1999-2000 ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO OMBUDSMAN
Thursday 15 June 2000
1999-2000 Annual Report, Ontario Ombudsman
Mr Clare Lewis
STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Chair / Président
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek PC)
Ms Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood ND)
Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek PC)
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton L)
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell L)
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa PC)
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough PC)
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford PC)
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre / -Centre PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre / -Centre PC)
Clerk pro tem / Greffier par intérim
Mr Douglas Arnott
Staff / Personnel
Mr Andrew McNaught, research officer,
Research and Information Services
The committee met at 1533 in committee room 1.
1999-2000 ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO OMBUDSMAN
Consideration of the 1999-2000 Annual Report of the Ontario Ombudsman.
The Chair (Mr R. Gary Stewart): Ladies and gentlemen, we will call the meeting to order, now that we do have a quorum. I believe everybody got a copy of the Ombudsman's report today, albeit some didn't get it too early in the day so probably have not had the opportunity of going through it. That's the reason we have the Ombudsman with us today. I believe this is a precedent. I don't think, certainly in my time up here, that the Ombudsman has come to the committee to discuss his report.
Welcome, Mr Lewis. I appreciate you coming. Please have a seat. We'll turn the floor over to you, sir.
Mr Clare Lewis: Thank you, Mr Stewart, and members. I appreciate your agreeing to see me today. I felt that this was a time when I ought to come before the committee. You'll find that I speak in my report today a fair amount about accountability of government.
The Chair: Can I get you to introduce your colleague just for the record.
Mr Lewis: Of course. Ms Wendy Ray is counsel in the Office of the Ombudsman. I've asked her to sit with me because sometimes I get lost in the report and she can point me to the right page. When you ask me questions, it flusters me, right, Mr Lalonde?
I have made, as I'll discuss with you, some fairly strong comments about accountability as a responsibility of government. I think it's a responsibility of the Ombudsman and I am accountable, and I see you as my accountability partner, if you will, in reporting back to the Legislature.
The report was delivered to the Speaker this morning at I believe 10 o'clock for placing before the Legislature this afternoon. I was before the press at 10:30 for close to an hour and addressed some issues. There is a press release which is being distributed to you which will give you a flavour of the report.
At your leisure, I would invite you to glance through this report. I'm rather pleased with it, frankly. It's of course only reporting on two months of my tenure. I have only been there four months, and it's up to March 31, so my predecessor has the rest of the responsibility and kudos or whatever. I am particularly interested that you look at my opening, "Ombudsman Message." I speak there of the need for the Ombudsman to build bridges with government, with the Legislature, with the public service and with the public we serve generally, the communities. I talk about my intent to do that and to operate an office which is open and transparent and accountable.
The way in which the report is structured, it has the opening remarks and it then goes into issues such as our budget and data on a client survey which we had done to determine how we're serving the public and what publics are coming to us. We then go on into the complaint statistics, which are set out in some detail. Then we have what we call "Case Stories," and they take almost exactly one half of the volume, 24 pages. Case stories deal with principal issues that I have highlighted, called "Case Story Highlights," and with formal investigations and with informal resolutions of the complaints.
I want to start off by saying that this year we tabulated some 22,720 complaints. Of those, perhaps 14,000 were jurisdictional in the sense that they were provincial as opposed to federal. Staff has spent a lot of time dealing with federal, municipal and private complaints, and so on, and steering people and assisting them as we can. But of the jurisdictional complaints, I wanted to point out to you, in terms of our service delivery, that 75% of the over 13,000 jurisdictional complaints are resolved by our office within 20 days; 50% of those 13,000-plus jurisdictional complaints are disposed of within six days. By "disposed of" I mean resolved. They are withdrawn sometimes. The problems are solved, as you will see in the case stories, through inquiries. Information is given and the person is satisfied with the information provided. But the cases are able to be closed at that point. It's a much smaller number that go forward to a more formal appreciation, and ultimately perhaps to an investigation.
As you know, I came before you a month or so ago because Ms Jamieson had four reports tabled with this committee from last April and I had to deal with them. That was my priority. I reported to you at that time when I came that in my view I had a positive response on the adoption disclosure registry in terms of the $2.4 million and the commitment to clear the backlog within 18 months. Further, I was able to settle one of the human rights complaints issues that Ms Jamieson had brought forward for consideration by this committee by an apology and a payment to the complainant.
The other two were withdrawn, if you'll recall, because they were service delivery complaints of the Human Rights Commission and of the Family Responsibility Office, on the basis that I determined that the information in those investigation reports that were laid before you was no longer current. Since what essentially happens in front of you when the Ombudsman decides to press is a hearing, with me on the one side and the deputy on the other disputing the matter, I didn't feel I could make the cases on the basis of the information that you had been provided. It might have been right; I'm sure it was OK for that time, but not now.
