The word Ombudsman derives from the Swedish term indicating a person who acts on behalf of another. An independent office who receives complaints against the government or its officials from aggrieved persons.
It would seem the Ombudsman’s Office have a different opinion than the rest of us taxpayers in Ontario when it comes to providing accountability within the MNR. Called Ontario’s watchdog, are they really looking out for the public interest or are they protecting Government Departments?
The first letter is from the Ombudsman Office , rejecting our complaint, and stating it should be resolved through the political process is in our opinion a total “cop-out”. Why then does the Ombudsman’s office even exist??
We reflect this in the second letter, our reply to their investigator and Mr Morin. No doubt there will be more to follow………..
Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance, Inc.
P.O. Box 24055, Market Mall, Sault Ste. Marie, ON. P6C 6G7
May 9, 2013.
Jackie Esler, Investigator
Office of the Ombudsman
483 Bay Street, 10th Floor, South Tower
Toronto, ON., M5G 2C9
Dear Jackie Esler: Re: File No. 263642-001
On February 15, 2013, we submitted an official complaint to Ombudsman André Marin regarding the blatant discrimination against ordinary Ontario citizens perpetrated by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) by effectively reserving 2,000 of Ontario’s best lakes and thousands of square kilometres of pristine Crown lands for tourists and effectively preventing ordinary Ontarians from accessing or enjoying their own natural heritage.
As we tried to explain as precisely and accurately as possible in our complaint, the MNR usually declares an area circumscribing “remote” tourist lodges, anywhere from 3 Kms to 50 Kms, as a “no trespassing” zone for ordinary citizens under pain of “trespassing” charges and fines of around $1,000.00 for anyone using a public access road (usually funded by taxpayers $75 million/year) where a “No Trespassing” sign has been erected – to “protect remote tourism values”. Under the “Land for Life” Parks program these areas have increased in size and many more lakes have been set aside for future remote tourism development.
These areas are in essence “government-funded private game and fish farms for the wealthy” which means that while the MNR and NOTO both claim that such lands are “accessible to the public” what they really mean, tongue-in-cheek, is that, these 2,000 lakes are accessible IF you can carry your canoe, food, hunting, fishing or camping equipment on your back and walk in, a minimum of three Kms, often on tax-subsidized, public roads, on which only authorized vehicles are allowed. Of course, behind all this double-talk lies the real intent of ultimately preventing all public access to “preserve the remote experience” for paying guests, mostly from out-of-province, which allows owners to charge much higher prices for this “remoteness”.
In your letter of reply dated April 12, 2013, in which you again refuse to investigate our legitimate complaints, you describe this act of discrimination by the Ontario government as a “broad public policy issue (which) would be better dealt with through the political process…..as the mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office resides with the administration of government services.” (Emphasis added)
The administration of government services is exactly what we are complaining about, and we gave you a long list of reasons why we think this government policy may be illegal and a contravention of the intent and purpose of the Public Lands Act and other statutes. Thus, it is the administration of the statutes mentioned that require investigation, and not shrugged off as a “public policy issue.”
According to your official website: “The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about Ontario government service” and further under “Function of the Ombudsman” we find “The function of the Ombudsman is to investigate any decision or recommendation made or any act done or omitted in the course of the administration of a governmental organization and affecting any person or body of persons in his, her or its personal capacity. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.6, s. 14 (1).”
We submit that our complaint falls under this mandate and definition of your function since it is all about an “act” of administrative abuse of bureaucrats in the Ontario government (Ministry of Natural Resources) creating policies that may be contrary to the intent of the Ontario statutes, and also applying these policies differently in different parts of Ontario – at the whim of each District Manager.
In fact, it appears quite evident from the criteria that permits your office to refuse to investigate a complaint, as stipulated in Section 17(1) on your website, that you have not met this criteria and therefore should not be issuing a refusal to investigate based on a finding of “public policy issue” by one of your investigators.
As we clearly stated in our complaint, we understand that this issue is politically very difficult to address, possibly because so many politicians and bureaucrats have been “guests’ of the proprietors of the remote tourism businesses involved. It appears that any attempt to have this issue investigated has resulted in your investigators accepting replies and statements by the MNR as prima facie evidence rather than investigating further and obtaining independent personal and legal evidence or corroboration from the other side, such as road based tourist operators who do not benefit from such government largesse.
It is incomprehensible to us and to many, how the simple uncooperative behaviour of Council members of the City of Greater Sudbury with the Ombudsman’s Office has made national headlines and received a great deal of press attention, as well as much investigative work and attention from your office. However, an issue affecting the personal rights and freedoms of every Ontario taxpayer is off-handedly discarded as unworthy of your attention and called a “public policy issue” in order to accomplish its rejection.
Your recommendation to seek redress through the political process may be valid for other issues, but in this case, as you must realize, it is near impossible to get the government to correct its own abuses when no outside authority such as the Ombudsman’s Office or similar refuses to call them on it.
Our aim is to challenge the MNR through the courts by way of an Application for Judicial Review of the legality and authority of the MNR to discriminate against Ontarians by effectively refusing them access to their own lands. While we continue to amass funds in order to initiate this process, perhaps we may receive a better response from some fearless investigative media than we did from the Ombudsman’s Office.
Mike Boudreau, President,
C.C: André Marin