Legal Word of the Day: ‘Ombudsman’

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“Ombudsman”: — A government appointee who represents the interests of the public by investigating complaints about the way the government and public servants carry out their duties.

Ombudsmen are “government watchdogs.” They get involved when other administrative options to resolve a complaint about government, agencies, boards or tribunals have been exhausted.

An ombudsman is usually appointed by a government administration, at the local, provincial or federal level, but they work with a great deal of independence. Staying at arm’s length from government is important because the ombudsman’s role is to address complaints of bureaucratic bumbling, rights violations, miscommunication and systemic issues that could result in poor treatment of members of the public.

Ombudsmen have the power to investigate complaints and attempt to resolve them. Their mandate is to make non-binding recommendations and attempt to mediate issues.

According to a Superior Court of Justice decision, “The Ombudsman owes this duty both to the private citizens who claim to be aggrieved and the public at large who have an interest in the proper administration of government.”

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