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Ombudsman releases 2001 Annual Report

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Mar 17, 2003

The Manitoba Ombudsman released his 2001 Annual Report noting that the office worked on 945 complaints in 2001, which included 719 new cases. In addition, the office fielded over 3100 enquiries in-person and by telephone.

In releasing the report the Ombudsman noted that the office has helped to bring resolution to thousands of disputes over the years but that in itself was not to be viewed as an indication that Manitoba does not have a dedicated and professional public service. The Ombudsman commented that his experience suggests Manitoba is fortunate to have such a hard working and qualified civil service.

However, the Manitoba Ombudsman expressed concern about what he felt was a lack of regard for recommendations made to Manitoba Agriculture and Food. Two recommendations supporting farmers’ cases were, in the Ombudsman’s opinion, unfairly rejected by Manitoba Agriculture and Food without reason:

  • Manitoba Agricultural Credit Corporation increased the value on a land transaction by 29% at a farmer’s expense by using one set of criteria to assess the value of the land when purchasing it and a different set of criteria when selling it back to the farmer a few months later. (AR page 23)
  • An Ombudsman recommendation to compensate two farmers for diseased elk purchased from Manitoba Agriculture and Food were ignored even though documented evidence in the department’s files noted that evidence of potential health problems existed in some of the animals. (AR Page 25)

The Ombudsman felt that Manitoba Agriculture and Food did not adequately dispute the facts the Ombudsman presented nor did it argue that the Ombudsman’s findings and conclusions were wrong or unreasonable.

“It seems to me that Manitoba Agriculture and Food simply did not want to accept the recommendations in the two cases,” the Ombudsman said. “Meanwhile we feel that justice has not prevailed, as we believe that the Manitoba farmers involved have valid complaints against the Provincial Government. These cases are troubling as I also feel that they demonstrate a scant regard for this independent Office of the Legislature and the values it represents.”

The Ombudsman noted a number of other concerns in the 2001 Annual Report, including, that he remains of the opinion that:

  • it is not acceptable to use youth or adult correctional facilities as a place of safety for children. It is also questionable in terms of a child’s constitutional rights. (AR Page 49)
  • a correctional facility is not an appropriate detoxification centre for youth. (AR Page 50)

The Ombudsman also highlighted several Ombudsman cases that have led to amendments of public policies or procedures by working cooperatively with complainants and public bodies.

  • The Custodial Policy on Restraint Equipment was updated with an appendix on the Use of Emergency Restraint Chairs after the Ombudsman reported on a case where, contrary to Winnipeg Remand Centre policy/standing orders and chair manufacturer’s instructions, an inmate at the centre was confined in a restraint chair for over nine hours. (2001 Annual Report (AR) Page 36)
  • The Public Trustee’s Procedure’s Manual was to be revised to ensure further checks were done with the Bank of Canada to locate dormant accounts shortly after the 10-year anniversary of the date when a person becomes a client of the Public Trustee. (AR Page 39)
  • Adult Probation Services revised their policy on Warrant Expiry Dates (WED) after it was discovered that there were instances where people serving conditional sentences were not aware of their revised WED. (AR Page 37)
  • The Courts Division standardized the fees and costs associated with garnishment after it was discovered that court administrative offices throughout the province were providing differing information on fees. (AR Page 38)
  • The Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) policy was being revised to ensure more effort was made by MEP to substantiate proofs of payments. In some instances this would help prevent payors from having to resort to the courts in attempts to prove they had paid maintenance during times when payees were not involved with the MEP. (AR page 37)
  • The City of Brandon amended by-laws to allow delinquent water bills by tenants to be referred to a collection agency, rather than adding the delinquent amount immediately to the property tax bill of a landlord. (AR page 57)
  • An amendment to provincial legislation was being considered as a result of an Ombudsman investigation that questioned why a CFS agency could sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA) with one parent, placing a child in care without notifying and obtaining the consent of the other parent. (AR Page 47)