This matter was heard by a panel of the Discipline Committee of the College of Optometrists of Ontario on February 21, 2013.
Summary: A Panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) referred specified allegations of professional misconduct to the Discipline Committee. Two of the allegations of professional misconduct were the result of a Registrar’s report and two of the allegations of professional misconduct were the result of a complaint received by the College. Both referrals were considered at the hearing.
Registrar’s Report:. Based on information Dr. Charron provided in his 2010 Annual Report, the College sought clarification regarding Dr. Charron’s home address. When the College attempted to contact Dr. Charron to seek clarification, there began a series of voice mail messages and exchanges of correspondence lasting nearly two years. Over the first two months, the College called Dr. Charron and left seven messages. Dr. Charron did not respond to those messages until mid-February. By Spring 2012, the College had asked for Dr. Charron’s home address and phone number approximately 14 times. In light of Dr. Charron’s initial unresponsiveness and, later, his comments and queries regarding the College’s authority to collect personal information, the College reasonably (but incorrectly) believed that Dr. Charron was refusing to provide the College with information. Shortly before Dr. Charron’s disciplinary hearing (after the College had already begun preparing for it), Dr. Charron advised the College of the error. By that time, the College’s costs were approximately $30,000.
Complaint: In the Spring of 2012, for approximately four or five days, Dr. Charron posted a sign, “Refugees stay for free. You & me pay the fee” under the banner “Optometrists, Dr. R.J. Charron & Associates” in front of his practice. On the other side of the sign, the word, Canada, was posted upside-down. Although Dr. Charron asserted that he did not intend the sign to be discriminatory, the College believed that the sign was distasteful; and believed that it could dissuade persons from seeking optometric care because they might feel uncomfortable or discriminated against.
Guilty Plea: Dr. Charron pled guilty to two allegations of professional misconduct, namely:
(1) that he engaged in conduct or performed an act that, having regard to all circumstances, would reasonable be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unethical; and
(2) that he caused or permitted, directly or indirectly, a publication through any medium of communications that has a relation to or a bearing on a member’s practice that, could be regarded by the profession as demeaning the integrity or dignity of the profession or being likely to bring the profession into disrepute.
The College withdrew the remaining two allegations of professional misconduct, namely:
(1) that he signed or issued, in his professional capacity, a certificate, report or similar document that contained a statement that the Member knew or should have known was false, misleading or otherwise improper; or that withheld statements or information that the Member knew or ought to have known should have been disclosed; and
(2) that he engaged in conduct or performed an act that, having regard to all circumstances, would reasonable be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unethical.
The Panel’s Reasons: The panel accepted Dr. Charron’s guilty plea. On the matter related to Dr. Charron’s Annual Report, the Panel considered that, as regulated professionals, optometrists have an obligation to respond to requests from their College and that failing to do so is unprofessional. With respect to the allegation regarding the sign in front of Dr. Charron’s practice, the Panel found that that the sign was offensive and did not reflect the dignity of the profession.
Penalty: The Panel accepted a joint submission on penalty. It ordered Dr. Charron to appear before the Discipline Panel and be reprimanded. It also ordered Dr. Charron to, at his own expense, successfully complete a professional problem based ethics course within six months; and to contribute towards the College’s costs in the amount of $15,000.