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Ombudsman Looks Beneath the "Tip of the Iceberg"


News Release & Newsletter

News Release

In his 2009 Annual Report tabled today in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Ombudsman Kevin Fenwick noted the sometimes wide-reaching effects of the complaints people bring to his office. “When we take individual complaints, we keep in mind that more people could be experiencing the same problem. We look beneath the tip of the iceberg to identify what is under the surface. In this way, the work we do can have a broader impact.”

“That is why it is so important for people to bring their complaints of unfairness,” he said. “They can benefit others as well as themselves.”

Some examples include: 

  • Complaints from three people who were turned down for SGI’s new photo ID led to changes in policy that made the ID more accessible to those who need it most (pages 15-16).
  • Complaints from Social Assistance recipients and former recipients led to a review of the way overpayments are assessed and collected. The office found several deficiencies throughout the system that could or did result in individuals not being treated in a fair and reasonable manner. As a result, the Ombudsman recently sent a report with 32 recommendations to the Ministry of Social Services (pages 20-21).
  • A complaint from a breast cancer patient about the availability and accessibility of oncology appointments led to a review of the management of waiting lists for breast cancer treatment in the province. This review is currently underway (page 21).
  • An increase in correctional centre complaints points to the importance that the government proceed with capital projects such as the remand centre planned for Saskatoon (page 7).
  • Complaints from people who were waiting too long to hear back from administrative tribunals led to a review and a new guidebook to help tribunals provide better service. The review of tribunal practices was tabled in 2007 and one of the findings was that the tribunals needed training, so in 2009 Ombudsman Saskatchewan produced a desktop reference and training guide for administrative tribunals. A workshop based on the guide is now available through the Dispute Resolution Office at the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General (pages 21-22).

Other highlights from 2009 include the re-appointment of the Ombudsman to another five-year term and the celebration of Fairness Week, which commemorated the 200th anniversary of the world’s first parliamentary ombudsman in Sweden in 1809.

In the report, Fenwick continues to highlight the importance of putting people before policy. “Government needs to be able to recognize that when it comes to policy, one size does not fit all. Sometimes discretion has to be exercised so that people come first.”
To achieve this, he is asking more government agencies to take the fair practices training his office provides. He is also asking government to set up fair practices offices. He describes these offices as having a sufficient degree of independence and authority so that they can respond to individual needs in individual cases.

The Ombudsman Saskatchewan 2009 Annual Report is available online at www.ombudsman.sk.ca. For paper copies, contact the Ombudsman Saskatchewan office at 787-6211.

The Ombudsman is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan with the authority to take complaints from members of the public who believe the government administration has not dealt fairly with them. The Ombudsman promotes and protects fairness in the design and delivery of government services. The office provides a range of services, including investigation, negotiation and mediation. Government administration includes any ministry, branch, board, agency or commission, responsible to the Crown, and any public servant in Saskatchewan. The Ombudsman was established by The Ombudsman and Children's Advocate Act.

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Media contact:
Leila Dueck
Director of Communications
Ombudsman Saskatchewan
Phone: 306-787-7369
E-mail: ldueck@ombudsman.sk.ca

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