC GUARDIAN AND TRUSTEE 116  
SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT 32  
TRIBUNALS ONTARIO 935  
MINISTRY OF CHILDREN, COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES   1,305
DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES PROGRAMS 44  
FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE 381  
MINISTRY FUNDED SERVICE PROVIDER - CHILDREN AND YOUTH 16  
MINISTRY FUNDED SERVICE PROVIDER - COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES 66  
ONTARIO DISABILITY SUPPORT PROGRAM 553  
SPECIAL NEEDS PROGRAMS - CHILDREN 22  
YOUTH JUSTICE CENTRES - DIRECT OPERATED 112  
YOUTH JUSTICE CENTRES - MINISTRY FUNDED 61  
MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES   399
COLLEGES OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY 200  
ONTARIO STUDENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM 181  
MINISTRY OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, JOB CREATION AND TRADE   16
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION   107
MINISTRY OF ENERGY, NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT AND MINES   33
ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD 11  
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT, CONSERVATION AND PARKS   53
ONTARIO PARKS 20  
MINISTRY OF FINANCE   205
FINANCIAL SERVICES REGULATORY AUTHORITY 20  
LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD OF ONTARIO 26  
MUNICIPAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENT CORPORATION 30  
ONTARIO CANNABIS STORE 20  
ONTARIO LOTTERY AND GAMING 77  
MINISTRY OF FRANCOPHONE AFFAIRS   2
MINISTRY OF GOVERNMENT AND CONSUMER SERVICES   381
REGISTRAR GENERAL 35  
SERVICEONTARIO 305  
MINISTRY OF HEALTH   367
ASSISTIVE DEVICES / HOME OXYGEN PROGRAMS 19  
HEALTH PROFESSIONS APPEAL AND REVIEW BOARD 29  
HEALTH QUALITY ONTARIO 13  
LOCAL HEALTH INTEGRATION NETWORKS 65  
MINISTRY FUNDED SERVICE PROVIDER 36  
ONTARIO HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN - OHIP 53  
ONTARIO PUBLIC DRUG PROGRAMS 31  
MINISTRY OF HERITAGE, SPORT, TOURISM AND CULTURE INDUSTRIES   11
MINISTRY OF INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS   3
MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE   1
MINISTRY OF LABOUR, TRAINING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT   293
EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES BRANCH 12  
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY BRANCH 14  
ONTARIO LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD 19  
SECOND CAREER 10  
WORKPLACE SAFETY AND INSURANCE BOARD 162  
WORKPLACE SAFETY AND INSURANCE APPEALS TRIBUNAL 29  
MINISTRY OF LONG-TERM CARE   91
PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT AND COMPLIANCE BRANCH 23  
MINISTRY OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING   41
MINISTER'S ZONING ORDER (MZO) 10  
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND FORESTRY   27
MINISTRY FOR SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY   2
MINISTRY OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL   3,966
CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES 3,691  
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF CORONER 12  
ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE 98  
OPP-CHIEF FIREARMS OFFICER 116  
PROBATION AND PAROLE 20  
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION   606
DRIVER LICENSING 134  
METROLINX / GO TRANSIT 35  
DRIVETEST 283  
TRANSPORTATION - MEDICAL REVIEW 67  
VEHICLE LICENSING 14  
TREASURY BOARD SECRETARIAT   7

*Total figures are reported for each provincial government ministry, including agencies and programs falling within its portfolio.        
Each government agency or program receiving 10 or more cases is also included.  
     

 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT MUNICIPALITIES, 2020-2021 - Total: 2,281

Note: Municipalities that were not the subject of any cases are not listed.

