Showing Respect

Most professions require their practitioners to show respect to their clients and colleagues. One of the central issues in Sullivan v. Ontario College of Teachers, 2018 ONSC 942 was on how to interpret this duty. Mr. Sullivan was a teacher who had concerns about vaccinations. There was a vaccination clinic for the students at his school. Mr. Sullivan left his class unattended to express his concerns about whether the nurse staffing the clinic was obtaining truly informed consent. His comments were found to be aggressive and intimidating (e.g., questioning whether the students were being told that one of the side effects of vaccination was death). Some of Mr. Sullivan’s comments were heard by and, in one case, directed at students. The Discipline Committee found that Mr. Sullivan’s conduct demonstrated a lack of respect to the nurse and the students (as well as his class which was left unattended).

On appeal, Mr. Sullivan argued that he was demonstrating respect to his students by trying to ensure that they gave truly informed consent, which he honestly believed was not occurring. The Court held that the issue of informed consent was between the students, their parents and the nurse. Mr. Sullivan had no role in the matter. The Court also held that it was reasonable for the Discipline Committee to find that Mr. Sullivan’s method of intervening did not honour the principle of respect.

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