Transparency for the public, too

I'm making a small change in the process of complaints. In future, I'll generally identify those making them.

To date many complainants' identities were kept confidential. Only the identities of prominent complainants and of organizational complainants were made public.

As you might imagine, it's tricky to define prominence (or lack thereof) in an age of social media and vast publicness, It's even trickier at times to disguise a complainant in a review (many times it's obviously someone in the disputed stories themselves).

I've looked at what other ombudsmen and public editors do, I've taken in several emails on the issue, and I'm making the change in line with the general practice in this field that provides routine transparency about the complainant.

I accept the argument that the fairest process is transparent about all elements of it. Just as it's important for the public to know that something has been reviewed to assess its compliance with standards, it's important for the public to know who's complaining.

From everything I've seen, complainants are passionate about their pursuits, so I don't think identifying them will keep some from stepping forward.

This change, by the way, also brings me in line with my Radio-Canada counterpart, Julie Miville-Dechene, who makes the identities public unless complainants persuade her otherwise. While there are few reasons to withhold such information, she has found over the years some valid considerations as exceptions to the rule. It's nice there are differences in the approaches of the two ombuds, but this need not be one.

In general, it means identities of complainants will be made public when the review is released. Like Julie, I'll be open to persuasive arguments to shield identities.

Naturally, we'll alert people when they bring complaints forward that their identities will be revealed once the review is done. Any reviews under way won't be affected by the change.Only future reviews will be.

l also hope soon to provide ways for complainants to know more about the status of the reviews There is more to come on that later.