Assessing an Applicant’s Good Character

Approved by Council, September 30, 2015

Purpose

This policy explains, in the interests of transparency and fairness, how the College of Optometrists of Ontario assesses information from or about applicants for whom evidence of past conduct raises questions about their ability to practise optometry with honesty and integrity, which is also known as “good character.”

Scope

This policy applies to all applicants who apply for a certificate of registration from the College of Optometrists of Ontario (the “College”).

Background

The College’s overriding mandate is to serve and protect the public interest. As part of its commitment to doing so, the College adopted a mission statement which provides:

Mission: To serve the public by regulating Ontario’s optometrists. The College uses its authority to guide the profession in the delivery of safe, ethical, progressive and quality eye care at the highest standards.

One of the ways in which the College ensures that the profession delivers safe and ethical eye care is by requiring applicants to be of good character. Good character can be understood as being willing and able to practise optometry with honesty, integrity and in accordance with the law.

While the College does not currently have an explicit general good character requirement in the Registration Regulation, good character is implicitly required by the College’s Registration Regulation and the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991. In addition, several other specific registration requirements help ensure that future members of the College are of good character, including:

  • The requirement to have no previous findings of guilt in relation to a criminal offence;
  • The requirement to have no previous findings or current proceedings regarding allegations of professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity;
  • The requirement not to make any false or misleading statements or representations in his or her application;
  • The requirement for applicants who are already registered as optometrists in another Canadian jurisdiction to submit a certificate of good standing.

Applicants are generally presumed to be of good character unless and until evidence demonstrates otherwise. Good character remains an ongoing expectation of registered optometrists who are required to submit declarations about their conduct to the College as part of the annual registration renewal process.

The relevant legislation is set out in the attached Appendix 1.

Policy

Optometrists are expected to demonstrate honesty and integrity in all of their actions, to practise in an ethical and safe manner, and to comply with all legislation, regulations, College By-laws, and policy governing the profession.

Examples of conduct or circumstances that may give rise to doubt on the part of the Registrar that the applicant is of good character include, but are not limited to:

  • A previous finding of professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity by a regulatory body;
  • A current proceeding regarding professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity;
  • A previous finding of guilt in relation to a criminal offence (including offences under the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Food and Drugs Act);
  • A previous or current charge in relation to a criminal offence;
  • A previous finding or current proceeding in relation to discipline by a post-secondary education institution;
  • A refusal by another optometric regulatory body to register the applicant;
  • Other serious concerns that come to the attention of the College.

If the Registrar has doubts about whether an applicant is of good character, or is of the opinion that terms, conditions or limitations should be imposed, or proposes to refuse registration, the Registrar will refer the application to the Registration Committee in accordance with the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991. The applicant will be provided with notice of the referral and an opportunity to make written submissions to the Registration Committee about his or her good character.

The Registration Committee of the College then reviews the application and the submissions, if any, in order to determine if the issuance of a certificate of registration—with or without terms, conditions and limitations—is in the public interest.

Referrals to the Registration Committee

Procedural Fairness

When making decisions about the issuance of a certificate of registration, the College is committed to ensuring that:

  1. Decisions are made in the public interest.
  2. Decisions are made using a process that is transparent and fair, by committee members acting in an objective and impartial manner.
  3. Decisions are grounded in reasons that are fully explained in writing (unless the decision is to register the applicant with no terms, conditions or limitations in which case reasons are not required).
  4. Decisions are made on the specific merits of the case under review.

Committee Role and Options

The Registration Committee reviews applications referred to it by the Registrar.

The Registration Committee will review the application and any submissions of the applicant in order to make a determination of whether the applicant is of good character at the time of the application.

Supporting Documentation Submitted by the Applicant

When the Registrar has doubts about an applicant’s character, the applicant has the onus of establishing that he or she is of good character. In other words, it is up to the applicant to prove to the College, generally through supporting documents, that the applicant is of good character.
Therefore, if an applicant answers “yes” to any declaration question on the application form, the College recommends that the applicant provide additional supporting documentation as follows:

  • A personal statement describing the circumstances of the incident(s).
  • In relation to any criminal charges or findings, official copies of any court transcripts, court information, reports, orders, reasons for decision, sentencing documents, probation orders or pardons.
  • In relation to any regulatory findings, copies of any orders and reasons for decision.
  • In relation to any outstanding regulatory proceedings, copies of any Notices of Hearing and interim orders.
  • An explanation as to why the incident(s) is not relevant to the applicant’s suitability to practise optometry (for example, is there evidence that rehabilitation and/or remediation was successful?)
  • Evidence of compliance with any Order imposed by a court or another regulatory body.
  • Letters of reference from employers or colleagues, including current ones, who are aware of the facts of the matter.

Applicants are responsible for making arrangements at their own expense with the proper authorities to have official information (such as transcripts) sent directly to the College.

The Registrar may request any of the above information if the Registrar has doubts about the applicant’s good character.

The College keeps all information confidential except as required or allowed by law.

Factors to be Considered by the Registration Committee

In each case, several factors will be considered by the Registration Committee vis à vis the conduct under review, including the following:

  1. The nature of the conduct, including:
    a. The seriousness and impact of the incident(s);
    b. The duration, repetition, concealment and apparent motivation of the incident(s);
    c. How long ago the incident(s) occurred;
    d. The relevance of the incident(s) to professional practice.
  2. The honesty and completeness of the submission by the applicant:
    a. Has the applicant made an honest declaration on the application form? Or
    b. Did the College learn of an issue on receipt of a Certificate of Standing from another jurisdiction, from a criminal record check or other source?
  3. The consequential actions of the applicant, such as:
    a. The outcome of any remediation or rehabilitation undertaken.
    b. The acceptance of responsibility, expression of remorse or provision of restitution by the applicant.
    c. The subsequent conduct of the applicant including any work, volunteer activities or practice of optometry with no further evidence of conduct issues arising.
    d. The development of measures or safeguards to prevent any repetition of the incident(s), such as establishing policies and procedures and developing monitoring and accountability mechanisms where appropriate.

Registration Committee Decisions

After considering the application, the submissions of the applicant and the factors set out above, a panel of the Registration Committee may:

  • Direct the Registrar to register the applicant;
  • Direct the Registrar to register the applicant with terms, conditions and limitations; or
  • Direct the Registrar to refuse to register the applicant.

Where the Registration Committee determines that the public interest may be protected by directing the Registrar to register the applicant with terms, conditions and limitations, the following is a non-exhaustive list of the types of terms, conditions and limitations that may be imposed:

  • practice supervision or monitoring;
  • counselling or therapy;
  • course work (e.g., ethics or boundaries course).

Decisions of the Registration Committee may be appealed by the applicant to the Health Professions Review and Appeal Board (HPARB) within 30 days of receipt of the written Decision and Reasons.

Appendix 1 – Excerpts of Relevant Legislation