Our Meeting with the Ombudsman
We had the pleasure of meeting with the Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé and his two colleagues, Barbara Finlay, Deputy Ombudsman, and Kelly Burke, Deputy Ombudsman and French Language Services Commissioner. The Ombudsman is an Independent Officer of the Ontario Legislative Assembly and promotes fairness and accountability in the public sector through the intake and resolution of complaints. Strictly nonpartisan and independent of government, the Ombudsman is an essential institution in Ontario’s democracy.
Much of our conversation involved getting a more in-depth understanding of what the Ombudsman does. Each year, the Office of the Ombudsman takes in approximately 20,000 complaints, most of which are resolved in two weeks through an Early Resolution process. Mr. Dubé and his deputies stressed that triage and Early Resolution are crucial factors; without them, the volume of complaints would be unmanageable. Complaints may lead to an investigation, or to a Special Ombudsman Response Team looking into a systemic issue.
These operations underline how the Office of the Ombudsman works to protect the rights of Ontarians during their interactions with public services. However, Ontarians must know about their rights to exercise them. This means that his team is constantly in outreach mode, attempting to inform Ontarians of the Ombudsman’s services.
As OLIP Interns in 2022, we could relate to much of what the Ombudsman described in our conversation. Remaining nonpartisan is fundamental to the Ombudsman; the office cannot be seen to selectively execute its mandate according to the government of the day. Moreover, COVID-19 has interfered in much of the office’s work. Many of its traditional communications techniques have been hindered, and the necessarily rapid introduction of new methods of service delivery has created a need for Ontarians and public servants to adapt quickly.
Thank you to Mr. Dubé, Ms. Finlay, and Ms. Burke for such an informative meeting and for the work you do in protecting the rights of Ontarians!