Mandate of the National Student Ombudsman (NSO)

M. Jean-François Bernier, National Student Ombudsman

The National Student Ombudsman is responsible for ensuring that the complaint processing procedure is applied appropriately and effectively. His mandate is to coordinate, support and advise the regional student ombudsmen under his authority. Jean-François Bernier has one year to establish his organization and must render it operational by September 2023.

The National Student Ombudsman encourages concerted action among the regional student ombudsmen as well as the sharing of good practices. He supervises the training of the RSOs and acts as an advisor to them. He also examines the complaints on which the regional student ombudsmen reach conclusions and make recommendations.

The National Student Ombudsman also promotes the role of stakeholders and the complaint processing procedure and disseminates information on the rights of students and their parents.

The National Student Ombudsman is called upon to give an opinion on any matter the Minister submits to him. He is also required to submit an accountability report and make recommendations for the continuous improvement of services offered to students.

Mandate of the regional student ombudsmen (RSO)

As of September 2023, regional student ombudsmen will be required to undertake their mandate, which consists in processing complaints in educational contexts, both in the public and private networks, when all other attempts at a resolution have failed. They will also process any complaint or report of sexual violence that may be directly submitted to them. They will assist the complainant in lodging their complaint or in any other step of the process and will inform them of their right to be assisted by the person of their choice at any step during the complaint processing procedure.

They will disseminate information relating to the complaint processing procedure and to the possibility of filing a report or lodging a complaint concerning an act of sexual violence directly with them. They will provide any information requested on the application of the complaint processing procedure to the persons in need of such information and will advise them of the protection measures against reprisals that the Act affords to any person who files a report, lodges a complaint, collaborates in the processing of a report or complaint, or accompanies another person in filing a report or lodging a complaint.

Regional student ombudsmen will be called upon to give an opinion on any matter submitted by the board of directors of a school service centre (SCC), the council of commissioners of a school board (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 RSOs

Regional student ombudsmen will be appointed by the Minister of Education from among the persons declared qualified for the role by a selection committee and following the recruitment and selection procedure set out in the Minister’s regulation. Their mandate, which must not exceed five years, is renewable.

Current complaint processing procedure

If a person lodges a complaint with an SSC or 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 as to whether or not the complaint is well-founded and, if applicable, suggest appropriate corrective actions to be taken.

Find the contact information for student ombudsmen.

Reform of the complaint processing procedure in educational contexts

General notice

The reform of the complaint processing procedure is expected to come into effect in September 2023.

The Act respecting the National Student Ombudsman (2022, chapter 17) was adopted on May 31, 2022, and assented to on June 2. This Act proposes a reform of the complaint processing procedure in educational institutions and 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 based on the creation of an independent body, outside of the education network, as well as the province-wide implementation of a standard complaint processing procedure that will replace local procedures that currently apply to both the public and private networks.

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 have 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 wishes 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 may then write to the Regional Student Ombudsman for their jurisdiction. The Regional Student Ombudsman has 20 working days to fully examine the complaint and reach a conclusion. If applicable, they will transmit any relevant recommendations to the SSC, SB or private educational institution.

The National Student Ombudsman has five working days to inform the Regional Student Ombudsman of whether or not they intend to examine the complaint. Should they choose to do so, they have 10 working days to fully examine the complaint and, if they feel it is warranted, substitute their conclusions and 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 and of 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 or, 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.

Sexual violence

An alternate means of filing a report or lodging a complaint concerning an act of sexual violence will be made available to the complainant, who may contact the regional student ombudsman directly.

Any report or complaint concerning an act of sexual violence that falls under the jurisdiction of the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) must be relayed immediately to the DYP, which will intervene according to the applicable legal and administrative framework. In this context, the regional student ombudsman will withdraw from the examination of the report or complaint; they may feel it worthwhile to make more collective recommendations.

The regional student ombudsman must immediately forward any report or complaint that they receive to the school principal or to the person designated by the private educational institution, unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that doing so would impede the investigation or, in the case of a complaint, that the complainant refuses to have said information forwarded.

Any and all reports and complaints must be handled as a matter of urgency by the regional student ombudsman according to the general complaint processing procedure.