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CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

 

Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Reports and Complaints of Unethical Behaviour

(Approved by CPA Board of Directors 3 June 2015)

I. Introduction

1.       These Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Reports and Complaints of Unethical Behaviour (hereinafter referred to as “Rules and Procedures”) apply to all categories of Members and Affiliates of the Canadian Psychological Association (hereinafter referred to as the “Association”). Some of the specifications in these Rules and Procedures also apply to individuals applying for membership or affiliateship in the Association.

2.       Membership or affiliateship in the Association carries a commitment to be guided by the provisions of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. Members and Affiliates demonstrate this commitment by adherence to the Code and by cooperating with the Association and its Committee on Ethics (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) with respect to any matter related to these Rules and Procedures.

3.       The Canadian Psychological Association takes this commitment seriously and seeks to protect the public and to maintain the reputation of, and public confidence in, the Association and in the discipline and profession of psychology, by promoting high ethical standards and by taking appropriate action in accordance with these Rules and Procedures when an ethical violation is alleged or is judged to have occurred.

4.       These Rules and Procedures apply only to individual Members, Affiliates, or applicants for membership or affiliateship; they do not apply to groups of Members, Affiliates, or applicants, or to groups that include one or more Association Members, Affiliates, or applicants.

5.       These Rules and Procedures are designed to protect the public and the Association while treating everyone fairly.

6.       Association staff and any voluntary official of the Association (e.g., Board members, members of the Committee) involved in reviewing and making determinations regarding any matter related to these Rules and Procedures, who believe they have a conflict of interest related to a specific matter, shall recuse themselves from such involvement in that specific matter.

 

 

II. Membership and Affiliateship Applications, Renewals, and Requests for Re-admission

Ethical requirements for membership or affiliateship.

1.       Members and Affiliates of the Canadian Psychological Association must be of good character, insofar as it is indicative of the level of judgment and ethical thinking required to uphold the ethical principles and values of the Association as reflected in the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. As such, membership and affiliateship application and renewal forms include questions regarding possible unethical behaviour at any time prior to the application, or possible unethical behaviour in the year prior to a request for renewal (e.g., discipline, suspension, or expulsion by a statutory tribunal or professional body; current investigation for alleged unethical or unprofessional behaviour by a statutory tribunal or professional body; or conviction of a serious offence[1] for which a pardon has not been granted).

Applications for membership or affiliateship and requests for renewals.

2.       Upon notification and agreement of the Chief Executive Officer (hereinafter referred to as the “CEO”), the Association’s Membership Manager will direct to the Chair of the Committee on Ethics (hereinafter referred to as the “Chair”) all applications and renewals, and any related documentation, for which there is an indication of possible unethical behaviour at any time prior to the membership or affiliateship application, or any indication of possible unethical behaviour in the year prior to a renewal, including possible provision of false information on the application or renewal forms.

3.       For those applications and requests directed to the Chair under II.2, the Chair will take such steps as are needed and appropriate to make a fair review and formulate one or more recommendations based on the review. Such steps may include contacting the applicant or the individual requesting renewal, or other sources, to obtain any further information needed, and will include consultation with a Committee Subcommittee consisting of the Chair and a minimum of two other Committee members chosen by the Chair.

4.       Upon completion of the review, the Chair will recommend to the CEO whether the application or renewal should be granted, denied, or made provisional until the completion of an existing or planned external adjudication or review process. Other recommendations also may be offered.

5.       After consultation as needed and appropriate, the CEO will make the final decision regarding the application or renewal.

Requests for admission after denial, resignation with conditions, or expulsion.

6.       Upon notification and agreement of the CEO, the Membership Manager will direct to the Chair all applications from individuals who were previously denied admission due to unethical behaviour, resigned from the Association with conditions pursuant to a third-party report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or were expelled from the Association, but only if at least five years have elapsed since the denial, resignation, or expulsion. If less than five years have elapsed, such applications will be denied.

7.       For those requests directed to the Chair under II.6, the Chair will take such steps as are needed and appropriate to make a fair review and formulate one or more recommendations based on the review. This may include contacting the applicant for admission or re-admission, or other sources, to obtain any further information needed, and will include consultation with a Committee Subcommittee consisting of the Chair and a minimum of two other Committee members chosen by the Chair.

8.       Upon completion of the review, the Chair will recommend to the CEO whether the request for admission or re-admission should be granted, denied, or granted only under particular provisions. Other recommendations also may be offered.

9.       After consultation as needed and appropriate, the CEO will make the final decision regarding admission, re-admission, or any other recommendations made.  

