Frequently Asked Questions
If you have a question, the answer may already be here for you.
What does the Ombudsman do?
The Alberta Ombudsman is a complaint mechanism of last resort. This means the Ombudsman cannot become involved until all rights of review or appeals have been exercised by the individual who has a complaint, or until the time limits for exercising those rights have expired. If rights of review or appeal or other remedies were available to you, but you did not exercise them, the Ombudsman may decide to refuse to investigate your complaint.
It is an individual’s responsibility to try to resolve the issue before involving the Ombudsman. For instance, many Alberta government departments, boards, agencies and commissions have internal review or appeal processes available to resolve complaints. If an individual has completed all available reviews or appeals and remains dissatisfied with either the fairness of the process or the outcome, the individual is encouraged to write to the Ombudsman.
How does an investigation occur?
Once the Ombudsman approves a complaint for investigation, a letter is sent informing the appropriate Deputy Minister of a department or administrative head of an authority of the Ombudsman’s decision to investigate. The letter of complaint is provided with a request for a detailed response from the authority.
Once a reply has been received, an Ombudsman investigator gathers additional information to enable the Ombudsman to decide whether to support the complaint. If, after a thorough investigation the Ombudsman decides a complaint is supported, the objective is to make recommendations as to a fair and reasonable resolution to the complaint. In most cases, authority representatives are receptive and responsive to the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by a decision of an Alberta department or professional organization can contact the Ombudsman. We will determine if the complaint is an issue the Ombudsman can investigate. If it is not, we will try to provide referral information.
What do I need to do before I complain to the Ombudsman?
You must have completed all avenues of review and appeal available to you with the authority. If rights of review or appeal or other remedies were available to you, but you did not exercise them, the Ombudsman may decide to refuse to investigate your complaint. If you are unsure what reviews and appeals may be available to you, contact the authority or the Ombudsman’s intake officer.
Must the complaint be in writing?
Yes. An online complaint form is available on the homepage or in the “Complaints” section of this website, or you can mail us a letter or send us a fax. For more information on submitting a complaint, please refer to the “Complaints” section of our website.
Can someone submit a complaint on my behalf?
Yes. However, you will need to provide a signed consent for another person to represent you.
Does it cost anything to complain to the Ombudsman?
No. The Ombudsman’s office does not charge a fee for any services.
What complaints can the Ombudsman investigate?
The Ombudsman investigates the actions and decisions of Alberta government departments, agencies, boards and commissions, as well as complaints against the patient concerns resolution process of Alberta Health Services and several professional bodies, including some health professions, accounting professions, foresters and veterinarians.
What happens to the information I provide to the Ombudsman?
Your letter of complaint may be shared with the authority in order to enable them to respond. The information provided to the authority cannot be used in any way that would detrimentally affect you. Information contained in Ombudsman records cannot be used in any other proceedings, including before a board or a court. Ombudsman records cannot be disclosed subject to a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy application.
How long does it take to do an investigation?
We have made the timely completion of investigations a priority. Most investigations are completed within 6 to 12 months. However, the length of time to complete an investigation can vary widely based on the complexity of the issue(s) investigated. One of our performance goals is to increase the number of investigations completed within 6 months by at least 10% over the previous fiscal year.
Will I know the results of an investigation?
Yes. Even if the Ombudsman is unable to support the complaint, an investigator reviews the findings with the complainant. The Ombudsman also writes each complainant advising of the outcome of the investigation. Each individual has the assurance that an independent and impartial investigation has occurred.
If the Ombudsman supports the complaint, what power does the Ombudsman have?
The Ombudsman has the power to recommend corrective actions to the department or professional organization to right the wrong. In most cases, the recommendations are accepted and implemented. On the rare occasion when no action is taken that seems to the Ombudsman to be adequate or appropriate, the Ombudsman can take the recommendations to the Minister. If the issue is unresolved at the ministerial level, the Ombudsman has the power to present it to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and ultimately to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. The Ombudsman may also make a public report on any matter he considers in the public interest.
If the Ombudsman is funded by the government, how can he be impartial?
The Ombudsman is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and reports directly to the Legislative Assembly. The Ombudsman operates independently from any part of the Alberta government and individual elected officials.