Evolving Jurisdiction Over Time

The Ombudsman’s jurisdictional reach granted by proclamation of the Ombudsman Act included Alberta government departments, boards and agencies. There was an immediate question of jurisdiction over the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) as legal opinions held that the WCB was not a provincial agency within the meaning of the Ombudsman Act.

An amendment was passed on April 25, 1968, and the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction expanded to include the WCB. 

The Ombudsman’s jurisdiction was again challenged by the Minister of Municipal Affairs who questioned the Ombudsman’s ability to investigate a Provincial Planning Board decision. Chief Justice J.V.H. Milvain ruled the Ombudsman did indeed have jurisdiction to investigate. 

The Ombudsman Act was amended to allow the Ombudsman to seize original departmental documents, files and other pertinent items in an investigation and hold them for up to 48 hours. 

A Select Standing Committee affirmed the need for complainants to complete departmental appeals prior to complaining to the Ombudsman but refused to consider expanding jurisdiction over municipal governments and nursing homes. 

The Ombudsman Act was further amended to allow the Ombudsman to launch investigations based on a Ministerial Order. The amendment excluded investigations of hospitals. 

The Ombudsman’s jurisdiction over mental health patient complaints was challenged repeatedly with the release of the Drewry Report which led to major amendments to the Alberta Mental Health Act. In 1988, the new Mental Health Act resulted in an amendment to the Ombudsman Act, removing two mental health hospitals and the Mental Health Patient Advocate from the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. However, the Ombudsman maintained jurisdiction over Mental Health Review Panels. 

The Ombudsman recommended the government review the mandate of the Mental Health Patient Advocate, noting the lack of remedy for voluntary patients and some involuntary patients at mental health hospitals. 

The Ombudsman Act was amended to include protection for persons who make or assist in making a complaint under this Act. 

A significant decision was a ruling by the Information and Privacy Commissioner that Ombudsman investigations are not subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. 

Jurisdiction over the health professions was granted with the enactment of the Health Professions Act, giving the Ombudsman jurisdiction over 28 health professions as the Schedules are proclaimed (in 2008, this was increased to 29 health professions with the addition of the Profession of Podiatry). To date, Schedules have been proclaimed for 27 of the 29 health professions. The Ombudsman also received jurisdiction over three accounting professions by the enactment of the Regulated Accounting Profession Act (now the Chartered Professional Accountants Act) and two forestry professions via the Regulated Forestry Profession Act. 

The enactment of the Veterinary Profession Act brought this profession under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Also, an amendment to the Ombudsman Act clarified that authorities may reconsider a matter based on the Ombudsman’s recommendation notwithstanding any statement in the authority’s Act that its decisions are final and cannot be reheard. 

The Patient Concerns Resolution Process Regulation was enacted which granted the Ombudsman jurisdiction over the Patient Concerns Resolution Process of Alberta Health Services. 

The Ombudsman was granted expanded jurisdiction by the enactment of the Agrology Profession Act. 

A significant ruling in a decision by Justice J.E. Topolniski confirmed the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction to investigate decisions of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. 

Amendments to the Ombudsman Act were passed that will give the Ombudsman the authority to investigate complaints about municipalities. On October 26, 2017, it was announced that changes to the Municipal Government Act, including the expansion of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction to include municipalities, would be proclaimed April 1, 2018.