If a person lodges a complaint with a school service centre (SSC) or school board (SB) and is dissatisfied with how their complaint was handled or its outcome, they can contact the student ombudsman.
Within 30 days following the receipt of the complainant’s request, the student ombudsman must submit their opinion to the Board of Directors or Council of Commissioners on whether the complaint is well-founded and, if applicable, what they believe to be the appropriate corrective actions to be taken.
Reform of the complaint processing procedure in educational contexts
On November 23, 2021, Bill 9 was tabled in the National Assembly. Should Bill 9 be adopted, the proposed reform of the complaint processing procedure aims to:
- speed up, standardize and strengthen the effectiveness of the complaint processing procedure
- enhance independence and transparency of the institution
- professionalize the role
- ensure better accessibility to this recourse and promote awareness of it
This reform is characterized by two key elements. First, the reform proposes the creation of an independent body, outside of the education network, to be governed by a National Student Ombudsman. In addition, regional student ombudsmen will be tasked with serving the entire territory of Québec.
Second, the reform provides for the province-wide implementation of a standard complaint processing procedure that will apply to both the public and private networks.
Mandate of the National Student Ombudsman (NSO)
The National Student Ombudsman will be responsible for the adequate and optimal application of the complaint processing procedure. Their mandate will be to provide coordination, support and advisory services to the regional student ombudsmen under their authority.
To do so, the National Student Ombudsman will encourage concerted action among the regional student ombudsmen as well as the sharing of good practices. They will supervise the training of the RSO and work to advise them.
Furthermore, the National Student Ombudsman will promote the role of stakeholders and the complaint processing procedure and disseminate information on the rights of students and their parents.
The National Student Ombudsman will be called upon to give an opinion on any matter the Minister submits to them. They will also be required to submit an accountability report and make recommendations for the continuous improvement of services offered to students.
Mandate of the regional student ombudsman (RSO)
The primary mandate of regional student ombudsmen will be to process complaints in educational contexts, both in the public and private networks, as a last resort. They will assist the complainant in lodging their complaint or in any other step of the process.
Regional student ombudsmen will be called upon to give an opinion on any matter submitted by the Board of Directors of an SSC, the Council of Commissioners of an SB, a parents’ committee, a student committee or a private educational institution under their jurisdiction. They will also be required to submit an accountability report to the educational organizations they serve and to the National Student Ombudsman.
Appointment of the NSO and the RSO
The National Student Ombudsman will be appointed by the government, on the recommendation of the Minister, to a renewable, five-year mandate. The person appointed will have to meet the selection criteria set by the Act respecting the national student ombudsman and will be required to have knowledge of the education system and dispute resolution mechanisms.
Regional student ombudsmen will be appointed by the Minister to a renewable, five-year mandate. Candidates will first be evaluated by a selection committee headed by the National Student Ombudsman.
Complaint processing procedure
The reform provides for a standard, three-step complaint processing procedure. A complaint may be lodged by a student or their parents with regard to services they received, are receiving, should have received or require, regardless of whether the student attends an educational institution under a school service centre or school board, a private educational institution or is homeschooled. The complaint processing procedure favours recourse to local stakeholders for the purposes of dispute resolution in educational contexts.
Step 1: Contact the person directly concerned or their immediate supervisor
The student or parent who wants to lodge a complaint should first submit one to the person directly concerned or to their immediate supervisor.
The complaint must be processed within 10 working days.
Step 2: Contact the person in charge of processing complaints
If, at the end of Step 1, the student or parent is dissatisfied or the complaint was not fully processed within the prescribed timeframe, they can contact the person designated by the SSC, SB or private educational institution for processing complaints.
The complaint must be processed within 15 working days.
Step 3: Contact the Regional Student Ombudsman (RSO)
If, at the end of Step 2, the student or parent is dissatisfied or the complaint was not fully processed within the prescribed timeframe, they can, in writing, approach the regional student ombudsman for their jurisdiction. The regional student ombudsman has 20 working days to fully examine the complaint and come to any conclusion. If necessary, they will transmit the relevant recommendations to the SSC, SB or private educational institution.
Once the recommendations are submitted, the National Student Ombudsman has five working days to inform the regional student ombudsman of whether they intend to examine the complaint. Should they choose to do so, they have 10 working days to fully examine the complaint and make any recommendations. The regional student ombudsman then informs the SSC, SB or private educational institution of the conclusions that have been reached and the reasoning behind them as well as any recommendations, if applicable.
The SSC, SB or private educational institution then has 10 working days to inform the complainant and the regional student ombudsman of the actions they intend to take and, if applicable, the reasons for refusing to take action.
Fight against bullying and violence
The proposed procedure also applies to instances of bullying and violence in the event that the complainant is dissatisfied with the intervention measures implemented by the educational institution as provided for in the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan. In this case, a complaint may be lodged directly with the person in charge of processing complaints.
Last update: November 25, 2021