Throughout her 30-year career with independent review agencies, Mary Marshall has relied on principles she practiced during her work with the Alberta Ombudsman’s office as Director of Legal Services.
After three years with the Ombudsman’s office, Marshall gained firsthand experience in the application of administrative fairness principles by an independent office of the Alberta Legislature. In going on to establish the Office of the Alberta Health Advocate and offering to serve as Health Advocate for its first six months, Marshall pursued an organizational framework that tapped into her experience with the Ombudsman. “The Ombudsman set a high standard for what independence means. Having the authority to conduct proper investigations independent of bureaucracy is a critical characteristic when assessing fairness,” says Marshall. “In setting up the office, I worked to ensure the Health Advocate was as independent as possible so it could properly fulfill its role.”
Seconding an experienced investigator from the Ombudsman’s office helped significantly, Marshall goes on to say. Setting up the advocate’s day-to-day operations to help patients and their families navigate the health care system was one of her three main focuses. Marshall also concentrated on communicating with the public on what the office would do and on collaborating with officials on how to apply guiding legislation, including Alberta’s Health Charter.
A lawyer with broad experience in health law, mental health law, privacy law and administrative law, Marshall has had an extensive career. She has worked on several significant projects and committees as an advisor, legal consultant, and leader in preparing policy papers and advice on privacy legislation, including amendments to the Health Information Act, the Mental Health Act and other health related legislation. She holds a longstanding personal and professional interest in mental health, acting as a volunteer board member for the Canadian Mental Health Association and serving as a vice-chair of a Mental Health Review Panel.
Marshall also recently collaborated with the Ombudsman and staffer Daniel Johns on a best practice paper entitled Giving Voice to Mental Health Patients that was released by the International Ombudsman Institute in February 2021. Drawn to serve vulnerable members of our society, Marshall believes that high quality public services for marginalized individuals, including those with disabilities, reflects very positively on our society.
Now in private practice with Meadows Law in Edmonton, Marshall assists administrators in a better understanding of decision-making through the principles of administrative fairness.
“The Ombudsman’s administrative fairness guidelines offer a tried, true and tested resource I can share with my clients that explains very clearly what the principles mean in practice,” Marshall attests. “There is a high level of understanding and respect for the work that the Ombudsman is doing in the province. Any scrutiny by the Ombudsman means the application of better fairness standards for all Albertans.”
Photo provided by Mary Marshall