ADDINGTON HIGHLANDS, TOWNSHIP OF 3   MISSISSIPPI MILLS, MUNICIPALITY OF 5
ADJALA-TOSORONTIO, TOWNSHIP OF 6   MONO, TOWN OF 2
AJAX, TOWN OF 5   MOONBEAM, TOWNSHIP OF 1
ALFRED AND PLANTAGENET, TOWNSHIP OF 5   MORRIS-TURNBERRY, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
ALGONQUIN HIGHLANDS, TOWNSHIP OF 1   MULMUR, TOWNSHIP OF 1
ALNWICK/HALDIMAND, TOWNSHIP OF 1   MUSKOKA LAKES, TOWNSHIP OF 1
AMARANTH, TOWNSHIP OF 2   MUSKOKA, DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY OF 2
AMHERSTBURG, TOWN OF 5   NEW TECUMSETH, TOWN OF 4
ARNPRIOR, TOWN OF 10   NEWBURY, VILLAGE OF 1
ARRAN-ELDERSLIE, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   NEWMARKET, TOWN OF 4
AURORA, TOWN OF 7   NIAGARA FALLS, CITY OF 22
BANCROFT, TOWN OF 1   NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, TOWN OF 12
BARRIE, CITY OF 13   NIAGARA, REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF 25
BAYHAM, MUNICIPALITY OF 5   NIPIGON, TOWNSHIP OF 3
BECKWITH, TOWNSHIP OF 1   NIPISSING, TOWNSHIP OF 1
BELLEVILLE, CITY OF 13   NORFOLK COUNTY 27
BILLINGS, TOWNSHIP OF 2   NORTH BAY, CITY OF 6
BLACK RIVER-MATHESON, TOWNSHIP OF 1   NORTH DUNDAS, TOWNSHIP OF 2
BLANDFORD-BLENHEIM, TOWNSHIP OF 1   NORTH GLENGARRY, TOWNSHIP OF 3
BLIND RIVER, TOWN OF 2   NORTH GRENVILLE, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
BLUEWATER, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   NORTH HURON, TOWNSHIP OF 1
BONFIELD, TOWNSHIP OF 4   NORTH MIDDLESEX, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
BONNECHERE VALLEY, TOWNSHIP OF 1   NORTH STORMONT, TOWNSHIP OF 2
BRACEBRIDGE, TOWN OF 1   NORTHEASTERN MANITOULIN AND THE ISLANDS, TOWN OF 1
BRADFORD WEST GWILLIMBURY, TOWN OF 2   NORTHERN BRUCE PENINSULA, MUNICIPALITY OF 6
BRAMPTON, CITY OF 42   NORTHUMBERLAND, COUNTY OF 5
BRANT, COUNTY OF 5   OAKVILLE, TOWN OF 20
BRANTFORD, CITY OF 12   OLIVER PAIPOONGE, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
BRIGHTON, MUNICIPALITY OF 4   ORANGEVILLE, TOWN OF 1
BROCK, TOWNSHIP OF 3   ORILLIA, CITY OF 3
BROCKTON, MUNICIPALITY OF 2   ORO-MEDONTE, TOWNSHIP OF 7
BROCKVILLE, CITY OF 1   OSHAWA, CITY OF 14
BROOKE-ALVINSTON, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   OTTAWA, CITY OF 93
BRUCE MINES, TOWN OF 2   OWEN SOUND, CITY OF 2
BRUCE, COUNTY OF 3   OXFORD, COUNTY OF 7
BRUDENELL, LYNDOCH AND RAGLAN, TOWNSHIP OF 4   PAPINEAU-CAMERON, TOWNSHIP OF 1
BURLINGTON, CITY OF 2   PARRY SOUND, TOWN OF 1
CALEDON, TOWN OF 5   PEEL, REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF 46
CALLANDER, MUNICIPALITY OF 4   PELHAM, TOWN OF 6
CAMBRIDGE, CITY OF 6   PENETANGUISHENE, TOWN OF 2
CARLETON PLACE, TOWN OF 1   PERTH, TOWN OF 1
CARLING, TOWNSHIP OF 2   PETERBOROUGH, CITY OF 11
CARLOW/MAYO, TOWNSHIP OF 1   PETROLIA, TOWN OF 1