I had been assured as well by both agencies that some significant steps of improvement had been taken. I will say to you I have not yet had time to verify that, and you'll note that the complaints against FRO, for instance, are still high. That's listed in here; they are almost the same as they were. I think we are familiar that there are still ongoing issues. I'm not saying that I'm not interested in the future of FRO and the Human Rights Commission and their backlogs and other difficulties that they're having, particularly FRO, but I'm not in a position to report to you on them at this time.
What I have reported on that seems to be getting a lot of interest from the press, given the calls I've had back since this morning, are the two stories that are set out on pages 24 and 25-27. The first has to do with the Highway 407 collection of tolls. I initiated personally-this is my own-an own-motion investigation in late February, early March into the issue of the 407 difficulties that came to light and the Ministry of Transportation's involvement in the refusal of renewal of licence plates. My concern on the investigation and the reason for doing it was an accountability issue. I want to say to you I closed the investigation within five weeks. It was opened, dealt with and closed, because the ministry responded very quickly to that particular problem. You may recall that some 80,000 people had been denied their renewals and 120,000 more were in the pipe about to be denied their renewals.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood): I do recall.
Mr Lewis: Yes. The ministry suspended that program of denial until they could ensure that there was a proper arbitration process, and the public was aware of it, to solve those complaints. That was a good response and I commended them for it. I wrote in my report and I bring this before you that-I'll do it from my press release because it's an easier way to do it. I took the position in a letter to the Deputy Minister of Transportation that "it was unfortunate that neither the act," that is the 407 act, "nor the concession and ground lease agreement covering its implementation contained accountability mechanisms for legislative compliance regarding toll collection."
The issue was that the government had reserved to itself the power to act punitively on behalf of the private partner in the collection of its fees. I'm not quarrelling with that mechanism but my position was, and is, that it raised the matter of having the need to provide for accountability so that those members of the public who are caught in that have access to a dispute resolution procedure. That is what is happening now and why I ended the matter, but it wasn't in the original agreement. My comment, and this may become a theme, was: "The Ombudsman recommended lessons learned in this case be shared with other government agencies: `This matter highlights the need in privatization initiatives for accountability mechanisms to ensure that the private sector partner acts fairly with the public.'" That was one of my major highlights and issues.
The second one had to do with systemic problems in correctional services. We had over 6,000 complaints last year from inmates of provincial facilities. There were too many complaints for us to investigate on an individual basis, although some of them of course were investigated individually, but the principal thing that occurred was that our office went on an "own motion" system-wide basis to look at the policies, procedures and the standing orders of the ministry and found that they were fine. They had good documentation, good directions to staff. What was not fine was considerable inconsistency in the application of the qualities of the ministry and the standing orders in individual institutions. So the three areas of greatest concern where we felt there was a real lack of consistency and lack of enforcement of policy was in use of force, segregation of inmates and lost property.
We did find some cases in which there was error or improper conduct. For instance, in one, a correctional officer used mace on an inmate although he had not had training in it and the policies require training before the application of that use of force, and in another one there was a hygiene issue of some substance in a segregation cell-and it has been rectified-but really quite severe. But generally speaking what we discovered is we weren't able, and neither was the ministry, to determine whether these complaints had validity or not because the record-keeping was so inadequate.
I'll give you an example. The policies require that if an injury occurs to an inmate, photographs must be taken immediately. It's not as if they weren't necessarily being taken; there was no way of establishing, by the time a photograph got taken, when the Ombudsman showed upon on the scene that you could determine anything. We were very concerned, given the number of institutions and the number of persons in custody, that there needed to be improvement here. I must tell you that the ministry was very co-operative. They responded positively. They've increased training, done some revisions of their policies and their standing orders and they've taken several significant steps, and so we closed the investigation.
But once again, and this is my position on the matter, I see this as an accountability issue. The ministry, which is responsible for the operation at this time of those facilities, was unable to account, by reason of the inconsistent enforcement of policy, for the treatment of persons who were incarcerated and in their charge. I commented because this is an issue with correctional institutions and as privatization initiatives proceed in this ministry, as we understand they may well, the issue of accountability and the treatment of inmates will remain a matter of concern. What I am saying there essentially-and I'm not speaking to the issue of privatization or not; that's not the issue which I am attending to, but rather that as they do proceed, there is a real need for the government and the ministries to ensure that the private partners are accountable to those ministries. My position, with respect, is that prisoners who government has incarcerated are entitled to the protection of government while they're in custody. By the way, I'm not suggesting there has been any wrongdoing in this at all, because the initiatives haven't gone forward, with one exception, but I'm asking, as I did in the 407, that the accountability issues be kept foremost in mind so that prisoners can be assured and the government can be assured that they will be looked after appropriately-hygiene, use of force and so on. Those were the two lead items in the report and really represent the theme.
I can say briefly that when I had to read the case stories, 24 pages of them, and decide whether they were going to be included in the report, back in April sometime, as I said this morning, I undertook the chore-I've got a lot of paper here to read; here I go-I found myself being drawn in and I was frankly quite moved by what was occurring in these stories. These were cases of people often in quite serious need where there had often been error, not always, or misunderstanding in the delivery of a government service, and by the intercession of our staff many of these people got redress quite rapidly.
