Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Ethical Complaints

CANADIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

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

Approved by CPA Board of Directors 27 May 2020

I. Introduction

  1. These Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Reports and Complaints of Unethical Behaviour (hereinafter referred to as Rules and Procedures) comprise a set of Operating Regulations under the By-laws of the Canadian Psychological Association (hereinafter referred to as the “Association”).
  2. Unless otherwise specified, these Rules and Procedures apply to all categories of Members and Affiliates of the Association. Some stipulations also apply to individuals applying to be Members.
  3. Being a Member or Affiliate of 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 matters related to these Rules and Procedures.
  4. 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 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.
  5. These Rules and Procedures apply only to individual Members, Affiliates, or applicants to be Members or Affiliates; they do not apply to groups of any kind, including groups comprised of or including Members, Affiliates, or applicants.
  6. These Rules and Procedures are designed to protect the public and the Association while treating everyone fairly and justly.
  7. Association staff and voluntary officials (e.g., Board members, members of the Committee) involved in reviewing and making determinations regarding matters related to these Rules and Procedures, who believe they have a conflict of interest related to a specific matter, recuse themselves from involvement in that matter.

II. Membership Review

  1. In keeping with psychology’s contract with society (see Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, Preamble, para 1), the Association has a responsibility to reserve membership to individuals of good character. Such character is indicative of the level of judgment and ethical thinking required to uphold the ethical principles and values of the Association, and to maintain the mutual respect and trust that is part of the contract with society.
  2. The application form to become a Member includes questions regarding serious unethical behaviour at any time prior to the application (e.g., resulting in suspension or expulsion by a statutory tribunal or other formal scientific, professional, or administrative body; or  conviction of a serious offence[1] for which a pardon has not been granted). In addition, verified reports of such behaviour (e.g., from disciplinary reports sent to the Association, media reports, reports from other third parties) are of concern to the Association.
  3. The Committee on Ethics maintains a Membership Review Subcommittee to review these matters and to make recommendations with regard to granting, denying, or placing conditions on the individual’s membership. Such recommendations may include expulsion of the individual as a Member under the provisions of CPA By-law 3.06.
  4. If issues arise with respect to Affiliates, not otherwise covered in this Section II, the Chief Executive Officer (hereinafter referred to as the “CEO”) or the CEO’s duly appointed staff designate (hereinafter referred to as the “Designate”) may, at their discretion, seek consultation about the matter from the Membership Review Subcommittee.

II.A. Procedures for Review of New Member Applications 

  1. Upon notification and agreement of the CEO or Designate, the Association’s Membership Manager directs to the Chair of the Committee on Ethics (hereinafter referred to as the “Chair”) all applications  and any related documentation, for which there is an indication of serious unethical behaviour at any time prior to the  application, including possible provision of false information on the application form.
  2. For those applications and requests directed to the Chair under II.A.5, the Chair takes such steps as are needed to make an appropriate review of the documentation received, and to formulate one or more recommendations based on the review. These steps may include contacting the applicant or other sources to obtain further information, and includes the involvement in the review of a minimum of two other members of the Membership Review Subcommittee.
  3. Upon completion of the review of the documentation received, the Chair makes a recommendation to the CEO or Designate whether the application should be granted, denied, or made provisional under specified conditions (e.g., until the end of a period for appeal).  Other recommendations also may be offered.
  4. After consultation as needed and appropriate, the CEO or Designate makes the final decision regarding the application.

