An Organizational Story
1.2.2 Complaints and investigations
Since its second year of operation, the Commissioner’s Office has been receiving just over one complaint a day. That’s not much when you consider the hundreds of thousands of Francophones living in Ontario and the fact that, as a group, they must have thousands of interactions with Ontario government organizations every day. But it’s also a lot when you consider that the Commissioner’s Office has only been around for six years. And it’s also enormous in view of the meagre supply of financial and human resources in the Commissioner’s Office, which makes it mathematically impossible for the members of the team to properly carry out the Office’s mission and vision.
The complainants who contact the Commissioner’s Office seem to be, in general, very satisfied with its client service. The responses, even to requests for information that are outside the mandate of the Commissioner’s Office (such as complainants relating to the private sector or other levels of government), are detailed and thorough. The extensive formal investigations are viewed as relevant and timely and are taken seriously by both the community and the government.
However, not everyone is completely satisfied. Sometimes the Commissioner is questioned directly by complainants who say that their cases are taking too long to process or maintain that it’s pointless to complain if changes aren’t evident immediately. Such situations are bound to happen, since priority is given to urgent cases, such as a parent being prohibited from speaking to her children in French during supervised access visits at a Children’s Aid Society, a person having no access to French-language services in a hospital, or a litigant who has requested a trial in French coming up against a recalcitrant administration. Dealing with such cases takes huge amounts of time for the staff of the Commissioner’s Office. They are not resolved with a snap of the fingers.
Moreover, for several years, the Commissioner’s Office has had a complaint processing policy whereby some complaints can be resolved quickly with a simple phone call or e-mail to the person responsible, while others require complex, painstaking investigations. Reports of spelling errors on posters or websites do not have the same repercussions as a petition indicating a lack of health services in French in a particular region, for example, but all complaints are equally important. As time goes by, though, the backlog is starting to accumulate. We have to think about the situation. A new approach is needed.