TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
Ontario teachers are regulated by the Ontario College of Teachers (“OCT”). The Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 and it’s regulations empowers the OCT to regulate teachers by issuing certificates to qualified teachers; certifying they meet specific academic, experience, and character standards. OCT also investigates and resolves complaints regarding professional misconduct, incompetence, and fitnesses to practice issues.
The OCT is governed by a “Council” responsible for governing the OCT and administering its functions under the College of Teachers Act. The day to day functions of Council are conducted to an Executive Committee that acts between Council meetings. The Council appoints a “Registrar” who is given broad powers to make administrative decisions under the act, such as determining whether to accept or refuse an application for certification.
Burokas Law acts as an OCT lawyer in representing teachers in all their dealings with the OCT from general advice/advocacy about applying for registration to representation before any number of committees. Specifically, Burokas Law can:
Qualified individuals may apply to the OCT for a “certificate of qualification and registration”. Although a certificate is not needed to be a teacher, an individual cannot call themselves a “Ontario Certified Teacher” without a certificate.
There are numerous educational requirements for a certificate that differ depending on: 1) where the individuals completed their education programs; 2) whether they were certified by another authority outside Ontario or Canada; 3) what area of study they studied, and; 4) whether they resigned their certificate or let if lapse. For these specific requirements, please reference Ontario Regulation 176/10- “Teachers Qualifications”.
Notwithstanding these circumstantial requirements, all applicants for certification must submit a report outlining criminal convictions that they have not received a pardon. The Registrar will refuse an application for a certificate when he/she has reasonable grounds to believe:
Or its true that:
If the Registrar wishes to refuse an application, revoke an application, or impose conditions on a certificate that are not consented to, the Registrar must issue a Proposal to Refuse or a Proposal to Impose Conditions outlining the reasons for the decision and serve it on the applicant for their review. An applicant can provide a request to review the decision, with submissions, within 60 days of written request.
The Registration Appeals Committee will review the submissions of the applicant and may direct the Registrar to either issue or refuse the certificate, place conditions on the certificate, or issue the certificate pending fulfilment of regulatory requirements. A review by this committee is not a hearing where applicants can call evidence.
The OCT operates an Investigation Committee that considers and investigates complaints regarding the conduct of members of the College. Complaints must relate to possible professional misconduct, incompetence, or incapacity of a member, must not be frivolous, and must be in the public interest. The relevant member is permitted to make written explanations regarding the complaint prior to it being reviewed and investigated.
After a complaint is considered and investigated, the Investigation Committee may:
The Investigation Committee does not hold a hearing, they investigate information and consider submissions of the parties. Before a decision is made and upon consent of the parties, the Registrar may also refer the OCT and the relevant member to a complaint resolution process if the complaint is likely not being referred to the Discipline Committee and is not sexual abuse.
The Investigation Committee ultimately decides whether to adopt the resolution or not.
The Discipline Committee considers allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence of a member that have been referred by either Council, the Executive Committee or the Investigations Committee. If the allegations relate to conduct that could expose students to harm or injury, the Council or Executive Committee may make an interim order suspending member or imposing conditions on their certification.
The Discipline Committee will hold a hearing to determine whether a member has committed professional misconduct or is incompetent. This includes hearing evidence from the OCT and the member including oral testimony, documentary evidence, and any other accepted evidence. The opposing party will have the opportunity to challenge the party’s evidence.
Ontario Regulation 437/97- “Professional Misconduct” provides a list of conduct that is considered professional misconduct. After a hearing, if the Discipline Committee finds the member committed any of the listed conduct, they will be found to have committed professional misconduct.
The Discipline Committee may find a member incompetent after a hearing if its of the opinion the member displayed in his/her duties a lack of knowledge, skill, judgement, or disregard for the welfare of a student to a degree that demonstrates they are unfit to carry out their professional responsibilities or they need conditions on their certificate.
Upon finding a member incompetent or to have committed professional misconduct, the Discipline Committee may:
For instances of professional misconduct, and in addition to above, the Discipline Committee may also:
Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Discipline Committee may also refer the OCT and the relevant member to a complaint resolution process if they both consent, the committee has not yet ordered a remedy above, and the matter does not involve sexual abuse. The Discipline Committee ultimately decides whether to adopt the resolution, reject it, or modify it.
Fitness to Practice Committee
The Fitness to Practice Committee hears matters of relating to a member’s capacity to practice that have been referred by Council, the Executive Committee, or the Investigation Committee. Like the Discipline Committee, the Fitness to Practice Committee conducts hearings where they hear evidence from each party and make findings of fact. After making such findings, the Committee may find a member incapacitated if its of the opinion the member is suffering from a physical or mental condition/disorder such that they are unfit to carry out their responsibilities or that they should be on conditions. If a member is found to be incapacitated, the Fitness to Practise Committee may do the following:
Fitness to Practice hearings are generally closed to the public.
It is very common for there to be conditions on a licence. They often arise in situations where the Registrar has some concerns with an applicant or licensee, but they do not rise to the level of initiating or continuing with a proposal. Such conditions may impose restrictions on conduct or simply reiterate obligations already mandated by the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 and it’s regulations. Conditions can be either imposed by the Registration Appeal Committee, ordered as part of a resolution, or consented to by the applicant/licensee.
Reinstatement and Variation
A person who had their certificate revoked, suspended, or had conditions placed on it by the Discipline Committee may apply to the Registrar to have a new certificate issued or a suspension/conditions removed. A person must wait at least a year from the date of the relevant order to apply, or after a period set by the Discipline Committee. A member found to have committed any sexual abuse must wait five years to apply.
If the relevant time period has past, the person may apply and the Discipline Committee will hold a hearing and make certain findings of fact. After a hearing, the Committee may order:
A hearing may not be necessary if the Council or Executive Committee wishes to direct the Registrar to issue certificate or remove a suspension as the case may be. This power is not available when (former) members have been found to have committed sexual abuse.
Anytime the Registrar has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a member has committed professional misconduct, is incompetent, or incapacitated; they may appoint one or more investigators to assist the relevant committee in making that determination. These investigators may apply for search warrants from the courts that authorize them to search places and seize documents therein. The investigator will report to the Registrar, who in turn, will report to the relevant committee.
Offences and Prosecution
The Ontario College of Teachers Act, empowers the OCT to lay charges on applicants, members, and employers of members and prosecute them in the Ontario Court of Justice. These charges relate to:
To be found guilty of any of these charges, the OCT must prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt just like a criminal offence. If an employer, member, or applicant wishes to challenge a charge, there will be trial pursuant to the Provincial Offences Act, 1990.
Any conviction of an offence under the Ontario College of Trades Act will not lead to a criminal record but will severely prejudice an applicant’s or members ability obtain or retain a licence.
If you are a teacher or union representing one, please don't hesitate to contact Burokas Law for any compliance advice or advocacy in defending administrative actions. with the OCT