An optometrist (“Zenner”) appealed a decision of the Prince Edward Island College of Optometrists (the “College”) refusing to issue a new licence to Zenner until certain terms and conditions had been met. The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal in part, quashing the condition that Zenner must complete an ethics course as no optometric or medical ethics course was, at the relevant time, accredited or offered by the College.

28. February 2006 0

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Optometrists – Licence to practice – Training requirements – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

Zenner v. Prince Edward Island College of Optometrists, [2005] S.C.J. No. 80, Supreme Court of Canada, December 16, 2005, McLachlin C.J. and Major, Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella and Charron J.J.

Zenner practised as an optometrist in Ontario and PEI beginning in the late 1970s. In 1994, Prince Edward Island amended its Optometry Act to require proof of 12 credit hours of continuing education in the preceding year. The relevant Regulations came into force in July 1995. At the end of 1995, the College refused to renew Zenner’s licence for 1996 because he had failed to submit evidence of continuing education for both 1994 and 1995. In 2001, Zenner applied for a new licence. The College informed him of conditions for his reinstatement, in particular the completion of an accredited optometric or medical ethics course and passing the Provincial jurisprudence examination set by the College. Zenner sought judicial review of the 1996 decision not to renew his licence and of the 2001 decision imposing conditions for the issuance of his new licence. Both the trial division and the appeal division of the P.E.I. Supreme Court dismissed the applications for judicial review.

The Supreme Court of Canada reviewed the relevant factors of the pragmatic and functional approach and determined that the appropriate standard of review applicable to the College’s decision was reasonableness.

The Court upheld the College’s 1996 decision to refuse renewal of Zenner’s licence based upon Zenner’s failure to provide evidence of 12 hours of continuing education in 1995.

With regard to the 2001 decision, the Court agreed that the College may, before issuing a new licence, impose any special terms and conditions it considers appropriate. However, in this case, there was no optometric or medical ethics course accredited or offered by the College as required by one of the conditions placed upon Zenner. Therefore, the College’s exercise of its discretion in imposing completion of such a course as a condition was unreasonable. The condition that Zenner pass a provincial jurisprudence examination set by the College was found to be reasonable. In the result, Zenner’s appeal was allowed in part and the condition relating to the completion of the medical ethics course was quashed.

To stay current with the new case law and emerging legal issues in this area, subscribe here.