The Office of the Ombudsperson is sending its mobile complaint clinic to Ashcroft and Cache Creek on August 24 and 25 respectively, giving residents who feel they have been unfairly treated by a provincial or local government body an opportunity to be heard.
The Office of the Ombudsperson is an independent voice that ensures fairness in local and provincial government, says ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “We have independent oversight of more than 2,000 bodies that have been established under provincial law, so people who feel they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably can come to us.”
Bodies that the ombudsperson can investigate include B.C. government ministries; crown corporations such as ICBC and BC Hydro; government boards including WCB; hospitals, health authorities, and health-related agencies; schools and school districts; universities and colleges; and local governments. The office cannot investigate complaints involving federal government ministries or programs, private corporations, banks, the courts, or the police.
Chalke says that when a person makes a complaint to the ombudsperson, the first step is to determine if it is within their jurisdiction. “We then determine if they’ve done what they can to resolve it. If they haven’t tried to resolve it themselves, we have extensive knowledge of the options available to people with virtually any kind of public body in the province, and will give referral and contact information.
“If people do that and they are still not happy, they can call us and we will commence an investigation. We’re a completely impartial body, so we will ask for all sides of the story.”
He says that the office receives a lot of complaints about delays and the adequacy (or otherwise) of the information people receive. “For example, if people apply for a benefit and are turned down, they should be told why.”
Approximately eight per cent of the complaints the office receives concern local government. The complaints include adequacy of information, bylaw enforcement, open decision making, public consultation, and fees and fines.
The Office of the Ombudsperson is located in Victoria, but Chalke says that the mobile complaint clinic is a great option for anyone in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek areas who has not been successful resolving their concerns about a provincial or local public authority. He advises anyone who would like to attend the clinic to call ahead and book an appointment, which is free and confidential. The toll-free number for making an appointment is 1-800-567-3247.
“We make sure we see everyone,” says Chalke. “We receive around 7,500 inquiries and complaints annually, and our complaint clinics are one way for people to reach us.” The office is also available by phone, mail, fax, or web form; go to https://bcombudsperson.ca/.