Role of the Complainant

What role should the complainant play in a regulator’s complaints and discipline process? One view is that the complainant merely provides information to the regulator and has no ongoing role. This view is expressed in the case of Tran v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, 2017 ABQB 337 where the Court said:

A person who complains to a professional regulatory body has the same interest as any member of the public: an interest in ensuring that members of the profession meet the standards set by the governing body. It is the role and the obligation of the professional regulator, not the complainant, to ensure that standard is met.

However, Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 provides a more enhanced role. Under that Act as of May 30, 2017, complainants ‎have the right to request the withdrawal of their complaint, participate in resolutions and appeal unsatisfactory decisions by the regulator. The Ontario Sexual Abuse Task Force recommended an even larger role for complainants including full party status at discipline hearings.

It is rare for there to be such divergent views on such a fundamental issue.

The Tran case also provides some guidance on the role of the screening committee in serious complaints with significant credibility issues. The Court said:

In my view, the record in this case demonstrates that the Applicant’s complaint was taken seriously and was subject to a proper investigation. The Committee was not required to refer the matter to a full hearing, notwithstanding a conflict between the Applicant’s statement and other evidence (the physician’s response and hospital records). The Committee was entitled to consider the information before it and determine that there was “insufficient or no evidence of unprofessional conduct.”

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