Ombudsman Policies and Procedures
1. STATEMENT OF ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES
This position has been created as an officer of the Council as an impartial, confidential and timely voice for safety within the sector.
The Forest Safety Ombudsman’s role and mandate
The Forest Safety Ombudsman has a mandate to:
- Receive issues, investigate and make recommendations about alleged acts, omissions, and improprieties
- Investigate issues about policies, practices, and procedures within BC’s forest sector
- Act on his or her own initiative to identify and make recommendations to resolve systemic problems within the forest sector
Complaints may be made to the Forest Safety Ombudsman by:
- The Public
The Forest Safety Ombudsman has the discretion to either accept, or to decline to act on, or discontinue investigation of an issue based on an initial assessment of the nature of the issue and a determination of whether or not it falls within the Forest Safety Ombudsman’s mandate.
Once accepted, the Forest Safety Ombudsman will employ procedures designed to resolve the issue or problem where possible, at the most appropriate level within the forest sector of British Columbia. The Forest Safety Ombudsman may attempt to resolve a matter based on the available evidence.
In the course of investigating issues, the Forest Safety Ombudsman has the authority to:
- Gather relevant information
- Report on his or her findings as to whether an issue is substantiated
- Develop, evaluate, and discuss the options available to affected individuals
- Facilitate, negotiate, and mediate solutions
- Make recommendations for the resolution of a complaint or systemic problem to the person who has the authority to act to resolve the problem
- Identify complaint patterns and trends
- Issue periodic reports, including an independent annual report
In responding to questions and complaints, the Forest Safety Ombudsman is required to employ fair and timely procedures that are in keeping with the principles of natural justice, and the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The Forest Safety Ombudsman’s independence and impartiality
The Forest Safety Ombudsman is free from interference in the legitimate performance of his or her duties as identified under role and mandate. The Forest Safety Ombudsman conducts his or her investigations and makes recommendations in an impartial manner, free from bias and free from real or apparent conflicts of interest. This impartiality does not, however, preclude the Forest Safety Ombudsman from developing an interest in securing changes that are deemed necessary as a result of the issues process, or from otherwise advocating on behalf of a complainant.
In order to ensure the Forest Safety Ombudsman has the requisite level of authority, the Forest Safety Ombudsman reports directly to the CEO. Additional safeguards to ensure the Forest Safety Ombudsman’s impartiality are provided through direct access to the BC Forest Safety Council’s Board of Directors. The Forest Safety Ombudsman may consult with the entire Board of Directors through the Board chair on significant issues, after first raising them with the CEO.
Appointment and qualifications of the Forest Safety Ombudsman
The Forest Safety Ombudsman is a person of recognized knowledge in the forest sector of British Columbia, who imparts the use of good judgment, objectivity, and integrity in problem solving and dispute resolution.
The appointment and termination of the Forest Safety Ombudsman is the joint responsibility of the CEO and the chair, Board of Directors. The Forest Safety Ombudsman may be removed from his or her office for "just cause". Just cause does not arise in the case of a disagreement over an investigation, recommendation or report made by the Forest Safety Ombudsman with respect to an issue or other type of investigation falling within his or her mandate.
The Forest Safety Ombudsman is an officer of the Council, and his or her terms and conditions of appointment are consistent with the Council’s contractual obligations.
The Forest Safety Ombudsman is subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Thus, the Forest Safety Ombudsman is required to act in accordance with these legislative provisions. The Forest Safety Ombudsman is also required to ensure that all privacy mechanisms available under these pieces of legislation are fully utilized and safeguarded.
Limits on the Forest Safety Ombudsman's authority
There are limits on the Forest Safety Ombudsman officer's authority. The Forest Safety Ombudsman does not:
- Make, change, or set aside a law, policy, or administrative decision of other Ombudsman functions or administrative tribunals
- Make binding decisions or determine rights or obligations
- Directly compel someone to implement the Forest Safety Ombudsman's recommendations
- Address issues arising under a collective bargaining agreement
- Act in a manner inconsistent with the terms of his or her appointment, role, or mandate
2. CODE OF ETHICS
The Forest Safety Ombudsman Office adheres to International Ombudsman Association code of ethics, which states the following:
- The ombudsman, as a designated neutral, has the responsibility of maintaining strict confidentiality concerning matters that are brought to his/her attention unless given permission to do otherwise. The only exceptions, at the sole discretion of the ombudsman, are where there appears to be imminent threat of serious harm.
- The ombudsman must take all reasonable steps to protect any files pertaining to confidential discussions from inspection by all other persons, including management.
- The ombudsman should not testify in any formal judicial or administrative hearing about concerns brought to his or her attention.
- When making recommendations, the ombudsman has the responsibility to suggest actions of policies that will be equitable to all parties.
3. STANDARDS OF PRACTICE
The Forest Safety Ombudsman’s Office adheres to International Ombudsman Association standards of practice, which states the following:
- We base our practice on confidentiality.
- We assert that there is a privilege with respect to communications with the ombudsman and we resist testifying in any formal process inside or outside the organization.
- We exercise discretion whether to act upon a concern of an individual contacting the office. An ombudsman may initiate action on a problem he or she perceives directly.
- We are designated neutrals and remain independent of ordinary line and staff structures. We serve no additional role (within the organization where we serve as ombudsman) which would compromise this neutrality.
- We remain an informal and off-the-record resource. Formal investigations — for the purpose of adjudication — should be done by others. In the event that an ombudsman accepts a request to conduct a formal investigation, a memo should be written noting this action as an exception to the ombudsman role. Such investigations should not be considered privileged.
- We foster communication about the philosophy and function of the ombudsman's office with the people we serve.
- We provide feedback on trends, issues, policies and practices without breaching confidentiality or anonymity. We identify new problems and we provide support for reasonable systems change.
- We keep professionally current and competent by pursuing continuing education and training relevant to the ombudsman profession.
- We will endeavour to be worthy of the trust placed in us.