Toronto’s Ombudsman Says City Needs To Show Empathy and Care
In his 2021 Annual Report released today, Toronto’s Ombudsman said the City needs to re-dedicate itself to fairness for all its residents. “People in Toronto have spent more than two years adjusting to the ever-changing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ombudsman Kwame Addo. “It is especially during these times of uncertainty and change that the City needs to show the public empathy and care.”
“I commend the City’s leaders and staff for the hard work they did serving the public in a completely new landscape,” says Addo. “COVID-19 has changed life in Toronto, and as we continue to adjust to the new reality, I want to remind the City that fair service requires all people to be treated equitably, and with dignity and respect. The pandemic has underscored this need for fair service more than ever.”
This is Addo’s first annual report since he was appointed as the City of Toronto Ombudsman in August 2021. He says one of his main priorities is to reach communities who may not know about the Ombudsman or may face barriers accessing Ombudsman Toronto’s services, including equity-deserving groups throughout the city.
“It is important that people know who we are and how we can help,” says Addo. “I have made it a personal priority to ensure that anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by the City knows that they can come to us.”
In 2021, Ombudsman Toronto received 2,802 complaints and inquiries about City services, a 15% increase from the year before. “Despite this increase,” notes Addo, “We were able to handle people’s complaints faster, resolving more than 90% of all complaints within 30 days.” Addo says a number of these were from people who felt the City did not adequately or equitably meet their needs.
In response, Ombudsman Toronto staff:
- Ensured the City reinstated its phone line for complaints about its shelter system, which is critically important for individuals who do not have access to email.
- Helped a Toronto resident rightfully obtain a $12,096.07 refund from the City’s Committee of Adjustment after finding that its refund policy was not applied consistently.
- Assisted a refugee in obtaining heat in his new City-owned apartment, after he was treated for extreme cold because the City did not adequately explain how to use the heating system.
The abovementioned cases are just a sample of Ombudsman Toronto’s work ensuring the City served people fairly and equitably in 2021. Addo notes that Ombudsman Toronto also received a range of complaints about issues relating to COVID-19, including inconsistent information about how to properly quarantine, relief from business licence fees, requests for information about vaccine clinics, and disruption to in-person City services.
In 2021, Ombudsman Toronto reported the City gave confusing and inconsistent information about what the public could and could not do in Toronto parks during the early part of the COVID-19 lockdown. The Ombudsman also started an investigation into the clearing of encampments in City parks and, following a City Council directive, began negotiations to establish oversight of Toronto Police Service’s policies and procedures.
As he concludes his first annual report, Addo says his office will focus on creating positive systemic change for people in Toronto and making the City a fairer place for everyone. “It is an immense privilege to be Toronto’s Ombudsman. As I look ahead, I will continue to be a champion for fairness at the City of Toronto, and will remain committed to holding the City accountable to the people it serves.”
An Ombudsman Toronto backgrounder is available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.
For more information, contact:
Alex Kruger (she/her)
Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City administration and the fairness of City services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City, holding it accountable to the people it serves. We does not oversee or overturn decisions of elected officials or set public policy. All complaints made to Ombudsman Toronto are confidential.