Access to information
Registrar outlines process for access to Discipline Committee decisions
College Registrar Brian McGowan has reported to Council on a framework to ensure that the College meets its legal obligations to give public access to Discipline Committee decisions.
The Registrar told Council at its October meeting that his review on the most effective methods to provide public access to Discipline Committee decisions reached in public hearings was based on the College’s legislated duty to serve and protect the public interest.
“Over the last 10 years, there has been some inconsistency with respect to the College’s practices in providing access to the results of our quasi-judicial proceedings, and some lack of clarity with respect to our obligations as a regulatory body,” the Registrar told Council. “Our process must be transparent, consistent and understood by College stakeholders and the public.”
Consequently, going forward, McGowan said the College will:
The Registrar cited examples from Ontario’s health and legal systems to make the point.
“In Ontario, the provincial government enacted the Health Systems Improvement Act in June of this year and the Access to Justice Act last year, amending the enabling legislation of all the health-profession regulatory bodies and the Law Society of Upper Canada,” he said.
“The changes in the Law Society’s act, for example, require that governing body to maintain a register of its members that includes a record of all terms, conditions, limitations and restrictions imposed on licences, as well as all suspensions, revocations, abeyances and surrenders of licences.
“Canadians – and the governments they elect – want greater transparency in decision making by professions,” McGowan said. “All my recent discussions with other regulators from across Canada and here in Ontario make one thing very clear – transparency is not only the wave of the future, it is fundamental to the role of regulation.”
As part of its review, the College:
While the College’s public register acts as a convenient, authoritative tool to provide information about teachers’ qualifications, including terms, conditions and limitations that may be imposed through the discipline process, the public can only learn the results of discipline hearings by attending open hearings or by reading in detail, or in summary, the decisions in Professionally Speaking or on the College’s web site.
Under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, a Discipline Committee panel can order publication with or without the member’s name. The Act, however, does not give the panel the authority to prevent publication of information about public hearings and their results in the media or elsewhere.
The College held its first discipline hearings in April 1998, and copies of most Discipline Committee decisions have been available in the College’s Margaret Wilson Library since that time.
The availability of decisions serves the public interest, and in this respect it reflects the duty of the College under section 3(2) of the Ontario College of Teachers Act to serve and protect the public interest.