The following is a general outline of the stages of a disciplinary matter involving a Member of the College. As a part of its transparency initiatives, the College ensures that the public is aware of the status of each matter being brought before the Discipline Committee.
Stage 1: Notice of Hearing and Disclosure
Legal counsel for the College will, based on the referral of the specified allegations from the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC), draft the Notice of Hearing. Once signed by the Registrar, the Notice of Hearing, Rules of Procedure of the Discipline Committee, and the Disclosure (which is all of the information the College has that is relevant to the allegations) will be sent to the Member or the Member’s legal counsel if one is appointed.
Stage 2: Registrar and Legal Review
The Registrar of the College is not directly involved in matters under investigation by the ICRC. This ensures that when a matter is referred by the ICRC to the Discipline Committee, the Registrar who is responsible for taking the matter before the DC does so with a fresh look and without any potential bias.
In this stage, the Registrar and legal counsel for the College will review the allegations, the evidence, witness statements and expert opinions to determine how the College wishes to proceed with the Discipline Hearing.
Stage 3: Pre-hearing Conference (PHC)
In accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Discipline Committee, a Pre-hearing Conference is held. The PHC is chaired by an independent person familiar with discipline proceedings before regulatory bodies. The College presents an overview of its case and the Member or their legal counsel presents their defence. The PHC Chair will review the evidence and advise the parties about the strengths of their cases and areas where they may be weak. The Chair will also, based on their experience in discipline matters, provide the parties with advice as to whether the case might lead to a finding against the Member.
The parties also often engage in discussions surrounding whether a settlement is possible. A settlement occurs when the Member agrees to some or all of the allegations against them and when both the College and the Member can agree on a penalty.
Stage 4: Setting a Hearing Date
Following the PHC and based on the outcome of on-going settlement discussions, both parties will ask the Chair of the Discipline Committee to appoint a panel to hear the matter and to set the date(s) for a hearing.
Stage 5: The Hearing
At this stage, the panel appointed by the Chair of the Discipline Committee will be convened for one or more days during which they will be presented with evidence in support of the allegations by the College and with the defense case for the Member. A hearing has components:
- presentation of the case by the College and the Member;
- verbal decision and reasons on the allegations by the panel;
- submissions by the College and Member on penalty (if the decision of the panel is to find that the member has committed professional misconduct or is incompetent); and
- verbal decision and reasons on penalty.
In an uncontested, single day hearing the College and the Member present agreed statements of fact relating to the allegations against the Member as well as a joint submission on penalty and costs.
In a contested hearing, the panel typically issues verbal decisions and reasons. If a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence is made, the panel will ideally proceed as soon as time permits to hear submissions on penalty. If the penalty is seeking costs, these submissions will occur distinct from the submissions on penalty. After hearing these submissions, the panel will usually (although not in every case) issue a verbal decision on penalty and, if applicable, costs.
Stage 6: Decision and Reasons
After the hearing has concluded, the Panel will draft the written Decision and Reasons. This document, once finalized, is formally issued by the Discipline Panel to the College, the Member and the complainant (if applicable) and is also published by the College.
If the Member or the College does not agree with the Decision and Reasons as issued by the Discipline Panel, either may appeal the outcome to the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario.
Stage 7: Implementation
If the Panel finds that the Member had committed professional misconduct or incompetence, and imposes a penalty, and assuming there is no appeal of the Decision and Reasons, the College will implement any penalty imposed by the Panel. The penalty, which must be completed within a set period of time, typically includes one or more of the following:
- revocation of their certificate of registration or a suspension from practising the profession for a period of time;
- a reprimand of the Member by the Panel;
- applying a term, condition or limitation on the Member’s certificate of registration which may include the following:
- taking one or more continuing education courses related to matters relevant to the findings against the Member;
- one or more meetings with Experts in areas of the practice of the profession related to the findings against the Member;
- one or more meetings with Experts in regulation;
- one or more inspections on the Member’s practice and files to review matters related to the findings against the Member; and
- a fine of not more than $35,000 payable to the Minister of Finance.
Important Note: If a member is found to have committed an act of professional misconduct that was the sexual abuse of a patient, in addition to the penalties noted above, the Panel may also:
- reprimand the Member
- revoke the Member’s certificate of registration if the sexual abuse included any of the five specific sexual acts set out in the Code (s51.(5) paragraph 2);
- require the Member to reimburse the College for funding provided for that patient under the Patient Relations program (s51.(2) paragraph 5.1 of the Code);
- Require the Member to post security acceptable to the College for the reimbursement if such an order is included (s51.(2) paragraph 5.2 of the Code).