Quebec’s Minister of Education tables a bill creating an ombudsman to investigate student complaints

QUEBEC РThe Minister of Education, Jean-Fran̤ois Roberge, is following up on his commitment to reform the institution of the Student Ombudsman in order to better deal with complaints in schools.

On Tuesday, he tabled Bill 9, which aims to ensure better protection of the rights of all Quebec students, whether they study in the public or private sector or at home.

Currently in Quebec, there are various complaint processes in 72 school service centers and 250 private schools.

Complaints from students with similar issues are handled differently. The decisions rendered also vary from place to place, creating injustices.

In 2017, the ombudsman reported that the school complaints process was not only unknown to parents, but also far too complex.

In her report, she pointed out that 75 percent of parents who had used the mechanism were dissatisfied, and that one in five times it took more than a year to process a complaint.

“We are in the process of finding solutions to all of these problems,” Roberge said Tuesday. “We want a complaints mechanism that will be more uniform, more independent, shorter and more efficient.”

Its Bill 9 proposes to create an autonomous body outside the school system which would be headed by a national student ombudsperson appointed by the government.

Regional student protectors appointed by the Minister would be assigned to each region to serve the entire territory of Quebec.

Their role would also be to inform the public and parents of the complaint process and to report on their activities to the national ombudsman.

The reform also ensures a reduction in the time taken to process complaints. It provides for a maximum of three successive stages for the complainant.

Protection against retaliation would be offered to complainants as well as to those who work with the complaints officer or regional student advocate.

Each year, the National Ombudsman would produce a report indicating the number, nature and grounds of complaints handled, as well as the timeframe for investigating complaints and certain recommendations.

This report by La Presse Canadienne was first published in French on November 23, 2021.

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