FAQ

What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman acts as an independent bridge between people and their government. As an expert and impartial investigator of public complaints about administrative systems, an ombudsman is uniquely positioned to solve problems and make practical recommendations to improve how government serves the public.

What does the word "ombudsman" mean?

The word "ombudsman" is a Swedish word that means "representative of the people". The modern ombudsman concept began in Sweden in 1809 to create a balance between the powers of government and its citizenry.

How can Ombudsman Toronto help me?

You can make a complaint to Ombudsman Toronto about a City service, and we will look into it, independently and impartially. We will try to help solve the problem. Ombudsman Toronto holds the City government accountable to the people it serves, and helps it to improve its service to the public. 

Who can make a complaint?

Any member of the public who interacts with the City administration and is personally affected can make a complaint to Ombudsman Toronto.

Can I submit a complaint on someone else's behalf?

Yes, as long as you have their written consent, and provide it to us.

English is not my first language. Can you help me?

Yes. We have access to basic translation services that can help us serve you in more than 100 languages.

Can you look into complaints about all City functions?

The law sets out the areas the Ombudsman can and cannot investigate. Ombudsman Toronto’s jurisdiction includes all City divisions and most City agencies and corporations. Notable exceptions include the Toronto Police and the Toronto Public Library.

Is there anything I need to do before I make a complaint?

There are steps that must be completed before you complain. Ombudsman Toronto looks into a complaint within its jurisdiction only after someone has already tried to resolve the problem with the appropriate City division, agency or corporation. We are an office of last resort.

Does Ombudsman Toronto investigate every complaint?

No. With any complaint within our jurisdiction, we conduct an informal Enquiry to determine whether and how we can assist. An Enquiry may conclude with a resolution of the individual issue and/or recommendations for system improvement. It may conclude with a determination that Ombudsman Toronto is unable to make any further constructive contribution to the issue. In every case, the complainant is told how the Enquiry is concluded, and why.

In some situations, where an issue is particularly complex and/or has broad systemic implications such that a formal investigation and recommendations may be in the public interest, Ombudsman Toronto will conduct an Investigation.

What is the process for making a complaint?

It's simple: follow the steps to make a complaint. What happens next depends on the nature of the complaint and what is required to address the issue. We will determine if we can handle it and the best way to do so. In all cases, we will update you on the status of your complaint and inform you of the outcome.

Is there a time frame between the incident and when a complaint can be launched?

The sooner the better. If more than one year has passed, you may need to explain the reason for the delay in bringing the problem to us. 

If Ombudsman Toronto finds in looking into a complaint that a public servant did something wrong, will it make a finding of fault?

No. When our Enquiries or Investigations reveal that a City service or program has not worked as it should, we say so, and we look for solutions and recommendations for improvement. But we do not name, blame or shame individual public servants, even when mistakes have been made. Ombudsman Toronto's work is about problem solving and process improvement.

Isn't Ombudsman Toronto part of the City government?  Why does it say it is independent?

The Ombudsman is an Officer of Toronto City Council, accountable to Council as a whole. But she and her team have legal protections to make sure they can do their work independently, without political interference. Ombudsman Toronto operates in the public interest, without any preference for, or special regard to, the interests of the City or of any individual.