An ombudsman is a person appointed to investigate complaints. The word “ombudsman” has Swedish origins, and is often translated as “citizen’s representative” or “representative of the people”.
In Manitoba the Ombudsman is an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly, who reports to the Assembly through the Office of the Speaker. The Ombudsman is appointed for a term of six years and may be re-appointed for one additional term. This security of tenure is one of the ways in which Ombudsman neutrality is protected.
“Manitoba Ombudsman” refers to both the individual appointed as Ombudsman, and to the office as a whole. Manitoba Ombudsman can investigate your complaint about access to information and privacy matters, the fairness of government actions or decisions, or serious ‘wrongdoings’ that you believe may have occurred.
Manitoba Ombudsman accepts and investigates four broad areas of complaint about provincial government departments and agencies, and municipalities:
- government administration (fairness of actions or decisions) (the Ombudsman Act)
- government ‘wrongdoing’ (the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act)
- access to information and privacy (the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act)
- access to personal health information and privacy (the Personal Health Information Act)
In addition to government, complaints about personal health information and privacy can also be made about ‘trustees’ of personal health information including health professionals, health care facilities, and health services agencies.
Please see the “Frequently Asked Questions” sections within each division for more specific information.
Manitoba Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about the federal government or private businesses. Depending on the kind of complaint you would like to make, the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction changes slightly. Please see “Frequently Asked Questions” within each division for more specific information.
No, our services are free.
The process of making a complaint varies depending on the kind of complaint you would like to make.
For complaints about government administration (if you feel you have been treated unfairly): write a letter to us, print and fill out the “Ombudsman Complaint Form,” or submit your complaint using our secure online form.
For complaints about government wrongdoing: write a letter to us, print and fill out the “Disclosure of Wrongdoing Form,” or submit your complaint using our secure online form.
For complaints about access to information and privacy matters, complaints must be submitted on a form prescribed by law. Print and fill out the “FIPPA Complaint Form.”
For complaints about access to personal health information: write a letter to us or print and fill out the “PHIA Access Complaint Form.” For a complaint about personal health information privacy, please write a letter to us.
If you have any questions about how to make a complaint, contact us at 204-982-9130 or 1-800-665-0531 (toll free in Manitoba).
The Ombudsman is not part of any provincial government department or agency, or municipality. In other words, the Ombudsman has an “arm’s length” relationship with the government he or she can investigate. At the same time the Ombudsman has the authority and the access necessary to raise serious and important matters with the government.
Ombudsman offices are designed and structured to be impartial. Security of tenure, broad powers of investigation and the power to report publicly insulate the Ombudsman from political interference. Historically, elected officials have demonstrated tremendous respect for the independence of Ombudsmen. Like the public, legislators can rely upon the neutrality of the office. The job of an Ombudsman is to investigate complaints and recommend improvements to the administration and implementation of government programs and services. The effective administration of government programs is a goal shared by all legislators.
People who make complaints to the Ombudsman sometimes feel that we should be more of an advocate for their position. Government sometimes feels like we are being too much of an advocate.
The Ombudsman’s role is not to be an advocate for an individual. To assume the role of an advocate would be to undermine our neutrality. We must investigate in an impartial manner and come to a conclusion based on our investigative findings. However, when necessary, we are an advocate for administrative improvement.
Ombudsman advocacy differs from traditional advocacy in many respects.
Charlene Paquin was appointed Ombudsman on May 4, 2015. Since 1970, Manitoba has had the following Ombudsmen: George Maltby (1970-1982), Gordon Earle (1982-1994), Barry Tuckett (1994-2005), Irene Hamilton (2005-2011) and Mel Holley (Acting) (2012-2015).
About 30 people are employed in the Ombudsman’s office. There are two divisions in the office. The Access and Privacy Division deals with access to information and privacy matters, while the Ombudsman Division deals with administrative matters and disclosures of wrongdoing. Please see our current organizational chart for more information.