The role of the Quebec Ombudsman is to protect the rights of citizens using public services in Quebec. It is an impartial body that is independent of the government.
The Quebec Ombudsman can help you in various ways. Its services are free and completely confidential.
Role of the Quebec Ombudsman
The Quebec Ombudsman helps to improve the quality of public services. It can become involved in a wide variety of situations to prevent and correct errors and injustices against citizens who use these services.
You can contact the Quebec Ombudsman if you believe that one of your rights has not been respected, or if you feel you were treated improperly or unfairly by
- the government administration, which includes a department or agency, or
- the health and social services network.
An Impartial and Independent Mediator
The Quebec Ombudsman does not act as your lawyer. It considers both sides of the problem, and it examines your point of view as well as the position of the public body concerned. The Quebec Ombudsman must remain impartial and independent at all times.
To do this, the Quebec Ombudsman encourages discussion and friendly settlements. The Ombudsman can act as a mediator to help you find solutions to problems involving public services. (A mediator is someone who helps people who disagree on an issue to find a solution.
The Rights of Users of Public Services
The law gives rights to all people who use public services in Quebec. So, you can ask the Quebec Ombudsman for help in having your rights respected if you are in one of these groups:
- a citizen, a newcomer to the province or someone who lives outside Quebec
- an entrepreneur or self-employed worker
- a group of people, such as an association, a foundation or a non-profit organization
- a legal person, such as a company
Here are some of the rights of users of public services:
- the right to receive services within a reasonable time
- the right to be treated with respect by government employees and by the health and social services network
- the right to express your point of view when asking for something from a department or public agency
- if your request was refused, the right to know why
To learn more about your rights when you use public services, please refer to our articles Complaints Against Quebec-Government Bodies and Filing a Complaint About Health or Social Services.
Powers of the Quebec Ombudsman
The Quebec Ombudsman has many powers and can become involved in various ways. These are some of the things it does:
- receives complaints and carries out investigations to correct errors and injustices
- intervenes on its own initiative to correct a situation when a citizen's rights are not respected
- makes recommendations to the government and the health and social services network to improve the quality of the services they offer
- suggests changes to the law to improve the quality of public services and to protect citizens' rights
Main Areas Where the Ombudsman Intervenes
The Quebec Ombudsman intervenes with (1) government departments and agencies in Quebec and (2) the health and social services network.
Here are a few examples of departments and agencies where the Ombudsman often intervenes:
- Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec, also known as the SAAQ (licence bureau)
- Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, also known as the CNESST (the board that deals with worker's compensation)
- Revenu Québec (for taxes)
Here are some examples in the health and social services network where the ombudsman often intervenes:
- community health centres (CLSCs)
- residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs)
What the Quebec Ombudsman Does Not Do
Although the Québec Ombudsman can intervene in many situations, there are times it is not allowed to. For example, it cannot handle complaints in these situations:
- Your problem involves a body that the Québec Ombudsman does not have authority over.
Examples: municipalities, private companies, Canadian (federal) government
- Your problem concerns the health and social services network, but you have not tried to settle it first through a complaints and service quality commissioner.
- Your problem concerns the actions of a doctor, pharmacist or dentist.
In these situations, the Quebec Ombudsman can still give you information and point you in the right direction.
If you are not sure where to begin, the Quebec Ombudsman's office can give you some suggestions. The centres d'assistance et d'accompagnement aux plaintes (complaint assistance and support centres - website in French only) can also help if your problem concerns the health and social services network.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.