Overview of processed cases

The following examples allow a better understanding of the Ombudsman’s approach.

Public Works Department

Water accumulation in access lane

Public Works Department | 2018

A citizen complained that the street curb adjacent to his driveway, which had been reconstructed following work undertaken by the City, resulted in runoff waters from the street flowing directly into his access lane.

Following the intervention of the Ombudsman, the Public Works Department reconstructed the curb in accordance with adjacent curb heights in order to rectify the issue.

Aesthetic deficiency resulting from work undertaken by the City

Public Works Department | 2019

A citizen complained about the work completed by the City on part of the public right-of-way located in front of his property. A dry well was installed there to remedy a street water drainage problem raised by citizens from the sector. The citizen, however, was not informed of such work and was highly unsatisfied with the finished product, which proved to be unsightly.

Following the intervention of the Ombudsman, the department agreed to consider alternative solutions to correct the aesthetic deficiency resulting from the initial work.

The corrective work was undertaken at the end of summer 2019.

Snow removal operations: application of established standards

Public Works Department | 2018

In the context of a case in which the Public Works Department had modified its snow removal mode of operation in order to make it compliant with established standards and put an end to a practice that had been active since the last administration, the Ombudsman reiterated the department’s position to citizens.

Snow removal operations: snow strategy

Public Works Department | 2019

The Ombudsman has received 61 complaints regarding snow removal operations for the winter 2018-2019 period, and has represented citizens before the City of Laval, the latter having also initiated a retrospective of its interventions.

Following this retrospective, the City committed itself to implementing several new strategies in order to improve the process and efficiency of its snow removal operations and better meet the needs of citizens. Featured amongst these were:

  • Stabilizing and increasing the workforce that makes up the snow patrol, which would allow for improvements in the quality of snow removal as well as parking management;
  • Increasing the supervision of contracts in order to better manage all private snow compacting and removal contracts;
  • Changing working methods by combining the spreading of abrasives and snow compacting tasks, both activities therefore being undertaken by the same teams, whether state‑controlled or contract-based;
  • Additional investing in order to increase human resources and thereby improving the completion time of operations;
  • Optimizing all operations by using equipment better adapted to certain specific needs, for example for parking areas under the City’s responsibility;
  • Additional investing in various snow removal vehicles in order to decrease the response time for operations, and thereby increase the operational snow removal capacity for sidewalks, as well as residential and secondary streets (P-3);
  • Changing operational modes for snow removal operations, so that in case of new precipitations, the ongoing operation could stay active and be completed, and a second operation could begin, the goal being to make sure citizens residing in secondary streets will not have to wait up to 14 days before the beginning of the next snow removal operation;
  • Improving the accountability of supervisors through the implementation of reports targeting the quality of operations in a systemic way and per shift.

Rehabilitation of a lot following work by the City

Public Works Department | 2019

A citizen complained that the rehabilitation of his lot was missing certain repairs following an intervention on municipal property undertaken by the Public Works Department.

Following the intervention of the Ombudsman, the department accepted to complete the remaining repairs to the satisfaction of the citizen.

Work undertaken by the City requiring a private property intervention

Public Works Department and Engineering Department |2019

The Office of the Ombudsman regularly receives citizen complaints regarding work undertaken by the City in the context of necessary interventions executed within the public right-of-way that require the dismantlement or demolition of private property installations.

These complaints include, amongst others:

  • Dissatisfaction regarding rehabilitation work undertaken by the City or its subcontractors;
  • The divergent interpretation of the nature of the rehabilitation work undertaken;
  • The derogatory nature of certain private installations and the course to follow by the City in such cases;
  • Citizen interactions with the City’s subcontractors.

Depending on the circumstances, it appears necessary for the City to clarify its framework for intervention when it undertakes private property work.

The Ombudsman has therefore recommended the adoption of clear guidelines regarding all facets of private property work.