I must say, while I don't bear any responsibility for it because most of it occurred before my time, I was quite proud of it. I really think that is a good thing, and it is an example, first of all, of a core responsibility of the Ombudsman, but also one of the things which in my respectful view, as I said in my interview before this group, is supportive of the operation of democracy, that there is a means for the citizens to have an answer when government has failed to do things quite correctly. When I say "government," I'm speaking about the public service, because that's what I'm looking at. I thought I'd bring those matters to your attention, and I'd be more than happy to take any questions.
I should tell you of an issue that arose this morning that's in the stories and it's important, and it's the first of the non-major stories. It got a considerable amount of press attention and may be reported on tomorrow. It had to do with a radio station application. A company was seeking transfer from an AM to an FM station. In order for the CRTC to permit it, a provincial ministry had to say, yes, they agreed, and did.
Another ministry, one of the members of the Legislature apparently claimed, went to the ministry and said, "Look, on behalf of another radio operator who's objecting, I am saying you should not agree to this." The minister in the second ministry wrote to the CRTC saying that this licence should not be granted, and it put the whole thing off the rails.
In our investigation of the complaint-and it was a minister who signed the letter of objection to the CRTC-we determined that that letter was signed without the proper evidence being before the minister and caused a harm that ought to be redressed. In time the ministry agreed and they paid $12,000 to the person for this kerfuffle. Sorry, I guess that's not good for Hansard.
In any event, the press picked up on it on a level that I hadn't appreciated, and I just want you to be aware of it. There was some suggestion that I was perhaps saying there was ministerial impropriety here, and that's not what I was saying at all; it was an error. Then there have been a lot of questions, of course, arising from that as to who is the minister and so on. I'm afraid I have confidentiality issues. I can't report on anything to third parties, according to the regulations, that isn't reported to the Legislature, and in our practice we don't name those people. I haven't named that person, but there will be a little flurry about that so I just wanted to tell you about it.
Those are my remarks and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): I could go for quite a length of time with questions, but I have to say that we only got this just prior to noon today and we had to be in the House for a couple of hours. I didn't get a chance to go through the whole report, but there are definitely some sections that are of concern, the 407, for example, that you mentioned. Who becomes accountable for those charges that were not collected, that 80,000 and 120,000 to be in the mail?
Mr Lewis: Who becomes responsible for collecting them?
Mr Lalonde: Yes.
Mr Lewis: I think a lot of those were collected. The licences weren't granted, so the money was paid.
Mr Lalonde: Yes, the 80,000, but the 120,000?
Mr Lewis: The 120,000 didn't happen, so their licences weren't suspended. I guess it's quite possible that there could be people who haven't paid out of that 120,000 to the company, but they will, in time, face the suspension of licences if they don't pay. As soon as the arbitration dispute resolution thing is in place, the program is going back in place. They're not going to get away with it; we've just had a delay. In the meantime they've got time to appeal, if they wish, on the charges. A lot of those people aren't going to appeal, I would suspect, because I would think most of them are probably owing. But some of them will have challenges.
Mr Lalonde: What I was really getting at is that if they don't collect that money, will the government be responsible for it?
Mr Lewis: I don't believe so.
Mr Lalonde: You don't believe so?
Mr Lewis: Well, I don't know that. I hadn't addressed that issue. It's a private-no, I don't think so. You know, I'm talking out of turn here. I haven't looked at it from that point of view, but I don't know that the government is responsible for that.
Mr Lalonde: Because you really specify that there is no accountability mechanism in there.
Mr Lewis: I wasn't addressing it from the point of view of accountability for the funds from the government to the company but, rather, accountability mechanisms to permit the public to dispute the fare. You will recall one of the problems was they couldn't even get through on the phones. They couldn't raise the issue with the company; they weren't able to get through. The company was inadequately staffed and so on. That's what I was saying, sir.
Mr Lalonde: On the correctional services, being a former correctional services critic, through entertaining discussion with some of the detention centres, I've noticed that it's true that there is an inconsistency in enforcing a policy that exists, and the reason for that is we don't have those training requirements in place. Being a former training and development officer, I definitely learned through my visits to different places that there are people who have never received any training. Some areas are very easy to operate, but in others you have to face different types of characters in people. If we don't have the proper training in place, do you foresee-did you notice during your investigation that this was lacking?
Mr Lewis: In many cases, yes. I'm not making as strong a statement about it as you are, with your personal knowledge, but, yes, we noted that they were lax in training, and the ministry has undertaken to address that laxity that we've identified.
Mr Lalonde: They did.
The next point is the Family Responsibility Office. My colleague Caroline Di Cocco attended the press conference this morning, and she brought to my attention that you recommended some changes within the Family Responsibility Office. That must be because what they have in place at the present time doesn't work properly.
Mr Lewis: They've had a lot of problems, yes.
Mr Lalonde: Because I remember when they closed the regional office, it started all sorts of problems. People have lost their homes, got their power cut off, because the Family Responsibility Office was not prepared to accept all the transfers that occurred from the regional office.
