Correction at 10:15am June 21: this case is an Ontario Divisional Court hearing, not a professional disciplinary hearing by the College of Psychologists as reported earlier today.
A court hearing for Canadian clinical psychologist Jordon Peterson will begin today. Because the hearing is not accessible to the public by video conference, Christine Van Geyn of the Canadian Constitution Foundation will be live-tweeting the proceedings as exhaustively as possible beginning around 9am.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) will appear as an intervener in Divisional Court Wednesday June 21 in the case Jordan Peterson v College of Psychologists of Ontario.
The dispute is over professional penalties which might be imposed on Dr Peterson by the College for public statements Dr Peterson had made on social media. The complaints were made by members of the public, not by any individuals who Dr Peterson had ever treated as a patient.
Peterson is a Canadian psychologist, professor, and public intellectual. In recent years, Peterson has gained widespread attention for his views on topics such as political correctness, identity politics, and free speech. He became particularly well-known after his opposition to a Canadian bill called C-16, which proposed adding gender identity and expression to the list of protected grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Commenting on the hearing in a recent interview, Peterson noted “This has now got to be a nightmare for them, as far as I can tell, because at minimum, they should have inquired in relationship to these claims that the complainants were clients of mine; they weren’t.
“(The College) should have required them to re-initiate the complaint process without falsehood. And they didn’t do any of that, repeatedly. Now, they have to drag me in front of a disciplinary hearing, which I will make unbelievably public; and then, because I won’t move in that regard, as far as I can tell I don’t see that they have a leg to stand on.”
As an intervener, the CCF will argue that professional regulators may not regulate off-duty conduct unless they can establish a clear nexus between that specific conduct and the legitimate interest of the profession. And where off-duty conduct engages a Charter right, like freedom of expression, regulators have a heightened duty to ensure they have given full effect to the Charter protection.
“People in regulated professions have private lives outside of their professional roles. Any intrusion on the right of an individual to participate in public discourse, including through controversial statements in social media, must be rigorously examined to ensure that a regulator is not over-stepping its mandate,” said CCF Litigation Director Christine Van Geyn.
“One of the hallmarks of a vibrant democracy is an open and robust right to freedom of thought, conscience, and expression. Freedom of expression underpins most other constitutional rights and allows them to flourish. It allows citizens to hold those in power to account and to debate the architecture of our society. Speech, even controversial speech, has social value. This kind of expression should not merely be tolerated; it should be protected from unjustified state or regulatory intrusion. Courts must stand firm against allowing professional regulators being co-opted by activists using them to punish people who hold views or ideas they disagree with.”
The CCF is represented in this case by George Avraam, Ahmed Shafey and Ajanthana Anandarajah of Baker McKenzie LLP. The CCF is grateful for their hard work and diligence on this case. The hearing will take place in the summer of 2023. Members of the public interested in supporting the costs associated with this case can make a tax deductible charitable donation at theCCF.ca/donate/