Quebec-government departments and agencies have a duty to act fairly in making decisions involving citizens.
This article explains the main rights that any provincial department or agency must respect when it makes a decision that concerns you in particular.
If you think that your rights have not been respected, you can contact the Québec Ombudsman to get information or to make a complaint against the government department or agency involved.
Right to Be Informed
Government departments and agencies must give you the information you need to properly understand decisions they make in matters that concern you in particular. They must also answer questions you ask about your rights.
Also, the rules and procedures that you are supposed to follow must be accessible, straightforward and flexible. Normally, you shouldn't have to consult a lawyer or specialist to understand your rights and what steps to take.
Don't hesitate to ask the government department or agency questions you might have.
Personalized Help and Information
In certain situations, the government department or agency must help you and give you personalized information. For example, this would be the case if you apply to the Ministère de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale (department of employment and social solidarity) for help finding a job or for welfare.
On top of giving you general information about your rights, the department or agency must guide you through the process and give you information that specifically applies to your situation.
You also have a right to personalized information when the rules of a benefits scheme change a lot. The government department must give you the information you need so you can respect the new rules and continue to get your benefits.
Guidelines and Policies
Provincial-government departments and agencies must give you access to the documents they use to make their decisions. You can go to their websites to read the guidelines and policies they use in making their decisions.
Right to Be Treated With Respect
Civil servants - employees who work for government departments and agencies have these duties:
- be respectful when they communicate with you. This rule applies to the way they talk to you and the way they act. For example, they must respect your right to privacy.
- act in good faith. This means that they can't try to harm you. For example, if a civil servant made a decision based on information she knew was false, this would be against the duty to act in good faith.
- behave ethically. For example, civil servants must act honesty and with integrity. They must also avoid situations of conflict of interest, which means putting the interests of the public above their personal interests or those of people in their personal circles.
- avoid discrimination and not make a decision based on prejudices. For more on this, see our article on remedies against discrimination.
Right to Complete Your File
Before making a decision that involves you, the government department or agency must ask you to provide all the information and documents needed to complete your file and make a decision. The government body can set a deadline for you to provide the information and documents.
The right to complete your file also involves allowing you to consult your file and see exactly what information is in it
Applications for Compensation and Benefits
If you make a request for compensation or benefits and the government department or agency is about to make a decision that goes against you, it must ensure that your file is complete before making its decision.
If your file is incomplete, it must postpone its decision and, if necessary, extend the deadline for you to complete the file. Obviously, it must ensure that you know how to reach the department or agency involved.
Your Rights Regarding Decisions
Government departments or agencies that make decisions concerning you must make them within a reasonable period. What is reasonable will depend on the type of decision and the circumstances of your case.
Government departments and agencies must also respect other rules, including these ones:
- The decision must be based on rules of law and the criteria relevant to your case. It must be made after considering all the information relating to your case.
- The decision must be clear and concise; in other words, it must be written precisely and in a way that the average person can understand.
- If the decision goes against you:
- It must include the reasons in support of the decision. You must be able to understand
- the reasoning behind the decision,
- the criteria and rules of law applied, and
- the documents and information relied on
For example, a decision cannot just say that your request was refused because you did not meet the criteria. It must explain which criteria were not met and why.
- It must mention what you can do to change the decision, other than legal action in the courts, and it must mention the time limits to act.
For example, if your request is refused, the decision must mention that you can have it "reviewed", which means asking it to be re-examined within a specific deadline.
Specific Rights: Orders and Applications for Permits and Licenses
If any of the following situations apply to you, you have some other rights on top of the ones already mentioned in this article:
- A government department or agency intends to issue an order that involves you. In other words, it will make an order requiring you to do or something or to not do something.
For example, a government department is going to require a contractor to demolish some work it has done, or oblige a merchant to stop its business activities.
- You apply to a government department or agency for a permit or other similar authorization (for example, an accreditation) and it intends to make a decision that goes against you.
BEFORE making a decision, the government department or agency must usually do the following:
- It must tell you that it plans to issue an order or make a decision. It must also explain the reasons in support of what it intends to do.
- It must tell you if anybody has filed a complaint against you or if anybody has objected to your application. It must tell you what is in these complaints or objections, and give you an opportunity to reply.
- It must give you a chance to submit comments to complete your file. You can complete your file by providing information and documents or presenting verbal or written arguments.
You can write a letter to the civil servant responsible for your file, or ask to meet this person or talk by phone. Depending on the circumstances, you can even ask for a hearing so you can call witnesses. (A hearing is a session at which you can present your side of the case.)
If you think that the government has not respected your rights when making a decision, contact the Québec Ombudsman.
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.