Geographical Jurisdiction over a Practitioner’s Conduct

Regulators often say that they have jurisdiction over a practitioner for their misconduct regardless of where it occurred. That proposition makes sense. The public is at risk if a practitioner is unethical or incompetent even if in the past that behaviour has only been demonstrated elsewhere. But how far does this proposition extend? Pretty far according to Saplys v Ontario Association of Architects, 2019 ONSC 1679, http://canlii.ca/t/hzs49.

In that case a practitioner was alleged to have, among other things, engaged in work with a client of a former architectural firm on the same building project for a similar purpose. Under the rules in Ontario, practitioners are required to give notice of this retainer to the former architectural firm. He had not done so in this case. One of the projects was in Saskatchewan, where that rule about giving notice to the previous firm did not exist. The Divisional Court of Ontario upheld the finding by the Ontario regulator for breaching the Ontario rule. The Court held that the rule could apply to out-of-province work. It rejected the argument that the jurisdiction over the person should be limited to conduct that involves moral turpitude or that engages a concern about the protection of the public in Ontario.

The Court also held that the discipline tribunal properly excluded expert opinion evidence on the interpretation of the language in the legislation related to the scope of practice of the profession. Expert evidence regarding the usual practice of the profession or an alleged common understanding was not relevant to this issue and would not assist the panel members including those who were not architects. The Court said the expert evidence did not relate to the standard of care of an architect nor did it involve any technical or scientific knowledge that could only be understood by the Committee with the assistance of an expert.

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