2010 ANNUAL REPORT BY THE OMBUDSMAN DE MONTRÉAL - COMPLAINTS HAVE STABILIZED IN NUMBER, BUT ARE MORE COMPLEX

MONTREAL, June 22, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - The number of new complaints submitted to the office of the Ombudsman de Montréal in 2010 was roughly the same as in 2009. There were 1,444 files in all, and of these, 67 were related to provisions of the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities—a significant increase of 81% compared with the previous year.

The number of files that required a thorough investigation was up slightly, from 218 to 230. There were two boroughs, Lachine and Saint-Léonard, in which no thorough investigations had to be conducted during 2010.

"As we forecast, the number of new complaints received annually by our office has stabilized at between 1,250 and 1,500, and this has been so for some years now," the Ombudsman, Ms. Johanne Savard, explained. "What we are seeing, however, is increasingly complex files, which demand greater expertise and take slightly longer to handle."

She added: "During 2010, our outstanding team was bolstered by the arrival of two lawyers. Besides assisting in the handling of citizens' complaints, these professionals have ensured that our office is at last legally autonomous. Achieving that autonomy had become an urgent need."

The average time for handling files (all types combined) was 5.26 working days, and 91.96% of complainants received a final response within one month or less. For files that required a thorough investigation, the average handling time was 28.78 working days.

Notable subjects of complaints concerning the Ville de Montréal included: social housing, low-rent housing and housing subsidies; the functioning of the Municipal Court; the behaviour of a municipal employee; and issues relative to parking, including parking areas reserved for residents and parking stickers. The three boroughs most often involved in complaints in 2010 were Plateau-Mont-Royal, Ville-Marie and Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, three central boroughs that are all quite densely populated.

Examples of involvement

Following are some examples of situations during 2010 in which the involvement of the Ombudsman de Montréal changed outcomes:

  • The Ombudsman found partly in favour of a citizen of Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles borough who had challenged a Local Improvement Tax bill for paving and curb fit-up work on his street. In the course of her investigation, the Ombudsman noted that a vacant lot with a substantial area had not been taken into account in the calculation of the tax amount. The impact of this omission on the amounts levied on neighbouring property owners proved to be of the order of 20%. As a result, the owners received partial reimbursement of the amounts they paid in 2010, and their tax bills in subsequent years will also be reduced accordingly.
  • Following several complaints from citizens, the Ombudsman observed that the rules and parameters for transfer of ownership of public alleys to neighbourhood citizens were not consistently applied across the city's territory. She worked with the city's Direction des stratégies et des transactions immobilières (DSTI) to establish uniform parameters to be complied with in all cases. This directive was approved by the Ville de Montréal Executive Committee in early 2011. From now on, all boroughs entrust management of such transactions to the DSTI, which systematically applies the new procedure.
  • Following a complaint by a citizen, the Borough of Ville-Marie decided to amend its Règlement sur le civisme, le respect et la propriété (bylaw concerning civility, respect and cleanliness) to ban waste collection between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. throughout the borough. As a result, citizens of this borough will be less inconvenienced by noise at night.

In 2010, the Ombudsman played an active part in the public consultation on the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities organized by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal. "This consultation provided proof of the marked interest in and appreciation for the Charter on the part of citizens who know about it," Ms. Savard emphasized. "We were able to sound them out and hear their opinions and suggestions. It also presented a fine opportunity to respond to several questions from both participants and the commissioners about the scope and impact of the Charter as they are felt on a day-to-day level."

In addition, the turnkey project on conciliation, mediation, the role of the Ombudsman de Montréal and the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, developed jointly by the Centre d'histoire de Montréal, the Ombudsman de Montréal and Jules Patenaude of the Ville de Montréal, continued to be made available to elementary-school teachers. "To date, 530 students have taken part," Ms. Savard noted. "This has given each of these young people a chance to explore alternative means of settling conflicts, which they can then apply in various aspects of their lives. This is something we are really proud of."

Her office is currently working to upgrade its website and integrate social media, for example via a blog, expected to be launched in the fall. "We are very much counting on the accessibility, rapidity and interactivity offered by social media to bring us closer to citizens and grow our reputation among a larger audience," the Ombudsman said enthusiastically.

Ms. Savard, appointed in 2003, will begin her third term as Ombudsman of the Ville de Montréal in the fall of 2011; a few weeks ago, City Council reiterated its trust in her by voting unanimously to renew her mandate.

The Ombudsman de Montréal intervenes as a last resort to ensure that the municipal rights of citizens are respected and that their cases are treated fairly and with respect by all municipal entities. This service is completely free of charge and contributes positively to participatory democracy, ethics, fairness and justice within the Ville de Montréal.

The Ombudsman is also the only recourse available to citizens for ensuring that the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities is respected by municipal employees and elected officials alike.

A complaint form and the 2010 Annual Report are available on the website of the Ombudsman de Montréal.

www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ombudsman

SOURCE OMBUDSMAN DE MONTREAL

For further information:

André Bouthillier
514 849-4554
514 895-0127
andre.bouthillier@cominfrarouge.com

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