In it his report he details several conflicts ordinary citizens had with the provincial government, and how they were resolved.
Here is a sampling:
A woman complained that she was billed by Fines Administration for $500 for a conviction she had in 1984. She claimed that she had served time in prison for the crime and that the fine was in error. The citizens’ representative contacted court administration and found that while she had been fined $500 for failing to provide a breath sample, her incarceration was for an unrelated breach of probation. The woman accepted the finding and made arrangements to pay the fine.
A Memorial University student complained he had received a failing grade on a group assignment and was therefore ineligible to register for the next semester. After several meetings with the university, Mr. Fleming arranged for an alternate assignment to be completed. The student accepted this offer and he was able to continue his studies.
An inmate complained that he had not received timely medical care for injuries he had received while incarcerated. The citizens’ representative launched an investigation, as did the department of justice. Mr. Fleming found that the department had done a comprehensive investigation. He recommended the inmate receive a letter of apology and one was issued.
A man who had been waiting over a month for an approved walker from Eastern Heath contacted the citizens’ representative. His office then contacted Eastern Health and the man’s walker was delivered within 72 hours.
A woman with significant social and medical barriers contacted the office and explained how her disabilities prevented her from replacing the badly malfunctioning sewage disposal system in her home. The representative worked with the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, a local health authority and her physician, to build a case for qualification for a disability grant to rectify the problem.
These are just a few of the shorter incidents outlined in the report. The representative has helped cabin owners battling Crown Lands, people in disputes with Child Youth and Family Services, and people who felt they had been flooded out of their home after nearby roadwork changed flowing water.
The list goes on.
In Canada we have mostly free access to the health care system, but most people still have to pay to play in the legal system. Lawyers aren’t cheap, and hiring a lawyer wouldn’t be the best course of action in all of the situations outlined in the report.
It’s good to know there is someone to represent the average Joe or Jane when they run up against a wall in bureaucracy. Although the office has done some general advertising in the past, the provincial government wouldn’t go wrong in letting more of the general public know about the Office of the Citizens’ Representative. The advertising might pay for itself in reduced strain on the courts.
Then again, Mr. Fleming’s service could become so popular, he might have to increase his staff.
Nevertheless, the provincial government exists by the people, for the people, and having one person to remind the government of that in specific cases is priceless.
Brodie Thomas is editor of the Gulf News, Port aux Basques