CASSELMAN, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   PICKERING, CITY OF 9
CAVAN MONAGHAN, TOWNSHIP OF 7   PLUMMER ADDITIONAL, TOWNSHIP OF 2
CENTRAL ELGIN, MUNICIPALITY OF 7   PORT COLBORNE, CITY OF 4
CENTRAL FRONTENAC, TOWNSHIP OF 2   PORT HOPE, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
CENTRAL HURON, MUNICIPALITY OF 2   PRESCOTT AND RUSSELL, UNITED COUNTIES OF 8
CENTRAL MANITOULIN, MUNICIPALITY OF 3   PRESCOTT, TOWN OF 2
CENTRE HASTINGS, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   PRINCE EDWARD, COUNTY OF 4
CENTRE WELLINGTON, TOWNSHIP OF 3   QUINTE WEST, CITY OF 9
CHAMPLAIN, TOWNSHIP OF 4   RAMARA, TOWNSHIP OF 3
CHATHAM-KENT, MUNICIPALITY OF 10   RED LAKE, MUNICIPALITY OF 2
CHATSWORTH, TOWNSHIP OF 2   RED ROCK, TOWNSHIP OF 5
CLARENCE-ROCKLAND, CITY OF 6   RENFREW, COUNTY OF 3
CLARINGTON, MUNICIPALITY OF 9   RENFREW, TOWN OF 1
CLEARVIEW, TOWNSHIP OF 4   RICHMOND HILL, CITY OF 10
COBOURG, TOWN OF 2   RUSSELL, TOWNSHIP OF 7
COCHRANE, TOWN OF 8   RYERSON, TOWNSHIP OF 1
COLLINGWOOD, TOWN OF 1   SABLES-SPANISH RIVERS, TOWNSHIP OF 4
CONMEE, TOWNSHIP OF 2   SARNIA, CITY OF 5
CORNWALL, CITY OF 5   SAUGEEN SHORES, TOWN OF 7
CRAMAHE, TOWNSHIP OF 3   SAULT STE. MARIE, CITY OF 10
DEEP RIVER, TOWN OF 1   SEGUIN, TOWNSHIP OF 3
DESERONTO, TOWN OF 2   SELWYN, TOWNSHIP OF 2
DRUMMOND/NORTH ELMSLEY, TOWNSHIP OF 1   SEVERN, TOWNSHIP OF 3
DRYDEN, CITY OF 2   SHELBURNE, TOWN OF 1
DUBREUILVILLE, TOWNSHIP OF 1   SHUNIAH, MUNICIPALITY OF 6
DUFFERIN, COUNTY OF 2   SIMCOE, COUNTY OF 21
DURHAM, REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF 25   SIOUX LOOKOUT, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
DYSART ET AL, MUNICIPALITY OF 2   SMITHS FALLS, TOWN OF 2
EAST FERRIS, MUNICIPALITY OF 3   SOUTH BRUCE PENINSULA, TOWN OF 8
EAST GARAFRAXA, TOWNSHIP OF 1   SOUTH BRUCE, MUNICIPALITY OF 5
EAST GWILLIMBURY, TOWN OF 1   SOUTH FRONTENAC, TOWNSHIP OF 3
EAST HAWKESBURY, TOWNSHIP OF 1   SOUTH GLENGARRY, TOWNSHIP OF 3
EDWARDSBURGH/CARDINAL, TOWNSHIP OF 1   SOUTH HURON, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
ELIZABETHTOWN-KITLEY, TOWNSHIP OF 2   SOUTH RIVER, VILLAGE OF 2
ELLIOT LAKE, CITY OF 2   SOUTH STORMONT, TOWNSHIP OF 3
EMO, TOWNSHIP OF 5   SOUTHWEST MIDDLESEX, MUNICIPALITY OF 3
ENNISKILLEN, TOWNSHIP OF 1   SOUTHWOLD, TOWNSHIP OF 2
ERIN, TOWN OF 7   SPRINGWATER, TOWNSHIP OF 2
ESPANOLA, TOWN OF 3   ST. CATHARINES, CITY OF 23
ESSA, TOWNSHIP OF 3   ST. CLAIR, TOWNSHIP OF 4
ESSEX, TOWN OF 2   ST. JOSEPH, TOWNSHIP OF 1
FARADAY, TOWNSHIP OF 1   ST. THOMAS, CITY OF 7
FORT ERIE, TOWN OF 9   ST.-CHARLES, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
FORT FRANCES, TOWN OF 3   STIRLING-RAWDON, TOWNSHIP OF 6
FRONT OF YONGE, TOWNSHIP OF 2   STONE MILLS, TOWNSHIP OF 4
FRONTENAC ISLANDS, TOWNSHIP OF 3   STORMONT, DUNDAS & GLENGARRY, UNITED COUNTIES OF 1
