Ombudsman Act FAQ
- Do all complaints get investigated?
No. All complaints to the ombudsman are first reviewed by our intake services team. Intake services staff review each new complaint to determine whether the ombudsman has jurisdiction over the subject of the complaint and the organization being complained about. Where appropriate, intake staff will discuss referral and appeal options with you and provide more information about how to address concerns informally, or ask for more information about your complaint.
Intake staff can sometimes attempt early resolution, which might involve contact with the subject of your complaint to confirm or clarify information.
- Do all complaints get resolved?
No. If the ombudsman concludes that a complaint is supported, the matter will be discussed with the department or municipality involved to seek a resolution. Many complaints do get resolved in some fashion, but that doesn’t mean the person who complained will always be happy with the result. Sometimes the situation is resolved in a way that mostly or completely addresses the complainant’s concerns. Sometimes the situation improves as a result of our involvement. Sometimes there is no change in the situation – perhaps because we did not find any reason to ask the government to make a change, or because they would or could not do so.
- What happens if the ombudsman makes a recommendation to a government office and they won’t follow it?
The ombudsman cannot order that any act, decision, recommendation or omission be varied or changed; the ombudsman can make a recommendation. Government organizations usually follow our recommendations. If a recommendation by the ombudsman is not accepted the ombudsman may make a report to the legislative assembly or make a public report. In certain cases, media involvement can help to bring public scrutiny to an issue.
- How long does it take to complete work on a complaint investigation?
It varies, depending on the complexity of the issue. Some complaint investigations take a few weeks to conclude, others may take many months.
- How does the ombudsman’s office get information from government offices?
We usually operate informally, requesting information from government offices by calling them, writing a letter, and/or meeting in person. The Ombudsman Act gives the ombudsman and investigators the authority to speak to anyone, to see all government files relevant to a complaint, and the right to enter any government building for the purposes of an investigation. These broad powers of investigation help to ensure that ombudsman investigations are thorough.
- What happens to the information I provide to the ombudsman?
Information will remain in ombudsman files for a period of time (established by our records retention schedules) before records destruction. Information obtained by the ombudsman in the course of an ombudsman investigation is not admissible as evidence in any other proceedings, including before a board or a court. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not apply to records made by or for the ombudsman.
We can and often do share information about your complaint with the government organization being complained about. They need this information in order to respond fully to the complaint.
- If I am taking an issue to court, can the ombudsman look into the matter too?
We cannot investigate any order, decision or omission of a court. After a case has gone to trial, however, there may be aspects of the issue that the court did not deal with. We may be able to look at those.
- Can someone submit a complaint on my behalf?
Yes, if you fill out a form that authorizes someone else to be your representative. Please call our office for more information or for a copy of the form.
- Will I know the results of an investigation?
Yes, even if the ombudsman is unable to support the complaint, an investigator reviews the findings with the individual making the complaint. The ombudsman also reports to each complainant advising of the outcome of the investigation.
- Where can I find more information about Ombudsman Act investigations?
The Ombudsman Act identifies the ombudsman's authority to undertake investigations and includes information about the conduct of investigations.
You can also call our office at 204-982-9130 or 1-800-665-0531 (toll free in Manitoba) if you have specific questions. You can also visit our offices at 750 - 500 Portage Avenue (Colony Square) in Winnipeg and 202 - 1011 Rosser Avenue (Scotia Towers) in Brandon.
The office's annual reports also contain case summaries that you might find interesting.