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LU pres: Ombudsman oversight not an 'acute need'

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Mar 12, 2014 - 11:23 AM |
Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux said ombudsman oversight of the university sector is not an acute need. File photo.

Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux said ombudsman oversight of the university sector is not an acute need. File photo.

Along with cities, Marin gains power over education

Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux said he doesn't have an issue with Ontario Ombudsman André Marin gaining the power to oversee universities, but said he doesn't think it was an “acute need.”

Marin has long pushed for the government to extend his powers to the so-called MUSH sector – municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals — as his office has to turn away 2,000 complaints a year he has no power to investigate.

He got his wish last week — at least partly.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the government will table legislation giving the independent watchdog power to investigate universities and school boards. Colleges were previously under Marin's purview.

He'll also have jurisdiction over the province's municipalities. That includes Greater Sudbury, where city councillors — who have a long-standing tumultous relationship with Marin — voted last year to replace him with Amberley-Gavel, a private closed-door meetings investigator.

Marin won't have oversight of the health-care sector, however, with the government opting instead to create a new patient ombudsman for hospitals, long-term care homes and community care access centres.

Giroux said there's definitely value in Marin investigating universities and suggesting improvements.

However, he points out the ombudsman only received 55 complaints in 2012-2013 from the university sector, which amounted to 0.3 per cent of the total complaints.

As well, Laurentian, like other Ontario universities, has robust processes and procedures in place to deal with complaints in a timely and appropriate fashion, Giroux said.

This includes a committee that deals with student appeals regarding issues such as grades, and a respectful workplace and learning policy and a code of student conduct, he said.

Although Laurentian is not among them, some universities even have their own ombudsman to investigate complaints, Giroux said.

Marin's history with Greater Sudbury city council doesn't seem to concern the university president. He said Laurentian has “never had any issues” with government officials, regardless of their role.

Sudbury Catholic District School Board chair Jody Cameron also said he doesn't have any concerns with the ombudsman gaining oversight of school boards.

“Having that additional oversight and a place for people who have complaints to go to to get investigations rolling in terms of their concerns is welcome from my perspective,” he said.

But Marin likely won't find many issues with school boards, Cameron said.

“It's pretty prescribed with how things are done, in terms of the ministry of education and the number of teachers we can hire, and the budgets,” he said. “There's lots of legislation in the Education Act for us to follow.”
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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