GANANOQUE, TOWN OF 4   STRATFORD, CITY OF 9
GEORGIAN BAY, TOWNSHIP OF 3   STRATHROY-CARADOC, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
GEORGIAN BLUFFS, TOWNSHIP OF 2   TAY VALLEY TOWNSHIP 3
GEORGINA, TOWN OF 4   TAY, TOWNSHIP OF 5
GRAND VALLEY, TOWN OF 2   TECUMSEH, TOWN OF 2
GRAVENHURST, TOWN OF 1   TEMAGAMI, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
GREATER NAPANEE, TOWN OF 1   TEMISKAMING SHORES, CITY OF 2
GREATER SUDBURY, CITY OF 43   THAMES CENTRE, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
GREENSTONE, MUNICIPALITY OF 4   THE ARCHIPELAGO, TOWNSHIP OF 1
GREY, COUNTY OF 3   THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, TOWN OF 1
GRIMSBY, TOWN OF 10   THE NATION MUNICIPALITY 4
GUELPH, CITY OF 7   THE NORTH SHORE, TOWNSHIP OF 5
HALDIMAND COUNTY 4   THOROLD, CITY OF 14
HALIBURTON, COUNTY OF 1   THUNDER BAY, CITY OF 44
HALTON HILLS, TOWN OF 3   TILLSONBURG, TOWN OF 2
HALTON, REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF 3   TIMMINS, CITY OF 1
HAMILTON, CITY OF 63   TINY, TOWNSHIP OF 5
HAMILTON, TOWNSHIP OF 4   TORONTO, CITY OF 254
HASTINGS HIGHLANDS, MUNICIPALITY OF 5   TRENT HILLS, MUNICIPALITY OF 4
HASTINGS, COUNTY OF 3   TUDOR & CASHEL, TOWNSHIP OF 15
HAWKESBURY, TOWN OF 3   TWEED, MUNICIPALITY OF 3
HIGHLANDS EAST, MUNICIPALITY OF 4   UXBRIDGE, TOWNSHIP OF 3
HORTON, TOWNSHIP OF 2   VAUGHAN, CITY OF 12
HUNTSVILLE, TOWN OF 1   WAINFLEET, TOWNSHIP OF 1
HURON EAST, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   WARWICK, TOWNSHIP OF 1
HURON, COUNTY OF 1   WASAGA BEACH, TOWN OF 11
IGNACE, TOWNSHIP OF 6   WATERLOO, CITY OF 2
INGERSOLL, TOWN OF 3   WATERLOO, REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF 14
INNISFIL, TOWN OF 10   WAWA, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
IROQUOIS FALLS, TOWN OF 12   WELLAND, CITY OF 27
JOHNSON, TOWNSHIP OF 3   WELLESLEY, TOWNSHIP OF 1
JOLY, TOWNSHIP OF 1   WELLINGTON NORTH, TOWNSHIP OF 1
KAPUSKASING, TOWN OF 1   WELLINGTON, COUNTY OF 5
KAWARTHA LAKES, CITY OF 14   WEST ELGIN, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
KEARNEY, TOWN OF 2   WEST GREY, MUNICIPALITY OF 5
KENORA, CITY OF 5   WEST LINCOLN, TOWNSHIP OF 2
KILLALOE, HAGARTY AND RICHARDS, TOWNSHIP OF 1   WEST NIPISSING, MUNICIPALITY OF 10
KINCARDINE, MUNICIPALITY OF 4   WEST PERTH, MUNICIPALITY OF 1
KING, TOWNSHIP OF 19   WESTPORT, VILLAGE OF 5
KINGSTON, CITY OF 15   WHITBY, TOWN OF 8
KINGSVILLE, TOWN OF 5   WHITCHURCH-STOUFFVILLE, TOWN OF 11
KIRKLAND LAKE, TOWN OF 3   WHITESTONE, MUNICIPALITY OF 4
KITCHENER, CITY OF 8   WILMOT, TOWNSHIP OF 3
LAIRD, TOWNSHIP OF 1   WINDSOR, CITY OF 31
LAKE OF BAYS, TOWNSHIP OF 3   WOLLASTON, TOWNSHIP OF 1
LAKESHORE, TOWN OF 16   WOODSTOCK, CITY OF 3
LAMBTON SHORES, MUNICIPALITY OF 7   YORK, REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF 18
