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Ombudsman Act FAQ

What kind of complaints can the ombudsman investigate under the Ombudsman Act?

The ombudsman investigates complaints from people who feel they have been treated unfairly by departments or agencies of the provincial government or by a municipal government. The Ombudsman Act states that a complaint must be about a "matter of administration". While a matter of administration is not defined in the act, the court has defined it as "all conduct engaged in by governmental authority in furtherance of governmental policy" - essentially anything other than political decision making. Once the political agenda has been set and public servants start to implement it, those are matters of administration.

What do I need to do before I complain to the ombudsman?

You should first try to solve the problem with the government organization involved to allow the organization the opportunity to resolve the problem. 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 government organization or the ombudsman's office.

We also have some tips for pursuing complaints on your own - see our guide called Achieving Fairness: Your Guide to Dealing with Government.

Which government bodies can I complain about?

Under the Ombudsman Act, the ombudsman can investigate a complaint about:

  • provincial government departments and agencies
  • Crown corporations
  • boards and commissions that are directly or indirectly responsible to the government
  • municipalities
  • local government districts, planning districts, and conservation districts
  • colleges (Red River College and Assiniboine Community College)
  • regional health authorities
What can't I complain about?
  • decisions of the Legislative Assembly
  • municipal policies in the form of resolutions or bylaws
  • court decisions
  • decisions of the federal government
  • school divisions, school boards
  • treatment decisions of a health professional
  • private businesses
  • private lawyers
  • private disputes
Can the ombudsman refuse to investigate my complaint?

Yes, in certain circumstances. The ombudsman may refuse to investigate a complaint if:

  • it is more than a year old
  • there is still an avenue of appeal available to you
  • the circumstances of the case do not warrant investigation
Must the complaint be in writing?

Yes. The Ombudsman Act requires that complaints be made in writing. You can either write a letter, fill out our Ombudsman Act complaint form (available on our website or by calling our office), or submit your complaint using our secure online form. A complaints analyst from our Intake Services unit can assist individuals who have difficulty with putting their complaint in writing.

What details must I include in a complaint?
  • The name of the department, agency, or municipality being complained about
  • A summary of the complaint with sufficient detail to explain the problem
  • The dates, names and phone numbers of any departmental person you have been in contact with about your complaint (e.g. an employee, manager, supervisor, or other)
  • Information about any appeal hearing that may have been held and the outcome
  • Copies of any relevant documentation
  • Your full name, address and phone number where you can be contacted
Can a complaint be made anonymously?

Yes, but it works better if we are able to contact you. There are times when we know we can help someone but unless we can reach them we aren’t able to do that.

Must I make my complaint in English?

Some employees in the ombudsman's office speak both English and French. If necessary, we can obtain a translator for other languages, or provide information in an alternate format.

Is there a cost to make a complaint?

No. There is no fee for our services.