Communications regarding membership and affiliateship applications, renewals, and requests for readmission that come under these Rules and Procedures. 

10.   Whenever an application, renewal, or request for re-admission is directed to the Committee, the CEO or the CEO’s duly appointed staff designate (hereinafter referred to as the “Designate”) will inform the individual concerned in writing that his or her application or request for renewal or re-admission has been directed to the Committee. The CEO or Designate will similarly inform the individual concerned in writing of the final decision. The first notification will include the rationale for the involvement of the Committee; the second communication will include the rationale for the final decision.

 

 

III. Third-Party Reports of Unethical Behaviour

1.       Where the Association becomes aware of Association Members or Affiliates who are convicted of a serious offence[2], or disciplined by other statutory tribunals or professional bodies, whether or not a specific complaint is lodged with the Association, the CEO or Designate will direct all available information to the Chair for review and appropriate action, and will inform the Member or Affiliate in writing that this has been done.

2.       For those matters directed to the Chair under III.1, the Chair will take such steps as are needed and appropriate to make a determination about whether any action by the Association is required beyond the action already taken by a statutory tribunal or professional body. Such steps may include contacting the individual concerned, or other sources, to obtain any further information needed, and will include consultation with a Committee Subcommittee consisting of the Chair and a minimum of two other Committee members chosen by the Chair.

3.       If it is decided that further action is required, such further action may include, but is not limited to: placing conditions on continued Association membership or affiliateship (e.g., education, training, supervision, and/or treatment; or evidence that all disciplinary requirements of a statutory or professional body have been completed); being asked to resign and reapply for membership or affiliateship in the Association only under stipulated conditions; or expulsion from membership or affiliateship in the Association.

4.       The Chair will inform the Member or Affiliate in writing of the final decision of the Committee. This communication will include the rationale for the decision.

 

 

IV. Complaints of Unethical Behaviour

Criteria for accepting complaints.

1.       Complaints will be accepted only if the complaint is about specific individual Members or Affiliates of the Association, and only if the complaint is with regard to unethical behaviour related to the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists.

2.       The Association will consider complaints only if the complaint is filed within a reasonable period of time. Normally, a reasonable period of time is defined as two years from the time that the alleged unethical behaviour occurred. However, if the person making the complaint (hereinafter referred to as the “Complainant”) was a minor at the time the alleged unethical behaviour occurred, the time is extended to twenty years from the time of the alleged unethical behaviour. In cases of alleged sexual abuse, no time limit is imposed.

3.       Complaints will only be accepted from individuals who were the subject of the alleged unethical behaviour, or only from those individuals’ current substitute decision maker. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.

4.       Complaints will be accepted only if they are signed and submitted in writing on the Association’s Complaints Form to the Association’s CEO. Documentation that supports the complaint may be attached to the Form.

5.       The Association defers complaints that fall under the jurisdiction of provincial/territorial/state regulatory, licensing, or certification bodies to those bodies, and will review the status of Association membership or affiliateship only subsequent to the final decision of such bodies and following the period for appeal.

6.       The Association also normally will defer complaints that relate to behaviour that is under police investigation or subject to court proceedings until the investigation or proceedings have been completed, and will review the status of Association membership or affiliateship subsequent to a decision having been made. (See Section III.)

Initial procedures for addressing complaints.

7.       Upon receipt of a complaint, the CEO or Designate will open a file, acknowledge receipt, and send the Complainant a copy of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists and a copy of the Association’s Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Reports and Complaints of Unethical Behaviour. The CEO or Designate will advise the Complainant of the approximate time it will take (not to exceed 30 days) to determine the initial disposition of the complaint.

8.       Complaints received by the CEO will be reviewed by the CEO or Designate for conformity to the criteria for accepting a complaint.

9.       If the complaint does not meet the criteria, the CEO or Designate will inform the Complainant in writing of the reasons and of what would be needed to meet the criteria.

10.   If the complaint meets the criteria for acceptance, the CEO or Designate will forward the complaint and all supporting documentation to the Chair for consideration of the complaint, and will inform the Complainant in writing that this step has been taken.

11.   At any point in this initial process, if appropriate in the context of the criteria for accepting complaints, the CEO or Designate may redirect the Complainant to another body (e.g., provincial regulatory body) for consideration of the complaint.

12.   At any point in this initial process, the CEO, in consultation with the Chair, may deem the complaint not to meet the criteria for acceptance, to be frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith, or otherwise an abuse of process, and decide not to proceed further with the complaint. The CEO or Designate will inform the Complainant in writing of this decision. 

Committee process for consideration of complaints.