LAMBTON, COUNTY OF 2   CASES WHERE NO MUNICIPALITY WAS SPECIFIED 34
LANARK HIGHLANDS, TOWNSHIP OF 12      
LANARK, COUNTY OF 3   SHARED CORPORATIONS  
LARDER LAKE, TOWNSHIP OF 2   ALECTRA 23
LAURENTIAN HILLS, TOWN OF 2   AUSABLE BAYFIELD CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 4
LEAMINGTON, MUNICIPALITY OF 5   CATARAQUI REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 1
LEEDS AND GRENVILLE, UNITED COUNTIES OF 5   CENTRAL LAKE ONTARIO CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 3
LEEDS AND THE THOUSAND ISLANDS, TOWNSHIP OF 1   CONSERVATION HALTON 2
LENNOX & ADDINGTON, COUNTY OF 2   ELEXICON ENERGY 5
LINCOLN, TOWN OF 2   ENERGY + INC. 1
LONDON, CITY OF 44   ENTEGRUS POWERLINES 3
LOYALIST TOWNSHIP 2   ESSEX POWER CORPORATION 1
LUCAN BIDDULPH, TOWNSHIP OF 2   HAMILTON CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 4
MADAWASKA VALLEY, TOWNSHIP OF 1   KITCHENER-WILMOT HYDRO INC. 3
MAGNETAWAN, MUNICIPALITY OF 2   LAKE SIMCOE REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 1
MALAHIDE, TOWNSHIP OF 2   LAKELAND POWER DISTRIBUTION LTD. 2
MANITOUWADGE, TOWNSHIP OF 1   LOWER THAMES VALLEY CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 1
MAPLETON, TOWNSHIP OF 1   LOWER TRENT CONSERVATION 1
MARATHON, TOWN OF 1   MISSISSIPPI VALLEY CONSERVATION 1
MARKHAM, CITY OF 7   NEWMARKET-TAY POWER DISTRIBUTION LTD. 1
MARKSTAY-WARREN, MUNICIPALITY OF 2   NIAGARA PENINSULA CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 2
MARMORA AND LAKE, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   OTTAWA RIVER POWER CORPORATION 1
MCDOUGALL, MUNICIPALITY OF 4   RIDEAU VALLEY CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 1
MCGARRY, TOWNSHIP OF 3   SOUTH NATION CONSERVATION 1
MCKELLAR, TOWNSHIP OF 2   TORONTO AND REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 6
MCMURRICH/MONTEITH, TOWNSHIP OF 1   UPPER THAMES RIVER CONSERVATION AUTHORITY 1
MCNAB/BRAESIDE, TOWNSHIP OF 2      
MEAFORD, MUNICIPALITY OF 1   SHARED LOCAL BOARDS  
MELANCTHON, TOWNSHIP OF 3   ALGOMA DISTRICT SERVICES ADMINISTRATION BOARD 1
MERRICKVILLE-WOLFORD, VILLAGE OF 3   DISTRICT OF COCHRANE SOCIAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION BOARD 5
MIDDLESEX CENTRE, MUNICIPALITY OF 5   DISTRICT OF PARRY SOUND SOCIAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION BOARD 3
MIDLAND, TOWN OF 2   DISTRICT OF SAULT STE. MARIE SOCIAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION BOARD 5
MILTON, TOWN OF 25   KENORA DISTRICT SERVICES BOARD 3
MINDEN HILLS, TOWNSHIP OF 4   MANITOULIN-SUDBURY DISTRICT SERVICES BOARD 3
MINTO, TOWN OF 4   THUNDER BAY SOCIAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION BOARD 9
MISSISSAUGA, CITY OF 170   CASES WHERE NO SHARED LOCAL BOARD WAS SPECIFIED 3


