Based in Victoria, B.C.’s Office of the Ombudsperson ensures provincial and local public authorities have acted fairly and reasonably. Here, we chat with the Ombudsperson himself, Jay Chalke.
It’s the Office’s 40th Anniversary this year (1979-2019). What are you and your team trying to achieve?
We’re the public’s one-stop-shop for fairness. Each year, we receive over 8,000 complaints and inquiries from the public about issues of unfairness. We work to help resolve their complaints in a variety of ways from guidance and referrals to investigations. If we find that the government treated a member of the public unfairly, we look for outcomes to help that person and fix the problem for the future. This, in turn, makes government operations more fair going forward.
You have jurisdiction over everything from school districts to ICBC to the Ministry of Health; what ties all that together?
We listen to complaints that the public has about most government organizations from provincial government ministries to local governments and crown corporations such as BC Hydro, ICBC and WorkSafeBC. We also investigate complaints about public schools, universities, self-governing professions and health authorities.
What if you don’t live in Victoria and want to speak with someone face-to-face?
People can contact us by telephone, online (www.bcombudsperson.ca), through the mail or by fax. Some people prefer to talk to us in person so we regularly take our office on the road. Our next event is from Monday, January 28th to Friday, February 1st. We will be hosting one-on-one meetings with the public in Burnaby, North Vancouver, Vancouver and Richmond to give residents an opportunity to discuss their complaints with us. No lines. No waits. Call us to schedule your free and confidential meeting 1-800-567-FAIR (3247).
What are the greatest challenges you face in your role?
Our broad jurisdiction. We have jurisdiction over the provincial government, Crown corporations, all of the agency boards and commissions in the province and over local governments, public schools, and universities. This wide range makes it convenient for the public.
On the other hand, it means that my staff and I need to stay current on emerging trends and changes in administrative best practices across a wide range of sectors. We work hard to be a highly efficient organization, and I am very proud of our staff who are dedicated to high standards of practice in our work and who strive continuously to improve our services.
What do you love about your job?
All our staff members are passionate about listening to the general public’s complaints and having the opportunity to improve how government works through investigating complaints about fairness. We get to listen to and help people and in doing so, we improve public services for everyone. It’s a win-win!
For more information about the mobile clinics and the role of the Office of the Ombudsperson, visit www.bcombudsperson.ca.