MONTREAL, April 17, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - In addition to the 29 investigations under way as of January 1, 2011, the office of the Ombudsman de Montréal handled 1,334 new complaints in 2011: 207 of these complaints led to in-depth investigations including 55 relating to the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.
The average time taken to handle the files completed in 2011 was 4.63 working days (7.12 days in 2010): this very short average timeframe, however, does not take into account 30 files that were still active as of December 31, 2011, some of them going back a long time.
"We are becoming involved in increasingly complex issues and we are also initiating more investigations on our own based on information we obtain by means other than formal citizens complaints," Ombudsman Johanne Savard says.
Ms. Savard notes that "certain files related to sanitation issues in private or social dwellings were of particular concern to us over the past year because of their significant impact on the health and safety of tenants."
The Ombudsman de Montréal team handled files where high mould levels were a factor, causing occupants to develop serious health problems.
The team also intervened on its own initiative in a case where, despite action by the Direction de la santé publique (Public Health Department) several months earlier, tenants in a private building were still living in contaminated dwellings. The borough of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce welcomed the Ombudsman's intervention and collaborated well. Some tenants whose health was threatened had already been relocated. Notices were issued to the owner of the building ordering him to correct the unsanitary conditions and regular follow-ups were conducted to ensure that the dwellings were not rented again until the necessary corrective measures had been taken. The Ombudsman de Montréal is in periodic contact with the borough to take stock of the situation, and it is actively following developments. A dispute has arisen between the owner and the Public Health Department as to whether or not, there is remaining mould. The investigation is, therefore, still under way.
The Ombudsman de Montréal also handled a complaint from a family of four people living in low-rent apartment run by the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM) where many rats had been found over a period of several months. Following her intervention, the family was relocated to another dwelling and the OMHM intensified its inspections as well as its decontamination actions. Based on the Ombudsman de Montréal observations, the OMHM also pledged to draft a formal procedure for taking action in rats control matters. Moreover, the responsibility to handle this type of problem was transferred to the OMHM Central Sanitation Unit so they can be managed more effectively.
Main subjects of complaint and Social media
In 2011, the main subjects of complaint involving Ville de Montréal were as follows: functioning of the Montréal Municipal Court, social housing / low-rent housing / housing subsidies, behaviour of municipal employees, permits, and matters involving roads and public works. The boroughs with the most complaints were Le Plateau-Mont-Royal (67), Ville-Marie (61), Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (52), Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie (51) and Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (45).
Two surveys conducted in November 2011 — the first among municipal employees and the other one, among citizens — confirmed that those familiar with the Ombudsman de Montréal's services very much appreciate them and have trust in their efficiency ; the surveys also confirmed, however, that much remains to be done in making the office better known.
In her efforts to deal with this problem, the Ombudsman launched a more modern and more user-friendly Website in 2011, and she also entered the Social Media era in January 2012, more particularly, through her new Blog. The Ombudsman de Montréal is also present on Twitter and on Facebook.
"Through these popular interactive communication tools, we hope to reach more people and to broaden public awareness with regard to our services," Ms. Savard says.
The Ombudsman de Montréal intervenes as a last resort to ensure that the municipal rights of citizens are respected and that their situations are treated fairly and with respect by all municipal entities. This service, which is completely free of charge. Has a positive impact on participatory democracy, ethics, fairness and justice within Ville de Montréal.
The Ombudsman is also the only recourse available to citizens for ensuring that the commitments of the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities are respected by municipal employees and elected officials.
A complaint form and the 2011 Annual Report are available on the Website of the Ombudsman de Montréal.
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