Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Psychologists – Psychologists – Disciplinary proceedings – Professional misconduct / conduct unbecoming – Penalties – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Procedural requirements and fairness – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter
Nanson v. Saskatchewan College of Psychologists,  S.J. No. 295, 2013 SKQB 191, Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, May 17, 2013, R.W. Danyliuk J.
The appellant psychologist faced some professional disciplinary matters when she was the subject of nine complaints. She and College counsel reached an agreed statement of facts where she accepted the charges as framed and addressed remedies, by way of certain undertakings concerning conduct of her future practice. This joint submission was made to the Discipline Committee of the College which, in its written decision, rejected the joint submission and substituted its own order for the terms recommended by counsel. The appellant psychologist was found guilty of professional misconduct for failing to comply with the College’s Code of Ethics and was issued a reprimand. The Discipline Committee issued an order as to the appellant’s future practice, refusing to accept the undertaking. The appellant appealed the decision to the College’s Council, which upheld the decision. Council determined that the agreed statement of facts amounted to an admission of a breach of the Code of Ethics and a guilty plea. As a result, the Discipline Committee was correct in finding the appellant guilty on that basis and imposing a reprimand. As well, Council decided the Committee was correct in rejecting the joint submission as being unfit or contrary to public policy. The appellant appealed the Council’s decision pursuant to s.37 of the Psychologist Act. As well, she sought a judicial review.
The Court allowed the appeal in part. The standard of review was reasonableness as the primary matters related to the Tribunal’s interpretation of its own enabling legislation where deference is required. The Court rejected the appellant’s argument that she could not be found guilty of regulatory breaches in the absence of an express plea of guilty. Her admission as to the facts behind the charges were tantamount to guilty pleas. A plain reading of the complaints made it really apparent they could constitute ethics code breaches. The Council’s decision to uphold the findings of guilty pleas was also well within the range of reasonable decisions. However, the Discipline Committee and Council erred in misapprehending a requirement for consequences in every case. The necessity of requiring a reprimand in every case where there was a breach of professional standards was not a clear result of a reasonable application of s.32 of the Psychologist Act. As Well, the Discipline Committee ought to have recalled counsel and given them an opportunity to address the Discipline Committee’s concerns about the joint submission. Both on the merits and procedurally, the Discipline Committee’s process and outcome were unreasonable. As a result, the reprimand was struck from the disposition.
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