13.  The Chair will communicate in writing with the Member or Affiliate against whom the complaint has been lodged, providing the following information:

a.              A precise description of the nature of the complaint including, if possible, the specific section(s) of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists that the Member or Affiliate is alleged to have violated. This will include all material documentation submitted by the Complainant, except under exceptional circumstances where it is believed that sharing the information would violate the privacy of, or result in harm to, the Complainant or another third party.

b.             A copy of these Rules and Procedures.

c.              A request for a reply within 60 days.

d.             A statement that information submitted by the Member or Affiliate against whom the complaint has been lodged will become part of the record, and will be made available to the Complainant for their response, except under exceptional circumstances where it is believed that sharing the information would violate the privacy of, or result in harm to, the Complainant or another third party.

e.              A statement that, at any point in the process, the Chair may request or obtain information from any other source which is deemed appropriate.

f.                   A statement that failure to reply, unjustified delay in responding, or lack of co-operation in the Committee process will not prevent continuation of any proceedings, and in itself constitutes a violation of ethical principles.

14.  Once received, the Member’s or Affiliate’s response will be shared with the Complainant, who will be invited to respond within 30 days.

15.  Once received, any response from the Complainant will be shared with the Member or Affiliate against whom the complaint has been lodged. The Member or Affiliate will be invited to provide any further response he/she wishes to make within 30 days.

16.  The Chair will determine whether the complaint will be deliberated by the entire Committee or by a Subcommittee consisting of the Chair and a minimum of two other Committee members chosen by the Chair.

17.  The Chair will circulate to the members of the Committee or the selected Subcommittee all information material to the complaint, for their individual and independent evaluation and response. They will be asked to respond individually to the Chair within a time frame of not more than 30 days from the time of the request, and to provide in their response their opinions about whether the alleged behaviour violated the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists and, if so, the seriousness of the violation. They also will be asked to provide their recommendations regarding the final decision.

18.  In formulating their opinions and recommendations regarding the final decision, the Committee/Subcommittee members will consider the following possibilities:

a.              The complaint is insignificant or has no basis in fact.

b.             The complaint has been resolved.

c.              The alleged behaviour was based on reasonable care and judgment and was not a violation of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists.

d.             The nature of the complaint is such that the complaint may be resolved between the Committee and the Member or Affiliate without a recommendation of expulsion of the Member or Affiliate. This may include, but shall not be limited to:

i.               an agreement by the Member or Affiliate against whom the complaint has been lodged to cease and desist the alleged conduct;

ii.             an agreement by the Member or Affiliate against whom the complaint has been lodged to receive education, training, supervision, and/or treatment;

iii.           an agreement by the involved parties to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution; and/or

iv.           an agreement by the Member or Affiliate against whom the complaint has been lodged to resign and reapply for membership or affiliateship in the Association only under stipulated conditions.

e.              The Member or Affiliate be expelled from the Association.

19.  The Chair will prepare an integrated report based on the opinions and recommendations submitted by individual Committee/Subcommittee members, which will be used for group Committee or Subcommittee discussion, agreement, and a final decision. This step normally will be completed within 30 days.

20.  The Chair will inform the Member or Affiliate in writing of the Committee’s decision and rationale, and of any further steps that need to be taken.  

21.  If the Committee decides to recommend expulsion under IV.17.e, or is unsuccessful in resolving a complaint under IV.17.d, and moves to a recommendation of expulsion, the Chair will prepare a report providing the rationale for the recommendation and send the report to the President and CEO for presentation to the Association’s Board of Directors for their approval and implementation.

22.  The President and CEO will inform the Member or Affiliate in writing of the Board’s decision.

 

 

V. Appeals of Decisions 

 

1.      Appeals of decisions under these Rules and Procedures may be submitted by a member/affiliate or a complainant (hereinafter referred to as the “Appellant”) within 30 days of the Appellant being notified of the decision.

2.      Grounds for appeal are limited to:

a.              an error in fact that would affect the outcome;

b.             an error in interpretation or application of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists or these Rules and Procedures, which would affect the outcome;

c.              a failure to provide due process.

 

3.      Appeals must be submitted in writing on the Association’s Appeal Form to the President of the Association, and include any documentation that supports the request for the appeal.

4.      The President will decide whether the Appeal request meets the grounds for Appeal and inform the Appellant of the decision. This step normally will be completed within 30 days of the Appeal request.

 

5.      If the Appeal request meets the grounds, it will be heard by an Appeal Panel consisting of the Association’s three Presidential Officers. If any Presidential Officer cannot participate (e.g., due to a conflict of interest), the President will choose another member of the Board of Directors to be a member of the Panel. 