 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT CLOSED MUNICIPAL MEETINGS, 2020-2021                        

  • CASES ABOUT MUNICIPALITIES WHERE OMBUDSMAN IS THE INVESTIGATOR: 80*                    

  • CASES ABOUT MUNICIPALITIES WHERE ANOTHER INVESTIGATOR HAS BEEN APPOINTED: 14**

 

SUMMARY OF COMPLETED INVESTIGATIONS

MUNICIPALITY MEETINGS & GATHERINGS REVIEWED ILLEGAL MEETINGS PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS FOUND BEST PRACTICES SUGGESTED
CALLANDER, MUNICIPALITY OF 2 0 0 0
EMO, TOWNSHIP OF 1 0 1 0
GREATER NAPANEE BIA 2 0 0 3
HAMILTON, CITY OF 1 0 0 1
HAWKESBURY, TOWN OF 1 0 0 1
JOHNSON, TOWNSHIP OF 1 0 1 3
LANARK HIGHLANDS, TOWNSHIP OF 1 0 0 1
LOYALIST TOWNSHIP 1 0 1 0
NIAGARA FALLS, CITY OF 1 0 1 1
NORFOLK, COUNTY OF 1 0 0 1
NORTHERN BRUCE PENINSULA, MUNICIPALITY OF 1 0 0 0
PELHAM, TOWN OF 1 0 1 1
PICKERING, CITY OF 1 0 0 1
PLYMPTON-WYOMING, TOWN OF 1 1 1 1
RICHMOND HILL, CITY OF 5 3 0 2
RUSSELL, TOWNSHIP OF 2 0 0 1
SABLES-SPANISH RIVERS, TOWNSHIP OF 1 1 0 4
SAUGEEN SHORES, TOWN OF 4 0 0 0
SAULT STE. MARIE, CITY OF 1 0 0 1
SOUTHGATE, TOWNSHIP OF 1 0 1 2
STONE MILLS, TOWNSHIP OF 5 0 0 0
TEMAGAMI, MUNICIPALITY OF 7 1 3 3
THE NORTH SHORE, TOWNSHIP OF 1 0 0 2
WEST NIPISSING, MUNICIPALITY OF 2 0 0 0
WESTPORT, VILLAGE OF 2 2 0 1

*Not all cases result in investigations; multiple cases may relate to the same meeting.                        
**These cases were referred accordingly.


 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT SCHOOL BOARDS, 2020-2021 - TOTAL: 569

ENGLISH PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARDS     HALTON CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 8
ALGOMA DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 3   HAMILTON-WENTWORTH CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 2
AVON MAITLAND DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1   HURON-PERTH CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 3
BLUEWATER DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1   HURON-SUPERIOR CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 2
DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF NIAGARA 10   KENORA CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1
DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD ONTARIO NORTH EAST 1   LONDON DISTRICT CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARD 1
DURHAM DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 12   NIAGARA CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 3
GRAND ERIE DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 3   NIPISSING-PARRY SOUND CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1
GREATER ESSEX COUNTY DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 7   NORTHEASTERN CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1
HALTON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 10   OTTAWA CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARD 13
HAMILTON-WENTWORTH DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 19   PETERBOROUGH VICTORIA NORTHUMBERLAND AND CLARINGTON CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 6
HASTINGS & PRINCE EDWARD DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 4   SIMCOE MUSKOKA CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 53
KAWARTHA PINE RIDGE DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 11   THUNDER BAY CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 2
KEEWATIN-PATRICIA DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1   TORONTO CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 28
LAKEHEAD DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5   WATERLOO CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5
LAMBTON KENT DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5   WELLINGTON CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1
LIMESTONE DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 2   WINDSOR-ESSEX CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5
NEAR NORTH DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1   YORK CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 9
OTTAWA-CARLETON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 44      
PEEL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 21   FRENCH CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARDS  
RAINBOW DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5   CONSEIL DES ÉCOLES CATHOLIQUES DU CENTRE-EST 9
RAINY RIVER DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 2   CONSEIL SCOLAIRE CATHOLIQUE DE DISTRICT DES GRANDES RIVIÈRES 2
SIMCOE COUNTY DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 7   CONSEIL SCOLAIRE CATHOLIQUE FRANCO-NORD 3
THAMES VALLEY DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 17   CONSEIL SCOLAIRE CATHOLIQUE MONAVENIR 6
TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 101   CONSEIL SCOLAIRE CATHOLIQUE PROVIDENCE 4
TRILLIUM LAKELANDS DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5      
UPPER CANADA DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 10   FRENCH PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARDS  
UPPER GRAND DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 6   CONSEIL DES ÉCOLES PUBLIQUES DE L'EST DE L'ONTARIO 10
WATERLOO REGION DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 7   CONSEIL SCOLAIRE VIAMONDE 5
YORK REGION DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 11      
      SCHOOL AUTHORITIES  
ENGLISH CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARDS     JAMES BAY LOWLANDS SECONDARY SCHOOL BOARD 1
ALGONQUIN AND LAKESHORE CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 3   MOOSE FACTORY ISLAND DISTRICT SCHOOL AREA BOARD 1
BRANT HALDIMAND NORFOLK CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 2   MOOSONEE DISTRICT SCHOOL AREA BOARD 1
BRUCE-GREY CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 1   PROTESTANT SEPARATE SCHOOL BOARD OF THE TOWN OF PENETANGUISHENE 1
CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF EASTERN ONTARIO 2      
DUFFERIN-PEEL CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 14   CASES WHERE NO SCHOOL BOARD WAS SPECIFIED 23
DURHAM CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD 5      