I was able to visit the Downsview office and one thing that I noticed: Rarely do we have the same person answering to our constituency office more than two weeks. Apparently, we have a person right now with whom we have direct contact once a week, but I recognize the fact that for those who are affected, who are not getting their money, it's a real headache, especially if you have to call and wait for over an hour on the phone. That apparently hasn't been corrected. This is why they have to come through the MPP's office, so that we can get through to them, and we are having the contact once a week only. A week's delay in receiving the cheques could make a big difference for a family. If you are coming up with some recommendations, something has to be done with the Family Responsibility Office.
Mr Lewis: As was pointed out this morning, there is still a very high number of complaints regarding FRO. I can assure the committee that we will be monitoring this issue very closely. Outside of corrections, FRO constitutes the largest percentage of our complaints. Some 19% of our non-correctional complaints come from FRO. When they solve it, that's going to be a good thing for a lot of people.
Mr Lalonde: If they solve it.
Mr Lewis: Well, yes.
Mr Lalonde: I'm going to leave a chance for my colleague from the NDP, but just before I do, I notice that the second highest area that the complaints come from is WSIB.
Mr Lewis. Yes, sir.
Mr Lalonde: I could tell you that at the present time I'm having all sorts of problems with the WSIB. As of this morning, again, I've told the manager in there that they have-I went as far as saying, "The people you have in there are incompetent."
I would say today that it seems to me that some of the people who are handling the calls over there don't care about the public. I have a case right here at the present time that I've been after. I received a call about a month ago from the manager that the problem was going to be resolved in a week, on May 5. Today is June 15. No call back, and I call them and they don't return the call.
That person had an accident working for WSIB two years ago and hasn't received a penny since then. She lodged an appeal on June 28, after receiving a letter from WSIB if she wants to appeal on June 21, 1999. It's going to be a year soon: no call, not a single call yet. That's why I went to the minister. I spoke to the minister right that afternoon that the acting manager returned the call, on May 5. Since then, nothing has been resolved from that call. Today again, that same person who was supposed to write a letter of apology hasn't. I haven't received a letter, but he doesn't return the call yet. No wonder we get a lot of complaints that go to the WSIB, if this is the way we are running that department.
The Chair: Ms Churley.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much. I'm sorry I've been a little bit late here. It's a busy day.
I just wanted to start with the adoption disclosure. I brought that up. I will be introducing my bill, by the way, which is of no interest to you, but I just wanted to put it on the record, so this whole process, hopefully, will soon change.
Mr Lewis: I understand your position, Ms Churley, and of course it's of interest to me, but it's not my responsibility.
Ms Churley: Exactly. Let me clarify that: It should be of interest to everybody.
I wanted to ask you a little bit about this. When we met with you when you were first appointed we talked about this, and there was $2.4 million allocated. They said that they could eliminate the backlog in 18 months. What I'm trying to figure out here is, when would that date have started so that we know the end date, the 18 months when, in theory, we're going to have-
Mr Lewis: That's a good question. I'll speak to the deputy minister, if you like, and I'll get you what he perceives to be the start date, and I'll get back to you.
Ms Churley: Yes. When you investigate these complaints and the ministry comes back with a positive response, are you given any kind of work plan? Are you simply told, "We're allocating the money," and that's it, or do you have a work plan?
Mr Lewis: We certainly expect one, but we haven't got one yet.
Ms Churley: You haven't got one yet.
Mr Lewis: I could tell you what did happen in my review of these four matters. I just didn't know what to do with the adoption disclosure registry. It was 7.3 years, right?
Ms Churley: That's the official word, but some of us would say our experience was 10.
Mr Lewis: It was high enough for me. I asked to see the deputy, and when I met with the deputy, he at that point presented me with a letter which we have on file setting out the commitment of the ministry. That's within the last two months. We will monitor, and I will make particular note to get back to Mr Costante.
Ms Churley: Great. I would really appreciate that follow-up so I can keep track of it.
I want to come back to Highway 407. I was one of the ones who was getting bills that didn't seem belong to me since I hadn't-anyway, you don't need to hear my history, but I share the frustration with many, many people on that one and appreciate the work that you did to help clear that up.
One of the things, though, that interests me about it is-you talk about it in your press release and in your report-no accountability mechanisms for legislative compliance. I want to ask you a question about accountability for privatization. I understand that you probably, in your capacity, can't answer this, but perhaps you can. I want to tell you about a situation that is being debated in this House at this very moment: technical standards.
Mr Lewis: Yes, I know about that.
Ms Churley: I expect that you will be getting, eventually, some complaints about that. Right now, it has not passed, and I'm objecting, but, if passed, it will be operating in a complete accountability vacuum. It won't be answerable to you, the auditor, the privacy commissioner-FRO, I mean-anybody. "Freedom of information" is what I'm trying to say here. I'm getting FRO and FOI mixed up here. I'm not going to get into with you the philosophy around whether we should privatize these services or not, and it's not your role to get involved in that debate.
Mr Lewis: No, it's not.
