Here are the abstracts:
- On Being an Ombudsman: Protecting the Public Interest While Navigating the Minefield of Policy Networks (Article), by Daniel Johns, Brent Epperson
After 50 years of institutional history in Canada, the focus of ombuds has shifted from resolving individual complaints to improving the quality of government services for all. New tools in the ombuds world enabled the conceptualization and promotion of administrative fairness. Ombuds’ acquired expertise, which, shared with government, improved the delivery of services. Public systemic investigations are now seen as the ultimate expression of ombuds effectiveness. Consistent dialogue with public servants and organisational administrators inevitably links ombuds to policy networks. While informal links to policy networks can help ombuds resolve cases, they can also inadvertently create distance between ombuds and complainants. A former ombuds officer at Columbia University, Marsha Wagner emphasizes the importance of identifying systemic issues in ombuds practice, i.e., ombuds who do not focus on systemic issues may be derided as “wannabes”. This article suggests the pendulum has swung too far from the individual complainant to a systemic focus and urges caution in contemporary ombudship.
- Fairness: The Bedrock of Ombuds Practice in Canada (Critical Commentary), by Shirley R. Nakata
Fairness and justice are longstanding constructs in the discussions around ethics and morality. And fairness, or the principle of procedural fairness, as the bedrock of Ombuds practice in Canada, creates a responsibility for Ombuds to advance and hold institutions and individuals accountable to ethical processes and decisions. While effective conflict engagement forms a significant part of our work as well, Canadian Ombuds practice is firmly founded on and delivered through a fairness lens. Fairness has been described as a flexible and context-specific construct, its content to be determined by the individual circumstances of the case. In this flexible approach lies the opportunity for Ombuds to help humanize bureaucracy for those who must navigate it, by encouraging rules, processes and decisions that support the diversity and multiplicity of contexts, experiences and perspectives. It gives Ombuds a way to define fairness that does not mean treating everyone the same, which is an interpretation of “fairness” that actually creates and perpetuates inequity and unfairness. This is supported by Canadian jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of Canada that embeds equality and inclusivity into the concept of fairness. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian values and the diversity of the Canadian populace inform the standard of fairness in a way that support Ombuds to advance fairness in a way that is inextricable from equity.
- Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI): Where Does the Ombuds Fit? (Case Study), by Julie Boncompain, Heather McGhee Peggs, Brent Epperson
How might an ombudsperson respond to an equity concern? Using a real-to-life case study about student / faculty conflict brought to a university ombudsperson, we consider the value of a fairness lens that an ombuds can bring to EDI ethical discussions.