Everything you need to know about the inquiry process

Everything you need to know about the inquiry process

Can I ask for an investigation anonymously?

You can request anonymity when you fill out the inquiry request form. As long as this does not make the inquiry impossible, steps will be taken to avoid disclosing your identity to the psychologist who is under investigation. Please note, however, that if you are the person who received the services to be investigated, it may be difficult to ensure your anonymity.

Can I get someone to help me ask for an inquiry?

You can ask for the help of another person at any time throughout an inquiry or while a complaint is being handled by the Disciplinary Council.

Will there be costs to pay?

No, you do not have to pay anything. The Ordre des psychologues will cover any expenses associated with the inquiry. It will also be responsible for any costs if the syndic lodges a complaint with the Disciplinary Council.

What information is confidential?

All of the information collected by the syndic during an inquiry is confidential, and access to this information is subject to stringent and restrictive rules. If, as the outcome of the investigation, the syndic decides to lodge a complaint about the psychologist with the Disciplinary Council, most of the information obtained during the inquiry will constitute the syndic’s evidence and will consequently be disclosed to the psychologist and to the Council. However, the Council may subsequently issue orders to protect the privacy of people involved in the case.

How long can I expect an inquiry to take?

The length of the inquiry will vary depending on the complexity of the situation. Usually, four to six months are needed. The Office of the Syndic must provide you with a written status report 90 days after you file your request, and every 60 days thereafter until the inquiry is completed.

Can I be contacted by the psychologist under investigation?

Once the psychologist has been informed that he is under investigation, he can no longer contact you unless he obtains written permission from the syndic. However, this does not apply if you have asked to remain anonymous.

Will I have to testify?

During the inquiry, the syndic may contact you to obtain additional information about your request. When a complaint is lodged with the Disciplinary Council, it is usual for the person who requested the inquiry to testify.

Will I be informed of the outcome of the inquiry?

Yes. At the end of the inquiry, the syndic must inform you of its outcome. If he decides not to lodge a complaint with the Disciplinary Council, or to refer the complaint to the Professional Inspection Committee, he must explain his decision. If he decides to lodge a complaint with the Disciplinary Council, you will not be the plaintiff; the syndic is the plaintiff and assumes full responsibility as such. The syndic will advise you of the date, time, and location of the disciplinary hearing. When the Disciplinary Council hands down a decision, the syndic must send you a copy of it.

Will the inquiry lead to a penalty?

The inquiry enables the syndic to establish the facts of the case and to determine if the psychologist’s conduct complies with Quebec’s Professional Code and related regulations, including the Code of Ethics of Psychologists. Having carried out his investigation and analyzed the situation, the syndic decides whether or not to lodge a complaint with the Disciplinary Council. If no complaint is lodged, the syndic may agree on other measures with the psychologist to make sure that the situation does not happen again. When a complaint is lodged with the Disciplinary Council, this is the beginning of a disciplinary process at the end of which, if the psychologist is found guilty, one or more penalties will apply. Only the Disciplinary Council can impose one of the following penalties on the psychologist:

  • He may be reprimanded.
  • He may be fined.
  • He may be struck off the roll, either permanently or temporarily.
  • His right to practice may be curtailed or suspended.
  • His permit may be revoked.

Each penalty is based on the specific circumstances of the case, including the nature of the offence, the circumstances under which it was committed, the seriousness of the offence, the consequences for the client, the likelihood of reoffending, and the psychologist’s previous disciplinary record.

May I receive compensation from the psychologist?

The disciplinary process is intended to protect the public by preventing errors or misconduct from recurring. If you want to claim damages for an injury you believe you have suffered, you must take action through the civil courts. However, if the Disciplinary Council deems that a client has suffered significant psychological harm because of a psychologist’s conduct, it may recommend to the Board of Directors that all or part of the fine collected from the psychologist be remitted by the Ordre to the person “who was the victim of a derogatory act referred to in section 59.11, to pay the cost of therapeutic care related to the act2 ».

If the syndic doesn’t lodge a complaint, does that mean there will be no consequences for the psychologist?

The syndic’s inquiry sometimes reveals aspect of the psychologist’s practice that are more likely to be corrected by measures other than recourse to the Disciplinary Council. When this is the case, the syndic gives the psychologist a clear explanation of the misconduct and they reach an agreement on specific actions the psychologist must take to correct it. In closing down the inquiry, the syndic will let you know that these actions are being taken, but will not provide details, since the actions are confidential. A follow-up process will be established to ensure that the psychologist keeps his commitments. The most frequent measures are training, supervision by another psychologist, or voluntary restriction of the psychologist’s practice. The syndic may also report the psychologist to the Professional Inspection Committee, which will decide what action to take in the matter.

I don’t agree with the syndic’s decision. What can I do?

You can write to the General Secretariat of the Ordre and ask for a review of the decision. You must do this within 30 days of receiving the syndic’s written notification of his decision. The Review Committee analyzes the entire inquiry file and produces an opinion. In this opinion, it may confirm the syndic’s decision, ask the syndic to conduct further investigations, refer the case to the Professional Inspection Committee, or find that a complaint against the psychologist is warranted. In the latter case, the Review Committee will suggest the appointment of an ad hoc syndic to investigate and lodge a complaint if appropriate.

May I complain to the Disciplinary Council myself?

Yes. This is known as a private complaint. It will then be up to you to provide evidence that the psychologist has acted contrary to the Professional Code and its regulations.

  [1]. Professional Code, section 59.1. “The fact of a professional taking advantage of this professional relationship with the person to whom he is providing services, during that relationship, to have sexual relations with that person or to make improper gestures or remarks of a sexual nature, constitutes an act derogatory to the dignity of his profession.”

[2]. Cf. Professional Code, section 158.1.  

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