Note: Boards that were not the subject of any cases are not listed.

 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY, 2020-2021

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT UNIVERSITIES, 2020-2021 - TOTAL: 213

ALGOMA UNIVERSITY 3   TRENT UNIVERSITY 7
BROCK UNIVERSITY 9   UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH 6
CARLETON UNIVERSITY 7   UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA 18
LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY 4   UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 20
LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY 12   UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO 10
MCMASTER UNIVERSITY 14   UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR 9
NIPISSING UNIVERSITY 3   WESTERN UNIVERSITY 7
OCAD UNIVERSITY 3   WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY 10
ONTARIO TECH UNIVERSITY    7   YORK UNIVERSITY 30
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY 7      
RYERSON UNIVERSITY 20   CASES WHERE NO UNIVERSITY WAS SPECIFIED 7

Note: Universities that were not the subject of any cases are not listed.

 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT COLLEGES OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY, 2020-2021  - TOTAL: 200

ALGONQUIN COLLEGE 14   HUMBER COLLEGE 23
CAMBRIAN COLLEGE 5   LAMBTON COLLEGE 5
CANADORE COLLEGE 6   LOYALIST COLLEGE 4
CENTENNIAL COLLEGE 19   MOHAWK COLLEGE 9
COLLÈGE BORÉAL 5   NIAGARA COLLEGE CANADA 4
COLLÈGE LA CITÉ 7   NORTHERN COLLEGE 3
CONESTOGA COLLEGE 17   SAULT COLLEGE 4
DURHAM COLLEGE 7   SENECA COLLEGE 18
FANSHAWE COLLEGE 14   SHERIDAN COLLEGE 4
FLEMING COLLEGE (SIR SANDFORD FLEMING COLLEGE) 8   ST. CLAIR COLLEGE 3
GEORGE BROWN COLLEGE 11   ST. LAWRENCE COLLEGE 4
GEORGIAN COLLEGE 4   CASES WHERE NO COLLEGE WAS SPECIFIED 2

Note: Colleges that were not the subject of any cases are not listed.

 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT CHILDREN & YOUTH, 2020-2021

  • 959 CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETIES

  • 173 YOUTH JUSTICE CENTRES

  • 124 RESIDENTIAL LICENCEES


 

MOST COMMON CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT CASs AND RESIDENTIAL LICENCEES

BY CHILDREN AND YOUTH BY PARENTS BY EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBERS BY PROFESSIONALS, WHISTLEBLOWERS, OTHER ADULTS
UNHAPPY WITH PLACEMENT ACCESS VISITS WITH CHILDREN CAS NOT TAKING CHILD PROTECTION CONCERNS SERIOUSLY CHILD UNSAFE IN PLACEMENT
USE OF PHYSICAL RESTRAINTS/ ALLEGATIONS OF ASSAULT TREATMENT, CONDUCT OR LACK OF RESPONSE BY CAS ACCESS VISIT WITH CHILDREN CAS NOT TAKING CHILD PROTECTION CONCERNS SERIOUSLY
SECURITY OF POSSESSIONS CAS NOT TAKING CHILD PROTECTION CONCERNS SERIOUSLY SHORTAGE OF PLACEMENTS SHORTAGE OF PLACEMENTS
ACCESS VISITS WITH PARENTS ISSUES WITH CAS INVESTIGATIONS COVID-19 SAFETY ISSUES HUMAN TRAFFICKING
CULTURE/IDENTITY ISSUES BARRIERS TO MAKING COMPLAINT TO CAS   COVID-19 SAFETY ISSUES
 

