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Government watchdog agency to hold in-person ‘complaint clinics’ in Lower Mainland

Ombudsperson staff will be booking appointments in Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey, Delta and New West
Ombudsperson Jay Chalke said there were still spots available for in-person meetings at ‘complaint clinics’ conducted by office staff in the Lower Mainland the week of Feb. 6. (Office of the Ombudsperson/Special to Langley Advance Times)

If someone feels they have been treated unfairly by a provincial or local public organization like ICBC, BC Hydro, a government ministry, a school district or local municipality, they have a chance to make their complaint in person during the week of Feb. 6, when staff at the office of the BC Ombudsperson will be touring Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey, Delta and New West.

To see if a complaint qualifies, residents can call 1-800-567-3247 to see about making an appointment.

“We still have spots available,” Ombudsperson Jay Chalke told the Langley Advance Times, during a Monday, Jan. 30 interview.

If meetings are fully booked in one community, people can still get an appointment if there are vacancies in one of the other locations, Chalke said.

If a caller has a complaint that is within the mandate of the office, it will be forwarded to staff for investigation, who will book an appointment if it meets the criteria.

“Our big issue is whether we have jurisdiction,” Chalke explained.

“It’s quite broad. It covers over 1,000 provincial bodies.”

But it doesn’t include federal government bodies, or police agencies, which have their own public complaints mechanisms.

As well, staff must determine whether a caller “has done what they can to resolve the problem,” before an in-person session is booked, Chalke cautioned.

The office averages about 8,000 complaints a year.

Most are about the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and ICBC.

While the “complaint clinics” are being held, Chalke will be meeting with a variety of local groups in the Lower Mainland, including First Nations and community agencies.

READ ALSO: Health care tops list of complaints to B.C.’s ombudsperson: report

Chalke’s annual report for 2021-22, released in October, said “pandemic-related service changes” accounted for a large portion of complaints, ranging from issues with visitor restrictions for long-term care to surgery delays, and COVID-19 measures to quality of care.

The report said the Ministry of Health, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. and the Ministry of Children and Family Development were the top three most complained-about public bodies.

READ ALSO: B.C. name-changing rules eased following finding of discrimination against senior

The Office of the Ombudsperson is an oversight office, independent of government, with a mandate to receive and investigate complaints from the public who believe they have been treated unfairly when receiving government services.

The office also investigates allegations of serious wrongdoing in the workplace brought forward by current and former provincial public service employees.

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Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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