As such, taking into account priorities and available resources, several aspects have been preliminarily defined in order to set clear rules, including:

  • The announcement of tasks beforehand;
  • The nature of the work being undertaken and the operational methods being used;
  • The planned schedules, in particular regarding work completed on private property;
  • The notices regarding changes in the schedules;
  • The extent of the expected inconveniences;
  • The responsibilities of the citizens and what is expected of them;
  • The exact extent of the rehabilitation work undertaken by the City;
  • The conformity of the work undertaken by the City according to applicable regulations;
  • The analysis process for extraordinary circumstances;
  • Who to contact in case of a problem;
  • The overall monitoring of rehabilitation work.

 

 

Urbanism Department 

Fencing: Application of current regulations

Urbanism Department |2018

A citizen complained that the fencing separating a commercial zone, more specifically a fast food restaurant, from the residential zone she inhabited did not meet the municipal regulations on mitigation measures, such as fencing opacity.

These buffer measures are implemented to reduce the damage related to the proximity of the residential zone to a commercial zone. The Ombudsman’s review revealed that the Urbanism Department applied the provision of the zoning regulation regarding fencing opacity, taking into account the types of fencing available on the market. As such, the level of opacity could vary from one fence to another.

The department’s management gave the assurance to henceforth apply the provision on fencing opacity to meet the generally expected appearance of an object defined as opaque so as to meet the mitigation objective.

Buildings construction and renovation

Urbanism Department | 2019

A complainant addressed the Ombudsman to allege that the construction and renovation of adjacent buildings were undertaken illegally and that this presented a heightened risk of flooding of the complainant’s property.

The work undertaken on one of the properties in question was intended to make changes to an existing building located on the 0-20 year flood plain and, in part, in the riverbank protection strip. At the time of the issuance of this first permit, the municipal regulation allowed the construction of a new primary building on the 0-20 year flood plain.

Yet, the primary building was entirely demolished and a new foundation was built. The work was then suspended at the request of the City. The original permit was eventually renewed, but the work was not completed. A second permit was subsequently issued.

Meanwhile, the new articles of the L-2000 bylaw regarding the 0-20 year flood zone had come into effect and ceased to allow the construction of a new primary building in the zone. The Ombudsman deemed that the land no longer benefitted from vested rights for construction in the flood zone and that a permit could therefore no longer be issued.

The Ombudsman recommended for the City of Laval to examine the circumstances of the issuance of the permit **** and to evaluate the measures to undertake in this specific case, as well as in order to prevent such a situation from reoccurring.

What’s more, the second property referenced by the complainant infringed in several ways on municipal regulations regarding exterior arrangement. The Ombudsman therefore recommended for the City of Laval to inspect the exterior arrangement of this property and ensure compliance with regulations.

Certificate of conformity: Minor derogation

Urbanism Department |2018

A citizen complained about the waiting periods experienced after the submission of a minor derogation request to the City of Laval. Expansion work on his property, dating back to 1981, was the original reason for the case. A renovation permit was then issued to the former owner in order to allow him to complete the work. This permit specified that the targeted lateral margin should be four feet. Yet, this prescription was not respected at the time, forcing the complaining citizen to undertake the steps listed above in order to get the building up to code.

The requested margin distance was related, amongst other things, to fire resistance. The application of the minor derogation therefore was not that simple since it had to be proven that the property was compliant with fire resistance standards. Given these facts, the Urbanism Department worked together with the Legal Affairs Department in order to respect its own obligations while finding a solution allowing the acquisition of the minor derogation. A certificate of conformity, an unprecedented document in this type of case, was produced to regularize the situation.

The City of Laval was a team player in the context of this case, delivering the minor derogation accompanied by a customized declaration as insurance.

Unsafe intersection

Urbanism Department and Engineering Department | 2018

A citizen complained about the unsafe nature of a nearby intersection. One of the two streets had a sign signalling a mandatory stop while the other street, which also featured a bicycle path, had no sign. What’s more, the presence of a cedar hedge – dense and high on one side, and under municipal jurisdiction – seemed to impact the visibility of road users.

