A Provincial Government Worker Was Abusive to Me

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If you believe that a decision or action of a provincial public agency has been unfair, rude, unduly slow, negligent, arbitrary, oppressive or unlawful, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson can deal with complaints about provincial government ministries, municipal and regional governments, Crown corporations and government boards. It can also deal with complaints about the following public agencies:

  • British Columbia government ministries, including complaints regarding income assistance and the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program;
  • Crown corporations such as ICBC and BC Hydro;
  • government boards such as WCB and the BC Human Rights Tribunal;
  • hospitals, health authorities, and health-related agencies such as Medical Services Plan and Pharmacare;
  • schools and school districts;
  • universities and colleges;
  • local governments; and
  • professional associations such as the Law Society and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The Office of the Ombudsperson does not have jurisdiction to investigate complaints involving federal government ministries or programs, private corporations, the courts or the police.

First steps[edit]

  1. Make notes of the names of the officials you deal with, their actions and the relevant dates.
  2. Keep copies of all relevant documents.
  3. If your complaint is about a decision, get reasons for the decision.
  4. Ask if the agency has its own process for reviewing or appealing the decision. If so, use it.
  5. If you are not satisfied with the agency's complaint resolution, complete and send in a complaint form within one year of the action you are complaining about. (See Ombudsperson in the Resource List for contact and website information on the BC Ombudsperson complaint process.) You can also file a complaint by telephone between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday: 1-800-567-3247.

What happens next[edit]

The Office of the Ombudsperson will first assess your complaint to determine whether or not it falls within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsperson. You will then be contacted by a worker from the Office of the Ombudsperson to discuss your complaint. If the complaint proceeds, the public agency will be notified and asked to respond. If this does not resolve the complaint, the Office of the Ombudsperson will conduct a further investigation and may make recommendations to the agency and, if necessary, to the legislature. For the most serious issues, the Ombudsperson may issue a public report.

The Office of the Ombudsperson does not have the authority to order a public agency to take certain action. However, because the Ombudsperson reports directly to the BC Legislature, agencies usually do not ignore the Ombudsperson's recommendations.

In any given case, the Ombudsperson may:

  • provide you with information about what steps to take to resolve a complaint;
  • resolve your complaint through consultation;
  • investigate your complaint about administrative unfairness;
  • make recommendations to a public authority; or
  • issue a report to the Legislative Assembly.

If you are not happy with the outcome of the Ombudsperson's investigation, you can contact the Manager of Investigations at the Ombudsperson's office.

The Ombudsperson may refuse to investigate if you have not used an internal review process. For example, many decisions denying welfare benefits can be reviewed and repealed under the Employment and Income Assistance Act. Use that review/appeal process first before going to the Ombudsperson.

Where to get help[edit]

See the Resource List for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:

Your local MLA (Member of the BC Legislative Assembly) may also be willing to help with your complaint against a BC public agency. Call Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867 for contact information for your MLA.

Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Neil Chantler, April 2017.

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