Ombudsman of Ontario

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Published September 2004. Some information in this article is outdated.

Do You Have A Complaint About Ontario Government Services?

If you have a complaint and do not know what else to do, Ombudsman Ontario may be able to help you.

If you feel a provincial government organization has treated you in a way that is unfair, illegal, unreasonable, mistaken or just plain wrong, you should bring your matter forward to the Ombudsman’s office. You may succeed in getting your own problem solved and you might help make changes so others are treated more fairly.

The Ombudsman of Ontario is Clare Lewis, Q.C. He is not a part of the public service or of the political parties. The Ombudsman is an Officer of the Provincial Legislature. He will not take sides with the person complaining or with the government. He is only interested in fairness.

Mr. Lewis has dealt with many issues, including housing. He explains, “In November 2003, I wrote to the Minister of Municipal Affairs (now Municipal Affairs and Housing) noting I had received numerous complaints from and on behalf of tenants about The Tenant Protection Act, 1997.” In that letter, the Ombudsman expressed concerns about an eviction process where many people have been evicted without mediation or hearings on the merits. He pointed out that the tenants most easily and badly hurt by such evictions are seniors, single parents with small children, people with disabilities and those for whom English is a second language. Mr. Lewis supported creation of an appeal process that would allow those tenants a chance to tell their side of the story and effect the decision about their eviction.

In response to that letter, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said that a comprehensive review of the Tenant Protection Act, 1997 is now underway.

Many different kinds of complaints can be investigated, including:

  • Birth certificates
  • Health insurance (OHIP)
  • Disability benefits
  • Workplace safety and insurance
  • Spousal or child support (Family Responsibility Office)
  • Student loans (OSAP)
  • Community Care Access Centres

Here are some of the complaints the Ombudsman cannot investigate.

  • Federal governmental matters such as immigration or the Canada Pension Plan
  • Municipal government problems such as public housing or garbage pick-up
  • Complaints about the courts
  • Complaints about private companies

Even though the Ombudsman cannot deal directly with Immigration, they can help with many issues that may have a big effect on your immigration status.

Ombudsman Ontario staff will make every effort to provide you with information and referrals to help you try and find a solution to your problem. Here are some of the problems they have solved.

A woman who had immigrated to Canada and was having problems getting landed immigrant status called Ombudsman Ontario to complain that her application was being held up because she was pregnant and she was medically advised not to take the chest x-ray that was required for her medical clearance. Because her status in Canada was not confirmed, she was denied coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). She complained to Ombudsman Ontario and when they investigated, they found that the woman had not been informed that she could appeal the denial. The Ombudsman’s office provided the Ministry of Health with medical evidence that indicated it is not proper to require x-ray examinations as standard screening procedures, particularly for pregnant women. As a result, the Ministry of Health agreed to issue temporary health cards in these situations and it drafted a new policy that would provide temporary solutions to this type of problem until the applicant can safely get the x-rays done.

A refugee was told that her health coverage was ending because she had indicated her refugee status on her application form. She was told that her coverage would be reinstated if she could provide proof of citizenship in her home country such as a birth certificate or a passport. As the woman did not have either of these forms of identification, she was facing the loss of her health coverage. She contacted Ombudsman Ontario to complain. They were able to get a 90-day extension of her health plan coverage which allowed the complainant to obtain and submit a birth certificate.

The challenge faced by foreign-trained professionals in being certified to practice their professions in Ontario is an issue that is regularly brought forward to the Ombudsman by members of the public. Often these matters lie beyond the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction because licensing of professionals is usually done by a self-regulating body such as a college or a society. In the case of foreign-trained teachers however, the Ministry of Education has a direct role. The Ministry has to issue letters of eligibility to immigrants who want to be qualified as teachers in Ontario.

Ombudsman Ontario was contacted by a woman who had been qualified as a teacher in Argentina and had been trying to obtain proof of her training from Argentina for over 15 years. She had obtained work in adult education in Ontario, but as an unqualified teacher, she earned a much lower salary than she would have as a qualified teacher. Ombudsman Ontario staff made informal enquiries of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry agreed to accept an affidavit from the teacher attesting to her training and a letter from her supervisor. This acceptance enabled the teacher to qualify for a letter of standing and a permanent qualification.

Ms Z complained to the Ombudsman because she had not received her support payments for two months and, despite many attempts, she had been unable to reach the Family Responsibility Office (the FRO) by telephone to find out where her money was. Ombudsman Ontario staff contacted the FRO, which advised that it had tried unsuccessfully to deposit money directly into Ms Z’s bank account. No one at the FRO had taken note of this problem and Ms Z’s money was being held in suspense. As a result of the Ombudsman’s enquiry, Ms Z’s case was reviewed further by the FRO and the money was mailed to her the same day.

If you have tried all available complaint and appeal procedures without a solution, then the Ombudsman may be able to help. When you contact the Ombudsman’s office, be ready to explain what you have done so far and tell them who you have spoken with and when. Often problems are resolved informally by phone calls. During the 2002-2003 fiscal year, 75 per cent of all complaints were resolved within four weeks, 50 per cent within six days.

All inquiries and investigations are conducted free of charge, in any language and are confidential. Complaints can be made in writing, in person, by telephone, by Internet, TTY, fax or by cassette recording. Please call 1-800-263-1830, TTY 1-866-411-4211 or visit their website at www.ombudsman.on.ca to make a complaint about provincial government services.

For more information or to book a presentation or our new “How to Complain Effectively” workshop call Judith Klie, Community Education Program at 416-586-3357.

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