Five Questions with the B.C. Ombudsperson
Based in Victoria, B.C.’s Office of the Ombudsperson ensures provincial and local public authorities have acted fairly and reasonable.
Here, we chat with the Ombudsperson himself, Jay Chalke.
1. You oversee a busy staff of 60 that includes investigators and intake workers at your office in Victoria. What is your team trying to achieve?
We are B.C.’s independent voice for fairness; an impartial and independent body that reports to the Legislative Assembly.We receive 8,000 complaints and inquiries every year about whether provincial and local governments have treated people fairly and reasonably. We help every one of those people in a variety of ways … If after an investigation we find that government treated a member of the public unfairly, we look for outcomes that not only help that person, but also fix the problem for the future. This in turn makes government operations more fair going forward.
2. You have jurisdiction over everything from school districts to ICBC to the Ministry of Health. What ties all that together?
We’re the public’s one-stop-shop for fairness. We hear concerns the public has about any public body—that’s over 2,000 bodies across the province. In addition to all the provincial government ministries and its provincial agencies and corporations such as BC Hydro, ICBC or WorkSafeBC, we also investigate complaints about public schools, municipalities, universities, self-governing professions or the health authorities, to name just a few.
3. What are the greatest challenges you face in your role?
Our very broad jurisdiction over such a wide range of B.C. public authorities. We have jurisdiction over the provincial government, over Crown corporations, over all the agency boards and commissions in the province but also over local governments, public schools, universities and local governments. That wide range of authorities makes it convenient for the public; they have a one-stop-shop to go to for fairness.
On the other hand it does mean that my staff and I need to stay current on emerging trends and changes in administrative 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.
4. What if you don’t live in Victoria, and want to talk with someone face-to-face?
People can contact us by telephone – which is how most people first contact us – but also online, through the mail or by fax. But some people want to talk to someone face-to-face. So we regularly take our office on the road. For example, our February 2018 mobile clinics in Coquitlam, Maple Ridge Mission and Langley gave residents the opportunity to discuss their complaints about B.C. provincial and local authorities with us. No lines or waiting – just a simple call to 1-800-567-3247 to book a free and confidential appointment.
5. What do you love about your job?
All our staff members are passionate about having the chance to improve how government works through investigating individual complaints about fairness. We get to help people and by doing so, we get to improve public services for everyone. It’s a win-win!
If you would like to have someone from the Office of the Ombudsperson present to your organization, please contact the Outreach Office here.