B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter announced today that she has launched a systemic investigation into the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations administration of the Riparian Areas Regulation in British Columbia.
The Regulation is part of the province’s environmental protection measures and is intended to preserve fish habitat by protecting the areas next to streams and other water courses from potentially harmful residential, commercial and industrial development. As part of the investigation process, the Ombudsperson is providing an opportunity for members of the public affected by the Regulation to provide input through a confidential on-line questionnaire at www.bcombudsperson.ca.
“Seventeen and a half per cent of B.C.’s land – its most populated areas – is covered by this Regulation. We have received a number of complaints from people affected by the process”, says Carter. “If there are problems with the fair and reasonable administration of this process, our investigation may shed light on these gaps and any recommendations will be aimed at improving the administration of the Riparian Areas Regulation.”
The investigation will look at administrative fairness issues such as the adequacy of public information, the reliability of the process, monitoring compliance, enforcement of standards, and complaint processes. The investigation will focus on identifying and resolving any underlying administrative unfairness and may be useful not only for this program, but also other environmental programs that follow similar processes. The Regulation applies to the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast, Thompson-Okanagan and Columbia-Shuswap regions.
The Office of the Ombudsperson receives enquiries and complaints about the practices and services of public agencies within its jurisdiction. Its role is to independently and impartially investigate these complaints to determine whether public agencies have acted fairly and reasonably, and whether their actions and decisions were consistent with relevant legislation, policies and procedures. In addition to investigating individual complaints, the Ombudsperson also conducts systemic investigations into complex issues. The Ombudsperson has jurisdiction over a wide range of public agencies, including provincial government ministries, crown corporations, government boards, schools, universities and colleges, local governments and self-regulating professions.