Governing Ourselves informs members of legal and regulatory matters affecting the profession. This section provides updates on licensing and qualification requirements, notification of Council resolutions and reports from various Council committees, including reports on accreditation and discipline matters.
Through complaint resolution, complaints can be resolved more quickly and just as appropriately.
In previous instalments of this series we’ve talked about:
Now we’ll turn to complaint resolution, one of the options at the investigation stage to deal with complaints.
Complaint resolution (CR) is another way for the College to act in the best interests of the public.
CR allows the College to effectively address certain complaints, but without a full investigation. The CR outcomes mirror those that would be obtained if the matter were to proceed through the Investigation Committee. With its efficiency, the CR process also frees College resources to tend to the remainder of complaints in the system at any given time. In a way, the public interest is doubly served.
All complaints transferred to investigations are assessed to determine whether they are suitable for the CR process. One of the criteria is whether the Investigation Committee has addressed similar complaints. If such complaints are typically referred to the Discipline Committee, a matter will be deemed unsuitable for CR.
However, the Investigation Committee may have previously determined that a caution is the appropriate outcome for a particular type of complaint.
Based on these past considerations, the College could then ask the member if he or she would accept a comparable outcome. The consequence is the same, but for the member, this process is less contentious and is typically more expedient.
Many complaints can be resolved in the public interest through CR, however, the College does not use this process for complaints involving allegations relating to sexual abuse or sexual misconduct toward a student.
When complaints are addressed through CR, the Registrar and the member enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) outlining the terms to which they have agreed. Once the Investigation Committee ratifies the MOA, its terms become final and binding.
The committee affirms that these outcomes are in the public interest and are in the range of what it would have ordered had the matter been investigated. The complainant (if this is a public complaint) and the member’s employer receive a copy of the Investigation Committee’s decisions.
Last year, over 100 complaints were successfully handled through CR. This is a voluntary alternative. Members who are the subject of a complaint do not have to participate in CR if offered the opportunity. If they choose not to, the complaint proceeds through the usual investigation process.
While CR is underway, the investigation process is suspended (i.e., the clock stops on the investigation timeline).
The CR process doesn’t always lead to a resolution. A member can agree to go through CR and then withdraw from the process at any time. Likewise, the College may halt the process if it is proceeding in a way that is inconsistent with the public interest. If an agreement can’t be reached, the investigation process resumes.
The CR process is “without prejudice,” which means any information shared during complaint resolution can’t be relied upon at a later stage in considering the complaint. Members should consider that when deciding whether to participate in CR. If the complaint is not resolved through CR, or if the MOA is not adopted, no Investigation Committee member of the panel that considered the matter can participate in future considerations of the complaint.
Complaints wind their way through the College in several ways: some go through CR; some are resolved by the Investigation Committee after an investigation; and some are dismissed after they’re found to be frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process, unrelated to professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity, or otherwise not in the public interest.
Still others are referred to the Discipline Committee (regarding possible incompetence or professional misconduct) or the Fitness to Practise Committee (if a health-related issue might be affecting the member’s ability to teach). We’ll wrap up the complaints and investigation series in the next edition with a look at hearings and possible decisions.