How we work
The Ontario Ombudsman is an independent and impartial Officer of the Legislature who resolves complaints about government and public sector bodies.
The Office of the Ontario Ombudsman was established in 1975 and can take complaints about the administrative processes and policies of more than 1,000 public sector and government bodies in Ontario, as well as French language services and services provided in the child protection sector.
Do you have a complaint or question about a government or public sector body? Check to see if the organization is on our "Who We Oversee" list, or read more about what we can’t investigate.
We assess all complaints and refer them to relevant mechanisms for quick resolution wherever possible. Read about the complaint resolution process.
We will attempt to resolve every issue, but in rare cases, we may decide to launch an investigation. If an investigation is necessary, the organization will receive written notice and will be required to provide relevant information and documents. Read more about our investigation and reporting process, including the steps taken to keep the body under investigation informed, how we communicate the results of our investigations, and how we make recommendations to improve administrative processes.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Ontario Ombudsman is an independent, impartial officer of the Legislature, appointed to take complaints about the administrative processes and policies of public sector bodies, as well as French language services and services provided in the child protection sector. The Ombudsman does not advocate for individuals and cannot address every complaint or grievance citizens might have. While we strive to assist complainants in any way we can, there are legal limits to our authority.
When we receive a complaint, we examine it thoroughly according to universally-accepted Ombudsman practices. The Ontario Ombudsman is an office of last resort; if the complainant has not already tried to resolve their issue through existing complaint resolution mechanisms, we will refer them there for resolution whenever possible.
While we advocate for fairness and good administration, we do not take sides in disputes. We cannot provide legal advice or representation and do not intervene in matters beyond our legal authority. We cannot overturn the decisions of elected officials or direct them on public policy.
The matters which we generally cannot address include, but are not limited to, complaints about the following:
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
Matters within the jurisdiction of the Toronto Ombudsman
Local, provincial or federal police services or conduct (except some Ontario Provincial Police administrative matters)
The federal government and its departments and agencies
Hospitals and long-term care homes (except those designated under the French Language Services Act)
Individuals and private businesses
View the full list of organizations we oversee.
We want to help, and even if a matter is outside our jurisdiction, we will try to provide whatever assistance we can. If there is another office or agency that deals with the issue raised in a complaint, we will inform the complainant and assist with a referral to that agency (such as the Patient Ombudsman, the Toronto Ombudsman, the Integrity Commissioner, or the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, to name a few examples).
View the organizations where we commonly refer people.