 

MOST COMMON CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT YOUTH JUSTICE CENTRES

MINISTRY-OPERATED CENTRES MINISTRY-FUNDED CENTRES
TRANSFERS TRANSFERS
STAFF CONDUCT STAFF CONDUCT
TELEPHONE ACCESS CONSEQUENCES (DISCIPLINE)
CONSEQUENCES (DISCIPLINE) VISITORS
HEALTH ACCESS TO PROGRAMS AND EDUCATION
SAFETY AND SECURITY TELEPHONE ACCESS


 

CASES RECEIVED ABOUT CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETIES, 2020-2021 - TOTAL: 959

ALGOMA, CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 27   NIPISSING AND PARRY SOUND, CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF THE DISTRICT OF 11
ANISHINAABE ABINOOJII FAMILY SERVICES 7   NOGDAWINDAMIN FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES 7
BRANT FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES 25   NORTH EASTERN ONTARIO FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES 11
BRUCE GREY CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES 22   OGWADENI:DEO 4
CHATHAM-KENT CHILDREN'S SERVICES 10   OTTAWA, THE CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 38
DILICO ANISHINABEK FAMILY CARE 31   OXFORD COUNTY, CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 10
DNAAGDAWENMAG BINNOOJIIYAG CHILD & FAMILY SERVICES 14   PAYUKOTAYNO JAMES AND HUDSON BAY FAMILY SERVICES 1
DUFFERIN CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES 5   PEEL CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 30
DURHAM CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 27   RENFREW COUNTY, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF 11
FRONTENAC, LENNOX AND ADDINGTON, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF 20   SARNIA-LAMBTON CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 14
GUELPH AND WELLINGTON COUNTY, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF 15   SIMCOE MUSKOKA FAMILY CONNEXIONS 42
HALDIMAND AND NORFOLK, THE CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 12   ST. THOMAS AND ELGIN COUNTY, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF 10
HALTON CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 11   STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY, THE CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF THE UNITED COUNTIES OF 13
HAMILTON, CATHOLIC CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 24   SUDBURY AND MANITOULIN, THE CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF THE DISTRICTS OF 23
HAMILTON, CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 35   THUNDER BAY, THE CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF THE DISTRICT OF 12
HIGHLAND SHORES CHILDREN'S AID 23   TIKINAGAN CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES 6
HURON-PERTH CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 14   TORONTO, CATHOLIC CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 13
JEWISH FAMILY AND CHILD SERVICE 7   TORONTO, CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 41
KAWARTHA-HALIBURTON CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 13   TORONTO, NATIVE CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES OF 5
KENORA-RAINY RIVER DISTRICTS CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES 9   VALORIS FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS OF PRESCOTT-RUSSELL 8
KINA GBEZHGOMI CHILD & FAMILY SERVICES 3   WATERLOO REGION, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF THE 26
KUNUWANIMANO CHILD & FAMILY SERVICES 1   WEECHI-IT-TE-WIN FAMILY SERVICES 8
LANARK, LEEDS AND GRENVILLE, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES OF 15   WINDSOR-ESSEX CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 23
LONDON AND MIDDLESEX, CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF 14   YORK REGION CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY 35
NIAGARA, FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES 36      
NIIJAANSINAANIK CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES 1   CASES WHERE NO CAS WAS SPECIFIED 136

Note: Children’s aid societies that were not the subject of any cases are not listed.

 

FINANCIAL SUMMARY, 2020-2021

Our Office’s budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021 was $30.46 million. Actual expenditures, (unaudited) were $23.08 million. All unspent funds were returned to the Ministry of Finance.    

OPERATING EXPENSES (IN $ THOUSANDS)
SALARIES & WAGES 12,473
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS 3,150
COMMUNICATION & TRANSPORTATION 223
SERVICES 4,255
SUPPLIES & EQUIPMENT 2,979
TOTAL ANNUAL OPERATING EXPENSES 23,080