II.B. Procedures for Review of Verified Reports of Serious Unethical Behaviour or Misuse of CPA Membership or Affiliation

  1. Where it comes to the attention of the Association that a Member has been convicted of a serious offence[2], or has received a serious sanction (e.g., suspension, loss of license, loss of employment) from a statutory tribunal or other formal scientific, professional, or administrative body for serious unethical behaviour, or is misusing CPA membership or affiliation (e.g., using membership or affiliation in a way that implies certification or licensure), the CEO or Designate directs all available information to the Chair for review.
  2. The Membership Review Subcommittee does not review the results of court proceedings, or the proceedings of statutory tribunals, or other formal scientific, professional, or administrative bodies if the Member was not convicted of a serious offence or did not receive a serious sanction. In addition, the Membership Review Subcommittee does not accept requests to reconsider the findings of such bodies (e.g., as a form of appeal).
  3. For those matters directed to the Chair under II.B.9, the Chair takes such steps as are needed and appropriate to decide whether any action by the Association is required.  These steps may include contacting the individual concerned, or other sources, to obtain any further information, and includes involvement of a minimum of two other members of the Membership Review Subcommittee.
  4. If it is decided that further action is required, such action may include, but is not limited to: placing conditions on continuing as an Association Member (e.g., education or training; requesting evidence that all disciplinary requirements of the statutory tribunal or other scientific, professional, or administrative body have been completed); requesting compliance with a cease-and-desist letter from the Committee; being asked to resign voluntarily as a Member; or a recommendation to the CPA Board of Directors that the individual be considered for expulsion as a Member.

II.C. Procedures for Review of Requests for Admission after Denial, Resignation while under Review, or Expulsion

  1. Upon notification and agreement of the CEO or Designate, the Membership Manager directs to the Chair all applications from individuals who were previously denied admission due to serious unethical behaviour, resigned from the Association while under review, or were suspended or expelled from the Association. Applicants qualify for such review and consideration only if at least five years have elapsed since the denial, resignation, or expulsion. If less than five years have elapsed, the application is denied.
  2. For those requests directed to the Chair under II.C.13, the Chair takes such steps as are needed to make an appropriate review of the documentation received, and to formulate one or more recommendations based on the review. This may include contacting the applicant or other sources to obtain further information, and includes the involvement of a minimum of two other members of the Membership Review Subcommittee.
  3. Upon completion of the documentation review, the Chair makes a recommendation to the CEO or Designate whether the request for admission or re-admission should be granted, denied, or granted only under specified conditions. Other recommendations also may be offered.
  4. After consultation as needed and appropriate, the CEO or Designate makes the final decision regarding admission, re-admission, or the implementation of any other recommendations. 

II.D. Communications Regarding Matters Related to Section II

  1. Whenever any matter under Section II is referred to the Chair of the Committee on Ethics and there is a decision by the Chair that it is a matter for which the Membership Review Subcommittee should be involved, the CEO or Designate informs the individual concerned in writing that the matter is being reviewed by the Committee on Ethics. The CEO or Designate similarly informs the individual concerned in writing of the final decision. The first notification includes the rationale for the involvement of the Committee; the second communication includes the rationale for the decision.

III. Complaints of Alleged Unethical Behaviour

III.A. Criteria for Accepting Complaints

  1. In the interests of fairness and justice for all parties, the Committee on Ethics reviews complaints of alleged unethical behaviour only if there is not an alternative body to do so. This is based on the belief that fairness and justice are best served when investigation and review of complaints are carried out as close as possible to the parties and situation by bodies with the mandate, resources, and structures to do so. The Association does not have authority or jurisdiction over the research, teaching, or practice of psychology in Canada; its authority is limited to who may or may not be a Member of the Association.
  2. Those wishing to make complaints to the Association about alleged unethical behaviour are helped to identify alternative bodies for the review of their complaint.
  3. When no appropriate alternative body can be identified, complaints are accepted only if the complaint, if found to be substantiated, would be considered a serious violation of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists.
  4. Complaints are not accepted if they already have been considered or currently are being considered by a court, statutory tribunal or other formal scientific, professional, or administrative body, or if they are currently being investigated by the police.
  5. Complaints are accepted only if the complaint is about a specific individual Member of the Association. Complaints about Affiliates are not accepted.
  6. Complaints about any kind of group that includes or is composed of Members are not accepted.
  7. Complaints are accepted only if the complaint is filed within a reasonable period. For the purposes of these Rules and Procedures, a reasonable period is defined as two years from the time that the alleged behaviour occurred. However, if the person making the complaint (hereinafter referred to as the “Complainant”) was a minor at the time the alleged behaviour occurred, the time is extended to twenty years. In cases of alleged sexual abuse, no time limit is imposed.
  8. Complaints are accepted only from individuals who were the subject of the alleged unethical behaviour, or from those individuals’ current substitute decision maker. Anonymous complaints are not accepted.
  9. Complaints are accepted only if they include completion of the Association’s Complaints Form, signed by the Complainant, and submitted to the Association’s CEO or Designate. Documentation that supports the complaint may be attached to the Form. This Form is available on the CPA website.