Ms Churley: But there's a real concern, I believe, in terms of accountability, so that the public have that, not only in terms of what you're responding to here, for compliance, but accountability. We're talking about safety, health and safety of Ontarians, because it's mostly safety acts. I don't know if you have a comment at this point in that general situation. I'm very, very concerned about it.
Mr Lewis: I would prefer not to address the technical standards matter, which is before the House at this time. OK?
However, there is something I can tell you which arose at the press conference this morning and that I perhaps should have alerted you to when I talked about that one about the minister. It was not a surprise to me that this morning I was asked about Walkerton. I had wrestled with what to say, if anything, about Walkerton. As you know, my act has considerably severe confidentiality provisions, so we won't talk about a lot of stuff that we haven't reported. But I thought about this one, and let me tell you how I responded, and maybe it'll help you in what you're questioning to some extent.
Ms Churley: Let me say I appreciate your position, but any help you can give me would be useful.
Mr Lewis: What I said this morning publicly was that Walkerton is a matter of enormous concern to us all, that it is a matter of concern to the Legislature, to the media, to the public at large. Obviously, in my position, both personally and as Ombudsman, I have an interest in what's happening there.
I considered in that case-and I believe I'm not breaching anything here-the possibility of launching an own-motion investigation but, as you know, matters evolved very, very quickly in the government House on Walkerton and I did no more than consider. I will say to you that I am not investigating Walkerton at this time, because there are four investigations underway: the Ontario Provincial Police, the ministry, the coroner's office and, perhaps most importantly of all, the judicial inquiry, led by a very competent Court of Appeal judge. I have discretion whether or not to investigate certain things if there's room for me in terms of jurisdiction, but I have to exercise that discretion responsibly. I think this would not have been an appropriate time for me to say, "Me too," so I haven't said, "Me too" in Walkerton and I don't think that's a breach of confidentiality since I'm not doing it, I'm not functioning.
I did say that if I felt there was a gap occurring somewhere-because I'm going to watch it closely; this is something that matters to us all-I might consider whether I could add value at some point along the process. That's all I can say. What would those issues be at that point? I suppose they'd be accountability issues, if they arise, that aren't being covered. I have no doubt that-well, we all know the issue of accountability is going to arise in the Walkerton inquiry. I see that as a principal issue for government at any time, much less the tragedy case. Is that of any help to you?
Ms Churley: It is, and I appreciate your position on this.
I just want to say in all sincerity that the issue around accountability is critical as we move more towards the privatization of public services. There are great fears, with the privatization of our safety laws, that without really good accountability we're going to have big problems down the road. I just raise it because I'm raising it every chance I can with anybody who will listen, because I'm very concerned about it.
Mr Lewis: Ms Churley, could I just comment that this report was written and off to the printers before Walkerton occurred and before I had thought in terms of technical standards. This report was written on its own issues.
Ms Churley: I understand that.
OK, the Family Responsibility Office I will leave to my able colleague Shelley Martel, who is continuing to keep a close watch on that. I would have questions on it today but I'm sure she will be following up in various ways.
I thank you very much for this opportunity.
The Chair: Because of the fact that we just got the report and we haven't had the opportunity to discuss it with colleagues or whatever, I think what the committee will do is keep it on the agenda and possibly, Mr Lewis, invite you back if there are concerns in the next short while.
Mr Lewis: I'm available any time you'd like to speak to me.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): Thanks very much for attending this afternoon.
Mr Lewis: It's a pleasure.
Mr Tascona: I just have a couple of questions to deal with.
Page 19 of your annual report deals with written complaints and inquiries by provincial ridings. I take it these are both written complaints and written inquiries?
Mr Lewis: Those are written complaints and written inquiries.
Mr Tascona: Just looking at the breakdown for each riding, written complaints and inquiries-I take it there's no breakdown. You don't provide any breakdown that I can find for each riding, the particular ministry or the particular type of complaint that has been received. Do you keep that type of information?
Mr Lewis: Yes, I think we could probably pull it. I can tell you one thing, though. The ridings which have an apparently high number of complaints more often than not include a correctional facility, because we have a very high number of correctional complaints.
Mr Tascona: I'm just curious, because I have a correctional facility within my riding, Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford.
Mr Lewis: I know you do. I looked at your numbers.
Mr Tascona: I'm not sure what the basis is. I think it would be helpful for a member to know what kind of issues would be facing them within a particular riding, whether it was one particular ministry-
Mr Lewis: You'd like to see a breakdown.
Mr Tascona: Yes, it would be helpful, because this information is nice to know, but it's better to know if there's a particular administrative issue that we may be facing when we're trying to deal with our riding-obviously subject to whatever issues are being dealt with. I don't know how you categorize them.
Mr Lewis: They're broken down pretty clearly in other parts of the report-
Mr Tascona: Pretty well by ministry.
Mr Lewis: -but you wouldn't be able to tell what was yours.
Mr Tascona: I like that set-up. If that's something you can consider providing to the committee or even considering in your future annual reports-
Mr Lewis: Would you like that on this year's statistics?
