Rights and Governments

Your Rights When Dealing With the Provincial Government

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Quebec government bodies, like departments and agencies, must act fairly when they make decisions that impact you personally. Acting fairly means they must respect your rights when making these decisions.

If you think your rights aren’t being respected, help is available. In most situations, you can contact the Protecteur du citoyen (Quebec ombudsman) for more information or to file a complaint. If you’re concerned about the protection of your personal information, you can contact the Commission d’accès à l’information (access to information commission).

The right to be informed

Quebec government bodies must give you any information you need to understand decisions that impact you personally. They must also answer any questions you have about your rights.

Rules and procedures that you’re supposed to follow must be accessible, straightforward and flexible. Normally, you shouldn’t have to consult a lawyer or specialist to understand your rights and know what to do.

Don’t hesitate to ask a government body any questions you might have.

Personalized information and help

In certain situations, Quebec government bodies must also give you personalized information and help you along the way. For example, you can apply to the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale (department of labour, employment and social solidarity) for help finding a job or getting welfare. If you do, the department must guide you through the process and give you information that’s specific to your situation, not just general information about your rights.

As another example, you have the right to personalized information when the rules for a benefits program significantly change. The government department must give you the information you need to respect the new rules and continue to get your benefits.

Guidelines and policies

Quebec government bodies must give you access to any documents they use to make a decision. You can also go to their websites to read the guidelines and policies they follow when making decisions.

The right to privacy

Quebec government bodies must protect your privacy and personal information. For example, they can only collect personal information if it’s necessary to accomplish their mission and run their programs.

You can contact Quebec government bodies to manage your personal information. Each government body has someone who is responsible for protecting personal information. You can contact them to

  • find out what personal information the government body has on file for you, and
  • correct or update this personal information if necessary.

To find out more, visit the website of the Commission d’accès à l’information (French only).

The right to be treated with respect

Government body employees are called civil servants. They must:

  • be respectful when they communicate with you, both in how they talk to you and how they act.
  • act in good faith. This means that they must avoid harming you intentionally. For example, if a civil servant based their decision on information they knew was false, they wouldn’t be acting in good faith.
  • behave ethically. For example, civil servants must act honestly and with integrity. They must also avoid conflicts of interest. This means they must avoid acting in their own interest or in the interest of someone they know while fulfilling their role as a civil servant.
  • avoid discrimination. Civil servants must make sure their decisions aren’t based on prejudice or biases. For more on this, see our article on what the Human Rights Tribunal can do for you if you think you’re experiencing discrimination.

The right to complete your file

Before making a decision that impacts you personally, Quebec government bodies must ask you to provide all the information and documents needed to complete your file. The government body can set a deadline for you to do this.

The right to complete your file also means you’re allowed to have access to your file and see what’s in it.

Applications for compensation and benefits

If a government body is planning to refuse your application for compensation or benefits, it must make sure that your file is completebefore making its final decision.

If your file is incomplete, it must postpone its decision and, if necessary, extend the deadline for you to complete the file. It must also make sure that you have any information you need to communicate with the government body.

Your rights regarding decisions

Quebec government bodies must make decisions that impact you personally within a reasonable amount of time. What’s reasonable will depend on the type of decision and your specific situation.

Government body decisions must respect other rules, including the following:

  • The decision must be based on the right law and the right requirements for your situation. It must consider all the information related to your situation.
  • The decision must be clear and to the point. The average person must be able to understand it.

If the decision goes against you, it needs to explain why. You must be able to understand the decisionmaker’s thought process, the law and requirements they based their decision on, and the documents and information they considered. For example, a decision can’t just say that your request was refused because you didn’t meet the requirements. It must explain which requirements you didn’t meet and why.

A decision that goes against you must also mention what steps you can take to try and get it changed, other than going to court. It must tell you what the deadline is for taking these steps. For example, a decision refusing your request must mention that you can have it “reviewed”. This means you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered if you respect the deadline for doing so.

Automated decision-making

Quebec government bodies must inform you when they use an automated decision-making process to make decisions based on the personal information in your file. Automated decision-making means that humans don’t make the decision. An example would be software that uses your information to decide whether you’re eligible for certain government benefits, like the family allowance.

You can ask a government body to tell you what information was used to make an automated decision and to explain the reasons behind the decision. You can also ask to correct the personal information that was used to make the automated decision or to have the decision reviewed by a civil servant. You’ll then be able to submit your comments to the civil servant reviewing the decision.

To find out more about the rules related to automated decision-making, visit the website of the Commission d’accès à l’information (French only).

Other rights related to government orders and applications for permits

You have other rights in addition to the ones already mentioned in this article if any of the following situations apply to you:

  • A government body plans to order you to do something or to not do something. Some examples would be a government department ordering a contractor to demolish some work it did or ordering a merchant to shut down its business.
  • A government body plans to reject your application for a permit or something similar, like an accreditation.

Before making a decision in these situations, the government body must usually take the following steps:

  • It must tell you about the order or decision it’s planning to make, and explain why.
  • It must tell you if anybody has filed a complaint against you or objected to your application. It must tell you what’s in these complaints or objections and give you an opportunity to reply.
  • It must give you a chance to submit comments to complete your file. You can complete your file by presenting your arguments verbally or in writing, in addition to providing information and documents. You can write a letter to the civil servant responsible for your file, ask to meet in person or call them. Depending on the situation, you can even ask for an official hearing so you can call witnesses.

If you think that a government body hasn’t respected your rights, you can contact the Protecteur du citoyen.