Frequently Asked Questions about Discipline

These questions and the answers to them are intended as general guidance to the most common questions about discipline matters.  The responses are not legal or practice advice and are not intended as such.  For more detailed information on the subject, readers should review the relevant statutes, regulations and standards of practice and consult with legal counsel.

 
What is professional misconduct? [TOP]
Who is involved in a disciplinary proceeding?
What is the purpose of a pre-hearing conference?
How does the hearing work?
Are decisions made public?
When can an ND whose registration was revoked or suspended apply for reinstatement?

What is professional misconduct?
It is considered professional misconduct when a member breaches the expectations that guide NDs in Ontario
Some of the definitions of professional misconduct found in CONO’s Professional Misconduct Regulation include:
  • Failure to maintain the Standards of Practice
  • Working while impaired
  • Providing treatment or services beyond the member’s knowledge, skill or judgment
  • Abusive conduct
  • Performing a Controlled Act not authorized to the profession
  • Providing unnecessary services
  • Failure to obtain informed consent and breach of confidentiality
  • Inadequate documentation and record keeping
  • Misrepresentation
  • Failure to meet legal/professional obligations
  • Acting in a conflict of interest
  • Inappropriate business practices (i.e. falsifying a record, charging excessive fees, using testimonials, inappropriate advertising)
  • Disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional conduct (i.e. that demonstrates a lack of integrity, dishonesty, abuse of power, disregard for public welfare and safety)
  • Failing to comply with the College
  • Sexual abuse of a patient
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Who is involved in a disciplinary proceeding?
The parties include the College (represented by its legal counsel, the prosecutor) and the Naturopathic Doctor (generally represented by his or her own lawyer, the defence counsel).

The College is required to provide the ND and his or her lawyer with all relevant information obtained during the investigation.  That includes written and documentary evidence to be introduced, the identity of any expert witnesses, summaries of the evidence they will give, and the identity of any other witnesses who will appear.

The disciplinary process can include a pre-hearing conference (where a settlement is possible) and a formal hearing.  The College must disclose any information to be used in the hearing at least 10 days before.

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What is the purpose of a pre-hearing conference?
After a case has been referred to the Discipline Committee, a first step may be to hold a pre-hearing conference. Both parties must agree to participate in this process. Through informal and unrecorded discussions, an attempt is made to determine if a settlement can be reached.

Any proposed settlement must have the support of the member of the Discipline Committee acting as chair during this conference. The agreement is then presented to a panel of the Discipline Committee, often in the form of an agreed statement of fact.

The panel considers whether the terms of the settlement will protect the public. The panel is not bound by the recommendation, even though it is made jointly by the counsel for the College and the ND.  Not all cases go to or are resolved at the pre-hearing conference.

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How does the hearing work?
A hearing is a formal process, much like that of a court of law.  The discipline process is transparent, so hearings are open to the public, with a few exceptions for public security or safety.

A panel of 3-5 members of the Discipline Committee (including at least two public members of the College Council) conducts the hearing. Generally, panels at this College include three NDs and two public members.

At the hearing the panel will:
  • consider the allegations, hear the evidence and determine the facts of the case;
  • determine whether the evidence proves the allegations;
  • determine whether the ND has committed an act of professional misconduct or is incompetent; and
  • determine the penalty when there is a finding of guilt or incompetence.
To start, the prosecutor presents evidence to establish the College’s case. The prosecutor will call witnesses who have relevant information about the allegations, and ask each a series of questions. This is known as examination-in-chief.

Once the prosecutor is finished, the defence counsel will question the witness, known as cross-examination. These questions aim to clarify information, test the witness’ memory, and see if there are any contradictions in the witness’ testimony.

Once the prosecutor has completed presenting the College’s case, defence counsel has the opportunity to present the case on behalf of the ND. The defence counsel will call witnesses in defence of the ND. The ND will likely testify on his or her own behalf. At this stage, the defence counsel does the examination-in-chief, while the prosecutor has an opportunity to cross-examine.

At the end of the process, the panel will issue its written decision and the reasons for the decision. The registrant and/or the College may appeal the decision to the Divisional Court of Ontario.

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Are decisions made public?
The College is required to publish a summary of every discipline decision, and the reasons for it, in its annual report.  Findings are also published on the College’s website, and made available on the Public Register, indefinitely. If the ND is found not guilty, his or her name will not be publicly available, unless the ND requests publication.

In certain situations, a ND may ask the College to remove this information from the Public Register and the College’s website. A panel of the Discipline Committee can consider these requests, but only if the penalty in a professional misconduct case was a fine or a reprimand, and more than six years has passed since the finding was made.

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When can an ND whose registration was revoked or suspended apply for reinstatement?
In most cases, one year after the Certificate of Registration was revoked or suspended, and then six months later if the application for reinstatement was unsuccessful.

If the revocation was ordered because of sexual abuse, the ND must wait five years to apply for reinstatement.

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