Mr Tascona: I'd like to have them.
Mr Lewis: All right, I'll tell you what I'll undertake to do. If they're pullable, they'll be pulled. I don't know whether it's possible, but it might well be, because I know they're all there. If you look at other pages you'll see they're very much broken down by ministry and even by program.
Mr Tascona: That would be helpful.
Mr Lewis: Sure.
Mr Tascona: The second question I have really deals with your jurisdiction. We've heard comments with respect to accountability, in terms of how ministries implement statutes or a policy with respect to the statutes, and comments regarding concerns with respect to private operations that are implementing or providing services that would be within provincial jurisdiction. I note your comments with respect to Highway 407.
I just want to know how far that goes with respect to a municipality where they have taken on providing a service which is within their jurisdiction and they've decided they're going to deliver that service, for example, be it water, waste management or other areas that they're known to deal with the planning and development of. Where do you get involved if you get a written complaint or inquiry from a concerned citizen who thinks a municipality is not implementing something in a particular area in accordance with what they may believe is the provincial law?
Mr Lewis: I don't have jurisdiction over them. Some ombudsmen do-British Columbia does, Manitoba does. I do not, although we frequently are in the position to alert people coming to us about where they might go. For instance, the municipalities are creatures of the provincial government and there are certainly areas where, if there was a default, the ministries might well be interested in knowing that. But I don't have a direct ability to deal with it. I simply don't. They could tell me to go away.
Mr Tascona: Maybe I could ask research to provide me with the legislative provisions for-you said Manitoba and British Columbia?
Mr Lewis: Manitoba and British Columbia, to my certain knowledge. Manitoba had Brandon, and Winnipeg was separate. They either had the right to contract the municipality for an Ombudsman by provincial law or to use the provincial Ombudsman. The first time out they went with a private Ombudsman and they apparently had a falling out or whatever, and they're now in negotiations to go with the provincial Ombudsman. I think the issue is, as usual, money-you know, "What are my resources to look after Winnipeg?" But those I know for sure. I can't tell you. I'm sorry, I don't know.
Mr Tascona: I'll ask our legislative research to provide us that information. I'd like to see it. Maybe we could share it with the committee.
I don't have any further questions. Thanks for your input.
Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek): Own-motion-as the Ombudsman, you have the authority to call upon an own-motion and set an investigation in place.
Mr Lewis: Yes, sir.
Mr Clark: One of the issues where you would set an own-motion in place is if you had concerns about accountability on a particular matter that's within provincial jurisdiction?
Mr Lewis: Yes, I might. They would normally arise-not always, but normally-if I had a lot of complaints. I don't have the resources to go after the individual complaints as such, but they reveal a system-wide issue. But I don't have to have complaints to do it.
Mr Clark: Would there be an instance where there may not be a number of complaints but it could be something that is of compelling public interest in terms of accountability, as was mentioned earlier, Walkerton, for example? Clearly it could be argued right now that it's compelling public interest, therefore an issue of accountability, therefore the Ombudsman could issue an own-motion for an investigation.
Mr Lewis: Speaking of course theoretically, I might well take the position, if I felt that there wasn't other stuff happening, that the public interest in that case was so great that there was a need, and I would set off to do it. I'm not given free rein. The province might say, "No, you're not," and take me to court, because there's provision in the act for dispute in the Divisional Court as to whether I do have jurisdiction over issues. Up until now I think that's operated about three times to expand the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, but it could work the other way. As long as there's somebody personally affected, that gives me the basis for moving it on my own.
Mr Clark: So in this case, since there's a compelling public interest and clearly some people have been affected, if you were of the opinion that the investigations that were under way were not going to be addressing the issue of accountability, you would have had opportunity to issue an own-motion yourself. Is it fair to state that you're comfortable at the present time with the inquiries that are underway with Walkerton and that they'll be addressing accountability based on the terms of reference?
Mr Lewis: I've read the terms of reference of the judicial inquiry. I have some confidence in the capacity of that inquiry to attend to the issues, yes. I'm not able to give an imprimatur. Time will tell. But it's what caused me, along with the others, to pull up my reins and not do it.
Mr Clark: So at the present time you're satisfied that they're going to be addressing the issue of accountability and if at some time-
Mr Lewis: I surely hope so.
Mr Clark: And that's why you didn't issue an own-motion yourself.
Mr Lewis: I think that's fair.
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): Thank you, Mr Lewis and Ms Ray, for joining us.
I had a couple of questions, one of which really springboards from Mr Tascona's first question on your breakdown by riding. I found a little ironic your answer that perhaps if you have a correctional institute, that might inflate the numbers. There's no question when you break it down by ministry, the correctional institutions soar far and away.
Mr Lewis: Right.
Mr Spina: The first question, really-while I'm on the corrections, let me ask you this: Do the majority of inquiries, complaints, come from inmates? Is that generally the source?
Mr Lewis: Yes, sir.
Mr Spina: What would be the context-medical treatment, that sort of thing?