III.B. Initial Head Office Procedures for Addressing Complaints

  1. Upon receipt, the CEO or Designate reviews the complaint for conformity to the criteria for accepting a complaint, and communicates with the complainant regarding any needed documentation.
  2. If the complaint does not meet the criteria, the CEO or Designate informs the Complainant in writing of the reasons for not accepting the complaint.
  3. If the complaint meets the criteria for acceptance, the CEO or Designate forwards the complaint and all supporting documentation to the Chair for consideration of the complaint, and informs the Complainant in writing that this step has been taken.
  4. At any point in this initial process, the CEO or Designate, 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 informs the Complainant in writing of such a decision.

 

III.C. Committee on Ethics Process for Review of Complaints

  1. The Chair communicates in writing with the Member against whom the complaint has been lodged, providing the following information:
    1. A precise description of the nature of the complaint. This includes, where possible, the specific section(s) of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists that the Member is alleged to have violated. It also includes 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 party.
    2. A copy of or link to these Rules and Procedures.
    3. A request for a reply within 30 calendar days.
    4. A statement that information submitted by the Member against whom the complaint has been made becomes part of the record.
    5. A statement that, at any point in the process, the Chair may request or obtain information from any other source which is deemed appropriate.
    6. A statement that failure to reply, unjustified delay in responding, or lack of co-operation in the Committee process does not prevent continuation of any proceedings, and constitutes a violation of ethical principles.
  2. The complaint is reviewed by the Chair and a minimum of two other Committee members chosen by the Chair.
  3. The Chair circulates to those reviewing the complaint all information material to the complaint, for their individual and independent evaluation and response. They are asked to respond individually and independently to the Chair within a time frame of not more than 14 calendar 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 are asked to provide their recommendations regarding the final decision.
  4. In formulating their opinions and recommendations regarding the final decision, the Committee members consider, but are not limited to, the following possibilities:
    1. The complaint is insignificant or has no basis in fact.
    2. The complaint has been resolved.
    3. The alleged behaviour was based on reasonable care and judgment and was not a violation of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists.
    4. The nature of the complaint is such that the complaint may be resolved informally between the Committee and the Member. This may include, but is not be limited to:
      1. an agreement by the Member against whom the complaint has been lodged to cease and desist the alleged conduct;
      2. an agreement by the involved parties to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution (e.g., an apology); and/or
      3. an agreement by the Member against whom the complaint has been lodged to resign as a Member of the Association.
    5. A recommendation to the Board that the Member be expelled from the Association.
  5. The Chair prepares an integrated report based on the opinions and recommendations submitted by the individual Committee members. This report is used for discussion by Committee members with the goal of reaching agreement about a final decision. This step normally is completed within 30 calendar days.
  6. The Chair informs the Member and Complainant in writing of the Committee’s decision and the rationale.
  7. If the Committee decides to recommend expulsion under III.14.e, or is unsuccessful in informally resolving a complaint under III.14.d and moves to a recommendation of expulsion, the Chair prepares a report providing the rationale for the recommendation and sends the report to the President and CEO or Designate for presentation to the Association’s Board of Directors for their approval and implementation.
  8. The President and CEO or Designate informs the Member and Complainant in writing of the Board’s decision under III.C.20.

