An ombudsman is a person designated to take complaints about unfairness. For example, in Saskatchewan, the provincial Ombudsman takes complaints from people who believe a government ministry or agency has treated them unfairly.
You will probably receive services in some form or another from the provincial government hundreds of times during your life. It may be about vehicle insurance, student loans, electricity, heat, a grant application or numerous other things. If you feel government has been unfair to you with these services, and you can’t resolve the matter yourself, it is important to know where to turn. Even if you don’t need the ombudsman’s services, there is a good chance someone you know will – and you’ll be able to tell them who to call.
The Ombudsman usually has a background in law, or some other education and experience that would ensure he or she was very familiar with law and the workings of government. When a previous ombudsman completes his or her term, or resigns, the Legislative Assembly advertises for people to apply. The Legislative Assembly is made up of members of the government and the opposition, so the ombudsman is chosen jointly by both sides. This helps keep the process fair and unbiased. A committee of the Legislative Assembly reviews the applications, interviews the people they think are most likely to do well, and chooses the next ombudsman. This decision is given a further stamp of approval the next time the House sits, and an official vote is held to appoint the chosen person as ombudsman.
In Saskatchewan, there is a position called an Ombudsman Assistant, who does many of the things an Ombudsman does – investigation, negotiation and mediation, for example. To be hired as an Ombudsman Assistant, you would need to apply, just like any other job. The office follows the hiring rules set forth by the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission is in charge of carrying out the government’s rules for human resources.
You would need to show that you have education and experience that will help you understand the law, how government works, human behaviour and society. You also need to know how to interview people, facilitate discussions, and conduct research. For example, some of the people who do this work have previous experience as lawyers, mediators, police officers or social workers.
Fairness is based on criteria laid out in The Ombudsman and Children’s Advocate Act. The investigator gathers the information and determines whether he or she thinks it is fair, based on the criteria. If the case is particularly complicated, or if the investigator thinks the Ombudsman should make recommendations to the government, he or she will review the case with the Ombudsman.
No. Your friend should make the complaint. The Ombudsman and Children’s Advocate Act says we must keep the information confidential and that means working directly with the person or people who think the government has been unfair to them.
The Ombudsman and Children’s Advocate Act determines what the Saskatchewan Ombudsman can do. It says the Ombudsman can only make recommendations. This is similar to most other provinces in Canada, and many countries throughout the world. There are some, however, where an ombudsman can order the government to do something.
In a great many cases, government chooses to follow the Ombudsman’s recommendations. In fact, very often, just having the Ombudsman involved can cause government to think twice. A government ministry or agency will often make a change voluntarily when the Ombudsman begins looking into a matter.
If the Ombudsman makes a recommendation and the government does not follow it, the Ombudsman can make a report to the Legislative Assembly. The report would be public, and available to the media as well.
The Ombudsman. This does happen sometimes. For example, if a government ministry says that following the Ombudsman’s recommendation will have an unintended negative impact, the Ombudsman might voluntarily change the recommendation.