Canada's Institutes of Agrologists work in partnership to enforce high standards on its members to protect the public interest and regulate the profession, as well as govern the practitioners of Agrology across Canada. As such, each Institute of Agrologists has in place a complaints and disciplinary process for its licensed practitioners to maintain and regulate the professional standards of its members.
The Ontario Institute of Agrologists is committed to serve the public, ensure the protection of public interest and make certain that all licensed Agrologists are subject to:
- enforcement of standards of professional conduct, and
- practice within ethical standards.
The regulatory process exists to establish and maintain acceptable standards of professional practice on members and to undertake disciplinary action when a licensed practitioner does not practice in accordance with these high standards.
For review of OIA Professional Standards, including the OIA Code of Ethics, please follow the link below:
- Framework for Fitness to Practice - Professional Standards
- Code of Ethics in the Practice of Agrology
Professional misconduct includes unsatisfactory professional conduct where the conduct of a member is such that it involves a substantial or consistent failure to practice within OIA standards or legislation. Some examples include:
- Providing false information or documentation to the OIA or any other person or organization with respect to the member's professional qualifications;
- Inappropriately using a term, title or designation indicating a specialization in the profession for which the member is not qualified;
- Permitting, counselling or assisting any person who is not a member to represent himself or herself as a member of the Institute;
- Failing to maintain the professional standards required of membership;
- Releasing or disclosing information about a client or another agrologist or professional unless the release or disclosure is authorized by the person/organization or if the release or disclosure is required or allowed by law;
- Engaging in conduct or an act, criminal or otherwise, that constitutes conduct unbecoming of a licensed member of the OIA;
- Failing to keep records as required by his or her professional duties;
- Signing or issuing, in the member's professional capacity, a document or statement that the member knows or ought to know is false, improper or misleading;
- Failing to comply with the OIA Act, bylaws of the Institute or professional standards;
- Contravening a law if the contravention is relevant to the member's qualification and registration as an agrologist;
- An act or omission that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as a breech of fiduciary responsibility, or represents disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct unbecoming a member;
- Failing to comply with a decision of the OIA Complaints and Disciplinary Committee or comply with any terms, conditions or limitations imposed on a license to practice with the OIA;
- Failing to respond adequately or within a reasonable time to a written request or inquiry from the Institute;
- Failing to make reasonable provision for safeguarding the life, health or property, including failing to correct or to report a situation that the licensed Agrologist believes may endanger the safety or welfare of the public;
- Certifying or signing any plan, specification, report or other document not actually prepared by the licensed member;
- Negligence in the omission or inaccuracy of any plan, specification, report or other document prepared by the licensed member;
- Failing to disclose any conflict of interest (direct or indirect) that might in any way be deemed as prejudicial to the professional judgment of the member in rendering service to the public, employer or to a client; and
- Accepting compensation in any form for a particular service or particular project from more than one party.
Although there are several overlapping elements associated with professional misconduct, professional incompetence generally refers to instances where a professional agrologist's standard of competent practice falls dramatically below what is expected of a licensed professional. Some examples include:
- When a professional knowingly acts or continues to act incompetently or attempts to cover up incompetence;
- When a professional fails to maintain proper records of the terms of engagement, scope of work or fees to be charged, or other matters;
- When the conduct of a professional agrologist is reasonably interpreted to reduce public confidence in other practicing professional agrologists;
- When complaints or instances, though not deemed significant when viewed singularly, are serious when viewed together to reasonably reflect a pattern of incompetence; and
- When a pattern of incompetence reasonably suggests a professional agrologist may not act competently in future endeavours.
Professional misconduct or professional incompetence does not address disputes regarding costs or fees for service charged.
To achieve effective public oversight detailed disciplinary mechanisms have been developed and implemented at the Ontario Institute of Agrologists. If dissatisfied with an Agrologist's conduct one should attempt to resolve the issue with the licensed practitioner first. If the matter can not be resolved or resolution is not appropriate, complaints about registered Agrology practitioners must be made in writing to the Registrar of the OIA. If you have a concern or complaint or specific allegation of professional misconduct or incompetence about a Professional Agrologist (P.Ag.), Technical Agrologist (T.Ag.) or Articling Agrologist (A.Ag.) please follow the following steps to lodge a formal complaint.
Composition of the Complaints and Disciplinary Committee
The Complaints and Disciplinary Committee shall be composed of 2 licensed Agrologists and 1 Public Representative from the OIA Board of Directors. The Committee will be led by a Chair. The Chairman and the Committee members shall be appointed by the OIA Board of Directors on an annual basis. The OIA shall be represented at the proceedings by the Registrar.
Complaints and Disciplinary Process Outline
Here is what happens when the Institute receives a complaint about the conduct of a licensed/certified Agrologist in Ontario:
- The Registrar will review the complaint. The Registrar must verify if the individual named is an OIA member. If the individual is not a member there is no basis for a formal complaint being lodged with the OIA. If the individual is not a member in good standing the Registrar will notify the complainant of this fact and indicate that no further action will be taken due to this fact.
- If the Registrar verifies the individual is a member, the complaint submission is forwarded to the member in question as well as to the Chair of the Complaints and Disciplinary Committee. The Committee will launch an investigation including the review of evidence/documentation submitted and generate a report at the end of the hearing process either identifying the specific breaches and action to be undertaken (suspension, mediation, formal inquiry, etc) or determine no basis for a complaint within the Institute's standards exist. Either party has the right to appeal a decision of the Complaints and Disciplinary Committee to the OIA Board of Directors.
