The 2020-2021 annual report of the Québec Ombudsman

Learn from the COVID-19 crisis and act now

THE CITY OF QUEBEC, September 30, 2021 / CNW Telbec / – Today the Quebec Ombudsman Marie Rinfret’s Annual report 2020-2021 was tabled in the National Assembly. Its conclusions on the quality and integrity of Quebec’s public services highlighted the need to learn lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. The take-home message is that swift action is crucial to correct known and recurring issues that compromise citizens’ rights. We immediately think of the tragedies in residential and long-term care centers during the first wave.

“The CHSLDs had been grappling with staff shortages for a long time, but the authorities had put the problems on the back burner,” said Marie Rinfret. “The result was that when the health crisis raged, there were more and more epidemics and deaths, and vulnerable residents were deprived of essential services.”

The past year has shown company-wide the alarming situation of people hard hit by the consequences of the pandemic: physical and mental health problems, bereavement, loss of income, worsening poverty, isolation, anxiety, violence. Beyond the daily case statistics, the pandemic has created and accentuated numerous vulnerabilities in countless numbers of individuals.

“In this context, ‘learning from the crisis’ of the past year must be broadened. All public services must feel called to act. More than ever, humanity and empathy must set the tone for public services.

An example…

  • Over the past year, the Québec Ombudsman has observed that the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale has been able to adapt to the difficulties of its clientele during COVID-19. For example, it suspended collection measures and postponed the sending of notices of complaint.

… and counter-examples

  • Conversely, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration refused applications for the Quebec Selection Certificate because the candidates had to be employed at the time of filing. Following massive business closures due to COVID-19, many applicants have been temporarily laid off. On the recommendation of the Québec Ombudsman, the Department revised this requirement.
  • Corrections attempted to compensate for the suspension of family visits to inmates. As a result, the Ministry of Public Security decided to use videoconferencing for inmates in order to maintain contact with the outside world. However, videoconferences were often canceled due to understaffing.
  • In accordance with a directive from the Department of Health and Social Services, at the start of the pandemic, family visits were authorized in hospital palliative care units and hospices. However, some hospitals did not comply. This meant that people could not be by the side of their loved ones at the end of their life.

Huge challenges for the public services

It would be unrealistic and unfair to ignore the enormous challenges for ministries, agencies and health facilities posed by an unprecedented ongoing crisis. While respect for citizens’ rights requires public services to effectively fulfill their mission, the Québec Ombudsman is aware of the enormous weight of this little-known situation.

However, this does not exempt the government from listening to the people who come to it and responding with understanding, openness, creativity and compassion so that these citizens receive the public services to which they are entitled.

Some figures in 2020-2021

  • 21,803 requests processed;
  • 42,038 telephone calls received;
  • 66% of phone calls answered in less than 20 seconds;
  • 98% of recommendations accepted.

The Québec Ombudsman, who acts impartially and independently, ensures that citizens’ rights are respected in their dealings with public services. The Mediator’s services are free and user-friendly.

See the highlights of the Québec Ombudsman’s 2020-2021 Annual Report on the Mediator’s website.

SOURCE Québec Ombudsman

For further information: Media Relations: Carole-Anne Huot, Telephone: (418) 646-7143 / Cell: (418) 925-7994, Email: [email protected]

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