IV. Appeals of Decisions

  1. Appeals of decisions under these Rules and Procedures may be submitted by a Member, Affiliate, or complainant (hereinafter referred to as the “Appellant”) within 30 calendar days of the Appellant being notified of the decision.
  2. Grounds for appeal are limited to:
    1. an error in fact that would affect the outcome;
    2. an error in interpretation or application of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists or these Rules and Procedures, which would affect the outcome;
    3. a failure to provide due process.
  3. Appeals are accepted only if they are submitted in writing on the Association’s Appeal Form to the President of the Association, which may include any documentation that supports the request for the appeal. This Form is available on the CPA website.
  4. The President decides whether the Appeal request meets the grounds for Appeal and informs the Appellant of the decision. This step normally is completed within 30 calendar days of the Appeal request.
  5. If the Appeal request meets the grounds, it is considered by the Association’s Presidential Officers.
  6. The Presidential Officers review copies of the documentation considered in making the decision under appeal, including copies of the decision and rationale, and any documentation submitted by the Appellant with the Appeal.
  7. After reviewing this material, the Presidential Officers determine whether: (a) the Appeal should be dismissed; or (b) the Appeal should be granted. If (b), the Presidential Officers 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 Presidential Officers’ decision, including the rationale for the decision, is communicated in writing to the Appellant by the President. This normally occurs within 90 calendar days of the Appeal request.
  9. The decision of the Presidential Officers is final and is not open to further question or appeal.

V. Record Keeping

  1. The CEO or Designate is responsible for opening, maintaining, and securing individual records of all matters that come under these Rules and Procedures.
  2. The records are maintained in the Head Office of the Association.
  3. Association staff, the Chair of the Committee on Ethics, and any other involved Association party 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 receiving or producing information related to proceedings under these Rules and Procedures 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 or applicants who have been expelled from the Association, resigned pursuant to a verified  report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or have been denied enrollment as a Member due to unethical behaviour are maintained for a period of at least 20 years.
  6. Records concerning Members or applicants who have been admitted/readmitted to the Association after having been expelled from the Association, having resigned pursuant to a verified report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or previously having been denied enrollment for a matter related to these Rules and Procedures, are 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 are 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.

VI. Confidentiality

  1. All identifiable information concerning Members, applicants, or other parties collected or recorded pursuant to these Rules and Procedures are kept confidential, except that the President, CEO, Designate, or Chair may disclose such information as needed when compelled by a valid subpoena, or when otherwise required or justified by law, or as provided in these Rules and Procedures.
  2. The fact that a Member is under investigation is kept in confidence except in situations for which the President and CEO or Designate believe there is a strong public-interest reason for disclosure.
  3. The CEO or Designate informs any person who submits a written inquiry whether a former Member was expelled from the Association due to unethical behaviour, resigned pursuant to a third-party report or a complaint of unethical behaviour, or had their enrollment as a Member voided because it was obtained based on false or fraudulent information. Dates of such occurrences may be disclosed. No other facts related to such a matter are disclosed in response to the inquiry.
  4. All other deliberations under these Rules and Procedures are not disclosed, except as otherwise provided under these Rules and Procedures.
  5. Records maintained in the Association’s Head Office are made available only on a need-to-know basis and only to Association staff specifically authorized by the CEO or Designate 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.
  6. At the discretion of the President, or CEO or Designate, information contained in the records maintained by the Association’s Head Office may be shared with legal counsel of the Association.
  7. The Chair reports annually to the Association 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 are not identified.
  8. All Association staff, voluntary officials, and Members receiving or producing information related to proceedings under these Rules and Procedures ensure the confidentiality and security of any related personally held information.
  9. All written communications containing identifiable confidential information regarding these Rules and Procedures are hand delivered, or sent by mail or fax, using a method by which receipt of the information can be confirmed. Electronic media may be used if the information can be sent in a manner where receipt is verifiable and is considered reasonably secure within the context of accepted security practices for confidential information.

[1] For the purposes of these Rules and Regulations, a “serious offence” is defined as 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. Please note that this definition is in effect at the time of Board approval of these Rules and Regulations, but may be updated from time to time, at the discretion of the Committee on Ethics.  

[2] See Footnote 1.