Canada: Ready, Set, Charge!

Last Updated: September 3 2014
Article by Gregory Sim

Professional discipline allegations are more art than science. Regulatory statutes usually provide little or no guidance for writing them. But whether you call them allegations, charges, citations, complaints or something else, observing a few simple rules can make your discipline process smoother, fairer and faster.

Why do we need allegations anyway? Can't we just use the complaint letter?

Professional discipline proceedings often start with a complaint letter. Complaint letters sometimes suggest specific misconduct by the member, but more often they are too short and vague or too long and voluminous for the reader to determine the specific issues. In other cases there may not be a complaint letter at all. Many regulatory statutes permit the Regulator to commence proceedings if they have grounds to believe a member has committed unprofessional conduct. Regulators generally have broad discretion to investigate any aspect of the member's conduct, including new issues discovered during the investigation. Professional discipline allegations distill all of the available information and provide the member with fair notice of the case they have to meet. A discipline allegation enables the member to:

  • Know what is being alleged;
  • Avoid being taken by surprise at the hearing;
  • Effectively participate in the hearing; and
  • Fully and adequately defend him or herself.

What should the allegation say?

A well-written professional discipline allegation has two key elements:

  1. A statement of the material facts that are alleged to have occurred;1
  2. A statement of the legal conclusion to be drawn from those facts, i.e. that the conduct amounts to unprofessional conduct,2 as defined by the governing statute.

Although professional discipline allegations are very important, it is not necessary to write them with the same level of precision as a charge under the Criminal Code. Professional discipline allegations are judged by a standard of adequacy, not perfection. Their primary purpose is to give adequate notice to permit affected persons to know how they might be affected and to prepare adequately to respond.3

The facts must enable the member to appreciate the true nature of the alleged wrongdoing and to compare the alleged facts with his or her own conduct. For example, an allegation cannot simply allege incompetence in the provision of professional services. Such a bald assertion of wrongdoing would be impossible to defend and unfair to the member. On the other hand putting too many facts into an allegation can be risky. The regulator generally needs to prove all of the facts stated in an allegation. If the evidence only proves some of the facts stated in an allegation then the allegation could be dismissed.

The legal conclusion, i.e. that the alleged facts constitute unprofessional conduct under the governing statute can be stated as part of each allegation, or stated generally in reference to all of the allegations together. In some cases, where a member is alleged to have breached a specific statutory or professional requirement, it may be necessary to give "particulars" by referring to that requirement in the allegation. In other cases where the member's conduct has not breached a specific requirement it is usually sufficient to state the material facts and that the conduct was unprofessional conduct under the governing statute.

Do professional discipline allegations have any other purposes?

In addition to giving the member notice of the case they have to meet, professional discipline allegations have several other important purposes. Professional discipline allegations:

  • Delineate the scope of the required disclosure to the member;
  • Define the issues and the relevance of evidence that should be admitted at the hearing; and
  • Limit the findings that can be made by the Discipline Tribunal at the hearing. 

Professional Regulators are generally required to disclose all evidence that may be used to prove the discipline allegations and all evidence that may assist the member in his or her defence of those allegations, even if the Regulator does not intend to use it. The allegations are therefore an important guide in determining what should be disclosed.

Professional discipline allegations also define the scope of admissible evidence. Only evidence that is related to the allegations should be admitted at the hearing. Evidence that relates only to other issues may be treated as inadmissible. Such evidence is likely to have an unfair prejudicial effect on the Discipline Tribunal's perception of the member.

Lastly, allegations limit the findings that the Discipline Tribunal can make. Discipline Tribunals exercise authority delegated to them by the governing statute. A Discipline Tribunal cannot find the member guilty of an allegation that has not been referred to a hearing on proper notice to the member. That would be unfair. For example, a Discipline Tribunal that dismisses a charge of professional misconduct cannot find the member guilty of incompetence instead. Regulatory statutes have different ways to address new issues that arise at the hearing, but they always require time and proper notice to the member before he or she will be required to respond.

The statute says I have to give particulars of the alleged wrongdoing. Can I get help drafting the allegations?

Some regulatory statutes require an official such as a Complaints Director, Hearings Director, Registrar, Investigative Committee or some other official to refer matters to a hearing and give particulars of the conduct in respect of which the hearing will be held. This permits the official to obtain legal assistance to draft the charges.5

It is a good idea to have legal counsel review the results of the investigation and draft or provide comments on the allegations. Legal counsel can identify potential challenges in prosecuting the allegations and they can suggest revisions likely to make the hearing smoother and more efficient.

Tips for Drafting Allegations

  • Review the investigation report and define each aspect of the member's conduct for which an allegation of unprofessional conduct could be made;
  • Prepare the allegations based on the key conduct that is a concern, distilling the allegation to the key elements you intend to prove at the hearing;
  • Consider whether you need to provide further detail by listing "particulars";
  • Be sure the allegations or the notice generally states that the conduct was unprofessional conduct under the governing statute;6
  • Consider seeking legal advice about the wording of the allegations, the need for any particulars and the sufficiency of the evidence to prove unprofessional conduct as defined by the governing statute.


1 Violette v. New Brunswick Dental Society (2004), 267 N.B.R. (2d) 205 (C.A.)

2 Or professional or occupational misconduct, unskilled practice, conduct deserving of sanction, etc.

3 Del Bianco v. Alberta Securities Commission (2004), 334 W.A.C. 361 (Alta C.A.) at para 11.

4 Sheddy v. Law Society of British Columbia (2007), 392 W.A.C. 121 (B.C.C.A.)

5 Reddy v. APEGBC, 2001 BCCA 237

6 Or whatever term is used in the governing statute: professional or occupational misconduct, unskilled practice, conduct deserving of sanction, etc.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.