Reflections on 2022 from Ombudsman Kwame Addo
It is difficult to believe that another calendar year is coming to a close. As we approach the end of 2022, I wanted to share some milestones that have stood out to me this year.
Advocating for fairness and empathy
The impacts of the pandemic are still being felt by many in Toronto—life is increasingly expensive, food insecurity is an ongoing issue, and housing is unaffordable for many, to name a few. On the whole, there is an overwhelming amount of uncertainty and change.
With this in mind, I used my first annual report as Ombudsman to tell the City that it needs to re-dedicate itself to fairness for all its residents. I stressed that fair service requires all people to be treated equitably, and with dignity and respect, and I reminded the City of its responsibility to deliver on these principles of fairness.
Responding to more complaints than ever before
The number of complaints to our office increased significantly this past year. In fact, more people contacted our office with concerns about the fairness of the City of Toronto’s services in 2022 than ever before.
Despite this increase, my team worked diligently to hold the City accountable to the public. We were able to maintain our high service standards, resolving people’s complaints quickly and efficiently. Many of these complaints resulted in improvements to the City’s policies and processes, which will have a lasting positive impact on all people in Toronto.
Improving the City’s response to encampment clearings
We released an interim report which looked at how the City coordinated its response to encampments and encampment clearings. We found that the City’s protocol that should guide its actions was outdated and not consistently followed. We also found that its Encampment Office was under-resourced and did not have a clearly defined mandate.
In the report, we made eight recommendations to ensure that how the City coordinates its response to encampment clearings is fair, transparent, and treats people with respect and dignity. The City agreed to implement all of our recommendations and has begun that important work.
We anticipate that we will bring our final report to City Council in the next few months.
New oversight over Toronto police
Our landmark oversight agreement with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) and the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) was approved, officially giving Ombudsman Toronto the authority to investigate the fairness of their policies, procedures, and practices.
With this enhancement of local police accountability, I look forward to working constructively with individuals, community organizations, the TPS, and the TPSB to improve policing in Toronto.
Listening and learning from people in Toronto
As I’ve said before, building and strengthening relationships with members of the public, community organizations, and City of Toronto staff was a key priority of mine right from the beginning of my term as Ombudsman. Throughout this year, I was lucky to have the opportunity to make meaningful connections and begin conversations to learn more about some of the issues people are facing in Toronto.
To the many individuals and organizations who took the time to meet with me or a member of my team this past year, thank you. I extend to you my sincerest gratitude for the time and knowledge you shared with me.
But I know that this is just the beginning. True engagement involves continuous conversation, listening, and learning, and I look forward to recommitting to that important work in 2023. If you would like to meet with me or a member of my team in the New Year, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to schedule a time.
This is just a small selection of the work we did at Ombudsman Toronto this year, and I look forward to sharing more information in our upcoming 2022 Annual Report. Until then, I would like to share how proud I am of the hard work of my team and the dedication they have shown to ensuring fair City services for all people in Toronto.
And to the people of Toronto, if you have questions, concerns, or aren’t sure where to turn, please know that you can always contact us.
Thank you and all the best for a brighter 2023.