 

6.      The Appeal Panel will review copies of the written materials considered in making the decision under appeal, copies of the decision and rationale, and any material submitted by the Appellant with the Appeal.  

7.      After reviewing this material, the Appeal Panel will determine whether: (a) the Appeal should be dismissed; or (b) the Appeal should be granted. If (b), the Appeal Panel may make recommendations as to any further action(s) that should be taken.  Further action may include, but is not limited to, re-consideration based on corrected facts or corrected procedure.

8.      The Appeal Panel’s decision, including the rationale for the decision, will be communicated in writing to the Appellant by the President. This normally will occur within 90 days of the Appeal request. 

9.      The decision of the Appeals Panel is final and is not open to further question or appeal.

 

 

VI. Record Keeping

1.      The CEO or Designate will be responsible for opening, maintaining, and securing individual records of all matters that come under these Rules and Procedures.

2.      The records will be maintained in the Head Office of the Association.

3.      Association staff, the Chair, and any other involved Association party will ensure that a copy of all material documentation received or produced in the course of their activities related to these Rules and Procedures is forwarded to the CEO or Designate for inclusion in the record.

4.      All Association staff and Members or Affiliates receiving or producing information related to proceedings under these Rules and Procedures will destroy any personally held identifiable confidential information once the information is no longer needed for any purpose under these Rules and Procedures.

5.      Records concerning Members, Affiliates, or applicants who have been expelled from the Association, resigned pursuant to a third-party report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or have been denied membership or affiliateship due to unethical behaviour will be maintained for a period of at least 20 years.

6.      Records concerning Members, Affiliates, or applicants who have been admitted/readmitted to the Association after having been expelled from the Association, having resigned pursuant to a third-party report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or previously having been denied membership for a matter related to these Rules and Procedures, will be maintained for a further period of at least 10 years following admission/readmission.

7.      Records of all other matters related to these Rules and Procedures will be maintained for a minimum of five years after the matter has been closed.

8.      Nothing in this section precludes the Association from maintaining records for archival, educative, or other legitimate purposes.

 

 

VII. Confidentiality

1.      All identifiable information concerning Members, Affiliates, applicants, or other parties collected or recorded pursuant to these Rules and Procedures shall be kept confidential, except that the President, CEO, Designate, or Chair may disclose such information as needed when compelled by a valid subpoena, when otherwise required or justified by law, or as otherwise provided in these Rules and Procedures.

2.      The fact that a Member or Affiliate is under investigation will be kept in confidence with the exception of situations for which the President and CEO believe there is a strong public interest reason for such disclosure.

3.      The CEO or Designate will inform any person who submits a written inquiry whether a former Member or Affiliate was expelled from the Association due to unethical behaviour, resigned pursuant to a third-party report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or had his/her membership or affiliateship voided because it was obtained on the basis of false or fraudulent information. Dates of such occurrences may be disclosed. No other facts related to such a matter shall be disclosed in response to the inquiry.

4.      The CEO, Designate, or Chair may inform such other parties as have been informed of any matter reviewed under these Rules and Procedures of the final disposition of the matter.

5.      All other deliberations under these Rules and Procedures shall not be disclosed, except as otherwise provided under these Rules and Procedures.

6.      Records maintained in the Association’s Head Office shall be made available only on a need-to-know basis and only to Association staff specifically authorized by the CEO to assist the Committee or other duly authorized persons to carry out functions related to these Rules and Procedures. These persons are authorized to use this information only for the purposes set out in these Rules and Procedures and subject to its confidentiality provisions.

7.      At the discretion of the President or CEO, information contained in the records maintained by the Association’s Head Office may be shared with legal counsel of the Association. 

8.      The Chair will report annually to the Association’s Members and Affiliates the number of matters reviewed related to these Rules and Procedures, their general nature, and the types and numbers of specific decisions. The parties involved shall not be identified.

9.      All Association staff, voluntary officials, and Members or Affiliates receiving or producing information related to proceedings under these Rules and Procedures shall ensure the confidentiality and security of any related personally held information.

10.  All written communications containing identifiable confidential information with regard to these Rules and Procedures will be hand delivered, or sent by mail or fax, using a method by which receipt of the information can be confirmed. Electronic media will be used only if the information can be sent in a manner where receipt is verifiable and that is considered reasonably secure within the context of accepted security practices for confidential information.

 



[1] A “serious offence” typically means an infraction of the Criminal Code of Canada or related statutes that has resulted in a peace bond, a fine of $5000 or more, probation, or any period of post-conviction imprisonment, and would include conviction of any offence classified as an indictable or hybrid offence. 

[2] See Footnote 1.