The Ombudsman: Maladministration and Alternative Dispute Resolution


  • Mary A. Marshall
  • Linda C. Reif



The authors seek to highlight the office of the ombudsman, which represents a potentially powerful form of alternative dispute resolution. They first examine the "classic" ombudsman. This ombudsman is basically a neutral party who decides which side is justified in a dispute. They examine how Canadian ombudsman legislation ensures that many of the ombudsman's most important aspects are protected, such as impartiality and immunity from prosecution. They next examine the boundaries of the ombudsman's jurisdiction which, for the classic ombudsman, encompass only the administrative actions of government. The procedures common to most classic ombudsman offices are also outlined. Next, some challenges to the classic ombudsman are canvassed, such as the privatization of government services. They favour a continuing role for the ombudsman in regulating privately-delivered "public" services. Next, the article looks at different forms of the ombudsman, as adapted around the world. They provide an organizational scheme for these adaptations. Each model is analyzed, and its strengths and weaknesses assessed. The article concludes by stating the similarities found in all ombudsman models and which make the office an important form of ADR.