We reported in December 2014 that new powers were coming to the
Ombudsman that would permit the Office of the Ombudsman to
investigate and make recommendations regarding complaints with
respect to school boards.
This new authority began on September 1, 2015. A week
following the implementation of the new powers, the Ombudsman
reported that 50 complaints had been made during the first
While this power to investigate and make recommendations to
school boards regarding complaints from the public is new, for
several years the Ombudsman has been reporting in its Annual Report
the number of complaints about school boards received on a yearly
basis. Last year, it was reported that 260 complaints and
inquiries about school boards were received by the Ombudsman's
Office, which included issues such as transportation, special
education, school closures, hiring, and the maintenance and
condition of facilities. The total number of complaints
received for all sectors under the Ombudsman's jurisdiction was
Section 14(1) of the Ombudsman Act gives the Ombudsman
the power and authority to investigate "any decision or
recommendation made or any act done or omitted in the course of the
administration of a public sector body and affecting any person or
body of persons in his, her or its personal capacity."
Such an investigation can be initiated by a member of the public or
by the Ombudsman. The power of investigation is subject to the
exercise and completion of an appeal, hearing or review of the
matter at issue or the expiry of the period for the right to be
exercised. The Ombudsman also has broad discretion to refuse
to investigate a complaint.
During a presentation to the Ontario Catholic Trustees'
Association in April 2015, the Ombudsman reported that complaints
received by his office were investigated by lawyers. In
addition, there is an internal committee called the Special
Ombudsman Response Team that was created to conduct
"specialized systemic investigations on high-profile issues
affecting large numbers of people1" that are
identified by the Ombudsman.
Since an investigation by the Ombudsman cannot take place before
an internal review process is complete, school boards might want to
consider ensuring that their process for resolving parent and
community concerns is a formal procedure pursuant to board
policy. A procedure outlining a process for the review of
concerns may assist a school board to resolve the issue before a
complaint is made to the Ombudsman, as well as avoid the Ombudsman
from determining that there is a systemic issue with the way in
which parent and/or community concerns are managed by the school
We will continue to monitor the work of the Ombudsman's
Office and provide up-to-date information via our newsletters and
Morning Recess webinars.
1. As described on the website of the Ontario
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The recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in BMW Financial Services Canada, a Division of BMW Canada Inc. v. McLean provides some useful insight into the relationship between automobile dealers and the financing arms of the manufacturers for whom those dealers are franchisees.
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