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Catholic school board defers naming Ontario's first ombudsman

Kindergarten students at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Scarborough, Ont.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Catholic District School Board deferred making a decision on appointing an ombudsman and referred the matter for a staff report.

Had the board agreed Thursday evening to appoint on ombudsman, it would have been the first in Ontario.

Trustee Jo-Ann Davis, who has championed the motion, said such an appointment would have helped to turn around its image after a series of charges of conflict of interests and spending scandals that prompted Queen's Park to seize control of its finances from June 2008 to January 2011.

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"It would be quite a turnaround for us to be a school board under supervision to one that's leading the province in accountability," Ms. Davis said.

Instead, the motion was referred to staff, who will be asked to provide further research on ombudsman and alternatives to appointing such a position, given concerns if this permitted under the province's Education Act.

Ms. Davis' motion called for an ombudsman who would report to and be paid by the board, with a potential background in education and law, on a two-year full-time contract.

In Quebec, ombudsmen are required at each school board, and ombudsmen of four other Canadian provinces – B.C., New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia – as well as in Yukon territory have oversight of education.

In Ontario, the ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over schools boards, municipalities, hospitals and universities. But provincial ombudsmen have been arguing since their office was established in 1975 that they should have a mandate over school boards for truly independent scrutiny. Andre Marin's office received 99 complaints about school boards in the past year, two of which he investigated at the TCDSB while it was under provincial supervision.

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