FAQ

Q:
What kind of complaints can be investigated?
A:

The Office of the Ombudsperson receives complaints about the unfair administrative decisions or actions, including lack of adequate reasons, unreasonable delay, unfair procedures, and arbitrary or unauthorised procedures. If we cannot deal with your complaint, we'll do our best to refer you to someone who can. The Ombudsperson has discretion to decide whether complaints will be investigated. read more

Q:
Are there some complaints that can't be investigated?
A:

The Ombudsperson has jurisdiction over a wide range of public agencies but cannot investigate certain complaints, including those involving the federal government, the courts and police, or the private sector. read more

Q:
Does the Office of the Ombudsperson investigate complaints about local governments?
A:

In 1995 the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia expanded our jurisdiction to include municipalities and regional districts, as well as other local government authorities such the Islands Trust, park boards and boards of variance. read more

Q:
Who can make a complaint?
A:

Anyone directly affected by administrative unfairness may file a complaint. It is not a requirement that a person be a B.C. resident or Canadian citizen. Telephone interpretation services are offered in over 180 languages.

Q:
How can I resolve a complaint on my own?
A:

You have the right to ask the public authority to hear your concerns about actions and decisions that affect you. Here are some suggestions:

  • Have the information you will need available. Consider writing your questions down beforehand.
  • Keep notes and save all your correspondence. Write down the names, position titles, and phone numbers of the people you are dealing with.
  • Ask for a supervisor if you are not getting the information you need.
  • If you are still dissatisfied, ask if there is an appeal or complaint resolution procedure available.
  • Be persistent, but remain calm and polite.
Q:
Does it cost anything to complain?
A:

No, our services are free of charge.

Q:
When should a complaint be brought to the Office of the Ombudsperson?
A:

Whenever possible, you should first try to resolve your complaint directly with the public authority involved before coming to us. Many public offices have an internal process for handling complaints. If you've tried resolving the problem and still feel that you've been treated unfairly, we may be able to help.

Q:
What should I include in my complaint?
A:

Before coming to us, it's often useful to:

  • Get the names of the people you are dealing with.
  • Keep track of their responses, including any relevant dates and file numbers.
  • Keep all relevant documents, including copies of letters you’ve sent and received from the public authority.
  • Take a few moments to focus on and summarize the decision or action you want to complain about.
  • Consider what result or outcome you are seeking.
  • Understand which public authorities are involved.
Q:
What can I expect from the Office of the Ombudsperson?
A:
  • Courteous and timely service.
  • A careful assessment of your complaint.
  • If we do not investigate your complaint, we will tell you the reasons why. When possible, we will suggest another way to resolve your complaint.
  • If we decide to investigate your complaint, our investigation will be conducted in a thorough, confidential, and impartial manner.
  • Written reasons for the conclusions we reach as a result of our investigation.
Q:
How long does an investigation take?
A:

Your complaint will be dealt with as quickly as possible. Some complaints can be dealt with in a matter of days. Other complaints may take many months to investigate.

Q:
Can the Ombudsperson order someone to fix my problem?
A:

As an independent statutory Officer of the Legislature, the Ombudsperson cannot enforce action. However, public authorities usually accept the Ombudsperson’s recommendations. In cases of disagreement, the Ombudsperson can publicise the recommendations in order to foster an open and transparent response.

Q:
Will the Ombudsperson advocate on my behalf?
A:

The Ombudsperson is not an advocate or agent for any party to a dispute. Our investigations are impartial, independent, and based on the principles of administrative fairness.

Q:
What happens if someone stands to be negatively impacted by a report?
A:

Ombudsperson reports are impartial, evidence-based, and are done to uphold the principles of administrative fairness. Consequently, Ombudsperson reports contain information, findings and recommendations that can impact people and public authorities in many different ways.

Those who may be adversely affected are offered an opportunity to make representations to us. This allows them to review and respond to content that may adversely affect them for the Ombudsperson's consideration before we complete the report. 

The representations process is grounded in procedural fairness and Section 17 of the Ombudsperson Act.

Q:
How can I get a response to questions about an investigation?
A:

If you are a complainant or authority and have a question, concern or a complaint about our investigation, the person to contact first is the investigator who is assigned to the file and is most knowledgeable about the matter. If you are not satisfied with the response from the investigator, you can speak to their manager. The investigator will provide you with the manager’s name and telephone number upon request.

Please note that we treat our complainants and investigations confidentially. This means we cannot offer updates, confirmation or details regarding an investigation that you are not party to.

From time to time, we publish selected case summaries and reports on investigations and outcomes.

Q:
How is information shared at the outset of an investigation?
A:

At the outset of an investigation, an investigator must notify the public authority that the Ombudsperson is carrying out an investigation and will provide information about the complaint to the authority and any other person the Ombudsperson considers appropriate. Typically, the complainant will be informed of the decision to investigate. Before deciding whether to investigate, the investigator may make inquiries of the authority and/or complainant to better inform our decision.

Q:
What can I do if I have information that might help an investigation?
A:

We accept and consider relevant information from many sources. If you choose to send us information about a matter please note that our complainants and investigations are confidential. This means we cannot offer updates, confirmation or details regarding an investigation that you are not party to.