Mr Lewis: I can tell you that the majority of those complaints, 20% of the 6,636-is that about right?
Mr Lewis: Some 20% of the complaints from corrections last year had to do with access to medical services. That's the number one complaint. That goes across issues like segregation, where there's an obligation in policy for an inmate to be seen before being put in by a medical expert, be it a nurse or a doctor, before entry and after release.
There are issues of transfer from one institution to another, and a lot of that that goes on, especially because there's been a lot of development and so on, so they're moving prisoners. A person may have been on medication in one institution but the records haven't gone with that inmate so he's not getting the medications in the new place. They can be quite serious. They can be antidepressant medications; they can be any number of things. They could be methadone as well. A whole range of things are possible. There are issues of allegations of people simply not being able to get access to a doctor or a psychiatrist-that's one of the big issues-for psychiatric assessment or treatment. I might say that I understand the medical officer for corrections-the principal officer, not the local officers-is quite alive to these issues, quite aware of our concern.
Mr Spina: I'm presuming there you have communicated back to him or her and they are now in the process of trying to rectify that situation.
Mr Lewis: Yes. I want to be clear and I think I should fairly say this: The ministry has been quite co-operative with us on this. I'm not saying every institution, every facility, is. That's not necessarily the case.
Mr Spina: You're trying to address it from the top down, essentially.
Mr Lewis: Yes, because they have the authority to do anything. I don't have any authority.
Mr Spina: Hopefully, perhaps next year, we might see a reduction in those numbers.
Mr Lewis: I don't know. There is probably going to be a reduction in the facilities. You know that a number of facilities are slated for closure. I think some 30 are closing. A lot of them are really ancient.
Mr Spina: With some of that centralization there will be less movement of prisoners; who knows?
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Mr Spina: We're not asking you to be clairvoyant here.
Mr Lewis: Yes, but I have some views. I'll wait to see what happens. Why should I speculate, right?
Mr Spina: Getting back to the other issue, I would be very interested also in getting a breakdown of the number of inquiries by riding, broken down by ministry, in order to determine which are the most difficult within my riding. I draw the specific example-it's perhaps easy for Mr Tascona to say, "Well, there's a correctional institute in Barrie and you've got Barrie-Bradford-
Mr Clark: Simcoe.
Mr Spina: Yes, whatever it is. But I look at Brampton, and OCI and Vanier are over on McLaughlin Road on the west side of town, yet in Brampton West-Mississauga, exactly where that institution is, there are 54 complaints. On the east side of town, Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale, there are 41 complaints. Yet in Brampton Centre I have 222, by comparison. So you see my point, sir.
Mr Lewis: I can see why you're interested.
Mr Spina: Yes. The inmates are complaining and they're not in my riding. This is why I'm trying to figure out what the heck is going on here.
Mr Lewis: I think that's good. If I were in your position, I'd ask that question.
Mr Spina: Anyway, that's why I would appreciate it. There may be other mitigating factors.
Mr Lewis: I don't know, sir.
Mr Spina: No, and I'm not asking-
Mr Lewis: Maybe they don't like the way you're doing your job.
Mr Spina: That's why I would appreciate as well a breakdown by ministry-
Mr Lewis: I'll really try to do that for you.
Mr Spina: -because there are some other things that perhaps could be influencing it. As an example, I know there is a lobby group called FAD-Families Against Deadbeats-and that group of course is tied in with speeding up and cleaning up the process through FRO. Those people were created partly at my instigation and are based in my riding. So if I knew that some of those complaints had to do with the family court, FRO, I could understand that-
Mr Lewis: It would give you some comfort.
Mr Spina: Yes. Then I know that's understandable. But on the other hand of course if it's something else-so we would appreciate that. If we wrote to the Ombudsman's office and requested that, and you were able to access that-
Mr Lewis: You've already asked. That's good enough for me. If I can possibly do it, I'll do it.
Mr Spina: We appreciate it.
Mr Lewis: You're very welcome. And if I can't do it immediately, I'll try to have the system converted so that in future it can be done. I've probably committed a lot more money than I've got.
The Chair: It appears, Mr Spina, you haven't been reacting to your constituents. Should we pursue that point?
Mr Clark: Can we touch on the Ministry of Health for a moment?
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Mr Clark: I just went through a long process of consultations for Brian's Law, amendments to the Mental Health Act and the Health Care Consent Act. Through the consultations it was raised that the Ombudsman doesn't investigate issues regarding mental health, yet I notice in your report mental health centres, psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric patient advocates, psychiatric review boards, and there may be some mixed in, in other areas in health.
Mr Lewis: It's quite irregular. I'll give you an example. We used to deal with the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, because of its structure and its provincial oversight. We did not do so with the Clarke Institute. They merged. We lost jurisdiction. It took on the model of the one that was outside our jurisdiction.
