If you want to file a complaint against a Quebec government department or agency, the Québec Ombudsman can help you.
Reasons You Can File a Complaint With the Québec Ombudsman
You can file a complaint with the Québec Ombudsman if you believe that you were treated unfairly or improperly by a government department or public agency under the supervision of the Québec Ombudsman. You can also file a complaint if you are not satisfied with the quality of the public services you receive.
Some government departments and agencies are not covered by the Québec Ombudsman complaint process. For example, the Ombudsman does not handle these complaints:
- against certain government corporations, such as Hydro-Québec and Loto-Québec
- against municipalities, school boards (subject to exceptions) and educational institutions
- requests to change a court decision
Also, in some cases, you can get help from sources other than the Québec Ombudsman.
Your Rights Regarding the Public Sector
Quebec government departments and public agencies have an obligation to provide you with good quality services. For example, you can expect to be treated with respect and to receive information that is clear and understandable.
Also, you have specific rights when the public sector makes a decision that affects you.Here are some of these rights:
- the right to get a decision within a reasonable time
- the right to provide informationto complete your file when you apply for a permit, compensation or benefit
- if your request has been refused, the right to know why
Who Can File a Complaint With the Québec Ombudsman
Victim of Unfair or Improper Treatment
You can file a complaint with the Québec Ombudsman if you believe you have been treated unfairly or improperly by a Quebec government department or public agency. Anyone in one of these groups can file this kind of complaint:
- a Quebec resident, a newcomer to the province or someone who lives outside Québec
- an entrepreneur or self-employed worker
- a group of people, such as an association, foundation or non-profit organization
- a legal person, such as a company
People Close to the Victim
If you are unable to file the complaint yourself for some reason, you can ask a person close to you to do it for you. To act in your name and be kept up to date, this person must show the Québec Ombudsman that she has permission from you.
You can give your permission by signing a document called a power of attorney.
How to File a Complaint
The Québec Ombudsman suggests that you file your complaint by completing the secure online complaint form on its website.
You can also lodge a complaint by phone, fax or mail.
Useful Information to Keep
When you file your complaint, you have to provide information about your situation. It can be helpful to write down all the information involving your complaint as events happen. This way you will not forget anything. Here are some examples:
- the names of the people you talked to at the government department or public agency you are complaining about
- the date and time of your conversations with these people
- a summary of what was said during these conversations
- a summary of the events or decisions you are complaining about
It can also be useful to keep a copy of all documents you send to or receive from the department or agency involved.
Important! You can file a complaint even if you don’t have all of this information.
How Complaints Are Handled
First Phone Call From Ombudsman’s Office
The office of the Québec Ombudsman will contact you by phone within two working days after you file your complaint. The purpose of this call is to learn more about your situation and ask a few questions if necessary.
After an initial analysis of your complaint, you will be contacted about the next steps, usually by telephone:
If the Québec ombudsman cannot help you with your complaint
An employee of the Ombudsman’s office explains the reasons and tells you about the other options available. You can also ask to get this information in writing.
If the Québec ombudsman can help you with your complaint
The person in charge of your case, who is called a delegate, contacts you.
At this point, you have a chance to discuss your complaint in greater detail and give the delegate all the information needed to intervene with the department or agency in question.
The Québec Ombudsman’s delegate begins the investigation and can ask for more information from the department or public agency or any other person involved.
To get this information, the delegate has most of the powers of inquiry commissioners appointed under the Act respecting public inquiry commissions. This means that a department or public agency cannot refuse to provide documents to the delegate or answer questions.
Based on the information the delegate gathers, she tries to find a solution to correct any unfair or improper treatment.
Once the investigation is over, the delegate contacts you by phone to let you know her conclusions. There are three possible results:
There was no unfair or improper treatment
- The delegate closes your file. You can ask her to send you the reasons for her decision in writing.
There was unfair or improper treatment, and the situation has been corrected
- The delegate tells you about the steps taken by the department or public agency involved.
There was unfair or improper treatment, but the situation has not been corrected
- The delegate tells you about the recommendations made by the department or public agency involved.
For more information on how complaints are handled, see the complete intervention procedure on the website of the Québec Ombudsman.
Complaint Follow-Up and Recommendations
The Québec Ombudsman does a follow-up to see whether its recommendations have been put into place by the department or public agency involved.
Some recommendations take longer to put into action, so some time might go by before you see changes.
However, because the Ombudsman acts as a mediator and is independent and impartial, its recommendations are followed in 98% of cases. It is often just a matter of time. (A mediator is someone who tries to find an agreement for people on different sides of an issue.)
Obviously, if your situation is urgent,your case will be given priority.
Other Ways to Get Things Moving
If your situation is not settled within a reasonable time, the Québec Ombudsman has different ways to encourage the department or public agency to take action. These are some of the things the Québec Ombudsman can do:
- contact people in positions of authority, for example, the civil servant responsible for the case, thelocal office of the department or agency, a high-ranking official, or even the minister
- notify the government in writing of the situation
- publicly mention the case in its annual report to the National Assembly (Quebec legislature) or in a special report
For more information, see the website of the Québec Ombudsman.