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For any regulator struggling with the question of whether to post relevant but potentially explosive information about the criminal charges of a registrant, the Alberta Court of Appeal has some insights which may help.
In the case of AB v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, 2021 ABCA 320, a physician filed an application restricting the regulator from publishing information about a practice condition where he would not see female patients without a chaperone present, after he had been charged with sexual assault. The College maintained the publication only offered information which could be searched at the Courthouse, and was in the public interest.
In the end, the Court decided that the balance of convenience favoured keeping the information private until the physician’s appeal was heard, due to the fact that the appeal was yet to be heard but would be heard shortly, the physician could suffer irreparable reputational harm if the information was released, and it appeared there were issues with the lower court’s decision to allow the release of the information by the College.
This case is specific to its own facts but does show a Court grappling with the questions of publication of damaging but potentially informative information by a regulator. Future applications could be decided differently, if the balance of convenience weighed differently or there was more risk to the public at play. It is a useful decision if a regulatory body is considering publishing information of this sort in a public forum, but legal advice should also be sought in most cases.
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Is your College doing hearings by videoconference? Often, they are transcribed by Court Reporters who have a great deal of experience in the virtual world. Try a “dry-run” with the Court Reporter prior to the hearing to iron out issues like waiting rooms, entering exhibits, swearing parties in, and any other sticky elements, and your hearing will run much smoother.
In the post-Covid world, will regulators stay in the “virtual” world of hearings by Zoom, where witnesses and parties can log in from anywhere, or will we all be back to in-person hearings, where tribunals can hear the evidence live?
Eye on Regulation is RMRF’s monthly newsletter for the professional regulatory community. Each month we offer:
- A Case: a (very) brief summary of a recent and relevant case;
- Our Two Cents for Free: practical insight inspired by the files on our desks right now; and
- A Question: something to get you thinking about ways to enhance your work.
This newsletter is for information only and does not constitute legal advice.