It's like the colleges and the universities-I think I'm answering this correctly, but you can help me, Wendy. We have no jurisdiction over universities. We do over community colleges because of the structure of the government's role in the appointment of its board. You'll see a report in here on a hiring process at a community college where we intervened, and they've made some improvements as a result. But I couldn't do that at U of T. So there are spotty areas where I can and cannot intervene. I don't have any jurisdiction over hospitals, although a lawyer tried to tell me I did because of a Supreme Court of Canada decision.
Mr Clark: If there were concerns with regard to systemic difficulties in mental health for psychiatrists, you could investigate?
Mr Lewis: For psychiatrists?
Mr Clark: For psychiatrists, if someone were saying there was inappropriate use of restraints, as an example.
Mr Lewis: In a particular institution?
Mr Clark: In a particular institution or with a particular doctor. How do you deal with those issues?
Mr Lewis: Could I have a moment?
The doctors would be disciplined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. There is the Health Professions Board, and we would have jurisdiction over their stuff, if appeals went to them. But the psychiatric institutions, where we would normally have had, and still do to some extent, some jurisdiction, are becoming fewer, so we lose jurisdiction; it's eroding. That's really what is happening. Brian's Law is going to be a matter of interest.
Mr Clark: With Brian's Law, the treatment will be moved more to the community, and that seems to be the way it's going in all jurisdictions. There seems to be divestment from psychiatric facilities to more community treatment. What role does the Ombudsman have in that situation?
Mr Lewis: Very likely none. I used to be a judge in the Criminal Division from 1979 to 1985.
Mr Clark: I'd heard that.
Mr Lewis: That's when the whole idea of starting to move psychiatric patients out into the community really got rolling, while I was a judge. I used to sit in bail court from time to time and it was really something to see, because the police were the ones who were dealing with those people who had been dealt with previously, and they were being dealt with now in the criminal justice system, not necessarily because of severe crimes, but there they were. There was a divesting. We don't have jurisdiction in a lot of that stuff.
Mr Clark: I'm not sure if you know this: When is the last time the Ombudsman Act itself was reviewed?
Mr Lewis: Do you mean when it was last amended or looked at?
Mr Clark: Amended, reviewed, whatever.
Mr Lewis: There was a review about five years ago. There was an amendment just recently. I just mentioned that. That's when you reduced the term from 10 to five years. But a general review took place in about 1997 or 1996.
The Chair: It was about four years ago, I believe. I think it was in the second year of our term. We spent a fair bit of time on it.
Mr Lewis: I think there was a lot going on at that time, Mr Stewart, and I don't want to go into it particularly. I wouldn't want to have to see that review again, but it's up to you, of course.
Mr Clark: Do you find yourself in a position at any time where you're commenting as the Ombudsman on the act or the jurisdictions that are within your-
Mr Lewis: I commented on it this morning in a way that I probably shouldn't have. I was talking about the confidentiality provisions, where I couldn't tell people some things. I might have said, "I'm not always comfortable with this." My staff, the lawyers, keep telling me, "You've got to be really careful, Lewis, because you talk a lot." I understand that the Ontario act has the strongest, most stringent confidentiality provisions across Canada. There are things that I said I'd really like to talk about. I don't want to give away people's names. There's privileged information. That's why I felt I ought to say something about Walkerton. I don't want to look as though I don't know about it, for heaven's sake; of course I do, institutionally. But I also said, "I'm not asking for the act to be amended," even though I haven't got entirely comfortable with the strictures within which I work yet. It's only been four months.
Mr Clark: You're doing fine so far. Is it possible to get for me, or maybe even the committee, some references in terms of ombudsmen across Canada and the jurisdictions that fall under the provincial Ombudsman, like a chart showing which provinces have different-
Mr Lewis: Do you mean the general jurisdiction of each provincial Ombudsman?
Mr Clark: Yes.
Mr Lewis: The question was asked of the research officer, I believe-
Mr Clark: OK.
Mr Lewis: -but if I can assist in that in any way, I would be happy to, or staff would. For some reason I have to be out of here at 4:45. I think it's the press; I'm not sure.
The Chair: I'm going to ask you one question which is very short, I'm quite sure. On the ministry responsible for women's issues you had one complaint. Because that ministry is now involved with colleges and universities, if there are additional women's issues, complaints etc, would they now be included in that? I'm surprised there has only been one complaint.
Mr Lewis: These are program areas rather than complaint categories.
The Chair: Sorry, I shouldn't have used that word.
Mr Lewis: The program doesn't exist, that's really the problem.
The Chair: In native affairs, where there were three, do you deal with them if they relate to Ontario, to the province, and any other ones you then refer to the federal government?
Mr Lewis: The federal government, it could well be.
The Chair: That's how you would do it?
Mr Lewis: Yes, sir.
The Chair: Are there any other questions? As I said, we'll keep it on the agenda because it will give us more time to have a look through it. Mr Lewis, we may get you back. I do appreciate it. As we had said before, I hope we can get together again in the fall.
Mr Lewis: I look forward to it.
The Chair: Each term, I think it would be very advantageous. Again, we appreciate you coming. Ms Ray, thank you very much for coming along as well.
Mr Lewis: Thank you very much.
The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 1640.