Process for Filing a Complaint
A complaint may be filed by either a member of the public or another licensed Agrologist. Upon receiving a complaint in writing signed by the complainant, the Chair of the Complaints and Disciplinary Committee shall distribute the complaint and all supporting information received to all Committee members. Concurrently, the Registrar shall notify the member in question in writing that a complaint has been received by the Committee and that an investigation has been initiated. A copy of the complaint and all supporting documentation received will also be forwarded to the member. The member is provided with a copy of the complaint and is given 30 days to respond, in writing, upon receipt of written notice.
The Registrar will request and obtain all information, documents, evidence and things to be considered necessary for the purposes of the Committee.
Preliminary Review Stage
The Committee will undertake a preliminary review of a complaint when both parties submit all their documentation. At this point the Committee may suggest both parties enter a mediation process, request clarification or further information from the complainant or the member or determine that a hearing is necessary.
After considering the written submissions and any other relevant information submitted to the Committee, at this preliminary stage, the Committee may issue a notice of intention to dismiss the complaint to the complainant and the member along with the reasons/basis for this decision. Possible reasons for dismissal of a complaint at this preliminary step may be that the complaint is considered frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or any other reason that there was not sufficient grounds for a hearing to take place. If it is deemed to proceed with a hearing all parties will be notified of a date, time and location.
If a complaint moves beyond the preliminary review stage the Registrar may suspend the member's registrant status on an interim basis for at most 90 days. The Registrar may grant an extension of an interim suspension once, for an additional period of up to 90 days, should the matter before the Committee be delayed or no decision in the matter rendered.
The Committee shall hold a hearing for the purpose of determining a complaint or other matter initiated against a member. At a hearing both the complainant and the member against whom the complaint was made have the right to speak and to be represented by legal counsel, at their own expense. As the inquiry goes on the complaint can be dismissed if there is not sufficient proof that a Standards violation has occurred. At any time the Committee may seek an expert opinion from another party regarding the particular practice of the member. Both parties will be allowed the submission of evidence. Rules governing full evidence disclosure shall apply.
At any time there may be a settlement between parties. Both parties must request that the inquiry be placed on hold while a settlement is being pursued through mediation or any other process. Any statements made by any party during mediation or settlement negotiations, either orally or in writing, shall remain private and confidential. Should mediation or settlement fail, statements made by either party can not be entered into evidence during any proceeding of the Committee.
Failure to attend a hearing of the Committee does not result in suspension of the hearing. The Committee may proceed with the hearing in the absence of the complainant or respondent and make any order that the Committee could have made in the presence of the complainant or respondent.
When the Committee has made a decision, order or determination with respect to a complaint the Committee shall forward to the Board, the member and the complainant a copy of its decision, order or determination signed by the members of the Committee.
Right to Appeal
The OIA Board of Directors, with the exclusion of the Board member serving as a public representative on the Committee, shall serve as the body that will hear an appeal of a decision of the Complaints and Disciplinary Committee. The Board would examine all evidence submitted in the hearing and determine if the Complaints and Disciplinary Committee decision was sound and reasonable within the circumstances.
Please CLICK HERE to download a copy of the complaint form.
Please note that there is no ability to file an anonymous complaint. An anonymous or unsigned complaint is not acted upon by the Registrar nor the OIA.
Possible Outcomes of an Inquiry
- Dismissed because of a lack of information or because there is no apparent violation of the OIA Standards of Practice or Code of Ethics. The complaint could be dismissed because the nature of the complaint lies outside the authority of the OIA or the Committee. In such a situation the case will be closed with a finding of no violation. The complaint could also be dismissed if the issue is a dispute regarding costs or fees for service charged.
- The complaint may be tabled while more information is gathered or to await outcome of criminal or civil litigation.
- Determination of professional misconduct; conduct unbecoming an Agrologist; and/or incompetent performance of duties undertaken while engaged in Agrology.
An allegation of misconduct may be dismissed if there is not sufficient proof that misconduct or violation of Professional Standards has occurred.
If it is determined that there is substance to the complaint the Committee may:
It must be noted that neither the OIA nor the Committee has the legal authorization to proceed with a criminal case or a civil suit; nor can the OIA or the Committee make a compensation order. As a result, the OIA nor the Committee can impose criminal penalties or issue fines. The act of filing a complaint does not assure or imply that disciplinary action will be taken against any member.
The Committee will provide all parties with its written determinations.
Filing a complaint with the OIA does not preclude you from filing a separate legal action. Civil or criminal action undertaken against an Agrology practitioner does not affect your right to also file a complaint with the OIA. If you believe your allegations may constitute a criminal violation, please contact the police or seek legal council regarding the procedure to file a criminal or civil complaint. As a result, the Committee nor the OIA serves to advocate on behalf of an individual complainant; rather, it is to determine what is necessary for public protection.
The complaint must be disposed within 120 days from the day it was filed with the Registrar. However, it is the position of the OIA to provide as much time and effort as is required for a thorough investigation. If this 120 day time frame must be extended both parties will be notified and a new timeframe implemented.
- reprimand the member;
- place conditions for his/her continued practice as a licensed professional (OIA sanction);
- require immediate enrollment in the OIA's professionalism and ethics course and other remedial courses deemed necessary;
- place probationary status on the individual with specific detailed terms and conditions;
- propose remedial/corrective action;
- suspend the license to practice indefinitely or for a specific period of time; and/or
- permanently remove the individual's license to practice.