The requirements for hearings are outlined in the Health Professions Act and the College follows the process as set out. A complaint is referred to a hearing only if the evidence presents reasonable grounds that unprofessional conduct has occurred.
The complainant will be updated throughout the process, and may be called as a witness during the proceedings, but it is important to note that the complainant is not a party in these proceedings.
A hearing is held to permit the Hearing Tribunal the opportunity to determine if the allegations in the Notice of Hearing have been proven and if the behaviours can be deemed unprofessional conduct, as defined in the Health Professions Act.
College administration notifies the complainant and practitioner of the hearing and works in consultation with necessary parties to determine the date(s), time and location of the hearing.
The practitioner will receive a Notice of Hearing that outlines the allegations of unprofessional conduct that will be heard at the Hearing. The Notice of Hearing will also confirm the date, time and location of the Hearing. Further information may be provided depending on the requirements of the Hearing.
It is important to note that not all elements of the original complaint may be included in the Notice of Hearing. Only those allegations that the investigation process deemed to be founded will be discussed during the Hearing.
The complainant will be provided with a copy of the Notice of Hearing, may be called as a witness, advised they may attend the hearing and be represented by counsel at the hearing.
The Hearing Tribunal consists of three individuals – two regulated members and one public member.
The Hearing Tribunal’s role and responsibility is to hear submissions (oral/written submissions, evidence, witness testimony, etc.) from the practitioner and the College with respect to the charges and determine if the charges have been proven.
During the course of the hearing, the Hearing Tribunal may respond to questions about the procedure used in conducting the hearing or ask clarifying questions of the investigated registered practitioner, College legal counsel or witnesses. However, it must not respond to questions regarding the merits of the complaint or standards of practice. Decisions regarding the merits of the complaint are made once all evidence has been submitted and considered by the Hearing Tribunal.
The Hearing Tribunal will have legal counsel present to:
- Provide the Hearing Tribunal with advice on issues that may arise at the Hearing
- Review the Hearing Tribunal’s reasons to ensure legal principles are met
- Assist the Hearing Tribunal in writing the decision
The College will determine the witnesses required to attend the proceedings and issue a Notice to Attend as a Witness to all relevant parties.
The Notice to Attend will advise the witness to attend a discipline Hearing, on whose behalf they are being called (College or registered practitioner) and provide the name of the investigated person, date, time and place at which the witness is to attend and the documents, if any, the witness is required to produce.
Witnesses are excluded from the Hearing room until their turn to give evidence and are examined under oath. A member of the Hearing Tribunal will swear in the witness using the Religious or Non-Religious Oath, whichever is requested by the witness. Following the oath, witnesses are required to state their name for the record and spell last name.
Hearings are generally open to the public; however, the Hearing Tribunal is authorized to order all or parts of a Hearing be held in private. This is in keeping with sec. 78(1) of the Health Professions Act.
The investigated person and presenting officer are entitled to be present throughout the entire hearing whether or not the Hearing is held in private.
The College lists the date of upcoming Hearings and process to attend.
Following the Hearing, the complainant and practitioner will be provided with a copy of the Hearing Tribunal’s Decision. If the Hearing Tribunal has reasonable grounds to believe the practitioner has committed a criminal offence, the decision will be sent to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General. Regulated practitioners are required to comply with Orders of the Hearing Tribunal, and will be monitored by the Complaints Director.
If a regulated member is found guilty of unprofessional conduct, some of the things a hearing tribunal is authorized to mandate are that the regulated member:
- complete additional education or training,
- pay a fine or costs of the hearing/investigation to the College
- be suspended from practicing for a specified period of time, or in particularly egregious cases the permit be cancelled permanently
While it is important to know that the hearing tribunal is granted significant authority to impact how a practitioner can practice, they can not mandate damages be paid to the victim or seek prison time like a court of law in a criminal or civil case might.
Only a practitioner or the Hearings Director may appeal the decision of the Hearing Tribunal to the College Council by submitting a written notice of appeal that (a) identifies the appealed decision, and (b) states the reasons for the appeal. A notice of appeal is to be served within 30 days after the date of the decision.
Beyond the College Council, the only further appeal possible is to the Alberta Court of Appeal.