An ombudsman is a person who can help settle your dispute with a public or private organization.
First, the ombudsman will examine the information you provide about the problem, and may them make recommendations to the organization concerned to try to settle the dispute.
An ombudsman may be appointed under an internal policy or document, or under a provincial, territorial or federal law.
The ombudsman's role may, in particular, involve:
- receiving your complaint about the organization's services;
- hearing your, and the organization's, point of view;
- checking the facts;
- ruling on whether your complaint is founded;
- making recommendations to the organization in order to settle the situation and prevent its reoccurrence in the future.
Ombudsmen do not have the power to impose their recommendations. The organization remains free to apply, or not to apply, the recommendation made by the ombudsman in order to settle the dispute.
Ombudsmen remain neutral and do not take sides, either for you or the organization, when examining your complaint.
Types of disputes heard by an ombudsman
In many cases you can contact an ombudsman when you have a dispute with one of the following organizations:
- a government department or body;
- a city or municipality;
- a health care establishment;
- an educational institution;
- a financial institution;
- an insurance company;
When to contact the ombudsman
You should contact the ombudsman after the usual complaints process has not led to a solution to your dispute.
Finding an ombudsman
The following organizations offer the services of an ombudsman:
- Québec government:
- Québec universities:
- Université du Québec à Montréal – Bureau de l'ombudsman
- Université Laval – Bureau de l’ombudsman
- Université de Montréal – Bureau de l’ombudsman
- Université de Sherbrooke – Bureau de la protectrice des droits des étudiantes et des étudiants
- Bishop’s University – University Ombuds Office
- Concordia University – Ombuds Office
- McGill University – Ombudsperson
- Banking and investment institutions
- Insurance companies
For a more complete list of all the ombudsmen working in Canada, see the website Forum of Canadian ombudsmen.
Ombudsman's place of work
An ombudsman may work on the premises of the organization with which you have a dispute, or in another place.
Wherever the ombudsman works, the administrative structure is separate from that of the organization with which you have a dispute, ensuring that the ombudsman remains neutral.
The services of an ombudsman are provided free of charge.
The procedure applied by an ombudsman in processing a complaint may vary.
However, in general you must:
- file a formal complaint by completing a form;
- submit supporting documents to back up your position.
The ombudsman will then:
- check the facts;
- seek to understand;
- your point of view;
- the organization's point of view;
- decide whether your complaint is founded;
- propose, in some cases, that you settle your dispute via negociation or mediation;
- make recommendations, in some cases, to the organization in order to resolve the dispute.
You can find out more from the ombudsman about the procedure for dealing with your complaint.