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What is an ombuds?

Ombuds is a word of Scandinavian origin which means “mediator” or “protector”. It applies to both women and men. Depending on the context and the country, one sometimes speaks of an ombudsman, a protector or a mediator. Today, the term ombuds is preferred to ombudsman.

There are several types of ombuds. Joëlle Thibault is an organizational ombuds whose services target internal resources (employees, managers, etc.).

The field of competence of the classical or legislative ombudsman is limited to the administrative decisions of a government or a municipality. In Canada, there are a significant number of ombuds in schools, colleges and universities. Although their mandates differ, their interventions are generally based on the same principles of confidentiality, neutrality, impartiality and equitable treatment of disputes.

What does an ombuds do?

An ombuds helps employees and managers prevent and manage disputes quickly and effectively by finding lasting solutions. An ombuds intervenes when necessary with members of an organization who are experiencing any type of difficult situation, including abuse of authority, incivility, psychological or sexual harassment, discrimination, perceptions of unfairness or injustice or reports of preoccupying incidents.

An ombuds also helps organizations better deal with workplace climate issues, strengthen the employee experience and remain proactive in risk management. An ombuds makes recommendations to senior management and the board of directors to optimize the organization’s approach to conflict prevention and management.

Is the work of the ombuds governed by recognized parameters?

Yes. Joëlle Thibault acts as an ombuds and her practice is based on established parameters, including the Statement of Ethical Principles of the Forum of Canadian Ombudsman or the Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association. Ombuds’ work is not considered as a profession. However, each ombuds is committed to respecting the recognized parameters and to defending them in order to preserve the integrity of this function and its contribution to individuals and organizations.

How does the ombuds protect privacy?

The ombuds protects personal privacy in a number of ways. This protection applies at the time of initial contact, throughout the exchanges and even once the interventions are over. During the initial contact, a person who so wishes may remain anonymous. In addition, the ombuds ensures that the confidentiality of all information received.

Discussions between the ombuds and a person are intended to try to resolve a situation amicably. If the person wants the ombuds to intervene with another person or the organization, the ombuds will only do so with his or her explicit agreement. Otherwise, everything that is exchanged remains confidential, with some exceptions. If a person wishes to share documents with the ombuds, they will be invited to do so via a secure platform.

What are the exceptions to confidentiality?

In urgent situations where health or safety is at stake, or when required by law, the ombuds may disclose information without the individual’s consent.

What does the ombuds do with my information following an intervention?

After an intervention, the ombuds will conserve redacted (i.e. anonymous) information and will destroy or hand over all documents to the person concerned.

To whom does the ombuds report?

An ombuds reports to the director general or the board of directors of the organization that retains her services. The reports are anonymous and are intended to enable the organization to understand and prevent issues as well as to optimize its approaches and processes. These annual reports are made available to the organization’s employees.

How can the ombuds be neutral and impartial?

It is true that organizations retaining the services of an ombuds pay fees for the services rendered. Acting from outside the organization and reporting to the director general or the board of directors, with no interest other than helping to resolve individual or systemic issues, is conducive to maintaining both neutrality and impartiality. The ombuds does not represent any individuals in particular or the organization. The mandate is to defuse tensions and provide a neutral or fresh perspective for the benefit of all, individuals and organizations alike.

I’m afraid of retaliation if I use the services of the ombuds... What should I do?

Do not hesitate to contact Joëlle Thibault. By retaining Joëlle’s services, the organization is committed to encouraging individuals to use her services and to intervening in the event of reprisals. In the event of retaliation, she will report it to the appropriate authorities without delay.

What differentiates the ombuds from human resources?

On the one hand, the ombuds is a resource located outside the organization, whereas HR is often done in-house. On the other hand, HR advises and guides management, executives and employees in all matters relating to human resources (staffing, compensation, performance assessment, organizational development, strategy, etc.). Joëlle Thibault’s expertise as an ombuds is focused on preventing and resolving difficult situations at work. Therefore, the ombuds’ contribution is complementary to what is offered by HR.

What is the difference between the ombuds and an EAP?

Employee assistance programs, or EAPs, are services available to staff members to help them deal with personal and professional challenges. These professional services (psychologists, guidance counsellors, etc.) are offered for the sole purpose of supporting the person who resorts to them. In comparison, the ombuds’ mandate is to intervene within the organization and attempt to defuse a situation through intervention or mediation. The ombuds can therefore also make recommendations to rectify an unfair situation or an inequity within the organization.

Appointments are offered via the GOrendezvous platform. You can also make appointments by email ( or by phone (1-833-902-8696). For more privacy, we encourage you to use a personal email address. Looking forward to meeting you!

Make an

Appointment is offered via the GOrendezvous platform. You can also do so by email ( or by phone (1-833-902-8696). For more privacy, we encourage you to use a personal email address. Looking forward to meeting you!