For many months, a citizen had been waiting for an answer from the Bureau des réclamations(Claims Office) of Ville de Montréal in regards to the monetary claim he had submitted, following his fall on an icy sidewalk.

The Bureau des réclamations explained this long delay by the fact that the appraiser mandated to manage this file was also awaiting information he had requested from the borough where the accident had occured: indeed, in order to evaluate the citizen’s claim, the appraiser needed factual information from the borough regarding the climatic conditions and the maintenance of this sidewalk, on the eve and day of the incident. Our investigation showed that such lengthy delays were not exceptional.

After having settled this specific file, the Ombudsman de Montréal initiated a wider investigation, with every borough, in order to get a portrait of the situation and, if the need arose, to evaluate how the response delays could be shortened. We have asked every borough to confirm their response delays in all such files during the preceding year, as well as the name and coordinates of the person in charge of handling these requests.

The answers we obtained showed delays varying from a few days to several weeks. The long delays were attributed, mainly, to the fact that many information requests submitted by the Bureau des réclamations or their representatives were forwarded to the wrong person and/or to a wrong fax number and that neither the Bureau or its representative made follow-up calls when they did not receive the requested information.

Some boroughs also emphasized that, in certain cases, the requests related to events that had occurred many months prior, making their search for the relevant information much more difficult.

Boroughs submitted they would normally be able to provide the information within 6 weeks or less, if these requests were sent promptly and to the right person.

Therefore, our office prepared an updated list with the names and coordinates of all of the persons in charge of these files, for every borough, and sent it to the Bureau des réclamations, to be distributed to its appraisers.

The Ombudsman requested that the Bureau des réclamations annually updates this list and also ensures that follow-up calls be made, in every case where information requests are sent by fax or e-mail. Follow-ups should also be done every time a requested information is not received within a reasonable delay.

Our office followed up on this file in 2012: the Bureau des réclamations confirmed that, since our intervention, the borough’s response time to their questions are much shorter than they used to be. Moreover, answers to citizens are generally given in a timely manner so as to allow them to exercise their legal recourses, if they deem it appropriate.

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