Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today stressed that his office continues to help Ontarians during the present state of emergency, and has responded to hundreds of public complaints related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Although the Ombudsman’s office doors have been closed since March 16, Mr. Dubé and more than 100 staff are working from home, Mr. Dubé says in a new message on his office’s website: https://bit.ly/2yLH6bb “We continue to receive complaints in all areas of our jurisdiction through our website and by email. While working from home over the past few weeks, we have received some 800 new cases, including almost 300 related to the COVID-19 pandemic alone,” he says.
“Complaints are being received and responded to according to our normal processes, with the most urgent ones triaged for quick response. Although response times in some cases may be slower because the officials with whom we regularly interact are also working remotely, we are achieving critical results.”
In recent weeks, the Ombudsman’s office has, among other things:
- Arranged new temporary phone lines to allow inmates in the province’s correctional facilities to contact Ombudsman staff, as of next week;
- Handled close to 100 calls from young people in care and in youth justice facilities;
- Helped numerous Ontarians find or navigate information about local and provincial services affected by coronavirus and the state of emergency;
- Made inquiries about the new emergency rules for open municipal meetings;
- Urged the province, through French Language Services Commissioner Kelly Burke, to ensure its public health information, including that shared by Cabinet, is available in French as well as English.
Mr. Dubé notes that a key part of his office’s role has always been to work collaboratively with public sector bodies to alert them to administrative problems and propose constructive solutions. The present situation has prompted the Ombudsman and senior management to “hold regular teleconferences with senior officials in several ministries to bring issues to their attention, learn about their pandemic planning measures, and share information about complaint trends,” he writes.
“With the knowledge gained during this exceptional time, we are – and will continue to be – uniquely positioned to inform the government about the impact of its administrative actions and assist it in optimizing its responses.”
The Ombudsman is an independent, impartial officer of the Ontario Legislature who resolves and investigates public complaints about provincial government bodies, as well as services for children and youth in care, French language services, municipalities, universities and school boards. Complaints can be filed via www.ombudsman.on.ca.