Standard of Review in Discipline Matter

by Field Law
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Professional Conduct Committee of the Saskatchewan College of Paramedics v. Bodnarchuk, 2015 SKCA 81, reinstating a decision of the College Discipline Committee.

A paramedic was disciplined by a Discipline Committee of the Saskatchewan College of Paramedics for failing to administer a 12-lead ECG test to a patient, used to identify whether a patient is having a heart attack, and thus failing to follow proper protocol. The Discipline Committee concluded that the paramedic “displayed a lack of knowledge, skill or judgment, or a disregard for the welfare of the patient”, and that the paramedic was guilty of unprofessional conduct. The paramedic was ordered to complete a course, pay a $3,000 fine, and pay costs of $5,000.

The paramedic appealed to the Council of the College of Paramedics. The Council determined that the standard of review was reasonableness, and that the Discipline Committee decision met this standard. The paramedic appealed again to the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the decision of the Discipline Committee, finding it to be unreasonable, and remitted the matter back to the Committee for a rehearing.

On a further appeal to the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal reinstated the Discipline Committee’s decision. The Court concluded that the decision should be reviewed for reasonableness. A reasonable decision is one which falls “within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes which are defensible in respect of the facts and law.” The Court emphasized the importance of the reasonableness standard, as the Discipline Committee is entitled to deference in its interpretation of its own statute. Its task is to interpret its statute using its unique expertise with the objective of safeguarding the public interest.

The reasonableness standard means that it is not for a reviewing court to re-read or re-interpret the evidence. A Discipline Committee’s decision on the evidence is entitled to deference.

The Discipline Committee’s decision was reasonable. The Committee clearly identified that the paramedic was guilty of professional misconduct because he failed to identify and apply the correct protocol in the circumstances. The reasons were justified, transparent, and intelligible, and thus the result was within the range of reasonable outcomes.

Comment: Bodnarchuk emphasizes that the decisions of professional discipline committees interpreting their home statute will be entitled to deference. This means that the decision must be justifiable, transparent and intelligible, and within a range of reasonable outcomes. A reviewing court is not entitled to re-weigh the evidence and reconsider findings made by a discipline committee.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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