The Complaint Process

Intake and Initial Assessment

When the Office receives an enquiry, we will begin by making every effort to fully understand the individual’s concerns.

The next steps are to determine whether the matter is within the Ombud’s jurisdiction, and if so, whether there is any obvious reason we should not look into it further at that time (e.g., if the individual has not made any effort to contact the authority about the issue and there is no reason why not).

As part of the initial assessment of the complaint, the Office may contact the public authority to:

  • Confirm information provided by the complainant;
  • Obtain information about the authority’s general process or programs and the complainant’s options;
  • Request clarification about the authority’s program policies, regulations or procedures;
  • Facilitate resolution by bringing the complainant’s concerns to the attention of the authority;
  • If appropriate, facilitate direct communication between the complainant and the public authority that might resolve the situation without further intervention;
  • Describe the role of the Office and explain our processes.

This does not mean that the Office has begun an investigation. Before beginning an investigation, the Office will send a formal notice in writing to the administrative head of the authority (see below).

Early Resolution

The Act authorizes the Ombud to try to resolve problems through negotiation, conciliation, mediation or other non-adversarial approaches.

The Office will consider all complaints for early resolution. Examples that might be suitable for early resolution are matters that:

  • Involve a single issue where the resolution seems straightforward; or
  • Could likely be resolved through improved communication alone.

Early resolution is voluntary for both the complainant and the authority.

If the Office determines that early resolution may be appropriate, the Office will contact the complainant and the designated contact for the authority to determine whether and how the parties would like to proceed with an informal resolution process.

If the process results in a settlement, the Office will prepare a letter to the parties confirming the agreement, and will follow up as necessary to ensure that the terms are being met. If the process does not result in a settlement, the Office may close the file, or proceed to an investigation.


An investigation may be initiated as the result of:

  • A complaint
  • A referral from the Legislative Assembly, a Standing Committee, a municipality or an Aboriginal government
  • On the Ombud’s own initiative

Serious and/or complex complaints will usually go directly to an investigation. Where a complaint has been referred to investigation because initial attempts at early resolution have failed, efforts to resolve the complaint informally may continue throughout the investigation process.

Investigation Process

The following is the procedure for investigations:

  1. The Ombud or delegate sends notice in writing of the investigation to the head of the administrative authority.
  2. The Ombud or delegate gathers relevant evidence, analyzes the evidence, and arrives at preliminary conclusions about whether there is administrative unfairness. Investigation powers are set out in the Act and include the powers to enter the premises of the authority, interview people in private, and require people to produce documents and other evidence.
  3. If the Ombud or delegate determines the complaint is unsubstantiated, the Ombud or delegate will notify the parties in writing.
  4. If the Ombud or delegate finds administrative unfairness, the Ombud provides a preliminary report to the Minister and administrative head of the authority to verify facts, consider any recommendations, and provide comments for consideration by the Ombud. After considering the authority’s response, the Ombud finalizes the report and recommendations and sends it to the administrative head of the authority and the Minister.
  5. If the authority accepts the recommendations, the Ombud or delegate follows up to ensure they have been implemented.
  6. If the authority does not take adequate or appropriate action within a reasonable time, the Ombud may submit a report to the Premier and the Legislative Assembly.
  7. The complainant is notified in writing of the results of the investigation and informed if no action is taken in respect of a recommendation.
  8. Investigation statistics and redacted summaries of investigations may be published in the Ombud’s annual report.


 The following are some potential outcomes of an intervention and/or investigation by the Office:

  • A finding that the authority acted appropriately and there has been no unfairness;
  • An ongoing working relationship between a client and an authority is improved;
  • The authority reconsiders a decision with new information and/or principles;
  • The complainant receives a better explanation for a decision;
  • The complainant receives a refund;
  • The complainant receives an apology;
  • The authority makes changes to its policies and procedures

The Ombud does not have the authority to make binding orders.