April 5, 2006
GIVE OMBUDSMAN OVERSIGHT IN FORBIDDEN KEY AREAS
Queen's Park - Ontario
New Democrats are pushing a legislative package thatwould give the provincial Ombudsman powers to better protect Ontarians when government institutions fail them. NDP Critic for Children and Youth Issues, Hamilton East MPP Andrea Horwath,and Trinity-Spadina MPP Rosario Marchese, the party's Education Critic,unveiled a trio of private members bills they'll introduce today. They want the government to adopt the entire package and give people a fair opportunity to appeal unjust decisions.
"We believe the Ombudsman should have a broad and unfettered mandate.There's no reason why a government should stand in the way of the Ombudsman's investigation of any problem," said Marchese. "Getting to the bottom of complaints about schools, health care facilities and children's welfare is the right thing to do for kids' sake and foreveryone's sake," Horwath said.
Horwath is proposing two new laws giving the Ombudsman the currently forbidden power to investigate matters concerning the administration of Children's Aid Societies and hospital and health care facilities. Five provinces - Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and NovaScotia - have Ombudsman oversight of child welfare issues, including child protection. Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland have independent oversight through separate offices. Eight jurisdictions in Canada --British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador,Quebec, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Yukon Territories -- give their Ombudsman Offices the mandate to investigate hospitals. Concerning schoolsand boards, the Ombudsman has a role in BC, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Yukon.
In December, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin told a government committee hewas "duty-bound" to seek independent oversight of CAS administrativedecisions following the death of Jeffrey Baldwin.
Currently, the CAS board of directors investigates complaints.
Similarly, the government doesn't let the Ombudsman investigate problems inhealth care or education, said Marchese. His private members bill wouldenable the Ombudsman to investigate complaints relating to school boardpolicies, such as suspensions and expulsions under the controversial SafeSchools Act. "It is vital that people have a neutral third party who can investigate andmake recommendations. Just because the government won't listen, doesn't meanpeople don't deserve to be heard," he said. "Independent oversight is crucial for families dealing with the harsh and heart-wrenching impact of decisions that adversely affect them," said Horwath. -30-