Our policy regarding external emails
When you send an email to the BC Ombudsperson, you’re trusting us with your personal information. We’re mandated by the provincial legislature to keep the information we receive confidential, and we take this responsibility very seriously. Email communication allows us to be more accessible to more people, but also limits our control over the confidentiality and privacy of our communications with you.
This policy sets out what members of the public and the staff of the BC Ombudsperson can expect of each other when communicating by email.
1. What you can expect from us
Choice in how you communicate with us. We recognize that accessibility requires different approaches for different people, and will make every effort to respect your preferences in how we communicate with you – whether by phone, mail, email or other means. However, we reserve the right to require that you speak with us if we decide that it is necessary. We may need to speak with you in order to collect and verify the information we need to assess and, if necessary, investigate your complaint. We will, however, make reasonable efforts to accommodate you if you tell us about any barriers you have that may limit your ability to speak with us by phone or in person.
We treat your email like any other form of correspondence. We try to respond to all correspondence as soon as possible, and your choice about how you correspond with us won’t affect how quickly we respond. We don’t prioritize email ahead of mail, fax or any other kind of written correspondence. We prioritize some correspondence and complaints if we consider them urgent – usually if there is an imminent risk to a person’s physical security, or an immediate food or shelter crisis. We will take the same care in reviewing and responding to your email that we would take if we were responding to or sending a letter by mail.
Respect for your privacy. We maintain strict confidentiality over our records and any communications we receive. Our legislation, the Ombudsperson Act, requires this. We also ensure that our records are secure and comply with applicable privacy legislation, including the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The email service provider or the computer you’re using to communicate with us might not meet the same privacy and security standards. If you choose email to communicate with us, we can’t guarantee that email transmissions or storage outside our network are secure or encrypted, or that your information is not being transmitted or stored outside of Canada.
In order to meet our own confidentiality and security requirements we will only communicate with you or other parties to your complaint. If you include CC recipients in an email you send to us, our response will not include those CCs unless they are already registered on our file, including their email address, as a party to the complaint (this may include your advocate, lawyer or anyone else acting as your formal representative). You can share our response with other people if you choose.
2. What we expect from you
Respect for our staff. Please communicate with courtesy and patience, and do not send us large volumes of email communications or file attachments unless we have asked you for those documents. If we have any concerns about the appropriateness or volume of your email communications, we’ll let you know about those concerns so that we can continue to communicate with you by email. Any form of abuse, harassment or other inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. If inappropriate behaviour or unreasonable volumes of correspondence continue over time, we may set limits on the ways that we will communicate with you.
Clear and concise information about your complaint and how the organization you’re complaining about has responded to your concerns. If you are filing a complaint by email or explaining your concerns to us, we want to know about the essential facts of your complaint, including:
- Your full name and contact information
- What organization you are complaining about
- How the issue you’re complaining about has impacted you
- What you’ve done to raise your concerns with the organization you’re complaining about – including any formal appeals or reviews you’ve pursued
- What the organization has done to respond to your concerns (sending us a copy of their written response to your concerns, if there is one, is very helpful to us)
- Who you have dealt with at the organization (including contact information)
- The dates of all of the key events and communications relating to your complaint
- The outcome you’re hoping for in complaining to us
Responding to our questions and requests for information. Once we have had a chance to review your complaint, or while we are conducting further assessment or investigating your concerns, we will likely have questions for you. Responding directly, thoroughly and clearly to our questions or requests for specific documents or information will ensure that we are able to move your complaint forward in a timely manner, and may also limit the number of times we need to interview you in person or by phone.