© Geraldine Brophy
CORNER BROOK — Barry Fleming admits he’s constantly amazed at the similarity of the complaints and concerns he hears from around the province during his six years as the Citizens’ Representative.
Fleming is essentially an ombudsmen and his department is tasked with investigating and resolving complaints about the provincial government’s services and agencies. The Office of the Citizens’ Representative operates independently of the government in order to provide an unbiased, third-party review.
Fleming and Sandy Hounsell, director of special projects with the office, were in the city Monday for information and intake sessions at the Glynmill Inn. Similar sessions are planned for today in Stephenville and Thursday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The goal of the sessions is to provide the public with a chance to meet face-to-face with Fleming and Hounsell.
“It’s amazing the consistency in the types of complaints we see irrespective of where we go,” Fleming said. “We can go up to Labrador and there may be housing issues or people on workers’ compensation. They have health authorities and a school district much like the west coast, much like St. John’s and the Avalon.”
Fleming said his office closed 38 files in December, including a complaint from a prison inmate about a correctional officer and a family from Albania that was having trouble with officials from Child, Youth and Family Services.
Each complaint was filed, and Fleming and his staff reviewed all available information before issuing a report summarizing the findings and offering suggestions for a resolution to the issue.
“The recommendation is at the end of a very detailed and pretty thorough review of the citizen’s concerns,” he said, noting the reports average around 30 pages. “Even in the rare circumstances where the recommendations are not accepted, we’ve given that citizen a third-party review that says they aren’t alone in thinking they’ve been treated unfairly.”
Hounsell said the goal above all else is fairness, something he feels those on both sides of a complaint can typically appreciate after going through the process.
“If we indicate to a government agency that they should have done something differently, at least we’ve shown them why,” Hounsell said. “Vice-versa, if we’ve said to the citizen we don’t see any wrong doing, we hope they will say at least we looked at it and fairly assessed it.”
The Stephenville sessions are slated for 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. today at the Holiday Inn.
For more information, contact the office at 1-800-559-0079 or visit www.citizensrep.nl.ca