The Ombudsman visited the premises and determined that the presence of the hedge indeed posed an unnecessary risk, the nature of which was avoidable. Note that the Coroner’s Office had already recommended, in 2011, for the City of Laval to identify intersections where unkempt vegetation could obstruct visibility, according to municipal regulations, as well as to ensure that this vegetation be trimmed in accordance with such findings and take the necessary steps to undertake trimming measures without delay.

Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the City confirmed its intention to enforce the regulation pertaining to the hedge and make technical alterations to optimize the safety of the intersection.

Non-compliance of current zoning

Urbanism Department | 2018

Several citizens complained about the construction of a residential condominium high-rise near their property. On the one hand, they argued that various violations were a cause of prejudice, and on the other hand, that the usage stated and allowed by the zoning permit would not be respected. In fact, several actions on the part of the developer indicated that they did not necessarily intend to comply with the zoning for which they had agreed to and for which they had secured the construction permit.

The Ombudsman recommended for the City of Laval to ensure compliance with the zoning of the lot and its permitted usage.

Monitoring and communication with citizens

Urbanism Department | 2018

Several citizens complained to the Urbanism Department about an access lane slope that was recently constructed by their immediate neighbour resulting in that neighbour’s runoff waters flowing onto their property. The department agreed to intervene, the complainants having contacted it regularly in order to inquire about the progression of the case since they witnessed no correction on the part of the referenced neighbour.

The Urbanism Department confirmed that legal procedures would be undertaken shortly. Yet, after two years of waiting and no tangible steps taken to hold the offender accountable, the citizens learned that the department ultimately elected not to pursue the case further given the relative unimportance of the slope.

The Ombudsman did not comment on the decision of the department to pursue or not pursue procedures; however, this decision should have been made from the beginning and communicated to the complainants in a timely manner, instead of two years after the beginning of the process.

The Ombudsman recommended for the City of Laval to take the necessary measures to ensure the coherence of interventions undertaken by the Urbanism Department’s Inspection Division.

Engineering department

Completion time delay

Engineering Department | 2019

A citizen contacted the City in order to report that the water coming out of her property’s faucet was brownish in colour. She was then told that emergency work had been undertaken near her residence and that the situation should go back to normal shortly. Noticing that the situation was persisting, the citizen called back three days later and talked to a member of the Engineering Department who reiterated the same statements.

Still faced with brownish water, the citizen repeatedly expressed her complaint. After 13 days of attempts on her end, she asked for the Ombudsman to intervene.

A member of the Water Department subsequently noticed that the main valve had not been reopened following the completion of the nearby work. The colour of the water immediately went back to normal once this problem was fixed.

Appeasement measures

Engineering Department | 2018

Several citizens complained about a transit traffic problem in a certain sector of the city.

Following the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman, the City solicited the concerned citizens in order to determine the most appropriate corrective or complementary measures.

The Engineering Department then established a plan of measures in addition to the existing appeasement measures, the goal of which being to decrease the amount of traffic passing through small residential streets. This plan is in the process of being submitted to elected representatives for approval. If approved, the Engineering Department intends to present these new measures to the residents of the sector during an information meeting.

Damage as a result of the installation of a pilaster

Engineering Department | 2018

A citizen noticed the installation of a pilaster in front of the area where he intended to build his residence, on a lot owned by him. He inquired about this situation by contacting an employee from the Urbanism Department, who took measures to reach out to the relevant service. Having obtained a response stating that the pilaster was indeed meant to be installed at this specific location, unless indicated otherwise, the employee ended the discussion without further advocating for the citizen or trying to rectify the prejudice suffered by him.

Following the intervention of the Ombudsman, the Engineering Department agreed to move the pilaster elsewhere.

Evaluation Department 

Assessment roll: representation to the Ministry of Public Security

Evaluation Department | 2018

A citizen and owner of a building since April 2016 saw his property affected by the 2017 spring freshet. The compensation offered by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) was below the citizen’s mortgage balance, which forced him to pay the difference between the balance and the compensation sum from the MPS. The Ombudsman’s investigation revealed that the property seemed to have been undervalued during the assessment process. The correction of the value was however impossible since the contestation period for that assessment had expired. 

Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the Evaluation Department agreed to present the case to Ministry members. The error was corrected in the calculation of the compensation received by the citizen, which served to resolve the major issue he was facing.

Assessment roll: principle of sharing the reduction

Evaluation Department | 2019

A citizen received a notice of correction ex officio indicating that the assessed roll of his property for 2019-2020-2021 could be modified to half of the proposed value based on the new roll. However, the notice contained no information concerning the sharing of this reduction of value over three years. The citizen accepted the proposition. Since the change was made after the roll came into effect, it applied from its enactment. That way, although the roll was modified, the sharing of reduction applied. The citizen therefore observed the value of his property being decreased over three years rather than immediately. The City of Laval had no other choice than to apply the principle of sharing the reduction in this case.

The Ombudsman however estimated that the notice of correction ex officio could have misled the citizen. In fact, this notice did not include any information indicating that the principle of sharing the reduction would apply, and it was not accompanied by a written document explaining that the principle of sharing the reduction would be applicable and clearly indicating what the adjusted values would be for the years 2019 and 2020.

The Ombudsman recommended that the City be clearer when communicating such notices of correction ex officio, as well as in the responses of the assessor following a revision request.

The City has given an assurance that its Assessment Department will henceforth include an explanatory note in its mailings originating from the Finance Department regarding the principle of sharing the reduction.

Others

Notice of claim

Legal Affairs Department – Claims | 2019

A citizen reported that during events of flooding in 2019, the City used heavy machinery to extract bags of sand located at the back of his residence while the ground was still drenched in water. The citizen claimed that, in doing so, the weight of the machinery damaged his access lane. The City initially denied the claim. The citizen then turned to the Ombudsman. As a reminder, when it comes to claims, the Ombudsman only intervenes to make sure all elements of the case are taken into consideration by the department.

Following the review of the case, the City accepted to re-examine the claim and presented the citizen with an offer taking into account the liability waiver signed in favour of the City as well as the depreciation of the access lane, the construction of which was completed many years prior.

Statement of offence

Municipal Court | 2019

A citizen parked his car in a space reserved for handicapped individuals as he picked up his sick mother in order to urgently drive her to the hospital. Amidst the stress, he forgot to prominently display the sticker allowing him to park in that space. After having explained the situation to the agent giving him a ticket, the agent agreed to cancel the ticket and informed the citizen that he would take care of the situation. Ultimately, the citizen received two fines in the mail.

Following the intervention of the Ombudsman, the municipal court swiftly cancelled the fines in question.

Waiting time to reach 311

Communications and Marketing Department | 2019

The Ombudsman had received several complaints regarding access to the 311 line. Generally, citizens had to wait much longer than usual before being able to reach the City by phone, email, or even in person. The significant increase in the number of citizen requests, combined with the implementation of a new system to handle such requests resulted in a response time that was much longer than usual. The City had to enact a series of measures to rectify the situation.

Following the application of such measures, the Office of the Ombudsman received confirmation that the average waiting time went from 1 minute and 56 seconds at the beginning of September 2019 to just 23 seconds at the end of September, with a response rate of 95 %, which is standard.

Procedural fairness process

Department of Culture, Recreation, Sport and Social Development | 2019

An organization filed a complaint with the Ombudsman following the decision of the City to suspend its accreditation. The organization claimed that the written information received from the City was insufficient and did not allow for a full understanding of the motives of such a decision.

According to the information gathered by the Ombudsman, the decision of the City to temporarily suspend the recognition of the organization in order to undertake various verifications was reasonable and responsible on its part. It is rather the process surrounding this decision that presented certain deficiencies. In fact, little written information was communicated to the organization in order to provide a full explanation of the issue at hand.

Yet, the principle of fairness was applicable upon the moment the City elected to suspend the recognition of the organization, and the City was responsible for communicating its motives justifying its decision, as well as giving the organization the possibility to present its arguments.

The Ombudsman recommended for the City to implement a simple yet clear procedural fairness process in the context of administrative decisions likely to jeopardize an individual or organization’s rights, privileges, or assets.