The History of the Ombudsman

The First Ombudsman

In 1697, when he was only 15 years old, Charles XII became King of Sweden. For the next 17 years, however, Charles was out of the country fighting wars, mostly against Russia. During this time, because he was away from the country, Charles signed a law creating an office called the King’s Highest Ombudsman. The job of the King’s Highest Ombudsman was to make sure that while the king was away the government workers, judges, and the military were acting properly and following the rules the King had left for them. When the wars were over and the King returned to Sweden, the office of the ombudsman disappeared for several decades, but it was not forgotten.

About a hundred years later, in 1809, Sweden had a different king but it was still fighting wars with Russia. The war was not going very well for Sweden. In fact, the king had been taken prisoner by the Russian army. Without a King to make final decisions and settle disputes, the Swedish Parliament brought back the idea of the ombudsman. The ombudsman who was appointed in 1809 was responsible to Parliament and his job was to protect the rights of citizens against unfair or oppressive decisions of the bureaucracy. His name was Lars Augustin Mannerheim.

The appointment of this parliamentary ombudsman in Sweden in 1809 is generally regarded as the birthdate of the modern ombudsman. Most of the public or parliamentary ombudsmen around the world are modeled on what happened in Sweden in 1809. A common definition that is accepted today says that a public or parliamentary ombudsman is “a public official appointed by the legislature to receive and investigate citizen complaints against administrative acts of government”.

The Ombudsman in Saskatchewan

Canadian provinces began to create ombudsman offices in the late 1960s. Saskatchewan passed a law creating the office of the ombudsman and then appointed Saskatchewan’s first Ombudsman in 1973.

The Ombudsman in Saskatchewan is called an Independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly. This means that the Ombudsman is not part of the government. The Ombudsman is separate and apart from the government. The Ombudsman is appointed for a five year term and may be appointed for no more than two terms.

There have been six ombudsman in Saskatchewan since the first one was appointed in 1973. The current Ombudsman is Mary McFadyen.

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