Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Nurses – Investigations – Nurses – Disciplinary proceedings – Professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming – Judicial review – Quasi-judicial tribunals – Disclosure – Evidence – Witnesses – Procedural requirements and fairness – Jurisdiction
Ajao v. College of Nurses of Ontario,  O.J. No. 5280, 2011 ONSC 6061, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, October 12, 2011, M.R. Dambrot, A. Hoy and P. Lauwers JJ.
The applicant, a registered nurse and member of the College of Nurses of Ontario, sought judicial review of decisions of the Inquiries Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”) of the College of Nurses and the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”). The applicant’s employment was terminated for reasons of professional misconduct and, as a result of an incident that occurred during her termination, she was charged with mischief and assault. The conviction for mischief was later set aside on appeal. The Registrar of the College of Nurses appointed an investigator to investigate the alleged professional misconduct and reported the results of its investigation to the ICRC. The ICRC later released a decision and, rather than referring the matter to the Discipline Committee, elected to issue a Letter of Caution and require the applicant to complete specific continuing education or remediation programs. The ICRC did not make findings of guilt or impose punishment. The applicant attempted to appeal the decision of the ICRC to the HPARB but the HPARB confirmed it did not have jurisdiction to review the decision.
The Court agreed with the recommendations of the College which conceded that although the ICRC is a screening committee and not a quasi-judicial one, it still had a disclosure obligation to the applicant, albeit a minimal one. It was obliged to provide the applicant with notice of the Registrar’s report, notice of the substance of the allegations against her and an opportunity to make submissions in respect of the allegations. In this case, the ICRC relied on interviews of several of the applicant’s colleagues in reaching its decision without providing a summary of that information to the applicant or an opportunity to make submissions about that information. As a result, the College agreed that the decision should be quashed and the matter remitted to a differently constituted panel of the ICRC for a fresh determination, with directions that the applicant be allowed to make submissions in respect of the seven witness statements.
In respect of the remaining issues advanced by the applicant, the Court disagreed that ICRC should not be permitted to consider the matter because the author of the report of professional misconduct did not have a contractual relationship with the applicant. There is nothing in the Health Professions Procedural Code that requires the report be written by a person in a contractual relationship with the applicant. The Registrar has the authority to appoint an investigator whenever the Registrar believes on reasonable grounds that a member has committed an act of professional misconduct. In view of the fact the Court was setting aside the decision of the ICRC, it was unnecessary to consider the jurisdiction of the HPARB. There was no basis to make an order for damages or costs to the applicant in relation to the actions of the College.
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