What is an Ombudsman?

The Ombudsman is independent of city government reporting to the legislative body, in this case, Toronto City Council.

Ombudsman are impartial investigators of the public’s complaints about the administration of city government, including its agencies, boards and commissions.

We look at problems when the public service’s procedures and processes have not resolved the complaint.

We are an office of last resort, where a person(s) brings a complaint only after they have tried the regular channels.

We can make recommendations, for example, to change conduct, practice or policy that uncovers improper administration.

We are neither advocates for the complainant nor apologists for government.

We are advocates for fairness.

We have subpoena powers to obtain documents, compel witnesses and enter premises.

At the City of Toronto, the Ombudsman is exempt from the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Ombudsman decisions cannot be challenged in court.

Our services are free and confidential.

We do not have to investigate every complaint we receive even if we have the power to do so.

The Ombudsman does not have the power to force an organization to implement a recommendation but instead has the power of moral suasion and to make the matter public by reporting it. The failure to act on an Ombudsman’s recommendation becomes Toronto City Council’s responsibility to hold the public service accountable for its actions. In this way the Ombudsman assists City Council in ensuring responsible governance.

The Ombudsman does not duplicate others’ roles in resolving issues. We are empowered to conduct an impartial investigation and arrive at recommendations after due process has been followed and other avenues have been exhausted.

The Ombudsman has no power to make binding orders. We do not adjudicate, make orders or enforce judgments.

The Ombudsman does not question an organization just because someone does not like or disagrees with a decision. You must be personally affected and be able to demonstrate that you have a legitimate complaint as a result of a decision, act, omission, or recommendation.